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Best gaming keyboards in 2021

Best gaming keyboards
Whether it's lasers or magnets, the best gaming keyboards have it all. (Image credit: Future)

Finding the best gaming keyboard can feel like descending down a rabbit hole filled with different, obscure switch names, and strange key cap jargon. But it's actually simple, so long as you know what you're after. The best gaming keyboard is the one which fits your personal taste in typing, the space you have on your desktop, and what games you primarily play.

We've covered what style of keyboard is right for you before, so that's worth checking out to see if you want a full-size, TKL, or 60 percent board, but once that's nailed down the world is your touch-typing oyster. No, wait. They don't have fingers... you get my drift. There myriad options, but these are the best gaming keyboards you can buy today.

Mechanical switch 101

There are keyboard switches in all flavors and colors, so here's the skinny on the best mechanical keyboard switches around.

Whether you're gaming, working, or just chasing the perfect desktop aesthetic, it's always been one of the key ways (pun absolutely intended) you interact with your PC, and should be carefully considered, for placement alongside the best gaming mouse on your battlestation.

Whether you're after a speedy keypress for fast-paced games, or you simply want to make the humdrum task of typing a little more enjoyable, this guide will help you find what you need. There is a lot of crossover with the best mechanical keyboards featured on this list—because, for a lot of us, mechanical keyboards are the best gaming keyboards. But because some people (monsters) don't appreciate the feel or the noise, we've also included a couple of less expensive, high-quality membrane switch variants too.

The switch type is arguably the most important choice to make when picking your new gaming keyboard. Cherry mechanical switches are the most common and most recognizable, but there are a host of alternatives on offer, as well a bunch of upmarket, specialist switches to choose from. Other features you might want to consider are some dedicated media controls, macro keys, and whether or not your keyboard of choice has USB and audio passthrough. 

Size is a defining factor. Full-sized keyboards tend to offer the most features and a Numpad, but if you don't have space, then all of those extras you paid for will be useless. Tenkeyless boards (the ones with no number pad), and compact keyboards can be a great option too if you don't care about all the extra bells and whistles, or you don't have any use for alt codes (how barbaric!).

We've listed our top picks of the best gaming keyboards below. Alternatively, if you can't quite justify the cost of one of these bad boys, the best cheap gaming keyboards may be more to your wallet's taste.

Best gaming keyboards 2021

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Corsair

(Image credit: Corsair)
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Corsair

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Corsair

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Corsair

(Image credit: Corsair)

1. Corsair K100 RGB Optical

The best gaming keyboard.

Switch: Corsair OPX | Size: Full size | Backlights: RGB | Passthroughs: USB | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: Detachable | Keycaps: PBT double-shot

Responsive optical switches
All the RGB, all the time
Premium build quality

When you want to go the extra mile and upgrade to the absolute best of the best, it's hard to find a more premium option than the Corsair K100 RGB. Be warned, though; this is a big keyboard: its enormous footprint still requires some desk clearing before it can be nested comfortably. But feature-wise, the K100 RGB's got it all. Dedicated media controls and a USB pass-through, a metal volume wheel, RGB lighting. Speaking of RGB, there is an aggressive amount of RGB in this keyboard.

During our tests, we noted excellent key responses, a decent spread of keys for most hand sizes, a satisfying tactile click to each press, and wonderfully dimpled keys to help you rest your fingers when you're not actually pressing down. While this all seems quite obvious, it shows that the K100 RGB nails the basics, as well as including the fancy extras, and that's why it's top of the list. 

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Mountain Everest Max

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Mountain Everest Max

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Mountain Everest Max

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Mountain Everest Max

(Image credit: Mountain)

2. Mountain Everest Max

The best modular gaming keyboard

Switch: Cherry MX Red, Blue, Brown, Silver | Size: Full size or TKL | Backlight: Per-key RGB | Passthrough: USB 3.2 Gen1 | Media controls: Dedicated unit | Wristrest: Magnetic, plush | Keycaps: ABS

Fully modular
Simple, elegant style
Great hardware

All things to all people, that's almost what the Mountain Everest Max gaming keyboard represents. And it's one of my favourite designs since it first landed on my desk. I don't always need the numpad on a full-size keyboard, but it certainly comes in handy sometimes during the work day. When I'm gaming though, all I want is a compact TKL board, to get my mouse and keyboard hands closer together and give me more desktop real estate to fling around my rodent.

That's what the Everest Max offers; the flexibility to have your TKL cake and eat your numpad. Use your numpad. Whatever. Basically the magnetically attaching numpad module is able to be attached to either side of the base mechanical TKL board and is completely hot-swappable. 

The admittedly very expensive $270 (£230) complete Everest Max kit also comes with a plush magnetic wristrest and a media module with discrete controls and an LCD screen.

It's also a board for the keyboard enthusiast too, with a base that allows you to pull out switches at will and replace them as easily as just pushing them in. You can also go for the barebones board, picking your own switches and keycaps from the start to create a truly custom option.

My only reservations with the Everest Max are its high price and the initial immaturity I experienced with its config software. That's been ironed out now for the most part, and I'm still using my sample on a day-to-day basis as it totally suits how I game and work on my PC.

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3. HyperX Alloy Elite RGB

The gaming keyboard with extra flash and features.

Switch: Cherry MX Blue, Brown, Red | Size: Full size | Backlights: Red | Passthroughs: USB | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: Detachable

Great feature set
Relatively affordable
Excellent range of Cherry MX switches

For a board that can be illuminated in up to 16.9 million colors, the HyperX Alloy Elite sports a relatively simple aesthetic while still packing the features we expect out of a quality gaming keyboard. It comes in your choice of Cherry MX Brown, Blue, and Red. What it lacks in a dedicated macro column, it makes up for with its reasonable price and quality, durable design.

The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB leaves no feature box unchecked. It's equipped with dedicated media controls, USB passthrough, a detachable wrist-rest, and full RGB backlighting. It also includes an extra set of silver keycaps for WASD and the first four number keys to up its aesthetics. The board supports full N-key rollover, meaning you never have to worry about key presses not registering. 

The new HyperX Alloy Elite 2 has now been launched, featuring some gorgeous ABS pudding keycaps, but only seems to be available on the HyperX website right now. It is damned pretty, but you don't get the wrist rest... you win some, you lose some.

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(Image credit: Razer)
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4. Razer Cynosa Chroma

The best gaming keyboard for membrane enthusiasts.

Interface: Wired USB | Keyboard backlighting: Per-key RGB | Programmable keys: All | Features: Per key RGB lighting, supports Windows 7+ and OSX 10.8+

Best feeling membrane keys available
Affordable
Per key RGB lighting

If even mecha-membrane keys don't suit you, and you demand a full membrane typing/gaming experience, the Razer Cynosa is the deck for you. I know there are people out there who prefer the soft embrace of a pure membrane switch, and that's fine—each to their own.

The Cynosa has some of the best feeling, low profile membrane keys I've ever tested, and at a retail price of $60, is one of the most affordable gaming keyboards out there (well, past a certain threshold of quality). While it may lack some of the features several gaming boards pack in these days, stuff like a dedicated wrist rest or media controls, it does boast Razer's extensive RGB lighting, which can be programmed on a per-key basis or applied by zones.

It's a solid, no-frills, nice looking keyboard that's the best membrane option of a huge range that I've tested. There is a step-up version of the Cynosa available. Still, for $20 extra, the only real addition is under-glow RGB, so unless that kind of 'ground effects' package is massively appealing to you, I recommend you save your cash and invest in the base model.

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(Image credit: Logitech)
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5. Logitech K840

The best gaming keyboard for gamers on a budget.

Switch: Logitech Romer-G | Size: Full size | Backlights: No | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: Function key integrated | Wristrest: No

Actually looks good for a budget keyboard
Durable aluminum front plate

Logitech's proprietary Romer-G switch is where the magic lies. Designed in collaboration with the Japanese switch giant Omron, it was traditionally reserved for Logitech's high-end boards. Now, they're served in the budget-friendly K840 for the first time. 

Because you're scoring the Romer-G switch at such a low price point, you’re not going to find any extra luxuries on the K840. Never mind dedicated macros and USB pass-through, there isn’t even any backlighting. However, it's still rocking Logitech's restrained aesthetic made even more so by eschewing extra lighting frills. However, the keycaps are an issue, with cheap, fragile pad printed lettering that's likely to wear off over time.

Best gaming mouse | Best gaming chair | Best gaming PC
Best VR headset | Best wireless gaming mouse | Best gaming monitor

Asus ROG Strix Scope

Asus ROG Strix Scope

6. Asus ROG Strix Scope

The best gaming keyboard for FPS lovers.

Switch: Cherry MX RGB Blue, Brown, Red, Black, Silent Red, Speed Silver | Size: Full size | Backlights: RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: No | Wristrest: No

Understated focus on functionality
Wide Ctrl button
Full RGB lighting

Asus' ROG Strix Scope is a keyboard made for function over form. While it's festooned with the typical array of RGB lighting, the solid aluminum top plate sports an understated, industrial design that's welcome in an era where flash and spectacle too often take precedence. The Scope is a solid, durable, reliable keyboard that works exactly as advertised without the bloat of unnecessary gimmicks. And with a wide range of Cherry's RGB switches, you can find the Scope in practically any flavor you'd like. 

It also has a few quality of life features that should appeal to first-person shooters fans, as the name might imply. Full macro customization is available, and the left Ctrl key has been broadened to make it easy to hit during a tense firefight without accidentally actuating other keys. The Scope's more compact form factor also means that it (and all the other bottom row keys so often critical in an FPS) is really easy to reach down and smack when you need it.

Read the full Asus ROG Strix Scope review.

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(Image credit: Kinesis)
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7. Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB

The best gaming keyboard for customization and ergonomics.

Switch: Cherry MX Blue, Brown, Red | Size: Split tenkeyless | Backlights: RGB | Passthroughs: USB | Media Controls: No | Wristrest: Yes

Split keyboard and unique layout to reduce strain
Optional lift kit and wrist rests to improve ergonomics
Extremely customizable

The original Freestyle Edge from Kinesis was one of the best split ergonomic keyboards on the market. This upgraded RGB model improves on the original in several ways. It retains the split design, allowing you to set the deck's two halves at shoulder width and reduce back, neck, and shoulder strain. The gap also lets you drop a flight stick or HOTAS in between them for space sims or leave your controller within easy reach when you're typing in text chat or messengers between sessions. 

The Freestyle Edge RGB is also customizable, with onboard storage for up to nine user profiles, ten dedicated macro keys on the left half, and the ability to customize every key individually (including on the entire layer that you access by pushing the Fn key). It's fully programmable without the use of any additional software, though it can also be customized through Kinesis' Smartest software for an even more granular experience. 

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(Image credit: Razer)

8. Razer Huntsman Elite

The best gaming keyboard to actuate at the speed of light.

Switch: Razer Opto-mechanical | Size: Full size | Backlights: 16.8 million color RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: Detachable magnetic

Home to Razer's excellent opto-mechanical keys
Beautiful, fully lit, durable full sized board
Dedicated media controls

The Huntsman family of Razer keyboards is the only place in the world to find their optomechanical switch, and it's one of the best (and most technologically interesting) switches on the market. The optomechanical build eschews traditional metal contacts and instead actuates by a beam of light that fires through the switch when the key is depressed, meaning actuation is almost instantaneous. 

The other major advantage of removing all the relatively frail, slender metal contacts from the switch is that they're rated as twice as durable as standard mechanical switches, up to 100 million keystrokes. They're tactile switches that actuate at 1.5 mm and 45g of force, meaning they're ridiculously easy to spam but still provide tactile feedback. They're also great for typing for much the same reason.

The rest of the Elite is well designed too, with a comfy detachable magnetic wrist rest, a full suite of dedicated media controls, and a multi-function dial that can be used for anything from altering your PC's volume to scrolling through lighting suites for the 16.8 million RGB color options. It also features some handy storage on the keyboard, so you can easily save your preferences to a profile that will travel with you if you move it to a different machine. It's an excellent, fully-featured keyboard with some truly fantastic switches, though you'll pay a premium for the privilege of using them.

Read the full Razer Huntsman Elite review.

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9. SteelSeries Apex Pro

The best gaming keyboard for per-key actuation.

Switch: Omnipoint Adjustable | Size: Full size | Backlights: 16.8 million color RGB | Passthroughs: Single USB | Media Controls: Dedicated via OLED | Wristrest: Detachable magnetic

Per key actuation allows for incredible customization
Robust feature set
Attractive, minimalist deck with full RGB

The Apex Pro may be built around one headline feature (its ability to set the actuation point for every key individually). Still, it's also an incredibly solid, competitive gaming keyboard even without that groundbreaking customization. That said, adjusting the actuation point on a key-by-key basis is an incredible boon, particularly for anyone that splits their time between typing and gaming. 

If you find you struggle to decide between a linear and tactile switch, the Apex Pro offers you a hybrid that can satisfy both needs in the same model. Set a deeper actuation for typing or higher when you need to spam keys in a MOBA or MMO. Or if you find you're frequently nailing a particular key by accident and blowing your cooldown, you can set it individually to require that you bottom out, so you'll really need to push it with intention. 

The Apex Pro also features a novel OLED display in the upper right-hand corner of the board, which lets you alter the actuation (though only across the entire board uniformly; the per-key settings require the SteelSeries Engine software), handle media controls, or even display a tiny animated gif. While it's more gimmick than a necessity, it does let you alter some key settings without having to dig deep into a separate software suite. And the low profile of the chassis with the heightened keycaps contributes to a beautiful aesthetic, with little to no wasted space around the board's edges.

Jargon buster - keyboard terminology

Actuation Point

The height to which a key needs to be pressed before it actuates and sends an input signal to a device.

Clicky

A switch that delivers an audible click every time it's pressed, generally right around the point of actuation.

Debounce

A technique to ensure that only one input registers every time a key is pressed.

Housing

The shell that surrounds the internal components of a switch.

Hysteresis

The result of the actuation point and reset point in a switch being misaligned. This generally means a key needs to be lifted off further than normal before it can be actuated again. 

Linear

A switch that moves directly up and down, generally delivering smooth keystrokes without noise or tactile feedback.

Mechanical Keyboard

A keyboard built around individual switches for each key rather than a membrane sheath mounted on a PCB.

Membrane Keyboard

A keyboard on which all the keycaps are mounted on a membrane sheath; when a key is pressed, a rubber dome depresses and pushes against the sheath and PCB beneath, actuating the key.

Stem

The component of a switch on which the keycaps are mounted on a mechanical keyboard.

Switch

The physical component of a mechanical keyboard beneath the keycaps on a mechanical keyboard. The switch determines how a key is actuated, whether or not it provides audible or tactile feedback with each press, and more.

Optical switch

This is a type of mechanical switch which instead of a physical metal contact switch uses light to measure when actuation takes place. These can be more configurable too, allowing for not just off and on states, but more analog designs, and even dual actions for a single key depending on how far the switch is pressed down.

Tactile

A switch that provides a 'bump' of feedback every time it's pushed.

Tenkeyless (TKL)

A keyboard that lacks the right-hand number pad.