The best gaming keyboard might seem like a rather extravagant luxury addition to your PC setup, but don't we all deserve to be spoiled sometimes? And, alongside the best gaming mouse, it's one of the key ways (pun intended) that you interact with your PC. So it makes sense that to pick up a gaming keyboard that's robust, comfortable, and responsive. And has a whole bunch of RGB LEDs too, obviously.
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 after a speedy keypress for fast-paced games, or you just want to make the humdrum task of typing just 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, but we've also included a couple of less expensive, but still high-quality membrane variants too.
The switch type is arguably the most important choice to make when picking your new gaming keyboard. Cherry switches are the most common, and most recognizable, but there are host of alternative switches, as well a bunch of upmarket switches to choose from. Check out our guide to the different mechanical switch types for the full low-down.
Other features you might want to consider are dedicated media controls, macro keys, and whether or not your keyboard of choice has a USB passthrough. And of course, size is something else you should consider. Full-sized keyboards tend to offer the most features, and a numpad, but if you don't have the spare real estate to house one on your desk then all of those extras you paid for will be useless. Tenkeyless (no number pad) and compact keyboards can be an option too, especially if you don't care about all the extra bells and whistles or have any use for alt codes (how barbaric!).
We've listed our top picks of the best gaming keyboards below and where to find them. Alternatively, if you can't quite justify the cost of one of these, the best cheap gaming keyboards may be more to your wallet's taste.
Best gaming keyboards 2020
The best gaming keyboard
Switch: Cherry MX Speed, Brown | Size: Full size | Backlights: RGB | Passthroughs: USB | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: Detachable
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 K95 Platinum. 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 K95 Platinum's got it all. Dedicated media controls and a USB pass-through, a metal volume wheel, RGB lighting. It even comes with an extra set of textured keycaps for the WASD keys. While it's expensive, it's obvious what you're getting for your money here, and throughout 2019, and into 2020, we've seen the price of the K95 dropping steadily.
We also love its detachable wrist rest, which makes things super comfortable for long gaming sessions (and this keyboard really is fantastic for long-term strategy and MMO sessions). The rubberized wristpad attaches magnetically and has two contrasting textures: one smooth side and one rough side. Switching sides is as easy as flipping it over, and the added comfort it brings is exceptional.
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 K95 nails the basics, as well as including the fancy extras, and that's why it's top of the plank pile.
2. 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
For a board lit 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 a quality, durable design.
The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB leaves no box unchecked in features. It's equipped with dedicated media controls, USB passthrough, a detachable wrist-rest, and full RGB backlighting. To up its aesthetics, it also includes an extra set of silver keycaps for WASD and the first four number keys. The board supports full N-key rollover, meaning you never have to worry about key presses not registering. While there is a standard variant of the Alloy Elite available that lacks RGB, depression in this model's pricing has brought them almost to parity, and you can regularly find the 'luxury' model for around $130.
3. 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+
If even mecha-membrane keys don't suit you and you demand a full membrane typing/gaming experience, the Cynosa is the deck for you. I know there are people out there who prefer the soft embrace of a pure membrane switch.
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 (past a certain threshold of quality). While it may lack some of the features a number of 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, but 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.
4. 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
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-throughs, there isn’t even any backlighting, but it's still rocking Logitech's restrained aesthetic made even more so by the eschewing of extra lighting frills. The keycaps, however, are an issue, with cheap, fragile pad printed lettering that's likely to wear off over time.
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
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 fans of first-person shooters, 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 more compact form factor of the Scope 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.
6. 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
The original Freestyle Edge from Kinesis was one of the best split ergonomic keyboards on the market, and the upgraded RGB model improves on the original in a number of ways. It retains the split design, allowing you to set the two halves of the deck 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 braided cable that connects the two halves can be adjusted to accommodate larger peripherals or made shorter if you're leaving that space empty and want to declutter your desk. The additional lift kit accessory, which unfortunately doesn't come bundled with the keyboard, attaches to the bottom of the wrist rests and lets you tilt the keyboard to face out towards your hands at angles of five, ten, or fifteen degrees. There's an acclimation period where you're getting used to the angle and layout, but beyond that initial adjustment, it feels comfortable and natural having the deck angled outwards.
The Freestyle Edge RGB is also incredibly 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' Smartset software for an even more granular experience.
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
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 amazing 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 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. Here's how the Corsair K95 and Razer Huntsman Elite stack up against each other.
The Huntsman Elite is also available with their Opto-linear switch that debuted on the Huntsman Tournament edition. This switch keeps the lasers but gets rid of the clicky feedback of the optomechanical switch. This version is otherwise unchanged but gives you some options.
8. 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
The Apex Pro may be built around one headline feature (its ability to individually set the actuation point for every key), but 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 particularly 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 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 very attractive aesthetic, with little to no wasted space around the edges of the board.
Jargon buster - keyboard terminology
The height to which a key needs to be pressed before it actuates and sends an input signal to a device.
A switch that delivers an audible click every time it's pressed, generally right around the point of actuation.
A technique to ensure that only one input registers every time a key is pressed.
The shell that surrounds the internal components of a switch.
The result of the actuation point and reset point in a switch being misaligned. This generally means a key needs to be lifted off of further than normal before it can be actuated again.
A switch that moves directly up and down, generally delivering smooth keystrokes without noise or tactile feedback.
A keyboard built around individual switches for each key, rather than a membrane sheath mounted on a PCB.
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.
The component of a switch on which the keycaps are mounted on a mechanical keyboard.
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.
A switch that provides a 'bump' of feedback every time it's pushed.
A keyboard that lacks the right-hand number pad.