The market for gaming peripherals has been absolutely flooded in the last few years at both ends, both with really high end, excellent gear and products of much more dubious quality, so picking out the best gaming keyboard can be a real hassle. Gone are the days when picking a decent mechanical board with your favorite Cherry switches was the work of a few minutes; not only does Cherry have a growing number of increasingly prolific competitors, but the boards themselves are becoming more and more crammed full of features and gimmicks. Worry not, though, we've tested tens of boards from a massive array of manufacturers to separate the wheat from the chaff.
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So what should your prioritize when you start perusing the best gaming keyboards? The core questions remain the same—do you prefer a mechanical or a membrane board, and, if mechanical, what kind of switch do you want? Mechanical options are becoming more and more dominant, and represent the vast majority of our recommendations, but if you're a membrane stalwart, we've included options for you as well, like Razer's excellent Cynosa Chroma.
If you do opt for a mechanical board, you need to decide what kind of switch you want it built around. For those that are looking for heavy tactile feedback and a satisfying click with the push of each key, you'll want to get something in the Cherry MX Blue or Razer Green range. If you want something smooth, silent, and linear, however, you should opt for a Cherry Red or Razer Yellow, while the Cherry Brown option provides a middle point between both extremes. There are also a number of wild alternatives, like the opto-mechanical switch in Razer's Huntsman family, or Logitech's Romer-G options.
1. HyperX Alloy Elite
The best gaming keyboard
Switch: Cherry MX Blue, Brown, Red | Size: Full size | Backlights: Red | Passthroughs: USB | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: Detachable
The HyperX Alloy Elite sports a simple aesthetic while still packing most of 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 and RGB backlights, it makes up for with an affordable price and quality design.
The HyperX Alloy Elite leaves no box unchecked in features. It’s equipped with dedicated media controls, USB passthrough, a detachable wristrest, and red 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.
2. Corsair K95 RGB Platinum
The best gaming keyboard for big budgets
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 another option other than the Corsair K95 Platinum.
The K95 Platinum is a big keyboard: its enormous footprint still requires some desk cleaning 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.
We also love its detachable wristrest. 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.
3. Logitech K840
Fantastic Romer-G switches at a budget price
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 with 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 extras on the K840. Nevermind dedicated macros and USB passthroughs, there isn’t even any backlighting. The keycaps also come with cheap, fragile pad printed lettering that's likely to wear off over time.
4. Razer BlackWidow Elite
A beautiful designed gaming keyboard with frills you actually want
Switch: Razer Green, Orange, or Yellow | Size: Full size | Backlights: RGB | Passthroughs: Yes | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: Yes
Razer's BlackWidow Elite is the flagship model of their gaming keyboard offerings, a big, fully featured (and extremely well designed) board that offers everything you want and a few features you didn't know you needed. The addition, for instance, of a 3.5 mm audio passthrough is very welcome as someone that often uses/tests premium headsets at my desk, and a rarity even in high end mechanical keyboards. So is the ridged volume wheel that extends just slightly past the right edge of the keyboard, so it's extremely easy to find even when you're groping for it blind. The switches are the high quality that we've come to expect from Razer as they've obsessively iterated, and having a range of three options is a nice change from the majority of boards that offer only a single switch option.
The BlackWidow is a great choice for anyone, but especially for those who know it'll find a long-term home on their desk; the overall size and big cumersome cords make it slightly a pain to move, even with the built in cord management option that lets you tuck the main connection under the right or left side of the keyboard. But that's a minor quibble on an otherwise superior peripheral that's become my primary go-to at my work desk.
5. Das Keyboard 4 Professional
Best keyboard for typing enthusiasts
Switch: Cherry MX Blue, Brown | Size: Full size | Backlights: No | Passthroughs: USB | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: No
When it comes to all things productive, we can’t think of a better keyboard than the Das Keyboard Professional 4. Its intuitive volume dial is satisfying to use and looks damn great. When it’s game time, the handy USB pass-through saves a lot of back-bending when hooking up a controller. The front faceplate extends beyond the base, providing leverage point for lifting the keyboard. The manifold of small details all come together and refines its usability.
But nothing is ever perfect, and the Das is certainly no exception. Instead of flip-up elevator feet, The Das Keyboard 4 Professional uses a magnetic foot bar to prop itself up. It’s a unique (and fun) extra, but it provides almost no traction. The lack of backlights and macros can turn off some gamers, but they may not be as important to typists.
6. Cooler Master MK850
Best keyboard to replace a gamepad
Switch: Cherry MX Red | Size: Full size | Backlights: Full RGB | Passthroughs: USB | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: Yes
Cooler Master may not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of gaming keyboards, but the MK850 may very well change your mind. The headline feature of their latest peripheral offering is the aimpad technology built into a subset of the deck's keys, which transform them with the push of a button into analog inputs not unlike the analog stick on a gamepad. This means that you can push a key part of the way down and it'll register the input differently than pushing it all the way to the floor, the way you can tilt an analog stick slightly forward to walk in a 3rd person shooter or tilt it all the way to run. It's a useful feature, particularly in stealth or racing games, where analog input is an important factor and a traditional mouse and keyboard setup hasn't sufficed.
It's not just the aimpad that makes the MK850 a great board, though. It's packed with the additional features that elevate a gaming keyboard, stuff like a row of dedicated macro keys and media controls (including two independent scroll wheels for controlling things like system volume or RGB brightness), USB passthroughs, and Cherry MX Red switches. And it's an attractive deck, with raised keycaps to highlight the backlighting, and a supportive magnetic wrist rest and anodized aluminum backplate.
7. Kinesis Freestyle Edge
Mechanical switches in an ergonomic package
Switch: Cherry MX Brown, Blue, Red, Silver | Size: Full size | Backlights: Blue | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: Function key integrated | Wristrest: Detachable
The unique Freestyle Edge splits open at the center, with the two halves connected using a 20" cable. This allows the user to freely angle the halves to best cater to their natural hand position. The second half can also be pushed aside when gaming, freeing up some extra space for the mouse. In addition to the included wristrest, we highly recommend purchasing the lift kit to further elevate your comfort. The lift kit raises the two halves at the center, supporting the wrist rotation of your hands.
The Kinesis Freestyle Edge can be outfitted with Cherry MX Brown, Blue, Red, or Silver switches. All models come with blue backlighting. It also carries 12 dedicated macros; a rarity even on premium gaming boards. All keys can be programmed on the fly without having to install additional driver software.
8. Razer Huntsman Elite
Features Razer's optomechanical switches in a beautifully lit board
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 opto-mechanical switch, and it's one of the best (and most technologically interesting) switches on the market. The opto-mechanical 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 contact pieces 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.
9. Ducky One TKL
Small size, premium quality
Switch: Cherry MX Black, Brown, Blue, Red | Size: TKL | Backlights: No | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: Integrated | Wristrest: No
If you turn a blind eye to its price, then the Ducky One TKL nails every aspect of a small form factor keyboard.
Looking far from flirtatious, it’s hard to guess that Ducky One TKL is a $140 investment. What you’re paying for is a durable, fine-tuned typing machine. Though I’ve tested a plethora of Cherry MX keyboards, very few could rival the One’s smoothness, especially its stabilizers. Their responsiveness and consistency greatly improve the overall typing enjoyment. Other features include RGB backlights, detachable cables, double-shot ABS keycaps, and a plain black chassis that’s resistant to fingerprints.
Nevertheless, dropping $142 on a TKL keyboard is a bit ostentatious, especially considering that our previous pick was the $79.99 Cooler Master MasterKeys S. Therefore, we’re recommending the MasterKeys S alongside the Ducky One TKL as a more affordable option.
10. Cooler Master MasterKeys SL
Small, compact, and affordable
Switch: Cherry MX Brown, Blue, Red, Silver, Green | Size: TKL | Backlights: No | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: Function key integrated | Wristrest: No
With a small, tenkeyless design, the MasterKeys S saves space on your desk and frees up room for your mouse hand. It also has keycaps constructed from PBT plastic—the highest grade of keycaps we've seen included in a mainstreaming gaming keyboard. PBT is more durable and rigid than ABS, the thermoplastic most commonly used for keycaps.
What's under the hood is equally solid. The MasterKeys S uses the full range of Cherry MX switches including the Cherry MX Brown, Blue, Red, Silver, and Green switches. Like all Cooler Master mechanical keyboards, the MasterKeys Pro S can be programmed without driver software. It even supports Dovrak and Workman layouts in addition to traditional QWERTY.
Its only caveat—the lack of backlighting—can be a turnoff to RGB enthusiasts, but we think it's a small price to pay for such phenomenal keycaps. If you want an RGB upgrade, the MasterKeys Pro RGB can be had for a bit more money.
11. Logitech G213 Prodigy
A membrane keyboard with all the right features
Switch: Membrane | Size: Full size | Backlights: RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: Dedicated | Wristrest: Fixed
We’ve decided to replace the Razer Ornata with the Logitech G213 for three reasons. First, its traditional membrane switch feels more familiar. Second, it has more features. And third, it’s much more affordable.
While the Razer Ornata Chroma’s Mecha-Membrane switch is unique, we believe that most gamers looking for a membrane keyboard are pursuing a traditional feel. That means a straight travel and a cushioned feel when bottomed out.
Sporting a set of membrane switches, the Logitech G213 certainly meets the criteria. Its switches are silent and stable thanks to their square stems. In addition, it includes a set of dedicated macros, a fixed wrist rest, and RGB lighting to boost its appeal. Finally, because it doesn’t use a fancy switch, the G213 can be had for around $50; a fair bit cheaper than the Ornata Chroma.
12. Razer Cynosa Chroma
The best membrane option available
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 fully membrane typing/gaming experience, the Cynosa is the deck for you. It has some of the best feeling, low profile membrane keys I've ever tested, and at a retail price of $59.99 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 underglow 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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