We spend a lot of time putting together powerful rigs that cut through the most demanding games like butter, but it's important to pay attention to your peripherals too. After all, what use is a monster rig if you can't control your character with any sort of consistency?
Best gaming mice
Need a new mouse to match that mechanical keyboard? Check out our guide to the best gaming mouse.
The defining trait of any keyboard is its switches. With a seemingly endless sea of switch types, picking right one can be challenging. Ultimately, all switches fall into one of two categories: membrane and mechanical. Membrane switches are familiar but often spongy. Mechanical keyboards offer superior responsiveness and comes in a plethora of different feels. That feel is important, because the keyboard is the peripheral you’ll spend the most time with at your PC, and it has to feel right.
This update brings several key changes. The Razer Ornata succeeds the Topre Realforce RGB as the best membrane keyboard. In addition to being much more affordable, its mecha-membrane switches are exceptional.
We also added a new category: best wireless gaming keyboard. Currently, the Logitech G613 sits on this throne. It’s the first wireless mechanical keyboard we tested, and the first to have enough features to be approved as a full-fledged gaming keyboard.
The best gaming keyboard for most users is still the Patriot Viper V770, with Cherry MX Red switches, a dedicated macro column, detachable wrist rest, USB and audio passthroughs. But it's not the only keyboard you should consider.
On the budget end, the Thermaltake Poseidon Z remains hard to beat. Though this may change soon as we are seeing more and more budget mechanical keyboards appear on the market.
To make it on to our list, the keyboard has to have a balance of three things: performance, build quality, and features that make sense for what it’s designed to do.
When a keyboard arrives at our office, we first dig up some info on the make and switches to get a general idea of its quality. We then hammer our planks with words and gaming for days on end, often at the hands of multiple people to gather feedback from different perspectives. If it warrants, we’ll even tear the board apart and scrutinize its guts under a magnifying glass.
Judging features is much more finicky. What we think is important may not be important to you. But we always have you, the gamer, in mind when we review a product. Do these features really make a difference? Or are they just here as an artsy excuse to jack up the price? That’s what we try to answer.
Lastly, we always try to choose keyboards with more than one switch type available. The Novatouch was a special case because standard desktop membrane keyboards generally have little variation between one another.
Some games we use to test are: Starcraft 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Battlefield 4, and Witcher 3.
We put our hands on a whole bunch of gaming keyboards in the process of testing for this article. Some of the others we tested are worth a mention, even if they didn't make a top spot on our list. After all, keyboards are highly personal devices; what works for one person may not work for another.
A previous pick for best overall gaming keyboard, the G610 Orion offers a solid core feature set to satisfy a majority of gamers. It doesn't come with many bells and whistles (and its plain, rugged design would blend right in with an office cubicle), but it's a respectable board with a very appealing price tag.
Razer’s signature keyboard has finally been updated to Version 2 in 2017. The Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 comes with a new switch flavor and a large wrist rest in exchange for a $30 premium.
A linear switch from Razer is long overdue. Much like the Cherry MX Red, the new linear Razer Yellow sacrifices the tactile bump to achieve higher responsiveness. Performance is as you’d expect: a very close feel to the Cherry MX Red.
The new switch and spacious wristrest does seem like enticing upgrades, but its price falls directly in-between the Ripjaws KM780 and the Corsair K95 RGB. Winning in neither value or features, the Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 misses the top spot in both high-end and overall categories.
The G810 Orion Spectrum is the big daddy version of the G610 Orion equipped with Logitech’s proprietary Romer-G switches. While its performance is top-notch, it’s a hit or miss for most people since the G810 offers rather shallow key travel.
The Rosewill RK-9000 V2 is a straight up awesome keyboard. Mounted on its durable dual-layer PCB is a set of either Cherry MX Blue or Red switches. The RGB backlight has plenty of effects to choose from. Its braided cable is detachable for easy transportation.
Some of its regrettable downsides include cluttered keyprints and the lack of any dedicated macros. But even so, it’s still a fantastic buy if you want a quality standard keyboard with RGB backlighting.
As the close running second candidate for our best overall gaming keyboard position, the Corsair K70 LUX features dedicated media controls, RGB Cherry MX switches, large wristrest, and a USB passthrough for $131. If it had dedicated macros, it would’ve scored an easy victory against the G.SKILL RIPJAWS 780.
The Kingston HyperX Alloy FPS is a durable board using Cherry’s MX Blue, Brown, or Red switches. Its no-frills, aluminum-covered chassis relies on the single mode red backlight to turn heads.
But at $99, it doesn’t offer any significant advantage over its competition. The USB port installed at the front is strictly for charging and not for data. Kingston claims that the HyperX Alloy FPS is more compact than its competitors, but a quick comparison against some common keyboards shows that the difference is negligible.
If you’ve bought one already, rest assured: it’s a solid performer and won’t drag you down in whatever you want a standard keyboard to do. But if you value having extra features, look through some other options before swinging back to this one.
Our previous pick for the best keyboard for typing enthusiasts, the Ducky Shine 5 is designed to be the ultimate desk companion. It features a detachable USB cord, switches to change the location of the FN key, and dual-injected ABS keycaps. But while the Shine 5's build quality is superb, we wish that the front plate were made of actual metal instead of plastic with a brushed-metal texture.
The ROCCAT Ryos MK FX improves on the ROCCAT Ryos MK Pro by featuring a delicious set of RGB lighting using Cherry’s transparent switch housing and surface mount LEDs. But why leave out the USB pass-throughs?
The Tesoro Excalibur V2 is a formidable contender to the Thermaltake Poseidon Z. Squeezing itself into the slither of space between budget and midrange, the Excalibur V2 brings dual-injected keycaps into an unprecedented price range. The industrious typeface and blocky keycaps produce a more modernized look compared to the dated Thermaltake Poseidon Z. Unfortunately, its $90 price tag puts it in the same price bracket as the Logitech G610 Orion which, in our opinion, is a superior option.
The Isku FX has dedicated macros, good membrane switches, and backlighting all for under $90. It would’ve been a promising contender for the best membrane keyboard seat if it weren’t for its rampant ghosting issues.
The Razer DeathStalker uses a larger, more stable switch housing with its traditional membrane switches. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get used to its flat and slippery chiclet keys.
Compact, affordable, and high-quality, the Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid used to be the reigning champion in budget mechanical keyboards. This time around though, we think there’s more value to be had in the Thermaltake Poseidon Z with its number pad and backlighting.
The Logitech G213 Prodigy is one of the few entries on the list that’s non-mechanical. It’s equipped with the membrane switch with a reinforced housing. While it’s certainly attractive with tunable RGB lighting, media controls, and a commodious wrist rest, it’s a hard sell over the Logitech G610 Orion, which sits at the same price point.
Take the Logitech G810 Orion, slice off the number pad, and you’d get the Logitech G Pro. With portability and performance as its primary focus, the ten-keyless Logitech G Pro uses the tried-and-true Logitech Romer-G switches. Its removable cable uses a trident-shaped insert to alleviate stress from the micro-USB port.
The size-reduction does come at a cost: dedicated media control keys have been omitted, and those who work with numbers will miss the convenience of the number pad. At $129, its price is a bit steep as well. We recommend this one to gamers who strictly need a travel-sized gaming keyboard.
The Logitech G413 brings an aluminum chassis and Logitech Romer-G switches to a more affordable price. Though it’s great for gamers looking to score Logitech’s precious switches without spending too much money, it’s not as robust in features as other keyboards at similar price points.
Tesoro shoots for minimalism with the Tesoro Durandal Spectrum, and during our testing period, it performed without a hitch. Though its $130 price is a bit steep compared to its competitors, it still makes on to our list for being a durable keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches.
The MasterKeys Pro S could be summed up with one word: standard. This compact, tenkey-less keyboard is as formal looking as keyboards can get. But to minimalistic users who like having a detachable cable, driverless macro recording, RGB backlighting, and reliable Cherry MX switches, then the MasterKeys Pro S could be their dream board. We find ourselves looking elsewhere, though, especially for $135.
If you’re jaded by the gloomy paint scheme of most keyboards today, then the Tesoro GRAM Spectrum can almost be described as a breath of fresh air. Fitted in a sleek, pristine white shell and decorated with bright RGB backlights, it protrudes a level of elegance rarely seen in a gaming keyboard.
Internally, the GRAM Spectrum rocks the Agile switches produced by Kaihua Electronics (better known for its Kailh switches). The Agile switches have an actuation distance of 1.5mm and a total travel distance of 3.5mm. Just like the Kailh line, the Agile switches come in Red, Blue, and Brown stem colors. Ours came with the Agile Red, the quickest of the three.
And it truly lives up to its name. The Agile switch is great for both typing and gaming. The low-profile key caps were surprisingly pleasant as well.
Looking to buy already? Know that there’re some quirks with the GRAM Spectrum. Strangely, you can’t use the Windows key on layers that let you record macros. The long delays between each macro input is incredibly frustrating. Lastly, despite the elegant design of the keyboard itself, the driver software interface is a total mess.
At $140, we hesitantly raise our thumbs in approval. The Tesoro GRAM Spectrum delivers solid performance and is undeniably beautiful, but its software and macro functions really need an overhaul.
Whereas traditional mechanical switches use a metal contact leaf, the Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum’s optical switch uses a fin that blocks a laser to register a keystroke. This reduces the delay between each keystroke to just 0.1ms. Combo’ed with a spill-resistant design and swappable switches, the Excalibur SE Spectrum makes a compelling offer at $105.
Some areas it could improve on are better macro recording, better lighting management to take full advantage of its RGB backlights, and instructions on how to actually remove the key switches.
The HyperX Alloy Elite aims to be the keyboard the HyperX Alloy FPS wanted to be. With an impressive list of feature upgrades, it’s now far more attractive than its predecessor. It’s still armed with Cherry MX switches, but now also has media controls, lighting controls, and a detachable wristrest. The only things missing are RBG backlights and a dedicated macro row, but for $109, we aren’t going to complain.
The M750’s biggest selling point is its proprietary Steelseries QX2 switch. It’s a linear switch with 45g of actuation force, smooth travel, and actuates at 2mm. Sound familiar? It should; its characteristics is analogous to the Cherry MX Red. In fact, the two feels so indiscernible that we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if it wasn’t for the label on box.
Protecting the switches is a durable aluminum frame decorated with gorgeous RGB backlights. The lights are, ofcourse, fully compatible with SteelSeries’ Prism lighting effects. Programmers can also create their own lighting effects for apps and games by using the development kit provided by SteelSeries.
And that’s it. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the Apex M750, it just doesn’t offer anything substantially superior over a standard Cherry MX. Given its gouging $139 price, it’s a tough sell.
As with all Cooler Master’s keyboards, the MasterKeys Pro L PBT follows a strict, no BS design. But being benign doesn’t mean no frills.
The MasterKeys Pro L PBT has several noteworthy distinctions that set it apart from the pack. As its name implies, it’s one of very few keyboards out there that uses PBT keycaps instead of ABS. PBT plastic is much more durable than ABS plastic, and Cooler Master even increased the keycap thickness to ensure they never break.
In addition to the popular Cherry MX Red, Blue, and Brown mechanical switches, the MasterKeys Pro L PBT is also available with Cherry MX Silver and Cherry MX Green. Cherry MX Silver is the faster version of Cherry MX Red, and Cherry MX Green is a heavier version of Cherry MX Blue. If you need a specialized switch, then this board has you covered.
It also supports three layouts. The board comes with QWERTY, DVORAK, and Workman layouts built in. Switching between them is as simple as hitting a key combination. On that note, all keyboard functions including macro recording, management, and switching profiles is all handled without a software. Definitely keep its manual handy for the first few weeks.
There’s no mistake that the MasterKeys Pro L PBT is a solid board, but understand that the MasterKeys Pro L is devoid of almost all other features. This means that it lacks backlighting, dedicated macros, USB and audio passthroughs, and dedicated media controls. While we highly recommend this board for work, it may be a little too austere for all genres of games.
The CoolerMaster Devastator 3 is a souped up membrane keyboard designed for budget gaming. It uses Cooler Master’s in-house membrane switches with a custom square which helps to reduce key wobble and ensure a stable travel.
The Devastator 3 comes with seven backlight colors, dedicated media controls, and a narrow wrist rest. For added value, it’s paired with a mouse. The entire package can be had for just $50. If you’re on a tight budget, or need a gift for a younger gamer, then the Devastator 3 can be a pretty good deal.
Ever seen a keyboard split in half? Neither have we. That is, until we got the Kinesis FreeStyle Edge.
The FreeStyle Edge has the singular goal of being the most comfortable gaming keyboard in existence. The keyboard separates at the center and is tied together using a 20-inch cable. Users can pull the two halves apart and create snack room in the middle, or tuck one half away during gaming. It also gives the user ample freedom to angle the halves in whichever orientation she desires for maximum typing comfort.
The FreeStyle Edge can be outfitted with Cherry MX Blue, Red, or Brown switches, all of which have blue backlighting. Eight dedicated macro buttons sit in a two-column isle on the left, and above them, a massive escape key. All keys and even the layout is customizable. Also included is a pair of roomy wristrests; one for each half.
The FreeStyle Edge shines with incredible versatility, but there are several drawbacks we’d like to see addressed. First, we wish that the cable connecting the two halves is detachable, and second, that the lift kit – an attachment that elevates the two halves at the center – is included. The Lift Kit adds an additional $24.95 to the already costly $219 price tag of the board, and in our opinion, it’s absolutely essential.
None-the-less, the Kinesis FreeStyle Edge is one of the most – if not the most – comfortable keyboards we’ve ever used. Flexible, unique, and feature rich; it’s suitable for anyone seeking a personalized typing experience.
There are tons of keyboards we still haven’t reviewed but love to get our hands on. If there's any in particular you want us to check out, let us know in the comments.
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