Ultimate Gaming Keyboard Buyers Guide
When building or upgrading a gaming PC, one of the most looked over components is a high-quality keyboard. Unfortunately, many gamers believe that all keyboards are equal, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The best gaming keyboards offer a multitude of improvements over standard keyboards, such as built-in media keys, a backlight and proprietary technology to give you an edge when you game, especially in online multiplayer matches. If you take a look at the equipment used in any professional eSports tournament, you’ll notice that every gamer there uses some variation of a gaming keyboard, which is a testament to how well these keyboards perform.
Before you take the plunge and purchase a gaming keyboard, you need to know what separates the best gaming keyboards from the worst.
Before we delve into the buyers guide, here’s our editor’s pick, followed by a comparison table of what we think are the best gaming keyboards on the market:
- Titan tactile brown mechanical switches with 1.8mm actuation point
- AIMO intelligent RGB lighting
- Media keys for on-the-fly commands
- Anodized aluminum top plate
- 512kb integrated macro & settings memory
- All keys customizable and remap-able
- Advanced Anti-ghosting n-key rollover
The Vulcan 121 Aimo RGB Mechanical Keyboard is a marriage of many awesome features and robust design, that when put together, make a phenomenal gaming keyboard. Each element has been intricately planned and tailored for gaming, from the intelligent AIMO backlighting, the robust chassis for long gaming sessions to the tactile and incredibly responsive switches. This gaming keyboard is a fan favorite and it’s very easy to see why!CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
Best Gaming Keyboards – Comparison Table
|Type of Keyboard||Model||Image||Size||Hardware Platform||RGB||Switch Type||Rating|
|Best Budget Gaming Keyboards||HAVIT Rainbow Backlit Wired Gaming Keyboard||17.5 x 9 x 2 inches||PC||Yes||Blue Switches||4.5 Stars|
|Redragon K552-RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard 87 Key Mechanical Cherry MX Blue Equivalent Switches||13.9 x 4.9 x 1.5 inches||PC||Yes||Mechanical Cherry MX Blue Switch Equivalent||4.5 Stars|
|Redragon Karura K502 USB Gaming Keyboard||16.9 x 7.5 x 0.7 inches||PC||Yes||Non-mechanical||3.9 Stars|
|Tt eSports COMMANDER LED Illumination Gaming Keyboard||23.2 x 1.9 x 9.3 inches||PC||Yes||Non-mechanical||4.2 Stars|
|Mid-range Gaming Keyboards||SteelSeries Apex M400 Illuminated Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||17.3 x 5.4 x 1.6 inches||PC||Yes||QX1 Linear Mechanical Switches||4.2 Stars|
|Corsair K95 Platinum Mechanical Keyboard||17.2 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches||PC||Yes||Cherry MX Speed RGB mechanical key switches||4.6 out of 5|
|Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||14.6 x 8.1 x 0.2 inches||PC||Yes||Mechanical Orange Switches||4.4 Stars|
|Redragon S101 Wired Gaming Keyboard and Mouse Combo||17.2 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches||PC||Yes||Gaming Grade Micro Switches||4.6 out of 5|
|High-End Gaming Keyboards||NPET K10 Wired Gaming Keyboard||17.2 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches||PC||Yes||Non-mechanical||4.5 out of 5|
|SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL Mechanical Gaming Keyboard – World’s Fastest Mechanical Switches||5.5 x 14 x 1.6 inches||PC||Yes||OmniPoint Adjustable Switches - adjust actuation distance between 0.4mm - 3.6mm||4.6 Stars|
|Razer Cynosa Chroma Gaming Keyboard||17.2 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches||PC||Yes||Non-mechanical||4.7 out of 5|
|Corsair Gaming K70 RGB Mk.2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||17.2 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches||PC||Yes||Cherry MX Red Low Profile Mechanical Switches||4.6 Stars|
What Makes a Good Gaming Keyboard?
Unlike other hardware components, such as a graphics card or a CPU, there aren’t a lot of factors involved in what makes an excellent gaming keyboard. However, this doesn’t mean you should just run off and purchase the first gaming keyboard that strikes your fancy, as you could pay for features you never intend to use!
The first thing to think about how you plan to use your gaming keyboard and under what conditions. For example, if you’re going to use it primarily during the day, a powerful backlight is likely not that important. Likewise, if you don’t plan on playing a lot of MOBA or MMORPGs, you may not have a use for programmable keys. By figuring out the primary use of your gaming keyboard, you can zero in on the features that are important to you and pick the perfect gaming keyboard for your needs.
There are five primary categories you need to look at when purchasing a gaming keyboard:
- The number of extra keys on the keyboard
- Whether you want a wired or a wireless keyboard
- The design of the keyboard
- The keyboard’s anti-ghosting capability
- Choosing a mechanical vs. a non-mechanical keyboard
In the following sections, we’ll cover each of these categories more in-depth, plus discuss a few other things you need to keep in mind when purchasing a gaming keyboard.
One of the first things consumers notice about a gaming keyboard is that it packs a lot of additional buttons onto its frame. In addition to your standard keys, a gaming keyboard typically has dedicated media controls or keys. It will also have programmable keys – possibly even dedicated macro keys – and perhaps even a volume knob. Multimedia keys are standard on every gaming keyboard. It’s rare to find a keyboard that does not include any of these keys.
The difference between budget and high-end gaming keyboards are the number of multimedia keys on the keyboard. For example, a budget gaming keyboard may only have buttons to lower, raise or mute the volume. While a high-end keyboard may include buttons to launch apps and control a media player. Along with a dedicated knob to control volume instead of buttons. If you’re trying to save a bit of cash, none of these extra multimedia buttons are essential. Most just add convenience for the user. If you feel like you can live without a volume knob or dedicated buttons to open apps then do it. It’s worth it to save a few bucks and get a cheaper gaming keyboard.
The other set of additional keys on a gaming keyboard are a set of programmable keys. These allow users to map complex commands that they can activate with the press of a single button. While MMORPG and MOBA gamers will love these keys, if you’re looking to play RPG or FPS games, you’re likely not going to have a use for them. When making the decision over how many programmable keys you need, if you need them at all, think about the type of genre you play the most and go from there.
Wired Vs. Wireless
One of the hardest categories for gamers to figure out when looking at a gaming keyboard is whether to purchase a wired keyboard or a wireless one. Each one has their distinct advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately, the decision rests in whether you value responsiveness or convenience.
A wireless keyboard is ideal for those who want the freedom to put their gaming keyboard wherever they want, whether it’s next to the monitor or on their lap. Most gaming keyboards typically have short cables, so a wireless keyboard is ideal for those whose computer case isn’t near where they want to use their keyboard. Also, you also won’t have to worry about unsightly cables draped across your gaming area with a wireless keyboard.
However, with a wireless gaming keyboard comes a slightly slower response time, which isn’t going to fly for most professional gamers. Sometimes, all it takes is that extra millisecond delay for your action to register to turn a victory into a defeat. Not to mention, you’ll save money in the long run with a wired keyboard as you won’t need to buy batteries every time your keyboard needs a recharge, nor will your keyboard cut out during an intense match due to lack of power.
In the end, the decision over whether to go for wired over wireless or vice versa is purely a personal choice. If you’re someone who takes gaming seriously and value that extra responsiveness, opt for a wired keyboard; on the other hand, if you’re a gamer who values convenience over above all else and don’t mind always buying batteries, a wireless gaming keyboard is the best choice.
If you’re planning on pulling frequent all-night sessions with your favorite PC games, an ergonomic design for your gaming keyboard is of the utmost important if you want to avoid wrist and hand injuries. Luckily, the majority of gaming keyboards take your health into account with standard features such as a wrist rest and raised keys. Some gaming keyboards even offer adjustable height and tilt controls, letting you place your gaming keyboard in a position that works best for your wrists. If you’re going to spend long hours at your computer playing games, look for a gaming keyboard that has as many of these ergonomic features as possible; your wrists will thank you later!
PC games these days are far more complicated than they were in the past, with almost every button on your keyboard used in some form. In fact, some games, such as first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, routinely have you pressing two or more keys simultaneously to pull off advanced moves. Anti-ghosting technology is the technology that allows you to press more than one key and have your keyboard register each key press, which isn’t possible on standard or older keyboards.
While you’ll find anti-ghosting technology on every gaming keyboard in some form, what differs from keyboard to keyboard is the amount of keys that you can press simultaneously. Some of the low-end gaming keyboards only allow you to press four or five keys simultaneously while some high-end keyboards up this number to a whopping 19 keys. If you’re planning on playing games that require fast reflexes and multiple key presses, it’s worth it to get a keyboard that supports as many simultaneous key presses as possible.
If you plan on playing games that don’t require a lot of simultaneous key presses, such as role-playing games or strategy games, save yourself some cash and opt for a budget gaming keyboard.
Should I Buy a Mechanical Gaming Keyboard?
Once thought of as a niche product, mechanical keyboards are making a return in a big way, with many professional eSports players pledging loyalty to this category of keyboards. It’s easy to see why, as mechanical gaming keyboards offer more precise control over your key presses, less accidental key presses and the ability to double-tap keys quicker. With games such as League of Legends, where precise, rapid key presses are necessary for victory, a mechanical keyboard makes a fantastic gaming keyboard.
Know Your Switches
The one thing you’ll want to look for when buying a mechanical gaming keyboard is the type of switch used. In a mechanical keyboard, each key has an individual mechanical switch under it. Certain kinds of switches are better for gaming than others. The best mechanical switches for gaming are Cherry MX Red switches, Cherry MX Black and Cherry MX Brown, in that order. You’ll want to avoid Cherry MX Blue mechanical switches, as these benefit typists more than gamers.
There are a few other notably good switches, such as the Romer-G switches. Some budget mechanical gaming keyboards use proprietary mechanical switches. While these may be decent in their own right, as a rule, it’s Cherry MX all the way. Especially if you want the highest quality mechanical gaming keyboard. You should also be aware of the difference between tactile switches, low profile switches, clicky switches and linear switches. Different colors of switch are symbolic of the switch type, whether they are clicky or tactile etc. We explain this a little deeper in our mechanical switches guide.
While the mechanical switches themselves provide a noticeable difference over an electronic membrane keyboard, the other advantage a mechanical gaming keyboard has is its weight. Due to the mechanical switches, a mechanical gaming keyboard is much heavier and less prone to moving around your desk.
It’s Not All Sunshine And Rainbows
A mechanical gaming keyboard may sound like the perfect gaming keyboard, but it does offer a few disadvantages that gamers should take note of before purchasing. Mechanical gaming keyboards are notorious for the loud noises they make while typing, with each key making a loud and distinctive “clack” sound as you press it. While some mechanical gaming keyboards boast quieter key presses, overall a mechanical keyboard is a noisy device that could potentially annoy your roommates or neighbors.
Also, some gamers may not enjoy the feel of a mechanical keyboard or the increased amount of pressure it takes to press a key. If possible, try out a mechanical keyboard at your local electronics store before purchasing one, envisioning if the keyboard is something you think you’ll still enjoy after a few hours of continuous use.
Do I Need All These Backlights?
While even most standard keyboards these days come with a backlight, some gaming keyboards boast a whole spectrum of backlights for gamers to enjoy. While most gaming keyboards offer a minimum of three different colors of backlights, others possess an unlimited color spectrum that allows users to customize the backlight into any color they desire. Outside of looks, there is no real difference in backlight color; for example, a red backlight can illuminate a keyboard just as well as a purple light.
If you’re not that concerned about personalization or even what color your keyboard displays, then opt for a gaming keyboard that just offers a few standard backlights. If you’re planning on frequently playing games at night, you may want to consider a gaming keyboard that provides a backlight with adjustable brightness levels.
Why Do Some Gaming Keyboards Have an LCD Screen?
On some of most expensive gaming keyboards, you’ll notice a LCD or OLED screen at the top of the keyboard. It varies in size depending on the manufacturer. This LCD screen acts as a secondary screen for your games. Displaying information such as your health, ammo count, and other game-specific information. Also, on some keyboards this screen also acts as a media center display. Showing information such as the currently selected song and artist for your music tracks.
While this information is convenient, it’s hardly necessary. In many cases not worth the extravagant fees associated with placing a second screen on your keyboard. The LCD screen is a feature you can safely skip. Unless you have some disposable income burning a hole in your pocket and are looking for a feature to make your keyboard stand out from the pack.
The decision to get a keyboard that offers USB ports built into it is, like most extras on a gaming keyboard, a personal one. If you’re planning on using a pair of wired headphones, being able to plug them directly into your keyboard is a bonus. It’s more appealing than plugging them into the back of your computer or even your speakers. This same convenience also applies to wired gaming controllers. Many gamers prefer to plug these directly into their keyboard than hunt for a spare USB port on their PC. Ultimately, we recommend that if possible, try to choose a gaming keyboard that offers USB ports, as the convenience factor far outweighs the slight increase in price.
The Top 12 Best Gaming Keyboards
Now that you know what to look for in a gaming keyboard, you’re ready to select one of your very own. Below, we’ve gathered the top 12 best gaming keyboards in three different categories: budget, mid-range, and high-end gaming keyboards. From mechanical to electronic with a range of additional keys to hardly any at all. There’s something for everyone on this definitive list of gaming keyboards.
Budget Gaming Keyboards
The HAVIT Rainbow Backlit Wired Gaming Keyboard combines style and substance into one package. The 104 keys use blue switches, and the full board has n-key rollover. There are command keys and programmable keys. It’s a great gaming keyboard for creating a full set of customized commands and functions.
The starring feature of the HAVIT Rainbow Backlit Wired Gaming Keyboard is the 14 different LED backlight modes. These are accompanied by the 7 color effects that are customizable on the included gaming mouse. The HAVIT Rainbow Backlit Wired Gaming Keyboard is compatible with a broad range of operating systems. Ranging from Windows 2000 all the way to Windows 10. The gaming mouse that comes with the keyboard, has 6 programmable DPI settings ranging from 800/1600/2400/3200/4000/4800.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
The first of Redragon’s keyboards on this list, is the Redragon K552-RGB with Cherry MX Blue equivalent switches. This entry level 87 key model is extremely popular, offering a variety of features for gamers at a very reasonable price. There are 5 different lighting modes for RGB backlighting, full n-key rollover and 12 multimedia keys to start with. The tactile mechanical switches are very durable and responsive. This Redragon K552 keyboard is highly compatible across Windows, Linux and Mac devices.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
The original Redragon Karura K502 USB Gaming Keyboard wasn’t a hit among gamers. Learning from that, the company redesigned the keyboard from the ground up to offer this new and improved version. You’ll find the following features in the Redragon Karura K502 USB Gaming Keyboard:
- Improved keys which offer a faster response time and more durability
- Seven backlight colors with four brightness levels each
- 19 non-conflict keys
- 12 multimedia keys
- The ability to change the input speed of the keyboard
- The option to disable the Windows key during gameplay
Looking for a gaming keyboard built for eSports? Then the Tt eSports COMMANDER LED Illumination Gaming Keyboard from Thermaltake is a good choice for you. This budget gaming keyboard includes features typically reserved for keyboards more than twice its price. These include durable metal edges, mechanical key caps, auto-repeating keys and a powerful LED backlight. The best part about this deal is that you don’t just get a great budget gaming keyboard. No, the manufacturer also throws in a high-quality gaming mouse for free!CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
Mid-range Gaming Keyboards
If you want a good mid-range gaming keyboard, look no further than the SteelSeries Apex M400 Gaming Keyboard. This gaming keyboard features QX1 Linear Mechanical Gaming Switches. These have a lower profile than other gaming keyboards. Decreasing the amount of time it takes for your fingers to reach each one while also increasing each key’s response time. There is a full 104 n-key rollover with 100% anti-ghosting and fully programmable keys and macros.
The proprietary SteelSeries Engine software included with the SteelSeries Apex M400 is an easy-to-use program. It lets you program macros, set up different gaming profiles and even adjust the keyboard’s back-light.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
Other Keyboard guides you should check out..
Connect the Corsair K95 to your computer via the included USB receiver to see what you missed with other keyboards. The K95 uses aircraft aluminum alloy in its construction to help it last for years of gaming and has 8MB of built-in storage to keep track of your macros. This is one of the few keyboards that multiple users can share too as it stores up to three profiles and records your preferences. The mechanical switches respond quickly and help you avoid ghosting in your games. You also get six G-keys that you can program to work with different games.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
Are you looking for something with similar features to the Razer DeathStalker Chroma Gaming Keyboard but using mechanical switches? If the answer is yes, you’ll love the Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. This gaming keyboard includes all of the same features as the DeathStalker. Including anti-ghosting capabilities, a durable feel and programmable keys. The mechanical switches under each key improve both the feel and the responsiveness of the keyboard. You’ll notice an improvement in your gameplay almost immediately.
The accompanying magnetic wrist rest is an added bonus. Providing comfort for those long gaming sessions and tournaments. The Razer BlackWidow TE V2 also uses Orange Mechanical Switches for a proper tactile feel.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
You can play for hours with this combo set from Redragon that comes with both a mouse and keyboard. The S101 gaming keyboard has a backlit display that lets you play at night and enjoy the colors that shine through. It has seven lighting effects and modes as well as four levels that adjust how bright the lights shine. Not only can you see the lights as they come through the caps, but the keyboard itself is resistant to liquid damage. With 25 keys that prevent conflicts, it also stops ghosting as you play. The wired connection uses gold plating to help the USB last longer. You also get a mouse that has six buttons you can program in five different ways.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
High-end Gaming Keyboards
Though you might not know the NPET name, this mechanical keyboard delivers all of the features that you need for gaming. The keycaps use a UV coating that is durable and will not peel off, no matter how many times you press them. With four backlit modes, it lets you pick the best mode to use with any game. On top of the more than 100 standard keys, it also features 13 multimedia keys along with a spacebar that won’t get in your way. Other features that you’ll like include the floating design that adjusts to the height that you need and the water-resistant surface to prevent damage from spills.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
The SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a real contender for best gaming keyboard. The Omni directional mechanical switches are phenomenal. They are incredibly responsive and durable – worth over 100 million keystrokes. The actuation time is also much faster than other key switches in the same price bracket. You can adjust the actuation distance to customize the keys to your own liking and tastes.
At the top right of the Keyboard there is an OLED display. You can use this for tracking on the fly information from certain media streams or about your settings. The RGB lighting is per-key with a massive color pallet. To top it all off, the magnetic wrist support is both ergonomically sound and very comfortable.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
No matter what you like doing as you play, this keyboard can help. The Cynosa has a spill-resistant design that keeps crumbs and liquids from leaking inside the case due to accidents. It has a design to prevent ghosting and 10 keys that you can program to respond in different ways. Designed to work with some of the most popular games, this keyboard can show nearly 17 million colors in its backlit display. It has macros that you can program, too. Those macros let you customize the keyboard to make sure that it works for you. The Cynosa can last for up to 80 million presses and clicks.CHECK LATEST DEALS ON AMAZON
The Corsair Gaming K70 RGB Mk.2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is one of the best gaming keyboards in Corsair’s lineup. Featuring an assortment of features designed to let you dominate any PC game you play. This list is just a sample of the features that the Corsair Gaming K70 Mk.2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard includes:
- Cherry MX Red Low Profile Mechanical Switches
- Multi-colored Per-Key RGB Backlighting
- Macro Keys
- A durable aluminum chassis
- A soft wrist rest
- CORSAIR iCUE Software
No matter which of these 12 gaming keyboards you buy, prepare yourself for a huge upgrade from your current keyboard. In just a few games, you’ll notice the built-in features of your new gaming keyboard giving you an edge during a competition. Rocketing you from the bottom of the leader boards straight to the top. You better prepare for a few all-nighters when you receive your new gaming keyboard. You’ll want to replay all your old games again!