If you’re a gamer, then you know how important it is to have one of the best gaming keyboards.
This is not just the device you use to type on your computer when you’re messaging your friends; it’s also the very device you use as your game controller. It is an extension of yourself that allows you to interface with the game world.
The gaming keyboard is to the gamer what the sword is to the swordsman. And while a sword does not make a swordsman, it sure makes a big difference.
In the world of PC gaming, you have to make the right choice for your gaming keyboard if you want to take your gaming experience to the next level. I went through what’s on the market and came up with a list of the 10 best gaming keyboards.
For a quick reference, check below. Otherwise, if you want to learn more about each individual keyboard, you can read their reviews below, as well as a comprehensive buyer’s guide at the end.
Best Gaming Keyboards 2021 – Comparison Table
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- Best Gaming Keyboards 2021 – Comparison Table
- Best Gaming Keyboards 2021
- 1. Roccat Vulcan 120 Aimo – Best mechanical gaming keyboard
- 2. Corsair K95 RGB Platinum – The Rolls Royce of RBG gaming keyboards
- 3. Logitech G513 – Best full-size gaming keyboard
- 4. Razer Huntsman Elite – Best optical gaming keyboard
- 5. Corsair K63 Wireless – Best wireless gaming keyboard
- 6. Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 – Best low-profile gaming keyboard
- 7. Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB – Best ergonomic gaming keyboard
- 8. SteelSeries Apex Pro – Best customizable gaming keyboard
- 9. Razer BlackWidow – Best Budget Gaming Keyboard
- 10. Cooler Master MK850 – Best analog gaming keyboard
- Gaming Keyboard Buyer’s Guide
- Best Gaming Keyboard Offers
Best Gaming Keyboards 2021
1. Roccat Vulcan 120 Aimo
2. Corsair K95 RGB Platinum
3. Logitech G513
4. Razer Huntsman Elite
5. Corsair K63 Wireless
6. Corsair K70 RGB MK.2
7. Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB
8. SteelSeries Apex Pro
9. Razer BlackWidow
10. Cooler Master MK850
1. Roccat Vulcan 120 Aimo – Best mechanical gaming keyboard
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: Titan Switch Tactile/Linear
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: Plastic, detachable
- Size: 18.2 x 9.3 x 1.3 inches
Starting at the design, this keyboard looks absolutely beautiful. It has something of a conservative design, especially for a gaming keyboard, but that didn’t do anything to take away from its beauty. If anything, it enhanced it. It has an aluminum body with the RGB backlighting that I have come to expect on any serious gaming keyboard.
What really makes this keyboard stand out, however, is the design of the key caps. On most keyboards, the key caps cover the whole key, switch and top. The Vulcan 120 Aimo is different. Here only top of the keys are covered in keycaps, with the rest of the keys exposed. It certainly makes the keyboard feel beautifully industrial. It also gives the keyboard a very nostalgic retro-typewriter feel that anyone would appreciate.
Even with that retro-feel, don’t think for a moment that this typewriter looks too old-fashioned. The RGB lighting takes care of that. It’s even more eye-catching with the exposed keys as the lighting glows around the keys and through the transparent keycaps, giving it a very futuristic shine.
You won’t be getting any macro keys on this keyboard, which may be a drawback for some people, but I personally thought it was a good idea since it reduces the clutter on the keyboard. If you want to assign macros, you can assign them to the F1, F2, F3, and F4 keys.
There is also a dial knob on the top right hand corner of the keyboard with 3 buttons next to it. One of those buttons is the FX key, the other one is to mute device volume, and the third is a volume button. If you press the FX key you can scroll through the different keyboard lighting options by turning the knob. If you press the volume button you can use the knob to turn up or down the volume.
This keyboard also comes with an attachable wrist rest. My only problem with it is that it does everything but give your wrists a rest. It’s made of plastic, which makes it a lot harder on the wrist than a padded wrist rest would feel. I think it’s the biggest drawback to what is otherwise a flawlessly executed design.
The performance of the Vulcan 120 Aimo is also up to par with the best in the industry. Roccat decided to forego Cherry MX switches for their proprietary Roccat Titan Switches. These switches have a 1.8mm actuation point, which places them very close to the Cherry MX Brown switches in performance.
The tactility of these switches is not only light, but also fast. With half-weight keycaps, the switches return to their original position very fast, not to mention they won’t click and clack as loudly as most mechanical keyboards. This makes this keyboard great for both typing and gaming.
The electrical bounce time, if Roccat’s claims are to be believed, is reduced to 4ms from Cherry MX Switches’ 5ms. That’s a 20% reduction in time. While I certainly didn’t measure this, I did compare the feel to Cherry MX keyboards and I did think the Vulcan 120 Aimo felt a lot more responsive, which made it much better when I was playing fast-paced games or typing frantically.
The best emphasis I can place on this keyboard is that it is perfect for both playing games and working. The Roccat Titan Switches may not be as great as the Cherry Red Switches on some other top-notch mechanical gaming keyboards, the truth is that you can’t do much typing on Cherry MX Red Switches anyway. For that reason, the Vulcan 120 Aimo is the best mechanical keyboard for its all-roundedness, if for nothing else.
2. Corsair K95 RGB Platinum – The Rolls Royce of RBG gaming keyboards
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: CHERRY® MX
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: Foam, detachable
- Size: 18.3 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches
The Corsair K95 RGB Platinum shares much of the same design and aluminum build as its predecessor, the K70, though there are some interesting enhancements.
The greatest difference between the two is that the K95 has fewer macro keys at just 6, which makes it much narrower than its predecessors. Now, some may not be happy at the reduced number of macro keys, but I thought this was an improvement since it means the keys are easier to reach this time round.
Even with the reduced macro key count, this keyboard is still ahead of the curve when it comes to shortcut keys. There are media controls, a volume wheel, gaming modes, and lighting toggles that are all easier to reach.
Also, even though the macro keys have been reduced, the keyboard comes with 8MB of in-built memory that allows users to program a maximum of 3 sets of macros. That way you can take the keyboard with you wherever you go and still use whatever keystrokes make you most comfortable.
The Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software has always been Corsair’s weakest point. Sure, it has seen massive improvements over the ears, and this time comes with lots of templates for the pulse, wave, and rain of colors on the keyboard, but it can still get pretty technical pretty fast. I eventually gave up and resorted to using community-built templates for most of my color schemes. The easiest part was creating macros. There, at least, the CUE software gave me lots of tools to make life more bearable.
When it comes to wrist rests, I haven’t found many keyboards with better wrist rests than this keyboard. It is built out of the same military grade aluminum as the keyboard, and comes with a very comfortable, rubber padded wrist rest. The rubber is reversible and magnetic, giving you a rough texture finish on one side, and a smooth one on the other. The only niggle I had with this rubber wrist rest is how easily it gets dirty. It attracts oil, dust, crumbs, and just about everything in between. I have to clean it constantly.
There are two cable channels on the underside of the keyboard arranged in an “X” for the headset wire and anything you would normally plug into the USB passthrough. This is to get them out of the way so you don’t have too many cables in sight.
The lighting is also great, having been upgraded to 19 zones in a bar that runs along the top of the frame. It’s pretty dazzling, and I thought it was a nice touch.
When it comes to speed, the K95 RGB Platinum is much like its predecessor, the K70. The switches are Cherry linear MX Speed switches and are highly responsive, actuating with 1.2mm and 45g force. This means you don’t have to apply too much pressure to activate the switches, and they tend to bottom out really fast. It’s great for games where you need to have instant reflexes and act really fast. I wouldn’t recommend this keyboard if you’re looking for something to do a lot of typing on, but then again it was made for gaming, not typing.
3. Logitech G513 – Best full-size gaming keyboard
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: GX Blue Mechanical Switches
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: Memory Foam, detachable
- Size: 17.5 x 5.3 x 1.4 inches
The Logitech G513 is the successor of the Logitech G413, and so there aren’t many major design changes over its predecessor. The keyboard is just as compact and the frame is still made of rigid plastic with a top plate of aircraft grade 5052 aluminum.
One of the problems I have with brushed metal finishes on peripherals is that they are a great magnet for fingerprints. It gets annoying after a while because the finish dulls and loses its sheen. Logitech take care of this problem on the G513 by blending aluminum with magnesium, which repels fingerprints. The design is frameless, with floating keycaps that make cleaning up with compressed air a literal and metaphorical breeze.
This particular model also introduces RGB lighting that can be customized per key. It’s just as good as what Logitech puts into their higher tier gaming peripherals, with the same brilliance in the lighting. You can also synchronize the lighting effects on your setup with the help of their proprietary LightSync tech.
The palm rest is made of leatherette, padded with memory foam. I love how large it is. No matter what size your palms are, they will easily fit on this palm rest. I did think, however, that it was kind of heavy. I understand that this was to keep it in place, but I couldn’t help wondering why they didn’t just use magnets to achieve that.
The Logitech G513 is a little disappointing in that there aren’t any dedicated media buttons. Instead, you will have to settle for toggleable function keys. It may help to give the keyboard a smaller form factor, but that’s not saying much, since there are many other gaming keyboards that have achieved a frameless design while maintaining shortcut keys.
I also didn’t like the fact that the USB passthrough was a USB 2.0 port, as convenient as it might be. With the ubiquity of USB 3.0 in the past few years, it was only natural to expect that Logitech would get with the times.
In the performance sector, I was impressed by the Romer-G Linear switch, which felt pretty firm without being too resistant. The underlying mechanism is pretty boxy, allowing each key to actuate evenly and come to a fairly quiet stop. The Cherry MX Red, by comparison, has very little resistance and the keys not only actuate unevenly sometimes, but can also have a noisy chatter.
The greatest difference between the G513 and the G413 is the introduction of the Romer-G Linear switch in the G513. This is the first time Logitech has introduced a linear switch in its peripherals. Before, its proprietary switches were only tactile.
Logitech promises us that this new linear switch is 25% faster than its competitors, as well as being quieter. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the numbers, but after using this keyboard for a while I certainly did feel that it was much quieter and faster than the Cherry MX Red switch.
Something I particularly loved was how good it felt both while gaming and typing. I actually enjoyed typing on it. I have always had a problem with Cherry MX Red switches that are only good for gaming and nothing else. This switch was a breath of fresh air.
4. Razer Huntsman Elite – Best optical gaming keyboard
- Key Type: Opto-mechanical
- Switch Type: Razer Optical Switch
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: Leatherette, detachable
- Size: 17.5 x 5.5 x 1.4 inches
One thing’s for sure, and that’s that the Huntsman Elite is an ambitious keyboard. That said, it’s still the smallest keyboard Razer has ever produced. That’s mainly because of the frameless design Razer introduced on this keyboard. Their other keyboards have had thick plastic on the frame, but the Huntsman has opted to go the way of simplicity.
The keycaps float on top of an anodized aluminum deck that’s jet black to the sight. This is much like what I’ve seen with other frameless keyboards, such as the Logitech G513. What’s so different about Razer is that they don’t just use light bars like everyone else but have additional track lighting around the keyboard. This keyboard even has an RGB lit palm rest. Talk about upping the ante!
If you’re conservative about how your gaming keyboard looks, then you might feel like this one is a little over the top. However, you can rest assured there isn’t a single keyboard out there with more RGB lighting. Their proprietary Chroma tech adds soft yet vibrant lighting to every button and key, as well as a glow effect underneath, thanks to the track lighting around the perimeter.
The media keys on this keyboard are also among the best in the market. They have buttons to play, fast forward, and rewind, as well as a wheel that control volume with a mute button right in its center.
I particularly like how the volume wheel hangs partly off the edge. This makes adjustments easier than if it was fully in the body of the keyboard. As soon as you start adjusting the volume, its inner ring lights up a bright white that gets brighter as the volume goes higher. My only problem is that I would have preferred if they either got the volume wheel to turn with a smooth scroll or click audibly and physical. Right now, it does something in-between and it can feel awkward sometimes.
The caps lock light and other indicator lights are also rather cleverly placed in the space above the arrow keys. I thought this was clever because I haven’t seen that space utilized in that way in any other keyboard.
The palm rest is quite comfortable, giving great support for the hands. I didn’t like the metal edges around it, though, as it cuts into your wrists if they hang off the edge of the desk. It can be quite a nuisance.
Razer uses an optical switch keyboard. They aren’t the first manufacturer to do that, for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great design. The optomechanical switches on this keyboard react faster than any others I’ve used in the past and feel unique too.
Right under the keycaps on this keyboard are interesting looking purple switches. You’ll see the regular plus-shaped peg sitting at the center. However, it is surrounded by a box with bits pushing out of it that connect to an interesting looking metal bar. The top section is meant to give the key a mechanical feeling. The bottom is a spring with a hollow space. Lasers are what make the optical switch work.
To understand how this is different, consider how regular mechanical keyboards work. They have a metal base on which the keyboard switches bottom out. This base is usually made of gold and acts as a contact point to complete an electric circuit that signals to your computer to activate the switch. The optomechanical switch on the Razer does the same thing with a beam of light instead of a metal contact point. The beam of light is faster, and so response time is faster.
Another great thing about the Huntsman Elite is that its mechanical bits were modeled after the best aspects of its competitors. The 45g actuation force is the same as what you would get from the Cherry MX Red, the click is the same as what you would get from the Razer Green and Cherry MX Blue switches, and the 3.55mm travel distance and 1.5mm actuation distance is very similar to what you would find on the Cherry MX Speed Silver.
I know all this sounds rather complicated, but it works fantastically without a hitch in practice. The optical switches combined with short mechanical actuation distances will give you a typing experience faster than anything you have ever experienced. All this while also giving you an audible and tactile feedback that can only be described as satisfying.
I’m a generally slow typist, but typing on this keyboard makes me feel like I could win the Typing Olympics. It can take some getting used to, especially if fast response times are alien to you, but once you get used to it, you get practically transformed into typing superman.
This speed isn’t just for typing, though. It’s perfect for games. Games like Mirror’s Edge and other first person shooters play incredibly well with this keyboard.
Razer claims that its switches actuate 30% faster than traditional switches. They also claim that their switches are twice as durable, lasting through 100 million clicks. While I certainly haven’t used this keyboard for 100 million clicks, I am inclined to believe their claims based on the experience I’ve had with their keyboard so far.
The only downside I could find with the switches is that every key has its own laser. That’s 104 beams of light, and we haven’t even counted the RGB lighting. That’s a lot of energy getting consumed. The end result is that you need two USB ports to feed this keyboard with enough juice to get it working properly.
5. Corsair K63 Wireless – Best wireless gaming keyboard
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: CHERRY® MX Red
- Backlighting: Blue
- Palmrest: Plastic, optional
- Size: 14.37 x 6.73 x 1.61 inches
The Corsair K63 wireless is based off of its identical wired predecessor, so the design is pretty much the same as well. In fact, if you’ve seen other Corsair keyboards, then the design on this one shouldn’t surprise you.
I particularly love how Corsair designed this keyboard. It’s all very modern and very clean. The design is frameless and to the point. The top bezel is tasteful enough that it gives the keyboard flair while providing enough space for the extra media buttons. Also, while this keyboard doesn’t have the same aluminum top frame as the K70 and K95 keyboards, the rigid plastic is still some of the best quality I’ve seen, guaranteeing durability.
The keycaps float gracefully atop a powerful blue backlight. I like this feature and I love the fact that Corsair kept it in their wireless keyboard. Many manufacturers will not maintain the backlighting system in their wireless keyboards. The usual excuse is that it drains battery power. I think they’re just being mean most of the time.
In terms of new things, the only new elements you will be getting on the Corsair K63 wireless is a mini USB charging port on the back and a power switch, both of which are necessary for a wireless keyboard anyway.
One particular area in which I wish Corsair would do better is its palm rests. They have always been rigid plastic with a thin sheet of textured rubber on the top that clips on to the clipboard. The clips are rather flimsy. It’s not comparable to the great magnetic palm rests with comfortable cushions that you see on the Razer and Cooler Master. I particularly hate how I have to snap off the clipped palm rest every time I want to plug it into the lapboard for PC gaming on the couch.
Speaking of couch gaming, this keyboard represents couch gaming at its best. I remember loving the Corsair lapdog when it came out, as it brought PC gaming to the couch. The K63 Wireless is pretty much the wireless version of the concept. The greatest change in the K63 lapboard is that it’s smaller than its predecessor and only supports 10-keyless keyboards. You also don’t get an internal USB hub as everything is expected to be wireless.
All things considered, I think the lapboard is just a plastic holder for peripherals with a comfortable underside. That doesn’t justify the price point. At the very least they could have added a USB hub and an internal battery to justify the lapboard’s price.
Even so, if you’re looking for the best couch setup for PC gaming, then it’s hard to do better than this keyboard and lapboard. The lapboard feels very balanced and the mousepad will work well with any mouse.
When it comes to performance, the Corsair K63 Wireless is excellent. In fact, it is so good that sometimes I completely forget that I’m using a wireless keyboard. Believe it or not, this keyboard has neither delay nor dropout. The connection is a solid 2.4GHs and is stable even in an environment saturated by wireless connections. It will also connect with PCs from a distance, allowing you to play games from the comfort of your couch easily.
If you consider the tenkeyless and wireless design on the keyboard, you can immediately see how portable it is. It works great if you’re taking it to your friend’s house for a nice round of PC games. I still wouldn’t take it to an esports tournament, though, as it still doesn’t hold a candle to a proper wired keyboard.
The battery life of this wireless keyboard is 75 hours at the maximum, so long as you don’t leave the backlight on. If you let the backlight stay on, even at a third of its brightness, you can expect it to run for only 25 hours. Have the backlight at full light and that reduces to 10 hours.
The K63 Wireless uses Cherry MX Red switches. I have bashed them before, but I will give them credit where it’s due. They are linearly actuated, consistent, and have only 4mm of travel, not to mention the keystroke is inaudible, which can often be a good thing. It’s a great keyboard for gaming, but I wouldn’t use it for typing or much else.
6. Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 – Best low-profile gaming keyboard
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: CHERRY® MX Red
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: Soft touch finish, detachable
- Size: 17.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
The K70 RGB MK.2 is a full-sized keyboard with a wrist rest. They worked really hard not to waste any space in this keyboard, considering that it’s only 17 inches by 9 inches without the wrist rest and 17 inches by 16 inches with it. The beautiful black chassis is a full inch smaller than many other gaming keyboards on the market and pretty comfortable, with enough spacing between the keys that they are easy to work with.
Speaking of the chassis, it is made of a solid aluminum surface, making the keyboard quite durable. This keyboard is edgy enough to be at home in your gaming setup and also classy enough to work well on your office desk, especially with the floating keys, which add quite a bit of flair to the overall look.
The K70 RGB MK.2 comes with media controls and a volume wheel as well as buttons for brightness, gaming profiles, and a USB passthrough. There are also textured WASG keys as well as the surrounding keys for better control during first person shooter games. The spacebar is permanently textured while the other keys give you the option of swapping between smooth and textured keycaps.
Corsair worked really hard with the key switches on this keyboard. They use only Cherry MX switches and allow you to choose between 5 different Cherry MX switches. These are the Speed, Red, Brown, Silent, and Blue. From the very quiet linear switches to the tactile and noisy ones you can choose whichever key switch works best for you. This is a pretty useful feature as it gives you the ability to convert your gaming keyboard into one that’s made just for typing without having to buy a whole new setup.
On the software side we have the iCUE software, which admittedly has a quite a learning curve. However, once you get the hang of it, you can do some really cool things with it. It allows you to record macros, set up profiles, and customize lighting setups.
7. Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB – Best ergonomic gaming keyboard
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: CHERRY® MX Blue, Brown, Red or Silver
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: Soft foam, detachable
- Size: 15.5 up to 20 x 10.25 x 1.25 inches
This keyboard is the successor to the Kinesis Freestyle Edge. It has some improvements, such as the addition of 16.8 million colors. The most interesting thing about it, however, is that it is a split keyboard. Split keyboards are like standard keyboards, except they’re split in half.
This is due to physiological research that shows that the traditional keyboard tends to force your hands to stay parallel, hurting your wrists in the process. Split keyboards have an ergonomic design that allows you to place your hands in whichever way is most comfortable for them.
While this keyboard does look weird with the split, it’s really just a tenkeyless keyboard. The left side has the Game Bank which has nine blank keys that allow you to store your macros and hotkeys, as well as remap keys you might want to migrate from the other half. The Game Bank also includes a function key and a lighting toggle.
The right side has lots of navigation keys arranged slightly differently than you might be used to in a normal keyboard. Everything else is as it should be. There are two separate function keys, one on either side. The programmable key on the left side is more general purpose and allows you to program macros and remappings. It also has control over the F1 through F6 keys, which can be used as media keys. The function key on the right side activates F7 through F12, allowing you to do some unique things, such as n-key rollover, virtual drive, and so on. There’s also a set of programming keys that allow you to remap keys, edit macros, and change profiles. These are at the top of the right half.
When the 2 halves are together, they should be about 15.5 inches wide, just like a normal keyboard. The appeal is that you can have the 2 halves placed however you like them. There is also a braided cable between them with an allowance of 12 inches of separation. However, if you need more separation, 8 more inches can be found at the bottom of the keyboard.
The keyboard, unfortunately, doesn’t have any feet. If you want feet you’ll have to buy the separate lift kit, which snaps on the keyboard and lets you control the slope of the halves in increments of 5 degrees from 5 degrees to 15 degrees. I didn’t like this, considering the fact that the keyboard is already pretty expensive. Selling something as essential as the Lift Kit separately just seemed like a ploy to milk me of extra dollars.
When it comes to performance, this keyboard uses Cherry MX switches, allowing you to switch between Brown, Red, and Blue. The keys are also full RGB and illuminate beautifully, no matter which color you choose.
The software, called the SmartSet, allows you to save profiles and customize macros, layouts, and lighting setups. It makes remapping particularly easy, letting you click on the key you want to change on the on-screen map and then press the key you would like to reassign the function to. There are also special functions that you can assign, such as multimedia controls, mouse clicks, and so on.
8. SteelSeries Apex Pro – Best customizable gaming keyboard
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: Omnipoint Adjustable
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: Plastic, detachable
- Size: 17.2 x 1.9 x 4.4 inches
A problem I’ve always had with gaming keyboards is that sometimes they can get so carried away by their ambition for adding new features that they can make the keyboard too large. It gives most of them a bad score for design because then the keyboard ends up looking like a large and unwieldy plastic slab with even uglier plastic slabs jutting out of its sides. That is not a problem I have with the SteelSeries Apex Pro because it has deftly avoided that trap.
This keyboard comes with a magnificent aluminum frame that is just big enough to house it. There are no excesses here. There also isn’t any excess space on the side of the keyboard. Where the keys end also happens to be where the keyboard ends, and that’s saying a lot. When it comes to minimalist design in a field that isn’t traditionally predisposed to minimalist designs, it’s hard to beat the SteelSeries Apex Pro.
Actually, come to think about it, the only thing that makes this keyboard larger than a normal office keyboard is the wrist rest. Fortunately, the wrist rest is magnetic, which means you don’t need to have it around all the time. However, I wouldn’t recommend removing it. It comes in a faux rubber material that is pretty comfortable. I tend to get rid of the wrist rests almost immediately after getting a keyboard, but this one’s an exception. It actually does its job of resting the wrists.
The keyboard itself has a very clean and modern aesthetic due to how the keycaps float over the deck. The keys themselves, even though they’re made of plastic, still feel very premium and solid.
There is an OLED display above the number pad as well as a clickable volume wheel that mutes when you press it in. There is also a media key that you can use to play or pause your music. The OLED display is really cool in that it allows you to set a custom image for the keyboard. You can even set a GIF if you want, making this keyboard a lot more customizable than most.
But that’s not all the OLED display is good for. You can also use it to adjust other settings, such as the lighting, actuation, and brightness without having to navigate your way through the software. In fact, when you use the OLED to adjust the actuation, you can see the amount of force needed for each numbered setting visualized right on the display.
The back of the keyboard features a USB passthrough that’s easy to reach and illuminated. It’s pretty easy to locate even in the middle of a dark night when you’re gaming. It should be noted, also, that this keyboard needs 2 USBs to provide power, hence the USB passthrough.
There’s also RGB lighting on the SteelSeries Apex Pro, which looks brilliant, to say the least. The great drawback is that there isn’t much you can do to customize the lighting setup. There is per key illumination but you can’t add your own custom lighting setup. Hopefully there will be more customizability in the SteelSeries Engine software with time.
As far as performance is concerned, this is one of the best I’ve seen on the market. Remember that you can customize the actuation, which means that whether you like Cherry MX Red, Blue, Brown, or even Black switches, you can tune this keyboard for the force most comfortable for you, whether typing or gaming. You can have different actuation settings for work and gaming, giving you the best of both worlds.
It’s even greater when you think about actual gaming. For example, if there’s a key that you keep hitting by accident, then you can customize its actuation so that it only gets triggered when you hit it hard, making it difficult to hit by accident.
One of the best benefits to these switches for me is how silent they are. You can actually hear them if you’re in a silent room, but it’s not the loud clacking noise that I’ve come to loathe in other gaming keyboards. You can hear yourself playing your games but you don’t have to worry about waking everyone else in the house while you’re at it.
Quite simply, this is one of the best mechanical keyboards out there. The fact that you can tune it to your preferences really makes it a winner. If only this great gaming keyboard was more affordable so more people could enjoy it without having to sell a kidney.
9. Razer BlackWidow – Best Budget Gaming Keyboard
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: Razer Green Mechanical Switches
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: No
- Size: 17.73 x 6.5 x 1.58 inches
This is a full size keyboard with 110 keys, inclusive of the number keys. When you consider the size, it feels pretty compact and not too large, even with all those keys. It also looks rather dense, but I attribute that to the color (matte black). The dense look isn’t necessarily a bad thing since gaming keyboards have a tendency to take up space. I like the fact that the BlackWidow is more considerate of my desktop real estate.
That said, there are some design quirks that make this keyboard a characteristic Razer product. It has case slopes on the bottom to give your wrists room. There is a lit logo right in the middle of the slopes. The rear feet also have two sizes so you can choose which slope you want. On the bottom there is cable management built into the keyboard so you can hide away the braided cable. All this makes for a clean look.
When it comes to the key switches, we see Razer’s proprietary Green key switches on this keyboard, which are alike in behavior to the Cherry MX Blue switches. They are fast actuators and are very light with a loud click. This makes them great for playing games that need a fast trigger hand, but it also makes them terrible for typing. This doesn’t necessarily make it a bad keyboard, just a bad one for those who want something for both gaming and typing.
Now, I didn’t like the fact that there aren’t any dedicated macro keys, and I felt that was a big thing to miss in a keyboard this pricey. However, on the plus side, the Synapse software does allow you to customize nearly all the keys. It also has Hypershift, which allows you to customize secondary hotkeys. It also lets you create profiles and store them on the keyboard for any number of games you play. This includes key mapping as well as lighting schemes. You can store a maximum of 5 profiles on the gaming keyboard and more on the PC’s memory.
If you would like to be able to customize the lighting on the keyboard you can use Chroma Studio on the Synapse, which lets you customize the RGB lighting on every key. This includes timing, color, and even patterns.
Something else I was sad to miss on the BlackWidow were the dedicated media keys. I have grown used to media keys and volume rollers and so not seeing one sort of left me with an empty feeling. This keyboard also doesn’t have a USB passthrough, which means you can’t connect your mouse to the keyboard but will have to do it directly on the PC. You’ll have to watch to make sure the mouse has enough slack when you’re trying to play from a distance.
10. Cooler Master MK850 – Best analog gaming keyboard
- Key Type: Mechanical
- Switch Type: CHERRY® MX Red
- Backlighting: RGB
- Palmrest: Soft PU Leather, detachable
- Size: 18.7 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches
This keyboard makes a great first impression. It’s large and has an aluminum top plate colored in gunmetal gray. The actual finish is sandblasted on the sides and angles and brushed on the top, which is a pretty nice touch in my opinion. There is also a bit of plastic here and there, brushed to a glossy finish. It’s on the Aimpad, above the number pad, and also on the top and sides. The bottom is made of black plastic and has 5 feet made of rubber. There is also routing for cables directed right, left, and center. The keyboard certainly has a great design that’s hard not to smile at.
The row of dedicated macro buttons on the far left side make the keyboard a little longer than normal. The roller nobs and the dedicated media keys on top of the function row also make it a little wider than normal. It actually reminds me of the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum since they’re about the same size, though this one is slightly lighter.
The switches are Cherry MX switches, with only one available variation: the Linear MX Red. It’s a good match for the analog QWER and ASDF keys, which generally don’t need tactile feedback. However it isn’t very good for typing.
The key design is floating, with the switches exposed under the keycaps. This is pretty common among keyboards and looks pretty modern on the MK850. Lightbars are also included to make the brightness of the lighting even greater. The underglow is particularly glamorous. The only downside is that the Lightbars aren’t customizable at the moment. Hopefully, this feature will be added with time.
There’s a USB hub on the back of the keyboard with 2 USB 3.0 ports. With these you can transfer data from a flash drive as well as power a mouse and a headset. It’s actually pretty impressive that the MK850 can do this and still only need one USB for power, as opposed to many other premium keyboards. The cable is thick and braided and uses USB Type-C to make it extra durable.
There is also a magnetic wrist rest included in the box, made out of faux leather that makes it very comfortable. There is also a keycap puller and 18 extra PBT keycaps. These are purple with translucent legends. They allow you to replace keycaps on the arrow keys, the ESC key, the M1-M5 keys, and the Aimpad buttons.
The greatest thing about this keyboard is that it offers analog controls via its Aimpad. These can be added to mechanical switches and can sense 4mm travel distances, making them very convenient. Each of the Aimpad keys has an IR sensor that can tell how far the key has been pressed and can be adjusted for sensitivity via the software. This gives them the same functionality as a joystick. This gives you a lot more control than you would normally be able to achieve with a regular keyboard.
Gaming Keyboard Buyer’s Guide
Most gaming keyboards worth their weight in gold use mechanical switches. A mechanical switch is simply one where each key is matched up to its own spring loaded switch. These switches are preferred for their great tactile and audio feedback. Now, when it comes to switches, the leading company is Cherry, which makes the MX line of switches. These switches are identified by their color and include the MX Black, MX Brown, MX Blue, and MX Red switches, among others. Each switch is designed slightly differently to give a different sound and feel when typing or gaming.
Now, the kind of switch you might want depends on what you use your keyboard for (primarily gaming or gaming and typing as well?), or, if you only use it for gaming, what kind of games you play. Take the Cherry MX Black switches, for example. They need the highest amount of force for activation. This makes them a great a great choice for when you’re playing a game where you don’t want to accidentally press a key. For that reason, they can feel quite stiff, which would make them unideal for games that need you to act fast.
For hair trigger responses, you are better off going for the Cherry MX Red switches. If you feel that the MX Black and Red are both a little too much, you can find some middle ground in the MX Brown switches. These have the same activation force as the MX Red but also include a tactile bump that makes them more comfortable for typing. This makes MX Brown great for switching back and forth between typing for work and gaming.
While Cherry is the most popular company in the space, it isn’t the only one. There are others, like Kaihua, which make decent imitations of Cherry MX switches. You will often find these on budget mechanical keyboards. Mass manufacturers of mechanical keyboards also make their own proprietary switches in a bid to find the sweet spots not covered by the Cherry MX line of switches.
Logitech has the Romer-G switch, which it has now adopted for a majority of its keyboards. According to Logitech, these switches will last up to 70 million keystrokes, which is longer than what you would expect from a Cherry MX switch. They also boast shorter travel distances than Cherry.
Razer has their own proprietary switches as well. There is the Green switch, which is clicky and tactile, the Orange, which is silent and tactile, and the Yellow, which is silent and linear. But Razer’s greatest innovation yet is their opto-mechanical switch, which uses lasers instead of gold contact points to detect a keypress.
Rubber Dome Switches
These are bottom tier switches, which you will find only among the cheapest gaming keyboards, or among keyboards that weren’t built for gaming in the first place. Rubber dome switches use silicone membranes with little bubbles in them. It is these membranes that act as the springs behind the switches. The end result is a mushy feel when pressing the keys, as well as the requirement of a full keystroke in order to properly register the key. This slows down keystroke speed and gaming performance overall.
Sometimes a variation is employed called a scissor switch. In a scissor switch, the silicone still plays the role of the spring but it is typically slimmer in profile. Moreover, there is an “X” mechanism added to stabilize the whole thing. Scissor switches are pretty common in laptops, but they are sometimes used on budget gaming keyboards as well.
Customization and Backlighting
Things get interesting here because keyboard backlighting and customization would be irrelevant features on a regular keyboard. However, on a gaming keyboard, they bear a lot of meaning. Backlighting is pretty important when you’re in a dark room and you need to see the keys you’re pressing. Features that add a twist to backlighting include separate lighting zones, adjustable colors, and the highlighting of the most used keys. Some keyboards will even allow you to customize the lighting behind each individual key instead of entire zones.
Another feature keyboards allow you to customize is the keycap. Sometimes these are swappable. Mechanical switches have the advantage that they don’t have to be permanently attached to the keycaps, which lets you swap out keycaps for those that have preferable texturing, sculpting, and colors according to your preference. Some keyboards will only let you swap out the keycaps on the WASD keys while others will let you do the same for number and arrow keys.
There are even more features that a gaming keyboard may let you customize. Two of the most popular of these are macro-commands, also known as macros, and dedicated shortcut keys. Others will go the extra mile and introduce in-game statistics, text communication, and touchscreen displays built right into the keyboard. Others include dedicated profile keys for toggling specific sets of keyboard functions for particular games as well as dedicated media keys. Some of them also have USB passthroughs which allow you to connect other USB peripherals to the keyboard rather than the PC.
Wired and Wireless Keyboards
You may want to pick between a wired and wireless keyboard. Most of the gaming keyboards on the market are wired. Wired keyboards are faster overall, with much lower input latency than wireless keyboards. If you use a regular wireless keyboard, then you can expect there to be a delay between when you press a key and when the computer registers it.
This can be a huge problem when you’re playing competitive games, since you want to keep the lag to a minimum in such situations. Competitive gamers therefore prefer wired keyboards. There are, of course, lots of wireless keyboards on the market that have very low latency and provide snappy responses, but these are the exception, rather than the norm.
This is another area you might want to consider when picking the right gaming keyboard for you. Almost every premium gaming keyboard on the market today has some kind of software that enables you to create profiles for your game, customize lighting setups, and assign functions to keys.
Corsair has the Corsair Utility Engine, or iCUE (formerly CUE). This is one of the most comprehensive such softwares on the market, though it may require more than a bit of technical expertise to unleash its full potential. With the iCUE software, you can record custom macros and stack different effects for the lighting.
Logitech also has its own software, which are the G Hub and the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS). LGS is the more established one while G Hub is relatively new. G Hub is expected to slowly replace LGS for keyboards made in 2019 and beyond as it has a better interface and customization features.
Razer too has its own software: the Synapse. Synapse was one of the best interfaces on the market for the longest time, and has only recently begun to face competition from G Hub. It’s very easy to learn and allows you to create profiles, modify lighting setups, assign and record macros, and integrate your own hardware.
There are other software on the market as well, such as Engine by SteelSeries and Swarm by Roccat. They look different but the functionality is the same for the most part. These days, software is one of the main selling points for most keyboards since it allows you to tweak the performance of your keyboard to make it truly your own. The best software on the market will allow you to get the most out of your keyboard, which is why gaming keyboard makers are investing so much in them.
And with that we come to the end of our gaming keyboard review. The keyboards on this list are bound to give you performance like no other, no matter what your budget is. However, if you want to have even more information so you can pick your own keyboard from the market, then we hope our comprehensive buyer’s guide will help you get there. Until next time, happy gaming!
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Last update on 2021-07-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API