We spend a lot of time putting together super-powerful rigs that can render beautiful pixels as fast as the eye can see, but it’s important to pay attention to your peripherals too. After all, what use is a top-end 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 right gaming keyboard ultimately comes down to the right feel while you’re playing. Membrane switches are familiar but often spongy. Mechanical keyboards offer key switches that are responsive when typing or moving in a game and feel good to push down. 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.
The gaming keyboard market has undergone some major changes. Some companies have made their products increasingly sophisticated, while others are going back to their roots. We’ve also seen the rise of proprietary switches from a few companies. With all this in mind, here are our picks for the best gaming keyboards:
Best high-end gaming keyboard
Our previous favorite high-end board, the K95, has been discontinued. Its retirement also marks the end to the epic 18 dedicated macros. From here on out, the K95 Platinum will be inheriting its legacy.
We’re glad to see that the K95 Platinum isn’t plagued by an over-the-top look. Though its anodized aluminum front plate lacks embellishment, the K95 Platinum is still undeniably sexy. It feels durable, too. Our attempts at bending it don’t faze it much, nor does punching out mountains of text.
Our K95 Platinum is equipped with the jumpy Cherry MX Speed switch. The Cherry MX Speed features a 1.2mm actuation point, 0.8mm shorter than standard Cherry MX switches. Paired with a feathery 45g actuation force and a linear travel for minimal resistance, the Cherry MX Speed is one of the fastest and most responsive switches we’ve tested. Typists, however, may not find it suitable since a tactile switch is generally preferable for such a task. If you fall into this crowd, consider picking up the K95 Platinum with the Cherry MX Brown switch instead.
While we do miss having 18 macros at our disposal, it’s easy to understand why they didn’t make the cut. Having less keys means less cost to manufacture, which can potentially bring the price down a notch and reach the budget level of more buyers. This also trims its width, making it more compact than its predecessor.
This isn’t to say the K95 Platinum is small by any means. Even with a trimmed chassis, its enormous footprint still requires some desk cleaning before it can be nested comfortably.
Feature-wise, the K95 Platinum’s got it all. Dedicated media controls and a USB pass-through? Check. Metal volume wheel? Check, RGB lighting? Check. It even comes with an extra set of textured keycaps for the WASD keys.
We also love its detachable wrist rest. The rubberized wristpad attaches magnetically and has two contrasting textures: one smooth side and one rough side. Switching sides is as easy as flipping on to its back.
The thing about bleeding edge tech is that you’ve got to bleed to own it. Unfortunately, the lower switch count didn’t translate to cost savings—the Corsair K95 Platinum RGB costs around $170. While it’s important to spend responsibly, it’s equally important to remember that this keyboard is the best gaming keyboard money can buy. It delivers an excellent combination of impeccable craftsmanship, excellent switches, and premium feature set.
Best overall gaming keyboard
It was tough choice between the Corsair K70 LUX and the G.Skill Ripjaws KM780. In the end, the G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 won our vote due to its more robust set of features.
Sporting a design that’s just as eccentric as G.Skill’s memory modules, the KM780 is clad in metal front plate, braided cables, and a metal rail. The metal rail adds a little more convenience when lifting the keyboard. It also doubles as the rail mount for the mouse bungee and the carrying case for the extra keycaps.
The KM780 is available in Cherry MX Red, Blue, and Brown versions. We picked ours to have the Blues. Cherry MX Blue is renowned for its superior tactile feedback and pronounced clicky actuation. While it works great for FPS games and typing, it may not be ideal for spammy games due to its hysteresis. The loud click is also a hit or miss: to some, it’s the symphony of productivity, to others, it’s the bane of concentration.
Cherry’s translucent switch housing nicely diffuses the light across the top keycap. Sadly, the dimly lit surface-mounted LEDs make them hard to see even in a dark room. Employing a caseless chassis, the switches on the Ripjaws KM780 stick out tall, leaving plenty of space at the bottom for light to spill out.
The keycaps on the Ripjaws KM780 are made from ABS plastic, the most widely used plastic for keyboards. A separate set of textured keycaps for the Gaming Zone (Q, W, E, R, C, A, S, D, F, and G keys) is included along with a key puller. These custom caps are slightly angled to improve ergonomics when gaming. The laser etched keyprints are much more conservative than we expected considering G.Skill’s affinity for flashy designs.
The Ripjaws KM780 comes full decked out with a plethora of extra features. In addition to a column of dedicated macro keys, it also comes with convenient media controls and a mouse bungee installed. Below the volume wheel is a LED indicator strip to show the volume level. It’s a neat little spin that’s actually surprisingly helpful.
Also included is a detachable wrist rest. Its texturized plastic surface is easy to clean and very comfortable. Be warned though, it does take up a good chunk of your desk estate, but you can find worse things to clutter your desk with.
While the keyboard may come with a solid set of hardware, its software fails to impress. The dated interface, microscopic buttons, and confusing setting groups were all turn-offs. Considering this is the same interface used for all of G.Skill’s peripherals, it needs some serious reworking to be considered polished. On the bright side, the settings can be stored directly on to the device, saving the trouble of fiddling with the software whenever you plug it into another PC. Its numerous lighting profiles, such as checkpoint, are pretty neat too.
Saying the list price is budget friendly is a bit of a stretch. The G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 starts at $140 on Amazon, overlapping with lower-tier premium boards. If you can look past its over enthusiastic look and the unintuitive driver software, then what you’ll find is one of the most feature-rich gaming keyboards available on the market.
Best budget gaming keyboard
The Thermaltake Poseidon Z has been around for nearly two years, but its tremendous value still firmly seats it as one of the most popular mechanical keyboards on the market. At the time of writing, you can easily pick one up for around $65.
Those who crunch numbers will definitely appreciate the inclusion of the number pad. At a budget price, this is a huge bonus compared to many of the other tenkeyless (TKL) options in this price category. It also comes with blue backlighting, a feature that’s often lost in the pursuit of lowering the cost.
Thermaltake’s decision of going with Kailh switches instead of Cherry MX which may upset some die-hard Cherry fans. Kailh switches are often perceived as inferior in quality when compared to Cherry MX switches. In reality, you’d be hard put to tell the difference between Cherry and Kailh, even if you are a veteran.
The Thermaltake Poseidon Z comes in either Kailh Blue or Brown flavors. What you choose is up to you. Blues have fantastic feedback for typing but have a loud click, Browns offer slightly less tactility but are much quieter.
There are no ornate designs with the Poseidon Z: It’s cased in a plain but durable plastic chassis. While its shell feels solid, there’s an unsightly red logo sprayed above the number pad. The Thermaltake logo has also been etched into the center of the spacebar, but we’re willing to overlook these small details considering its price
Best keyboard for typing enthusiasts
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional is replacing the Ducky Shine 5 as the best plank for typing enthusiasts this round.
The Das earned our pick for the same reasons as our best overall gaming keyboard: features and functionality. While the Ducky Shine 5 contests with a detachable cable, RGB lighting, dedicated volume keys, and a DIP switch that changes the location of the FN key, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional’s over-sized volume knob, dedicated playback controls, and dual USB pass-throughs are much more practical. To top it off, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional has a thick alloy faceplate, beating out the plastic-covered Ducky Shine 6.
But you won’t notice the Das’ features first because you’ll be captivated by its stylish design. Its rugged appearance and chiseled lines are reminiscent of Brad Pitt on date night. The bravest of typists may also want to grab the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate—the variant equipped with blank keycaps.
It’s typical to see Cherry MX switches installed in high-end boards such as the Das Keyboard 4 Professional. Because this is a keyboard designed for typists first, it’s only offered in Cherry MX Brown and Cherry MX Blue. While we have the version with the silent and tactile Cherry MX Brown switches, you can opt for the version with the clicky Cherry MX Blue if you prefer a heavier feel and a more pronounced feedback.
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional easily earned our love during its stay on our desk. Its volume knob felt more natural to use than the buttons on the Ducky Shine 5. The USB pass-throughs saved us some back-bending when we had to plug in USB keys and controllers. The front faceplate extends beyond the base, giving our hands a leverage point when we had to lift and readjust the keyboard. All these small features added to the overall usability.
With that said, the board definitely has some kinks. 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) mechanism, but it provides almost no traction to help keep the keyboard still. Lacking backlight and macros can turn off some gamers, but this may not be as important to typists.
Rounding everything up, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional is an excellent plank that will easily last you for years. Currently, it can be had for just $8 more than the Ducky Shine 5—a small premium that’s worth its weight in gold.
Best membrane keyboard
The Topre Realforce RGB is the second Topre keyboard we’ve tested. Our previous best, Cooler Master Novatouch TKL, is no longer being produced.
Topre switch has been around for a while now, but it’s new to the backlit scene, let alone RGB. The RGB Topre switches is a fairly significant step forward, bringing some much-needed lights to typists in the dark.
Whether the Topre switch belongs in the membrane family is a hotly debated topic. On one hand, there’s a conical spring under each cap which detects a keystroke when it’s depressed, on the other hand, the conical spring is covered by a rubbery electrostatic layer that’s responsible for most of the tactile feedback. We like to think of Topre as a more refined version of the rubber dome switch.
While the Topre switch comes in different actuation forces, its distinct feel is consistent across the entire lineup. They all feature tactile point at the start of actuation followed by a smooth, uniform linear travel until they’re bottomed out. Due to the rubbery electrostatic layer, the impact when bottoming out isn’t as harsh as Cherry MX switches.
The hardy chassis is sculpted with sharp edges and chiseled corners. A flat, satin black finish adds to the professional look.
A feature we didn’t think we’d need was textured rubber feet. Compared to the traditional flat feet, they do a much better job at keeping the keyboard planted on our desk through our torrential typing. It’s a subtle detail we appreciate, and we wish more companies would follow suit.
One of the best features of the Topre Realforce RGB is its doubleshot keycaps. Unlike traditional laser-etched keycaps that use a single layer of plastic, doubleshot stacks two layers of plastic on top of one another. The bottom layer fills the letter cut out in the top layer, forming the keyprints. Doubleshot keycaps have superior longevity since the keyprints will forever stay clear, the only downside is the associated increase in cost.
Many switch manufacturers today attempt to decrease the latency between keystrokes and actuation by reducing the actuation distance. Unfortunately, a single fixed actuation point may not be flexible enough to cater to everyone’s needs. To tackle this issue, the Topre Realforce RGB comes with varying actuation points. Because of its capacitive nature, the actuation distance needed to register a keystroke can be changed to 1.3mm, 2mm, or 3mm. We recommend the 3mm setting for a classic rubber dome feel.
Some downsides of the Topre Realforce RGB includes the lack of braided cables, macros, and wristrest. The biggest deterrence, however, is its gut-wrenching $250 asking price. At the same time, this is understandable: the Topre switch is a premium switch with very tight QC, and using 108 of them can make the board quite expensive. While the price gap between the Realforce RGB and a similar Cherry MX keyboard may be hard to swallow, it’s the best bet if you want the perfect membrane feel without sacrificing longevity.
How we test gaming keyboards and others we tested
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.
The Razer Ornata uses Razer’s mecha-membrane switch. Employing a unique construction where a clicky mechanical slider is installed on top of a rubber dome switch, its goal is to mimic the feel of a mechanical switch without actually using a mechanical switch. While the idea is interesting on paper, the switch provides neither the quick actuation of a mechanical switch nor the silence of the rubber dome. And for $99? We say save yourself the trouble and swipe left.
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.
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.
Coming in swinging with fast Kailh Red switches, a LED-enabled detachable wrist rest, and a plethora of extra features, the Patriot Viper V770 was a breath away from dethroning the Ripjaws KM780 as the best overall keyboard. So why couldn’t it take the top spot?
The main reasons came down to pricing and switch selection. The Patriot Viper V770 is currently $140, $30 more than the KM780. And while we understand that it’s a gaming keyboard first, having the Kailh Red as its only switch option simply does not give gamers enough choice.
With that said, if you love Kalih Reds and prefer the look of the Patriot Viper V770, don’t hesitate to pick it up over the Ripjaws KM780.
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.