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Which units are the best gaming keyboards can be different depending on who you’re asking. Much like other components of a PC gaming system, which model is the best one can vary depending on one’s needs and preferences. But the overall goal remains the same – to enhance your gaming experience.
Most of the gaming keyboards we’ve reviewed have similarly large layouts with a dedicated set of media controls and macro keys for added convenience. Whether you’re a newbie who’s buying their first keyboard or someone who’s been in the PC rig-building game for many years, our top picks will have what you’re looking for. Before we get to that, though, it’s important to know what you’re buying and why you’re going to buy them.
The large part of a keyboard’s quality mostly lies in its switch system, determining how they feel and perform:
The Importance Of Keyboard Switches
We test our gaming keyboards through regular use and observe how useful their special features are. Different keyboard models have a specific set of key mechanisms, often called switches, and these components play a big factor in how your keyboard feels during use. Essentially, two keyboards with a different set of switches will offer a completely different typing experience.
Keyboards will have different attributes in terms of tactile feel – this includes responsiveness, the force needed for the keypress to register, key travel, and bottoming actions. This combination of factors as a whole will define a part of your gaming experience, which might be subjective. Different people might have varying preferences, where one might feel good for you, will feel uncomfortable for another.
You will see different types of keyboard switches. Each of these types will have a different set of pros and cons, but the mechanical switch is the most often used for gaming keyboards. Do take note that keyboards of the same type can still be different from each other in terms of performance, which is why trying them out first-hand is important.
The Mechanical Switch For The Gaming Keyboard
This type of switch uses different sets of designs, but all of them use a basic spring mechanism that is forced down whenever their corresponding key is pressed. This results in a more tactile feel that will often create that signature “clickety-clack” keyboard noise, and depending on the design, they can generate different levels of noise and require different amounts of pressure in order to register.
Thanks to their sturdy and efficient springs and mechanisms, mechanical keys are often a gamer staple because of the precise responses that they offer and their hardwearing design. They are also a common favorite for typists who need to type in high-volumes for their work. Because of a mechanical key’s time-saving and high-precision design, they can do their job with more ease.
One minor downside to the mechanical switch is its space requirement. They’re designed in a way that requires additional vertical space compared to other switch types like silicone domes, resulting in a thicker keyboard. It’s not often that you will find a sleek and compact mechanical keyboard. There are a few low-profile mechanical keyboards in the market, but the majority of the models you will see will have “chunkier” designs.
Gamers will often prefer the mechanical-type keyboard over anything else because of the performance and variety that it offers. As you will read below, there are multiple mechanical switches that offer varying types of actuation force, tactile feel, travel distance, and other factors that will suit any type of game you play. For example:
- Fast-paced games will benefit from a keyboard with lower travel distance, actuation force, and tactile feel.
- Precision games like stealth and combo-mashing titles will best suit keyboards with ample actuation force to reduce the number of key press errors.
- Open-world RPG games that will have your hands on the WASD keyboards all time will benefit from keyboards with lower actuation force so your hands won’t feel much fatigue despite pressing keys for longer periods.
With the other keyboard types (scissor and dome), you won’t be able to get much variety in terms of performance that’s best suited for different playstyles.
Types Of Mechanical Switches
Mechanical keyboards fall into different types, each with their own unique qualities:
- Cherry Switches
A majority of mechanical switches feature mechanisms called “MX” created by the Cherry company. Their switches can be easily identified through the colors that they sport, namely: MX Red, MX Blue, MX Brown, MX Black, and a few others. Each color will have slightly varying designs that are tweaked to produce a specific sound and feel while using them for gaming.
Depending on what kind of games you like to play and other activities you do on your PC, there’s a color that’s most suited to your needs. For example, an MX Black-type switch has the highest activation force, ideal for gameplay, where you need to hit the right keys each time.
It does have the drawback of feeling “stiffer” compared to the other colors, so it might not be best suited for games that require faster responses. An MX Red-type switch may perform better for those kinds of games.
If you find the feel of the MX Reds and MX Blacks a bit extreme, the MX Brown is a good middle ground between the two. It sports the same amount of actuation force as an MX Red, with an added tactile bump. This is a good balance that’s suited for both intense gaming sessions and conventional typing tasks.
- Kahlua Switches
Cherry might be the dominant switch manufacturer, but there are other popular switch makers. Kahlua, for instance, offers a decent selection of mechanical keyboards that are usually on the budget end of the price range.
- Romer-G Switches
Many keyboard manufacturers also have their own special switch designs integrated into their models. Logitech, for example, uses their own Romer-G switches that they often employ in their gaming keyboards, and they claim that their switches have shorter travel distances and longer lifespans (70 million keystrokes) compared to Cherry’s.
- Razer Switches
Razer has also created an impressive line of switches, namely: Yellow (silent and linear), Orange (silent and tactile), and Green (clicky and tactile). This company has also created a new type of switch that uses optical designs where a light beam is used to detect keypresses instead of a physical contact point.
The Ultimate Keyboard Buyers Guide
The Differences Of Keyboard Software
One aspect you should consider when finding the best gaming keyboards is what kind of software they use. Nowadays, every high-quality model will come with an application that allows you to apply different functions to specific keys, make different profiles for each game you play, and customize your keyboard’s lighting.
- Corsair Software
Corsair uses its utility engine (CUE) to accomplish these tasks. One of the better forms of keyboard software, CUE has a simple and easy-to-understand interface that boasts a wide array of options that let you personalize many aspects of your keyboard.
For example, you can record custom macros and assign different functions to your keys. Corsair keyboards that feature RGB lighting can use CUE to give their keyboards snazzy lighting effects, and they come with a preview so you can check how they look before implementing them
- Logitech Software
Logitech keyboards can use two different programs, namely, the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS) and G Hub. LGS is the more dated software of the two but is still a staple for many gamers.
G Hub, on the other hand, sports a cleaner interface that makes it easier to create gaming profiles, adjusting a keyboard’s lighting system, and assigning dual-layer key functions. The G Hub can be accessed through the G Shift command that the latest Logitech keyboards have.
- Razer Software
Keyboards on the Razer-end use the Synapse software for personalization. We’ve considered this software like the one with the best interface until G Hub came along and stole the show. Regardless, Synapse is very easy to use and master even for beginners, and it’s divided neatly into six menus.
These menus allow you to create game profiles, assign and record macro functions to keys, modify keyboard lighting, and integrate any of your Razer hardware to coordinate you’re the lighting of your gaming rig fully.
There are a few other gaming keyboard software such as the UIX (Cougar), Swarm (Roccat), and Engine (SteelSeries). While they have different UI designs, they function pretty much the same. Gaming keyboards and their software go hand-in-hand because this added functionality is their main selling point. Tweaking their aesthetics and their performance for specific games and play styles is intrinsic to a gaming keyboard.
The best software will help you optimize your keyboard without any hassle. This is why the top manufacturers are trying to look for ways to one-up each other in terms of software.
Full-Sized Or Tenkeyless?
Keyboard size heavily influences the layout, and depending on your needs; you might want a certain size when buying a new unit. Here are the more commonly used types:
- Full-size (100%)
This keyboard will sport the maximum number of keys, which will vary depending on what kind of layout it uses, namely:
- 105 keys for ISO (USA)
- 104 keys for ANSI (EU)
- 108 keys for JIS (Japan)
horizontally separated alphanumerics, number pad, and navigational clusters are the common layout for this size, with F keys found in a row on the top portion of the keyboard.
This type of keyboard will have a dedicated number pad commonly found on its right side. This is useful if frequently use numbers or simply for added convenience. Depending on your preference, a larger surface area for gaming can be more comfortable, while some might see it as inefficient.
- Tenkeyless (TKL, 87%, 80%)
Also known as TKL, this keyboard layout is becoming more and more commonly adopted by many of the best gaming keyboard manufacturers like Razer and Corsair owing to its very compact design.
It features a smaller build because it removes the whole number pad, which doesn’t see much use for most game-related functions anyway. This means that only 88 keys at the most are included in this size, depending on what type of layout the model is using. This is, on average, a 20% reduction of the total number of keys, hence its other names 80% and 87%.
TTLs come with some unique advantages. For instance, the smaller number of keys makes this keyboard generally easier to manufacture, which often means a more affordable price.
If you don’t mind having any dedicated number pad (which really isn’t a requirement for any game), then this keyboard size is a good choice. It comes in a more compact, space-saving form that’s more comfortable even with long hours of playtime. A smaller size will also mean less weight, so this is easier to bring along than a full-sized keyboard.
Another feature that the best gaming keyboards often come with is a swappable keycap that can you can completely remove, while some give you the option of replacing its existing keys with your own (a function called molded sculpting).
This way, you can create your own unique combination of keytops that have your preferred level of tactile control. A few keyboard models only let you swap in their WASD keys, while some give you more room for customization.
Gaming keyboards can come with unique macro-command capacities and shortcut keys that can be customized to suit your playstyle. Some take it to the next level and have built-in tracking systems for your gaming statistics, text communication capabilities, and touch-screen displays.
A few other enhancements you might want to look for is a special row of media keys that can have useful functions like volume adjustment or skipping songs. Profile keys are also important where you can toggle through different sets depending on what game you’re playing. Some keyboard models will have a USB passthrough that lets you connect with USB peripherals to the keyboard’s body, essentially acting as an extra port for your devices.
Using a keyboard can be a very repetitive physical task that players need to do when gaming for long periods of time, and this can negatively affect one’s health. You might experience something more trivial such as mild fatigue, but there’s a chance that you’ll develop carpal tunnel syndrome if you’re not careful. It’s not too common, but certainly not unheard of.
There are many models that feature ergonomic designs, placing your hands in neutral positions that impart the least amount of stress. Not only will you feel more comfortable, but the less strenuous position of your hands will also help you lessen the chances of inflammation or injury of the tendons and joints.
The best gaming keyboards will often come with extra components and specific designs such as pads to rest your wrists on or curving keyboard layouts that create a more comfortable angle. Some keyboards will be split into two and form an angle, forcing you to position your hands in a more comfortable position.
While this shouldn’t be your main concern, having a keyboard that features a built-in lighting system can slightly improve your gaming performance.
With backlighting, you can easily spot the keys you need to use even in a dimly-lit room. You can also designate a specific color to different parts of your keyboard to make it easier to spot. For example, you can use a different color for your WASD keys because these are more commonly used when gaming compared to other letter keys
There are a few keyboard models that have individual-key backlighting capabilities that let you personalize every key’s color to your preference. This can lead to a whacky (but personalized) color combination for your lighting system.
What Are The Benefits Of Having One Of The Best Gaming Keyboards?
By picking out a keyboard that suits your preferences and needs, you can enjoy:
- Better Gaming Performance
Gamers will benefit from a keyboard that delivers solid performance through speedy response times and just the right amount of tactile resistance. These keyboards will also have customizable keys that can make your gameplay easier.
- Added Aesthetic Appeal
With the sleek designs and beautiful RGB lighting that the best gaming keyboards often sport, having one for your system will improve the overall looks of your gaming rig.
- Improved Health
Typing for long periods of time will eventually take its toll on your wrists and hands. You can easily circumvent these potential risks by purchasing a well-designed model that takes ergonomics into consideration.
- Improved Comfort
The best gaming keyboards take comfort into consideration. Models designed with palm wrests, tactile switches, customizable bases, and other features that will keep your hands cozy will prove invaluable during long hours of use.
The Best Gaming Keyboards Of 2019
Keyboards play a central role in our gaming experience, and they have a large impact on our health as well, given the number of hours we usually put into our most beloved games. The best keyboard will let you play more efficiently, all while imparting less fatigue. Sadly, not all free keyboards that come with our gaming systems will fit the bill.
Purchasing the best gaming keyboards is a complex decision-making process, which is why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you make an informed buying decision.
We’ve also put together our own list of the best gaming keyboard models we have tested, taking into account all the important factors that we’ve mentioned in our guide. Here are the top models that are a step above the rest in terms of performance and quality:
1. Razer Huntsman Elite
- Size: 100%
- Switch Type: Opto-mechanical
The Huntsman Elite features a switch that’s so unique that you can only find them among a select few of Razer’s models – the optomechanical switch.
This switch completely sets itself apart by using another contact form instead of the conventional metal component. It actuates using a light beam that’s fired right through the switch whenever the key is pressed, so actuation time is practically instantaneous.
One of the most major advantages of this switch type is that every metal contact piece is removed, effectively improving the lifespan of this model by up to hundreds of millions of keystrokes (the lifespan of a keyboard is severely affected by the lifespan of its switches, and having a light-based trigger mechanism improves the life expectancy of this model). The keys of the Elite also provide ample tactile feedback while still being easy to press.
The Elite’s other aspects are also well implemented, where it sports dedicated media controls, a fully detachable wrist rest, and a dial that offers different functions from volume changing to adjusting the lighting. It also comes with an ample amount of storage where you can save your profiles and your preferences within the keyboard. So in case you want to use this keyboard on a different gaming rig, you can still use your saved preferences.
Overall, this is an impressive keyboard that has the whole package. While it does lean more on the expensive side, it’s well worth every penny.
- Opto-mechanical switch type
- Magnetic wrist rest
- Multi-function dial
- Media controls
- Built-in storage
2. Roccat Vulcan 120 Aimo
- Size: 100%
- Switch Type: Titan
Roccat has both the capacity for work and play. With its unique set of switches that offer ample tactile feedback, pressing on its keys give just enough resistance to create precision. It also doesn’t fatigue your hands even during extended hours of play, making this model one of the best gaming keyboards.
All in all, it enables responsive feedback that can keep up with fast typing speeds and intense gaming sessions. You also don’t need to worry about latency since this model gives pretty fast response times, making it suitable for fast-paced gaming. It also comes with a useful dial switch that lets you change or mute your device’s volume, and also adjust the lighting.
One minor drawback is its firm wrist set, which is not too ideal, and it leans more on the expensive side.
- Dial switch
- Tactile feedback
- Fast response times
3. ASUS ROG Strix Scope
- Size: 100%
- Switch Type: Cherry MX RGB Brown, Black, Speed Silver, Silent Red
The Strix Scope by ASUS is made for those who want the performance to take precedence above all else. It features the conventional RGB lighting you normally get from a gaming keyboard, but then its top plate is made with solid aluminum, which is both durable and light.
This model is sturdy and reliable, offering top-of-the-line performance without distracting you with needless gimmicks. It comes with a very large range of switch types to choose from, so you can experiment with each of them and see which fits your current play. This makes the Strix Scope one of the best gaming keyboards for those who like to optimize their gameplay performance.
It also has full macro customizing capabilities that are great for making some key-intensive games a bit easier. This model’s overall form factor is more compact, so you can reach keys much easier without stretching your fingers too much. And finally, its left ctrl key is also given a broader frame for easier pressing during tense moments of gameplay, so you don’t accidentally hit another key.
- Sturdy build
- Full RGB
- Multiple switch types
- full macro customization
- functional design
4. Corsair RGB Platinum (K95)
- Size: 100%
- Switch Type: Cherry MX RGB
The K95 is one of the best models for gaming. It features a detachable wrist set that helps make your long sessions more comfortable, and it has two textures that you can change to suit your preference (rough and smooth).
In terms of performance, it delivers exceptional results. Its key response was very fast, and its tactile feedback offers a good balance. It also features concave keys that help your fingers get comfortable when not pressing on the keys.
The K95 is very expensive, though, but it’s a good investment if you’re looking for a quality gaming keyboard. This very large model might also not be suitable for people who want smaller units.
- Great typing performance
- Comfortable wrist set
- Concave keys
- Beautiful RGB lighting
5. HyperX Alloy Elite RGB
- Size: 100%
- Switch Type: Cherry MX Blue, Brown, Red
With a lit board that can sport a variety of colors, Hyperx’s Alloy Elite comes with a neat aesthetic while offering plenty of helpful features that are expected of a great keyboard for gaming.
It comes with a variety of switches to choose from, depending on which one is suited best for your current use. This model also uses a complete N-key rollover that ensures each one of your presses will register properly.
It does have a slight drawback of lacking a macro column, but this is easily forgiven for its durable design, reasonable price, and the myriad of features that it offers.
- Three switch types
- Full RGB for backlighting
- Great performance
6. Razer Cynosa Chroma
- Size: 100 %
- Switch Type: Specialized (membrane)
If you’re looking for a membrane keyboard that offers the quality and performance fit for the most demanding games, then the Cynosa Chroma is a solid choice. It sports a membrane design that feels comfortable and has a very low profile compared to other membrane models.
This is also one of the most affordable keyboards suited for gaming and surprisingly offers great quality despite its low price. Granted, it does lack a few features that most gaming keyboards have like wrist rests or media controls. It does have impressive RGB lighting, though, where you can program single keys or different portions of the keyboard with specific colors.
Overall, this model is a good choice that doesn’t have any extra frills that most gamers can live without, and one of the best membrane keyboards in the market. Razer does have another Cynosa model that’s supposedly “better,” but for a higher price point, you’ll only be getting a slightly better RGB, which ultimately isn’t all worth it. Unless you have a few more bucks to splurge on its prettier counterpart, the Cynosa Chroma is the gaming keyboard for you.
- Smooth membrane keyboard design
- Highly customizable RGB
7. Logitech K840
- Size: 100%
- Switch Type: Logitech Romer-G
The Romer-G switch that it sports is already a good enough reason to buy the K840 model by Logitech. This is a solid choice for those who want an affordable gaming keyboard that still offers good performance
It’s lower price point means that a few features that commonly found in a gaming keyboard are not implemented in the unit. You won’t have any dedicated macros or a USB passthrough with the K840, but it’s still a decent choice for those who don’t really care for those extra features.
While it’s printed lettering will have a tendency to fade over time, at least it’s actual frame will last you years before it needs replacing.
- Great aesthetic design
- Very affordable
8. Cooler Master MK850
- Size: Full size
- Switch Type: Cherry MX Red
Cooler Master isn’t exactly known for making gaming keyboards, but their MK850 model has certainly made its mark. The main feature that this unit offers is its aim pad technology that’s built within its keys. This feature allows the keys to be turned into analog inputs that can be likened to a gamepad’s analog stick.
This essentially means that the way you push this unit’s keys will register differently depending on how deep you pushed it, much like how tilting an analog stick right to the edge will give a more severe action compared to lightly pushing it.
This is an incredibly useful and unique feature that’s made for gaming, specifically for racing and stealth-oriented gameplay, where an analog input can greatly alter the feel of the game. A traditional keyboard and mouse just can’t compare with this level of immersion.
The aim pad feature is but one aspect that makes this model great. It also comes with additional components that is very welcome in terms of gaming such as dedicated media controls and macro keys (which include scroll wheels that allow you to control system volume, RGB brightness, etc.), Cherry’s MX Red switch-types (which might not be the best for those who don’t like high-resistance switches), and USB pass-throughs.
In terms of aesthetics, it’s also a cut above the rest, featuring raised keycaps that further highlight its beautiful backlighting, with a magnetic wrist rest and an aluminum backplate.
- Aim pad tech
- Media controls
- Macro keys
- Wrist rest
We use our keyboards practically every time we play our favorite computer games. We spend long hours pressing these keys as we pass the time and have a bit of fun. But we don’t realize is that the strain accumulated in our hands and wrists by using a mediocre keyboard adds up, and will eventually cause damage. Having the best gaming keyboard swill keeps your hands comfortable while allowing you to enjoy your gaming sessions on a whole new level.