Best Gaming Keyboard - The Ultimate Guide
A good gaming keyboard is an often overlooked piece of equipment, but it really shouldn't be. Finding a mechanical keyboard that suits you and the way you play can really enhance not only your comfort while playing but also your performance. There are plenty of different keyboards and manufacturers out there though, so we've been taking a look at our data to see what the professionals are using to help you pick the product that's right for you.
As an added bonus we've also thrown in five of our own carefully selected picks so that pretty much everyone can find a board for them in this article, no matter your budget or particular tastes. As usual we'll start off this article with some information about keyboards, but if you already know your stuff you can skip straight ahead to the lists.
Mechanical Keyboard Advantages
If you ask the pros (and us) you will want a mechanical keyboard for gaming. Looking at our analyzed professionals we can see that 98% use a mechanical keyboard. That says a lot, and it makes sense too. The advantages of a mechanical over a regular membrane board really can't be denied.
Compared to a regular rubber dome keyboard (which is what most consumer grade boards are) each key on a mechanical plank houses a complete switch underneath it with its own housing, spring, and so on. This gives you a much crisper and precise typing/gaming sensation compared to a rubber dome board, because the latter uses a sheet of rubber that's laid out over the circuitry of the keyboard with a little dome underneath each key. Said dome depresses when you press a key, causing the top of the dome (which is coated with a conductive material on the inside) to make contact with the circuitry to register a key press, but that whole process can feel mushy, imprecise, and unsatisfying.
The gif on the right is an illustration (source: HyperX) of how a mechanical switch works. The beauty with this (and another one of the major advantages) is that there's a whole variety of switches to choose from, each with their own distinct characteristics and feeling. We've got an entire library article dedicated to the most popular switches on the market right now, so if you're interested in learning more about the differences between those you can always go read up on that.
So we've established that a mechanical keyboard gives you a much more precise and responsive user experience with tons of options to fine tune said experience, but the advantages do not end there. Mechanical keyboards last way longer, too. Most regular consumer boards are rated for anywhere between 1 to 5 million keystrokes, while Cherry MX switches (the most popular mechanical switches) are rated for about 50 million, with a lot of other brands going even higher than that. So while a mechanical keyboard is a pretty large investment at first it should outlast plenty of rubber dome keyboards.
Additionally you can also pick from a wide variety of different sizes and layouts with mechanical boards. As you'll see further down in the article a very popular size is the TKL (tenkeyless) keyboard. Most games don't make use of the numpad so in the interest of saving space you can just leave that off and save yourself some desk real estate to swipe your mouse around. You can also go even smaller if you don't need/want the arrow keys. It can go the other way too; if you've got a big desk and you want to get a full-featured keyboard with a comfy wrist rest, extra multimedia keys, macro buttons, and so on you can get that too. The possibilities are nearly endless, so no matter what your individual needs and preferences are: there's gonna be a mechanical keyboard out there that fits you like a glove.
In short: if you're asking us you should go with a mechanical keyboard. It might be a bit of an investment at first, but if you take care of it it'll last you for years and years to come while giving you a comfortable, pleasant, and precise typing/gaming experience.
Top 5 Keyboards for Competitive Gaming
This is our pro-based list. We've been taking a look at what the pros across all of our analyzed games are using and we've listed those keyboards out here.
We did bundle a couple of keyboards together, though. For instance, the HyperX Alloy FPS and HyperX Alloy FPS Pro have been counted together, as one is just the TKL version of the other. We did the same for keyboards that individually don't really differ from each other aside from very minor changes so that we don't have a list with basically only two different boards in it.
Quick disclaimer: we mention the 'rollover' of a keyboard in this article. This simply means how many keys you can press at once with the keyboard still registering each key. A keyboard with 2-key rollover wouldn't be very good, for instance, since that would mean that if you're holding W and A and press spacebar after that there's a chance that press doesn't properly get registered. N-key rollover (or NKRO) means that you can press as many keys simultaneously as you want, they'll all be registered individually.
MOST USED MANUFACTURERS
1. HyperX Alloy FPS (Pro)
Made for FPS gaming
It's right there in the name, but the HyperX Alloy FPS and FPS Pro were made for shooters. It's not a super flashy keyboard with a ton of extras, but you don't really need that for most shooters anyway. What you get with the Alloy FPS is a solid steel frame, Cherry MX switches, NKRO, and backlit keys.
HyperX has somewhat of a name in the industry for producing sturdy and great performing products with little to no superfluous features or oddities and the Alloy FPS line of keyboards is another hit on that front. With the solid steel frame and detachable cable (even on the full size version) it's going to be a very convenient keyboard for people who are often traveling to other places to game (such as pro players) and who need a compact and sturdy board that can withstand a knock or two without breaking, and that's just what the Alloy FPS is.
With its almost bezel-less design even the full size version has a pretty small footprint on your desk, so HyperX has definitely been paying attention to the fact that desk real estate is something that you can never have enough of if you're an FPS gamer. Pair the sturdy and thoughtful design with the industry favorite Cherry MX switches and you've got a keyboard that's relied on by the majority of our analyzed professionals.
This isn't the board to go for if you're a fan of flashy RGB lighting (the red LEDs can perform some tricks but you can't change their color) and it's a tad weird that you can't get the TKL version with Brown switches, but aside from that this is the perfect keyboard if you prefer performance over pretty lighting and don't need any additional features.
2. Logitech G Pro Mechanical Keyboard
You can also take a look at the newer G Pro X Mechanical keyboard (check our review here). This is pretty much the same board, but it has newly designed switches and it is hot-swappable.
For pros, by pros
The Logitech G Pro Mechanical Keyboard is the first keyboard to carry the 'G Pro' name. That means that it's one of Logitech's premium products aimed at serious competitive gamers, and it seems they hit the mark straight away on their first attempt.
The G Pro is another 'less is more' type of keyboard: you'll find the standard caps lock and scroll lock lights as well as a button to activate gaming mode (which turns off the Windows key and other annoying features that can mess with your performance) and that's it. Again: you don't need more than that for most competitive shooters, so why go for a big and unwieldy plank, right?
This keyboard is only available in the TKL version (to maximize space on often cramped tournament desks) and with Logitech's own Romer-G tactile switches. These offer a pretty unique typing/gaming experience; they've got a tactile bump but they do feel a bit more 'membrane-ish' than most other mechanical switches so it's a pretty unique feeling switch all in all. They don't require a lot of force to press and have a very short travel distance however, so it's definitely a reliable switch for gaming.
The G Pro has a detachable cable (which is always a plus for a keyboard aimed at professionals, since those people need to pack and unpack their gear nearly weekly) and a body that's, despite being made of plastic, pretty sturdy so this is another good option for a reliable and no-nonsense gaming keyboard. This one also has full RGB backlighting so you can configure your board to match your setup or mood if that's what you're after.
3. Corsair K70 RGB (Mk.2)
Full sized glory
Note: while most pros are still on the 'first version' of this board we counter the original K70 and the Mk.2 together and listed the specs of the Mk.2 version of the K70 RGB, since the original is no longer available. The differences between the two are minimal, however. The Mk.2 has different media keys, wire routing channels on the bottom, an RGB Corsair logo, and hardware playback which means you can store your macros and lighting profiles on the board itself and use those without having to download Corsair's software.
The Corsair K70 RGB (Mk.2) is the first full-featured board on this list and it's a fair bit different from the first two boards. This is a full size board that comes with a detachable wrist rest, has dedicated media keys (including a volume rocker), onboard storage and even a set of extra keycaps for your 'main' keys (WASD in the case of shooters).
It's obviously not going to be the most mobile keyboard around, but it does have a sturdy aluminum frame so if you've got the space to carry it it'll certainly stand up to the pressure of frequent travel. There's a massive list of (Cherry MX) switches to choose from and you can even go for a variation that has the new Cherry MX Low Profile Reds or Low Profile Speeds so if this keyboard looks right for you there'll certainly be no issues with finding the right switches.
Corsair was one of the first brands to bring RGB mechanical keyboards to the mainstream market, and their flagship models have always been massively popular for a reason. The K70 is a well-built beautiful looking full size keyboard with a media keys and an included wrist rest, so if that's what you're after this could very well be the one.
4. Razer BlackWidow Chroma
Small sized comfort
Note: there are a lot of different versions of the Razer BlackWidow in use today. In this entry we'll talk about the most popular iteration of this line, which is the Chroma TE v2.
Razer is one of the most famous peripheral companies so it's not odd to see one of their boards appear in this list. It's not only the name that got it in here though; the BlackWidow Chroma TE (the TE stands for 'Tournament Edition', which means as much as TKL) is a very nice keyboard indeed.
Its rather small and thin design and detachable cable make it extremely portable, but Razer also include a detachable wrist rest. This rest attaches to the board via magnets, and it's one of the nicest stock wrist rests around thanks to the soft and nicely padded faux leather materials that they've used.
There's not much to see here when it comes to the extra features of the board (because there are none on the board itself) but you do obviously get the full Razer Chroma compatibility so if you also want a bit of eye candy this is a very obvious contender.
Inside the board you're gonna find Razer's own mechanical switches which feel very nice (the Greens are the clicky and tactile ones, while the Oranges are the silent and tactile ones; Yellow is their linear switch) and are extremely durable, being rated for 80 million keystrokes.
The Razer BlackWidow Chroma is the third TKL board in this list, but aside from having yet another switch inside it also differentiates itself by offering an amazing wrist rest that's included in the package.
5. SteelSeries Apex Pro (TKL)
You've heard of hot-swappable keyboards where you can easily swap out the switches in case you want to try something new, but SteelSeries have taken an entirely different approach with the Apex Pro. They call it 'the biggest leap in mechanical keyboards since the invention of the mechanical switch' and while that's a claim that's incredibly bold they do serve up some neat features with this board.
The most eye catching one are their OmniPoint switches. These have a very low response time when compared to the more traditional switches, but the kicker here is that you can adjust their sensitivity. Of course you can't change them and make them tactile or anything (the OmniPoints are linear switches) but you can tweak the actuation point for each individual key, meaning that you can have your movements keys activate at the slightest touch while having more important stuff (such as your ultimate ability, for example) require a lot more force actuate.
This could be a game changer for people who have a habit of fat fingering important buttons, and if you're someone who gets caught accidentally reloading in the middle of a firefight then this is a great option for you to consider.
Aside from the OmniPoints it's also just a nice keyboard in general. You get dedicated media controls, gorgeous RGB lighting, a magnetic wrist wrest, and an OLED Smart Display that you can utilize to display all sorts of ingame stat. Of course that last one probably won't be used all that much (why would you look at your board instead of your screen to see how much ammo you have left, for example) but it just goes to show how full featured this board is.
This sturdy and reliable board has pretty smooth switches but if you're completely sure that you won't be making use of the customization options of these OmniPoint switches we would recommend you to look elsewhere, since the Apex Pro does come with quite the hefty price tag.
Best Keyboard for Competitive Gaming - Conclusion
If there's anything that we can learn from this list it is that keyboards are very much a matter of personal opinion. We can see anything from a full-featured full size board complete with media keys and a (detachable) wrist rest to an almost bezel-less TKL plank with single color backlighting.
In the end it's up to you to decide how much space you need (and what type of switches you like) but hopefully this glimpse into what the pros are using has given you some ideas.
Again though: what's for sure is that you will want a mechanical keyboard. These will perform much better than your standard rubber dome keyboard and last way longer too. Once you've tried a mechanical keyboard for gaming you won't want to go back, trust us.
While there is quite some variety in our pro list when it comes to switches and sizes we do like to be as complete as possible with these lists that we make, so our staff has put together five additional picks that are worth taking a look at, ranging from a budget board to a wireless mechanical keyboard.
These products aren't in any particular order, though all of them are very capable keyboards that can be used without any issues for gaming and typing. Just like we do with our pro list we'll give you a bit of information with every board to help you get a better view at the features and functions of the products.
Ducky One 2 Mini / Ducky Mecha Mini
Best compact mechanical keyboard
The tenkeyless keyboard is the most popular smaller form factor board but there's no denying that 60% is also a very popular size with keyboard aficionados and gamers alike. There's just something really nice about the way these ultra compact keyboards look on a neatly organised desk, but looks aren't everything of course.
Despite not making the top five the Ducky One 2 Mini is one of the most popular keyboards with the pros and that's no surprise at all. Just about everything about this keyboard is done to extremely high standards, from the keycaps to the RGB backlighting. With its extremely compact design (you can barely see the bezels) this keyboard might even fit in some trouser pockets, so this is a dream for people with very limited desk space or for gamers who want a keyboard that's extremely easy to take with them. With full NKRO and the choice between just about every Cherry MX switch on the planet you've also got a very nicely performing keyboard that's gonna fit in a lot of setups.
Ducky has long been known in enthusiast circles as creators of extremely high quality keyboards and lately they've been making waves in the mainstream gaming scene as well and we can only applaud that. The One 2 Mini might not be for everyone; it cuts off the arrow keys and most function keys need to be activated by pressing a combination of buttons, but if you can live with that or you want your keyboard to be as small as possible this is one of the best boards to get at this point in time. Recently, Ducky released the Mecha Mini, which has a full aluminum casing. We do recommend that one if you're interested in a Ducky 60% board, even though it's a bit more expensive than the One 2 Mini.
Note: recently, Ducky released the One 2 SF, which sits between the 60% size of the One 2 Mini and a regular TKL board, so if you like the sound of a compact mechanical board but you still want arrow keys then this could be your ideal choice. Check our review on the One 2 SF here.
Corsair K100 RGB
Best luxury mechanical keyboard
If you want to get yourself a nice and full featured Bentley of a keyboard instead of the stripped down racecar-style boards that the majority of professional gamers use you should take a look at the K100. It's got all the bells and whistles you could want for that battlestation style board.
The new Corsair OPX switches feel very fast, but that's not the only speedy thing about this board. With a polling rate of 4000Hz you're bound to never react too late to anything (unless you yourself are too late of course) and while that high polling rate (most keyboards have a polling rate of 1000Hz) isn't necessarily something you'll notice it does indicate that Corsair are really trying to push boundaries with this K100.
Aside from the cutting edge tech under the hood this is also just a really nice board in and of itself. You get that signature Corsair brushed aluminum top, but you also get a (much improved) wrist rest for maximum comfort. To top it off there are dedicated media controls, a multifunctional dial, PBT keycaps, fantastic RGB lighting, and a row of extra macro buttons on the side. This is very much a 'if you can dream it, we've got it' type of board so if you're the person who's after that experience you should take a look at this one.
Best wireless mechanical keyboard
With wireless peripherals becoming more and more common it's kind of strange to see that there aren't that many options for people who want a wireless mechanical keyboard. Logitech's G613 is a product that fills that niche, and it does it well.
The G613 uses Logitech's LIGHTSPEED wireless technology which, if you follow the mouse market a bit, is known to be flawless and lossless. It runs on two AA batteries that have a battery life of a staggering 18 months. That's amazing, but it does mean that there's no backlighting for the keys on the keyboard. If you can live with that this is a great product though, even if you forget about the wireless aspect for a second.
The G613 houses Logitech's Romer-G tactile switch which offers a pretty unique tactile experience and is rated for around 70 million keystrokes. You also get a set of media keys and an extra row of buttons to the left for good measure.
If you want your desk to be as cable-free as possible but don't want to compromise on the performance of your peripherals this is a great shout. With a battery life of 18 months and Logitech's lag-free LIGHTSPEED technology this is one of your best (and only) options if you want to cut the cord but keep those mechanical switches.
Redragon Kumara K552
Best budget mechanical keyboard
One of the major drawbacks when it comes to mechanical keyboards is that there's a pretty steep entry fee. Like with most products there's no shortage of budget products, but most of those show significant flaws which can impact performance.
Not so much with the Redragon Kumara K552. It's a relatively unknown brand and keyboard but for the price that you pay you're getting some great value. It's a thin and compact TKL keyboard with N-Key rollover and Outemu Blue switches. Those are Cherry MX Blue clones, but they feel and perform pretty nicely although they're a bit heavier to actuate.
You're not going to get any premium finishing or features at this price point, but you do get a very good and reliable entry level board with backlighting and great ingame performance, so if you're not sure whether you want to invest in a shiny full-featured mech keyboard or you want a cheap throwaway board for those crazy LAN nights with your friends this is certainly an option.
Best low profile keyboard
Fnatic is a company that knows a thing or two about esports. Mostly because they've got some of the most successful teams in their respective scenes playing under their organization but also because they've been releasing quality peripherals over the past couple of months.
The Fnatic STREAK65 is one such peripheral. It's an extremely compact and very light (though sturdy) 65% keyboard that's aimed at competitive gamers. Inside of the board you'll find Fnatic's very own Low Profile switches, and those are great if you're into fast feeling linear buttons. The fact that they've also taken care to lube the stabilizers means that they know what keyboard people want, so if you're looking for the most compact gaming keyboard you can find then this is without a doubt one to consider.
Check our review
Best Gaming Keyboard - Conclusion
As we said in the intro: the beautiful thing about mechanical keyboards is just how many options there are. Everyone is different and as such everyone's needs and wants are different, and with so many options and configurations out there there's bound to be a keyboard that's just right for you.
We realize that having so many options can also make the search for that perfect plank a lot more confusing, which is why we've tried to include as many different 'genres' of keyboard in this article as possible. We hope that there's something in here for everyone, and that you can use this list as an ideal guide for beginning your own search for the perfect mechanical keyboard. It can be a confusing journey, but once you click with a keyboard you'll know it was worth it.
Thanks for reading!