It may be 2017, but the physical keyboard still has a long life ahead of it – at least in the gaming sector. Though it’s now easier than ever to pair a controller with your prized gaming rig, nothing beats the sheer precision of a good gaming keyboard.
Take the Logitech G Pro, for example. It’s graced with such fancy trimmings as full pallets of LED color arrangements, nippy actuation and the virtually silent keys necessary to prevent misguided disturbance of roommates.
In no time at all, with the proper keyboard equipped, you’ll go from consistent losing streaks to “Play of the Game” in Overwatch, given you have the skill to match the prowess of your hardware.
Even as a casual gamer on a budget, there’s no need to worry about spending a fortune. Because keyboard lingo can be gratuitously convoluted, what with macros, actuation points and the like, we’ve devised a list of the 10 best gaming keyboards, mechanical and membrane included.
Although we haven’t posted complete reviews of each of the best gaming keyboards listed below, don’t assume we haven’t tried them out for ourselves. In fact, we’ve tested each of these keyboards extensively before selecting them for our buying guide.
The Realforce RGB from Japanese company Topre brings so many innovations that it's difficult to know where to start. This is a multi-talented keyboard that feels incredible to type on thanks to its capacitive Topre keyswitches, which offer superior tactile feedback compared to Cherry MX variants (they're closest to MX Whites in feeling.) You can type for an entire day and experience minimal finger fatigure on the Realforce RGB, though you should pick up a decent wrist rest to go with it.
The Realforce RGB, which comes with high-quality (and thick) PBT keycaps, is equally primed for gaming thanks to Topre's clever software which allows you to change the actuation (or distance you have to press keys before they register) depth from 1.5mm (for gamers with fast reflexes) to 2.2mm and 3mm (for improved typing accuracy). The result is a hugely versatile keyboard that suits whatever task you're doing at the time. And, like Cooler Master's Novatouch, the Realforce RGB has keyswitch stems that are compatible with both Topre and Cherry MX keycaps, allowing you to chop and change your keycaps at will.
Like the Corsair K70 Rapidfire before it, the K95 RGB Platinum is a gaming-first mechanical keyboard with plenty of versatility to get the job done, whatever that job may be. The simple arrangement of a single row of six macro keys keeps this QWERTY neat and organized without a whole lot of unnecessary reaching involved. The software may be sloppy, but if all you’re doing is assigning macros, you may not even need it. Because the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum packs in 8MB of memory dedicated to storing profiles, you don’t have to worry about using the same computer through to the end of its career. This keyboard is not only backlit by up to 16.8 million colors, but it’s the perfect travel buddy too, made better by its military-grade aluminum finish, including the wrist rest.
For too long there's been a divide between mechanical and membrane keys but now Razer has finally brought the two together with its 'Mecha-Membrane' Ornata keyboard. These new switches pull from everything Razer has learned over the years. The result is a grand typing experience with shorter keys, the tactile feel of the green switches from the Blackwidow X Chroma and a loud audible click. Just like its other products, the Ornata features a fully customizable, per-key backlight and it comes with a plush pleather wrist rest too.
Billed as the fastest keyboard in the west (and the rest of the world for that matter), the Apex M800 feels different to type on than just about every other keyboard out there. That's because of its incredibly responsive QS1 keyswitch featuring 1.5mm key travel and 45cN actuation force. Its low travel and linearity lend it a similar feel to Cherry MX Reds, but with less effort to strike each key. This makes the Apex M800 a great keyboard for gaming, but its membrane-like keyswitch means you'll need to take some time adjusting to it when it comes to typing - especially if you've come from a tactile keyboard with Cherry's MX switches inside. The M800's individually-lit keycaps are easy on the eye and the M800's six left-positioned macro keys help you fire off spells and switch weapons in a snap.
Cherry's flagship MX Board 6.0 features a lower profile than other gaming keyboards like the Razer BlackWidow X Chroma, making it perfect if you prefer to type and game using a wrist rest. Cherry's MX Red switches under the keys lend the MX Board 6.0 fast response times, but because the keys are positioned fairly close together they're excellent for typing too. Housed in an eye-catching aluminum chassis, the MX Board 6.0 certainly doesn't feel cheap and its blood-red key lighting is deliciously ominous. It's a mechanical keyboard that's also suited for the office.
Logitech has followed up its Orion Spark G910 mechanical keyboard with the G810, which arrives with a refreshingly grown-up feel. Sporting Logitech's own Romer G switches, which aren't quite as squishy as Cherry's various switches, the G810 possesses a snappier feel than other gaming keyboards whether typing or gaming. Featuring smart media keys that work equally well on both Windows and OS X, Logitech's latest keyboard is a solid all-round offering. If you're fed up of the weird markings, LCD screens and strange parts that come with competing "gamer-focused" keyboards, the G810 might be for you.
Many mechanical keyboards are gaudy and unwieldy, aimed at gamers on the, err, ostentatious side. That's not the case with the SteelSeries Apex M500. Like the Logitech G810, the Apex M500 eschews unnecessary bells and whistles in favor of clean design and bare essentials. While it's lacking media keys, macros and other such extras, it benefits from a compact design that wastes no space. Tailored towards e-Sports, its minimal leanings are refreshing and it looks great sat on a desk, accompanied by the right monitor and mouse of course.
Known primarily for its brand of professionally-geared keyboards, the X40 stems from Das Keyboard’s latest Division Zero gaming line. With the option of silent or clicky, tactile keys, the Division Zero X40 takes advantage of Das’ own custom Alpha-Zulu switches. For those accustomed to Cherry MX Reds, these will seem eerily familiar. Other functions include an arrangement of five programmable macro keys, LED backlighting, USB pass-through and even a gaming mode designed to disable that pesky Windows key when you’re in your zone. Making this a deal you can’t ignore, the X40 is one of the hardiest, most rigid keyboards around, thanks to its swappable aluminum panels.
Cougar's Attack X3 was one of the better affordable mechanical gaming keyboards of recent times thanks to its rugged aluminum body. Its successor, which is also forged from a block of aluminum, is every bit as robust and is once again available with Cherry MX Black, Brown, Red or Blue keyswitches depending on your typing preference. Its durability is aided by a braided cable, which sports two USB connections which are used for input and lighting. Features include N-Key rollover, a 1,000Hz polling rate and rubber feet on the bottom that prevents slipping. Corsair's software is a little rough around the edges and the Attack X3 RGB only comes in a US keyboard layout, but if you're seeking an affordable alternative to flagship keyboards like the Corsair K70 RGBs of this world then it's a tempting option.
Although not quite as compact as the HyperX Alloy FPS, the latest mechanical keyboard to come from relative gaming peripherals newcomer G.Skill won't hog all of your desk. Delightfully minimalist, the RipJaws KM570 brings a solid basic feature set, one that includes N-key rollover (allowing multiple keys to be pressed simultaneously, only-the-fly macro recording to any key), and Cherry MX Red keyswitches with a 45-gram actuation force and 2mm actuation point, all at a reasonable price. Its affordable nature means you'll only get red backlighting, rather than full-RGB, and you won't find any programmable macro keys here either. Still, for the full Cherry MX experience at this cost, we're prepared to let that slide.