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Your gaming PC is only as good as its peripherals, and the keyboard is probably the most important one of all. All of the processing speed and memory and upgrades in the world are not going to save you from a bad gaming experience if you’re trying to play on a cheap, janky keyboard.
Convinced? Great. Now let’s get to upgrading you to the best gaming keyboard. But what kind should you get? Yes, they’re not all the same — not by a longshot. Different sizes, different keys, different sights, sounds and feels. Pull up a chair, it’s time for a short primer on Gaming Keyboards 101.
Different keys In addition to the standard keyboards, there are TKL, 65%, and 60% keyboards. TKL stands for tenkeyless. “Ten Key Less” – get it? No numerical pad on the right side of the keyboard. They’re also known as 80% keyboards, connoting the size compared to a standard keyboard. A 65% keyboard also eliminates the function row, and a 60% keyboard also removes the arrow keys, all in the name of saving space and reducing superfluous keys not needed for gaming. Which is best? It’s all a matter of personal preference.
Membrane keyboards Sounds gross, right? It’s not – membrane keyboards simply are keys laid over a thin membrane circuit layer, as opposed to mechanical keyboards, where the keys each have their own spring-loaded switches. Membrane keyboards are more common overall, but many hardcore gamers dislike the “squishy” key feel as opposed to the clackity-clack of a mechanical keyboard. Another advantage of mechanical keyboards? Customizable replacement keys.
RGB Lighting Do you play in a darkened room so you can see your monitor better? You’re going to want a backlit keyboard. Better still, many RGB (red-green-blue) keyboards are customizable, so you can create your own patterns and looks. Many gamers swear it helps their performance, but nobody denies it looks awesome.
Price The price depends on how hardcore of a gamer you are. For casual gaming you can easily get by for under $100 and still enjoy an appreciable upgrade from the keyboard your PC came with. But if you’re serious and you want pro-level performance, you can go over a couple hundred bucks pretty easily.
Casual gamers, budget shoppers, pros – we’ve got something here for everybody. Here are seven great gaming keyboards to consider:
Corsair K100 RGB Optical-Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
This is a full-sized, full-featured dynamo of a gaming keyboard, with enough RGB lighting (44 different zones!) to dazzle your eyes forever. That alone doesn’t make it the best overall choice, though. The performance takes care of that. The mechanical key response is crisp and fast, and the new iCue control wheel at the top left corner of the keyboard is useful for adjusting light levels, zooming the screen, scrolling, and more. This can be a solid everyday keyboard when it’s not being used for gaming, which is something many of the smaller models cannot say. The Corsair K100 usually retails for over $200 (it’s currently on sale on Amazon), but you absolutely get what you pay for.
HyperX Alloy Elite 2 Full-Size Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
The HyperX Alloy Elite 2 is a worthy runner-up to the Corsair K100. Like the Corsair it’s a full-sized standard keyboard that functions well when you’re not gaming, has impressive RGB lighting, and has USB passthrough for charging. Not having a wrist rest and coming with slightly lower quality keys places it behind the Corsair, but we’re basically quibbling at this point because the performance is on a par with the overall winner.
Mountain Everest Max Mechanical RGB Gaming Keyboard
Can’t decide if you want a standard or a TKL gaming keyboard? Why not both? The Mountain Everest Max Mechanical RGB Gaming Keyboard’s number pad is removeable, connected via USB-C and held in place by magnets, and can be connected on either side of the keyboard, or not at all. The four media keys atop the numerical pad are also customizable and can be made into shortcuts or hotkeys. Also check out the dedicated media panel, which is also moveable to either side of the keyboard. (Hear that, lefties?) The base plate is brushed aluminum so it also looks amazing on your gaming desk.
Razer Huntsman Mini 60% Gaming Keyboard
If you’re space-conscious and savings-conscious, this is your play. The Razer Huntsman Mini 60% Gaming Keyboard takes up a small space on your gaming desk and an even smaller one in your budget. There’s a lot of bang for the buck here, or more appropriately, a lot of clickety-clack courtesy of Razer’s Clicky Optical switches. You’ll be making the usual sacrifices here as with any 60% keyboard, most notably the lack of dedicated arrow keys, but this is a great budget gaming keyboard.
Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Mechanical Rapidfire Gaming Keyboard/Elite Capellix Liquid CPU Cooler Bundle
We’d consider breaking the budget for this keyboard even before you added the CPU Cooler and offered it as a bundle. Our favorite feature of the Corsair K70 is the 8MB profile storage which lets you store up to three profiles without needing external software. It’s wildly durable, made with an aircraft-grade aluminum frame, and the Cherry MX Silent mechanical key switches are 30% quieter than others, in case you don’t want your gaming lair to sound like an old newsroom. Now add that CPU cooler and suddenly the $300-plus price tag doesn’t look so crazy.
Best Membrane Keyboard
Roccat Magma Silent Membrane Swith PC Gaming Keyboard
Once you bring yourself to stop saying “mag-ma” like Dr. Evil, you’ll be amazed at the pure silence of this membrane gaming keyboard. It feels like you’re hitting the keys and the response time is fast, but you don’t hear a thing. We also love the super low profile of the Roccat Magma, and most of all the Easy-Shift[plus] tech that lets you customize compatible keys with a second command with just a keystroke.
Camisyn Typewriter Style Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Is this the most technologically advanced gaming keyboard you can find? Not by a longshot. Is it for serious gamers? Probably not. Is it the coolest darn thing you’ll see all day? Very possibly. A typewriter-style, vaguely steampunk gaming keyboard with retro round keys and a great RGB backlighting system is going to jump off of the desk, and if you’re not trying out for the Professional Gamers League, it’ll do you just fine in terms of performance.