Your PC is the core of your gaming experience, whether it’s a desktop or a laptop. But like a Reece’s cup full of chocolate, it’s not complete without the tasty peanut butter. You need a mouse for reliable, accurate targeting, and a great keyboard for handling your movements and commands. Sure, gaming laptops can provide decent keyboards for on-the-go gaming, but when you’re sitting at the desk, a full-featured standalone mechanical keyboard is simply the best way to go.
There are more game-focused models on the market than we can count, but we have a batch we’ve put together that we highly recommend. It should be noted that all models listed below are “mechanical,” meaning they rely on spring-activated switches versus the pressure pads used in “membrane” keyboards. If you’re a gamer, you already know why mechanical keyboards are the only serious option.
Finally, our list comprises of three categories: full-sized keyboards packing everything under the sun, compact models without the number pad (tenkeyless), compact models with a number pad, and budget keyboards you can get for under $100.
Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire ($169)
We totally get that this keyboard has a high price tag, but it’s definitely worth every penny. In fact, some of us use it on a daily basis even outside of gaming due to its sturdy design, built-in multimedia keys, and key “sensitivity.” That latter aspect is due to the peripheral’s use of Cherry MX Speed RGB mechanical switches that provide a key actuation distance of 1.2mm versus the typical 2mm distance in standard mechanical keyboards. That 0.8mm difference does make a difference, and we love it.
Outside the speed aspect, the switches support 16.8 million colors that are customizable through Corsair’s desktop utility. There are six multimedia keys in all (one of which is a volume up-down roller), and a USB pass-though port for connecting a headset or mouse that can’t reach the back of your PC. There are no dedicated macro keys, but you can assign commands to any key using profiles created in Corsair’s desktop software. The keyboard even includes a separate set of special WASD key caps.
Check out our review here.
Best full-size keyboard options
Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 ($170)
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
What’s a gaming keyboard roundup without a product by Razer? Like Logitech, Razer takes the proprietary road with this keyboard by using its in-house “Green” mechanical switches. Built specifically for gaming, they provide a distinct audible click and a tactile bump for gamers who require feedback from key presses. Razer also sells the BlackWidow Chroma V2 with its silent “Orange” (tactile) and “Yellow” (linear) switches too.
Feature-wise, Razer’s keyboard includes five dedicated macro keys, but no media keys. But it does include a USB pass-through port that’s complemented by jacks for audio output and microphone input. All keys can be programmed through the company’s Synapse desktop software along with Chroma-branded backlighting supporting 16.8 million colors. The keyboard includes a detachable ergonomic wrist rest for long gaming marathons.
Logitech G910 Orion Spectrum ($180) / Spark ($180)
The difference between the two appears to be only cosmetic. The Spectrum includes a single palm rest spanning its width, and cylindrical keycaps for fast key presses. Meanwhile, the Spark features two uniquely-angled palm rests, and special indented key caps to “prevent mistyping.” Otherwise, both feature the same number of dedicated macro keys (nine), maximum key rollover (over 26), and dedicated audio controls.
The two G910 keyboards include a holder for your smartphone so the device can serve as a second screen, This is accomplished through the Arx Control app that provides in-game controls in supporting titles, in-game information, system statistics, and more. The keyboards are also based on Logitech’s proprietary Romer-G switches designed and optimized for gaming. These switches provide RGB illumination, an actuation distance of 1.5mm, and promise a duration of 70 million key presses.
Best compact keyboards (without numpad)
Logitech G Pro ($130)
Here’s another portable mechanical keyboard without the number pad. The company’s primary focus was to improve the duration between touching the key caps, and the parent PC’s receipt of the keystroke command. That journey starts with using Logitech’s proprietary Romer-G mechanical switches with a 1.5mm actuation point, then moves to converting that signal into USB-based data, and ends with the data transferring to the host PC at a rate of 1,000 times per second.
Logitech says this keyboard is ideal for eSports professionals. Notable features include a detachable USB cable, 26-key rollover (meaning it can identify 26 simultaneously-pressed keys), per-key RGB lighting supporting 16.8 million colors, and profiles for more than 300 games already created via the Logitech Gaming Software desktop program. There are no dedicated macro keys, but you can assign macros to the keyboard’s function keys (F1 to F12).
Our review of this keyboard can be read here.
Here’s a highly-solid, highly-popular mechanical keyboard from Razer without the number pad. It’s based on the company’s proprietary “Green” switches sporting a tactile and “clicky” feedback. These switches are backed by per-key RGB illumination, and a durability of 80 million keystrokes. They’re installed in a military-grade metal foundation for an attractive, sturdy solution that will last for years to come.
Unlike its larger BlackWidow brothers, this model doesn’t include dedicated macro keys. Instead, you can assign these commands through Razer’s Synapse desktop software. There are no media keys either, so all media-related functions are pushed through the function keys. Other notable features include 1,000Hz ultrapolling, 10 key roll-over, cable management routing, and support for Razer’s Chroma illumination platform, which synchronizes colors and lighting effects across all supported Razer devices.
Best budget keyboard
Corsair Compact K63 ($67)
Here’s another keyboard we like to use in-house. It’s a solid mechanical solution built for easy transportation, and relies on Cherry MX Red switches complemented by a sole red per-key illumination. There’s nothing wrong with having a single color versus a palate of millions: red illumination is better than no lighting at all. The K63’s red lighting is backed by key caps with large fonts so you’re not fighting to locate keys instead of the on-screen opponents.
Due to its size, you won’t find dedicated macro keys. Instead, you can record macros using Corsair’s desktop software called Corsair Utility Engine (CUE). You can also use this software to create profiles that load when assigned to your favorite games, such as pre-determined key illumination, lighting effects, event assignments, key remapping, and more. But Corsair’s keyboard does provide a button to lock the Windows key, a button for setting the illumination at various brightness levels, and dedicated media keys.
You can read our review here.
Best compact keyboard (with numpad!)
Technically, keyboards without the number pad (tenkeyless) are compact, but this model is seemingly in its own class. It includes a number pad, but it’s shorter in width than the full-size “large” Pro L RGB version, but wider than the “small” Pro S RGB version. Thus, this “medium” Pro M version seemingly combines the best of both worlds by merging the number pad, arrow keys, and the INS/DEL/END keys together into one solution.
With the Pro M, there are no dedicated macro or media keys. On the macro front, you can assign commands to any key using the built-in “on-the-fly” system as seen with the other two models, or use Cooler Master’s “hassle free” software. Meanwhile, all media controls are piped through the function keys. But like the Pro L and Pro S versions, you get RGB per-key backlighting, a 32-bit processor handling your keystrokes, and silent tactile feedback via Cherry MX Brown switches. Versions served up with Cherry MX Blue, Red, and Silver switches are available as well.