The keyboard may be the most unglamorous of peripherals, with its uncomfortable tendency to conjure up images of sitting in office cubicles. But if you’re a mad-keen online PC gamer then finding the best keyboard is vital.
Whether you use it to control strafing in all directions in a first-person shooter, or to select from an arsenal of spells in an MMO, it’s the primary tool that allows you to showcase your skills and establish an all-important reputation. So it pays to invest in the best one available.
With that in mind, we’ve selected the 10 best gaming keyboards available for all the different flavours of PC gamers. Whether you’re a World of Warcraft ninja or an up-and-coming Counter-Strike: GO expert, and whatever your financial situation or space requirements, you should be able to find the best keyboard among this selection. Starting with the most expensive at the top, we’ve ordered the below models by price, which is subject to change.
Silent and deadly
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: Yes | Features: Cherry MX key switches (Silent/Red/Brown/Blue), Multi-color dynamic backlighting, Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software, USB pass-through, Textured/contoured keys, 100% anti-ghosting with 104 key rollover, Multimedia keys, Detachable wrist rest
Mechanical keyboards offer a superior tactile feel to traditional membrane models, but they’re damn noisy. That’s why Corsair made the Strafe RGB Silent, the first mechanical keyboard to use Cherry’s MX Silent keyswitch. Featuring a dampening noise system integrated into each key, it lets you get your game on without the constant clacking of keys driving you – and people around you – insane. While the quieter switches still make a noise, the snapping sound they make upon actuation is muffled in comparison to Cherry MX Red or Brown switches. The Cherry Strafe RGB Silent is also beautiful, capable of flashing all the colours of the rainbow thanks to per-key RGB backlighting.
Read the full review: Corsair Strafe RGB Silent
An expensive option, but with unique touch sensitive screen
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: Yes | Features:
Razer’s apocalyptically named DeathStalker Ultimate is another gaming keyboard that tends to polarise opinion. It’s fearsomely expensive, yet has a membrane keyboard, so if you demand mechanical keys, you can safely ignore it. But it has one totally unique feature: a touch-sensitive LED screen (with 10 programmable touch-keys above it) that has all manner of gaming applications. With custom-designed apps for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Battlefield 3, Counter-Strike: GO and Team Fortress 2, you can assign all sorts of useful functions to the touch-screen, and you can design your own apps for it if you’re that way inclined. A curiosity indeed, but it might just give you the edge if set up properly.
Beautifully made and handsome to behold
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: Yes | Features: 10 key rollover, Gaming mode option, Braided fibre cable, 5 Additional Macro keys, audio-in and microphone out, USB passthrough
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Something of a status symbol among high-end PC gamers, Razer’s BlackWidow Chroma takes a thoroughly bespoke approach to fulfilling gamers’ needs. Instead of using Cherry’s mechanical keys, it boasts its own specially designed ones, with less travel, but still bags of feel. This could prove to be to your taste, but you still might want to try before buying. It also has five programmable macro keys, keeping the MMO and MOBA-lovers happy, and you can customise the colours of its rainbow backlighting.
Not cheap, but a very impressive piece of kit
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: Yes | Features: Romer-G mechanical switches, RGB key illumination, ARX Control Integration, 9 programmable buttons, dedicated media controls, 113 key anti-ghosting
The G910 Orion Spark uses another type of mechanical keys – the Romer-Gs – which, Logitech claims, are the fastest ones on the market. It’s a handsome beast thanks to full colour-control over key illumination, and has a clever mobile phone dock, which is handy for those games that have accompanying apps. Nine programmable macro keys should excite the MMO/MOBA brigades, too.
Read the full review: Logitech G910 Orion Spark
Steeled for online gaming
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: 5 | Features: 5 programmable macro keys, red LED backlighting, USB 2.0 pass-through, quick access media controls, gaming mode button, Alpha-Zulu mechanical switches, headphone and microphone jack, interchangeable aluminum top panel
Better known for producing some impressive professional keyboards, the X40 comes as part of Das Keyboard’s new Division Zero gaming lineup. Available with clicky (or optionally silent) tactile keys, Das utilizes its own custom made Alpha-Zulu switches that have a very similar feel to Cherry MX Red keys. What’s more, the X40 comes with interchangeable thick aluminum panels making this one of the strongest and most rigid keyboards around.
Read the full review: Division Zero
Not the prettiest, but robustly built
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: Yes | Features: Per-key illumination, Two 32-bit ARM CPUs, Integated media hub, Advanced ant-ghosting, Five rubber feet, Roccat Talk, Roccat achivements display, 500 programmable macros
The RYOS MK Pro might just be the most high-tech gaming keyboard in existence, with not one but two 32-bit ARM processors built in. So you can record and unleash up to 500 macros on the fly, which could give you the edge in an MMO or MOBA. A clever ‘Easy-Shift’ key lets you remap the entire keyboard, and you can light up individual keys or groups of them. Plus it has a palm-rest, a USB hub, and built-in audio jacks, and is available with all the different flavours of Cherry MX mechanical keys – black, red, brown and blue – which have subtly different amounts of travel.
A compact and attractive gaming keyboard
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: Yes | Features: Per-key illumination, Compact tenkeyless format, Easy-shift key configurations
Essentially a RYOS MK Pro with the numeric keypad removed, Roccat’s RYOS TKL Pro is one of the best-value gaming keyboards around. Like its bigger sibling, it’s a great all-rounder, suitable for first-person shooters, MMOs and MOBAs, and sports Cherry MX keys and a wrist-rest (slightly oddly, given that it would otherwise be impressively compact). Three thumb-keys below the space bar give it decent macro-launching capabilities, in conjunction with Roccat’s Easy-Shift system. While it lacks USB and audio ports, it still has everything you need for top-end gaming.
A true metalhead
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: 10 | Features: Cherry MX Switches, N-Key rollover in USB mode, 1000Hz polling rate, On-board memory, Aluminium brushed structure, Dedicated media keys, Cougar UIX system, Anti-slip rubber feet, Full key backlight, Multimedia keys
If you prefer your mechanical keyboards to be built like tanks, the aluminium-fashioned Cougar Attack X3 is for you. Sacrificing RGB lighting for a moodier black, silver and red appearance, the keyboard comes with a choice of Cherry MX Red, Blue, Brown or Black keyswitches to suit your tastes. The anti-slip rubber feet on the Attack X3’s base provide extra elevation while keeping the keyboard sturdy, and a Windows lock function key means you’ll never accidentally switch back to your desktop in the heat of battle. The Attack X3’s basic design, fast response time and excellent build quality make it an uncomplicated addition to any gamer’s arsenal – and one that should last a while too.
Read the full review: Cougar Attack X 3
Premium gaming keyboard with a minimal footprint
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: No | Features: Steel reinforced chassis, Six-key rollover with anti-ghosting, 3.5mm mic and audio jacks, 2 x USB 2.0 ports with audio pass through
If you favour gaming keyboards at the more compact end of the spectrum, Turtle Beach’s Impact 700 does away with a wrist-rest, and has as small a footprint as is possible for a keyboard that includes a numeric keypad and uses Cherry MX Brown keys. It does lack programmable macros, though, so lends itself more to devotees of first-person shooters – especially since it comes with spare W, A, S and D keys (along with others), and a tool that enables you to remove worn-out ones. Plus it lets you illuminate key-clusters. Not the cheapest, but worth considering by those who have a tendency to hammer their keyboards into oblivion.
Funny-looking but great value
Interface: Wireless | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Programmable keys: No | Features: Switch between four devices, Small and stylish, Case and tablet stand included
We’ll admit that if you rock up at a LAN party and pull out a Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. M, derisive hoots of laughter will probably ensue. Nevertheless, it’s a unique and versatile keyboard that could end up coming in handy – particularly if you don’t class yourself as a thoroughly hardcore gamer. It’s tiny and wireless (via Bluetooth), and has a built-in optical sensor with buttons that acts like a mouse. And although the keyboard is a membrane one, it feels surprisingly tactile. Perfect for gaming on Android devices or when you’re on the move.