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While you’re better off plugging in a controller for some games, many genres – first-person shooters, MMOs and real-time strategy, for instance – play better with a keyboard. The more keys at your fingertips, the better.
You might think the stock keyboard that comes with your desktop PC is fine. But like any tool or instrument, there are always better options – not only to improve and optimise your performance, but also to add a dollop of style to your gaming rig.
This guide will give you a breakdown on the best gaming keyboards out there and what you should be looking for.
What to look for when buying a gaming keyboard
Keys: There are two main types of keyboards: membrane and mechanical. The former is what you’d find in lower-end office keyboards, and the latter are the gamers’ choice. These use mechanical switches underneath each key, like in traditional typewriters, which give them a very tactile ‘clickiness’. They feel more natural, provide more tactile feedback, and are built to withstand any ‘heated’ gaming sessions.
Size: If you’ve used laptops, you’ll notice that you tend to not have a full-size keyboard, and the same is true with gaming keyboards. Full-size keyboards will have 104 (or 105) keys, as well as a dedicated number pad and function keys. As these may take up too much space, many gamers instead opt for a ‘tenkeyless’ (TKL) keyboard, which scraps the number pad entirely.
Play style: The games you play will determine your ideal keyboard size. If you like MMOs, you may want even more keys, in which case there are dedicated keyboards that feature additional macro keys to which you can assign handy shortcuts. There are also games that require you to hit multiple keys simultaneously – in order for all those keystrokes to register, it’s important to have a keyboard with high ‘n-key rollover’ (NKRO).
Lighting and customisation: The most noticeable difference between an office and gaming keyboard is all that fancy lighting. If you find that a bit excessive, most gaming keyboards can fortunately be customised to the backlighting that suits your preferences – especially if you have a mouse and other accessories to match the keyboard with.
The best gaming keyboards
Razer BlackWidow Elite
Razer has a fantastic range of mechanical gaming keyboards, but we think the BlackWidow Elite is one of the brand’s best. The mechanical switches are incredibly responsive and tactile, but we like that the orange switches also keep these keys silent without trading in tactility.
It’s a weighty keyboard where each key has high actuation and durability to last 80 million keystrokes. There’s also an in-built USB port or audio jack, which makes plugging in a headset super convenient. And while the BlackWidow Elite is a full-size keyboard, its Hypershift technology allows you to rebind any key into a macro key.
With its bright RGB lighting, the BlackWidow Elite is a highly customisable keyboard for the more dedicated gamers.
Roccat Vulcan TKL Pro
With its unique floating key design above RGB-lit mechanical switches, the Vulcan TKL Pro is a beautifully designed gaming keyboard reimagined in a tenkeyless form factor. If you have another Roccat accessory, then its AIMO intelligent lighting will sync up with it nicely.
Its TKL design is great if you want to take up less desk space to allow for more range and movement for your mouse. And we like that its ultra-low profile design means you can keep your hands flat to avoid wrist strain.
Thankfully, none of this compromises the keyboard’s other crucial factors, such as industry-class speed and responsiveness, and the ability to endure 50 million keystrokes. Whether you’re knee-deep in a lengthy MMO session or just typing a lot for work, this is a terrific keyboard to use.
Corsair K100 RGB
This full-size keyboard will set you back the most among the others on this list, but if you’re looking for a premium gaming keyboard, the Corsair K100 RGB is certainly worth its price tag.
The silver mechanical switches ensure durability for 100 million keystrokes, and, thanks to Corsair’s AXON technology, it’s able to register keypresses up to four times faster than standard mechanical gaming keyboards.
We also like the keyboard’s control wheel, which can be used to perform a variety of useful tasks, from adjusting the keyboard’s beautiful RGB lighting to zooming in on your documents to even controlling your music tracks.
SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL
The SteelSeries Apex Pro is yet another pricey mechanical keyboard, even in its TKL variation. But you’re also getting something special: the SteelSeries’ unique OmniPoint switches.
These magnetic switches are able to detect your keypresses with a greater response time and actuation than any other mechanical switch. They’re also built to last 100 million keystrokes.
The wrist-rest is also magnetic, making it easy to remove when you need to clear your desk space. We also like that SteelSeries has decluttered the keyboard’s suite of media keys, replacing the bulk of them with a convenient clickable media roller that can be used for adjusting volume and other settings on the fly.
Asus ROG Strix Scope TKL
As the name suggests, this TKL gaming keyboard has been designed specifically for FPS lovers. Its smaller form factor provides more space for your mouse, essential for shooting accuracy, while a larger left-CTRL key minimises you accidentally hitting another key.
We especially like the keyboard’s quick-toggle switch, which can instantly shift between function and media key inputs, as well as its stealth key – the latter can hide all apps and mute audio when needed. A magnetic foam wrist-rest is also a big plus here.
While the ROG Strix Scope TLK lacks the frills found in many mechanical gaming keyboards (there’s still the ubiquitous RGB lighting, though), many will appreciate its understated design.