The Gaming Keyboards Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

What to Look out for When Picking Your Gaming Keyboard? What does it take to be a member of the ‘PC Master Race’? Your top-of-the-line rig is mandatory but not enough. What more do you …

What to Look out for When Picking Your Gaming Keyboard?

What does it take to be a member of the ‘PC Master Race’? Your top-of-the-line rig is mandatory but not enough.

What more do you need for the maximum gaming experience? The answer is quite simple. When you’re finished assembling your dream rig, the next big thing is peripherals. The right mouse is important, and the other major worry is your keyboard.

Just like mice and other components, keyboards come in a variety that could be confusing and even deceiving. Don’t get sucked into a retail nightmare.

Are you someone who has an adventure in their blood? Is your love for single-player titles unmatched? Are headshots your forte? Are you a team player? Will a few extra buttons make you the hero of your MMO raid party, or is the numpad hampering your free mouse movements? Are you in the habit of accidentally spilling your drink on your keyboard?

Answer these questions and proceed to our list of well-proven tips and tricks.

Mechanical Or Membrane?

Membrane keyboards might appear to be mostly cheaper and lower-end models, whereas mechanical keyboards are in the expensive and high-tech spectrum. Under those keycaps and switches lie the differences between the two types for you to find.

Membrane Switches: The Budget Friendly Solution

Membrane-based keyboards are not that costly to manufacture, hence the lower price.

Unlike their mechanical counterparts, these keyboards are thinner in design. This is possible due to the layer of silicone that functions as both the spring and the electrical contact.

Membranes are versatile. The lack of a “click”, however, makes it hard to know if the press was enough. This is more of a “tactile view” on things, but it is important to gamers. The explanation is straightforward: the spongy or squishy feel just doesn’t appeal to gamers’ senses.

Mechanical Switches: Are They a Better Choice?

Mechanical keyboards, though “relics” from the past, are making a big comeback to the gaming scene.

Mechanical switches are optimized for gaming. How? If you look under each keycap, you will find a dedicated mechanical switch there. These switches are tailored with their own housings, springs, and stems. As a result, they provide a loud click that is satisfying to gamers. They are tactile because you can really tell the instant the mechanism connects with the electronics.

If ‘gaming is life’ then a mechanical keyboard might appeal to you more. Not only do they feel better for gaming, but they are also sturdy, and can withstand 40-50 million clicks before retiring.

Guide To Common Mechanical Switches

There are lots of mechanical switches available, and it might be hard to keep track. Best to get familiar with their characteristics, as they will be your buddies should you be smashing buttons in League of Legends or raiding in Guild Wars.

Key Stroke Behavior and Vendor Specifics

Linear

This means that the keystrokes are very consistent and smooth to press. Linear switches are loved for their quiet and smooth action. These switches are free of any excessive resistance. The keystrokes are a straight downward press without bumps.

Tactile

This behavior can be distinguished by a bump in the middle of key-press, usually in the actuation point. Tactile switches are versatile and can perform well in a variety of gaming styles.

Clicky

You can tell it from the bump in the middle of key-press, which is usually accompanied by a discernable ‘click’ noise. Clicky switches have certain feedback, and it is in the form of a tactile resistance. You must overcome this to actuate the switch and register the keystroke.

Cherry Switches

  Cherry MX Red Cherry MX Black Cherry MX Blue Cherry MX Brown Cherry MX Speed
Behavior Linear Linear Clicky Tactile Linear
Feel Light Heavy Heavy Medium Light
Sound Level Quiet Quiet Loud Quiet Quiet
Kailh/Kaihua Switches
  Kailh Red Kailh Black Kailh Blue Kailh Brown
Behavior Linear Linear Clicky Tactile
Feel Light Light Heavy Medium
Sound Level Quiet Quiet Loud Quiet

Razer Switches

  Razer Green Razer Orange Razer Mecha-Membrane Razer Opto-Mechanical
Behavior Clicky Tactile Tactile Clicky
Feel Heavy Medium Medium Medium
Sound Level Loud Quiet Medium Loud

Logitech Switches

  Romer-G Tactile Romer-G Linear GX Blue
Behavior Slightly Tactile Linear Clicky
Feel Light Light Heavy
Sound Level Quiet Quiet Loud

SteelSeries Switches

  QS1 Topre
Behavior Linear Tactile
Feel Light Medium
Sound Level Quiet Quiet

Price Point: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

How much are you willing to spend?

Gaming keyboards don’t come lined up in shelves according to their prices. Every company will charge differently for features like full RGB or mechanical switches. It will be useful to have an idea of what to expect from different price brackets.

Gaming Keyboards under $100

If this is the budget you’re working with, then consider that membrane keyboards are the staple in this area. Even though you could still find mechanical models here, tenkeyless models from the not so popular brands will prevail. My advice, if you really want a piece of the mechanical feel, then try and find older models. They are much cheaper than the newer models.

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate: Esports Gaming Keyboard - Dust and Spill Resistant - Individually Backlit Keys - Razer Green Mechanical Switches (Tactile and Clicky)
9.7
Razer BlackWidow Ultimate: Esports Gaming Keyboard - Dust and Spill Resistant - Individually Backlit Keys - Razer Green Mechanical Switches (Tactile and Clicky)
  • Razer Green Mechanical Switches provide optimized actuation and reset points so commands are executed with blazing fast responsiveness.
  • The Razer BlackWidow Ultimate is resistant to both water and dust, tested to withstand IP54 conditions.
  • Individually programmable backlit keys along with dynamic lighting effects, all set easily through Razer Synapse.
  • Razer Green Mechanical switches are manufactured in-house to ensure strict requirements are met for each switch produced, resulting in a life span of up to 80 million key strokes.
Logitech G610 Orion Red Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
9.5
Logitech G610 Orion Red Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
  • Performance driven gaming keyboard: Full size keyboard delivering a pure, fluid gaming experience
  • Durable Cherry MX Red Mechanical Key Switches: Low noise switches deliver a more linear keypress for rapid fire actuation
  • Customizable Lighting: Personalize individual key lighting brightness to keep track of spells and other commands
  • Easy Access Media Controls: Play, pause, mute, adjust volume and skip songs right from the keyboard
  • Customizable Function Keys and Game Mode: Program custom macros to F1 F12 keys with Logitech Gaming Software
SteelSeries Apex 150 RGB Gaming Keyboard - Tactile & Silent - RGB LED Backlit Keys - Splash Resistant - Media Controls, Black
9.1
SteelSeries Apex 150 RGB Gaming Keyboard - Tactile & Silent - RGB LED Backlit Keys - Splash Resistant - Media Controls, Black
  • Ultra fast reaction times, tactile feel, and quiet operation
  • Splash resistant to everyday spills
  • Guaranteed 20 million click lifespan for lifelong durability
  • Dynamic five zone RGB illumination
  • Real time Discord in game lighting notifications

Gaming Keyboards over $100 / under $150

This price is the best budget, and will surely open-up great selections. Keyboards under this price range are donning mechanical switches. It is also common to find mono-colored backlighting and a full set of keys, and a numpad. They might also include one extra row of macro keys as an additional feature.

CORSAIR K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - USB Passthrough & Media Controls - Fastest & Linear - Cherry MX Speed - RGB LED Backlit
9.7
CORSAIR K70 RGB RAPIDFIRE Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - USB Passthrough & Media Controls - Fastest & Linear - Cherry MX Speed - RGB LED Backlit
  • Corsair’s fastest mechanical keyboard, ever. Keyboard Cable Type: Braided
  • 100% anti-ghosting and full key rollover on USB / 100% Cherry MX Speed gaming key switches with ultra-fast 1.2mm actuation and light 45g force
  • Aircraft-grade anodized brushed aluminum frame for superior durability / Advanced lighting control and large font keycaps deliver dynamic, vibrant backlighting
  • CUE support enables advanced macro and lighting programming for virtually unlimited game customization. 
  • Detachable soft-touch wrist rest and dedicated multimedia controls / USB pass-through port for easy connections / Textured and contoured FPS/MOBA keycap sets
  • Keyboard Backlighting: RGB; Wired Keyboard with 104 Keys; Connectivity: USB 2.0 Type-A
Razer BlackWidow Elite Mechanical Gaming Keyboard: Green Mechanical Switches - Tactile & Clicky - Chroma RGB Lighting - Magnetic Wrist Rest - Dedicated Media Keys & Dial - USB Passthrough
9.5
Razer BlackWidow Elite Mechanical Gaming Keyboard: Green Mechanical Switches - Tactile & Clicky - Chroma RGB Lighting - Magnetic Wrist Rest - Dedicated Media Keys & Dial - USB Passthrough
  • The NPD Group, Inc., U.S. Retail Tracking Service, Gaming Designed: Keyboards, Mice, PC Headsets, and PC Microphones
  • Signature Mechanical Switch for Gaming
  • Ultimate Personalization & Gaming Immersion with Razer Chroma: Fully syncs with popular games, Razer hardware, Philips Hue, and gear from 30+ partners
  • Fully Programmable Macros: Razer Hypershift allows for all keys and keypress combinations to be remapped to execute complex commands
  • Ergonomic, Magnetic Wrist Rest: Made of plush leatherette to maximize comfort over extended gaming sessions
Logitech G513 RGB Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
9.1
Logitech G513 RGB Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
  • High performance RGB keyboard with customizable full spectrum color lighting per key plus LIGHTSYNC game-driven lighting colors and effects
  • Advanced Romer G Tactile Mechanical keyswitches for 25 percent faster responsiveness and actuation feedback you can feel with every keypress
  • Soft and strong Memory Foam palmrest for premium comfort and durability that resists sweat and wipes clean
  • Aircraft grade brushed aluminum alloy top case for a high end look that seals components with rugged protection
  • Convenient USB pass through port makes it a snap to plug in your mouse, flash drive or phone for direct data transmission or charging. Cable Length: 6 feet

Keyboards over $150 for Hardcore Gamers

Now, this is the budget of kings. This price range will get you keyboards with full RGB lighting and neat add-ons. Some of these keyboards have tons of macro keys, and you can expect premium mechanical switches from them. Whether they’re worth every penny depends on whether the extras would add to your gaming experience, or it would just boost your gaming aesthetics.

Razer Tarantula Gaming Keyboard
9.7
Razer Tarantula Gaming Keyboard
  • Anti-ghosting capability for up to 10 keys
  • 32KB Razer Synapse onboard memory
  • On-The-Fly Sensitivity profile switching
  • 10 programmable gaming hotkeys
  • 1000Hz Ultrapolling / 1ms response time
Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard (Black)
9.5
Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard (Black)
  • Intelligent cable management: Keep mouse, headset, and other cords out of the way by routing them through channels on the underside of the keyboard
  • Illuminated characters allow you to play late into the night
  • Create useful macros on the fly and play them back with a single press of a G-key
SteelSeries Merc Stealth Gaming Keyboard
9.1
SteelSeries Merc Stealth Gaming Keyboard
  • SteelSeries Z Engine enables programmability of all keys
  • 3 color illumination options - blue, purple and red
  • Anti-ghosting capability: Up to 7 simultaneous keystrokes
  • Rubberized movement keys for enhanced tactile feedback
  • Pre-defined profiles for more than 150 games

Keyboard Size: Does It Matter?

Not all keyboards are made equal. Some have more keys than others. What should you look out for here?

Full-Size Keyboards

These will have around 105 keys, including the QWERTY alphanumeric section, numpad, function keys, and the directional cursor keys.

Full-size keyboards are wide, and if you have a small workspace, it might be too big for you. Some gamers feel that the numpad is a hassle and takes up space. If it doesn’t bother you then no need to downsize.

Tenkeyless Keyboards

Are you a certified space saver? Then the tenkeyless size might fit you. If you won’t miss the standard numpad, give it a go.

Function-wise everything will be there, so this is not a bad deal. This type will appeal to the portable gamer. Some of these keyboards have detachable wires, and some even have a carrying case. So, if you travel often or you compete in tournaments, this will interest you.

Keypads

Razer Orbweaver

One of the main reasons to be interested in tenkeyless keyboards is its compact design and no fuss keys. If this appeals to you, then a keypad may catch your attention too.

These convenient pieces of gear usually don’t get the attention they deserve. If you laid your hands on one you’d know. This is especially valid for gamers who love MMORPG and MOBA.

A gaming keypad is meant to be ergonomic and useful in gaming, not to mention how well they go with tenkeyless keyboards.

Precision and Accuracy

“What? I pressed dodge! Why did I die?”

This keyboard will be used for gaming; thus, all presses and all clicks matters. So, when your keyboard can’t register keystrokes fast or when hitting multiple keys simultaneously leaves it confused then it’s a gamer’s nightmare.

Below are additional key features that you need to look out for when shopping for your keyboard.

Key-Rollover

This feature is a lifesaver and gaming keyboards are made to accommodate simultaneous presses known as ‘n-key rollover.’  The letter ‘n’ is the number of supported keys that you can press at the same time.

Of course, you won’t need a super keyboard that works with all keys pressed, but a higher ‘n’ number means more flexibility in gaming.

Anti-Ghosting

The strange effect known as key ghosting spells disaster for fast-paced games. This occurs when you press certain keys simultaneously, or in quick succession, and somehow your keyboard registers a press that you have not done. So, imagine dodging a boss in Dark Souls 3, you pressed backward roll yet ‘The Ashen One’ rolled forward! Yikes!

Lighting: To RGB or Not to RGB?

Some gamers might find the RGB lighting ‘excessive’; however, you might be surprised to know that the dramatic light has so much to it than to simply please the eyes.

The principle behind this is if you divide a keyboard into zones, like the common area of A, S, D, W, it will make a difference. If you light these spots with colors, then you will have a handy visual reference during games. Remember, the less you think about finger placements, the faster your game reactions will be.

The light is also beneficial when you game in darkness. A backlit keyboard will light your keys in detail, without stressing your eyes to adjust to a bright light source. And yes, backlit keyboards look awesome, there I said it.

Connectivity: Wired or Wireless?

Old-fashioned wires, are they still worth it?

Our technology is evolving, so if there is a wireless mouse, then there is a wireless keyboard. If you are someone who can’t be bothered by massive piles of cords and cables, then investing in a wireless keyboard is the right choice.

However, there are limitations to wireless connectivity. Some features are not available for this option, such as constant use of backlights.

Another point to remember is its battery life. If you opt for a built-in battery, it may get worn out faster than the removable variant. If you use the removable version, buying decks of batteries every week is taxing on your budget.

Overall, the wireless version is good in its own right. If you like portability, and often game on the go, then this is not a bad choice.

Wrapping Up

PC gaming is a way of life. To get the most out of it, you must have the right tools for the job. Don’t settle for a keyboard that can’t handle smashing and frantic presses. Keep in mind that having the appropriate gaming keyboard means higher chances of owning the battlefield. After all, who doesn’t love the sweet smell of victory?

Petya is a grammar fanatic and a cat lover. She has been playing mainly RPG and now, her attention is completely captured by the Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen and The Elder Scrolls Online. Her favorite hero is Sheogorath, the Prince of Madness. The main reason why she finds video games fascinating is the gameplay, the atmosphere and the fantastic worlds that serve her as an inspiration for drawing sketches.

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