A good gaming keyboard can make virtually everything you do with your computer better–games or otherwise. I’ve reviewed more than a few gaming keyboards, and to date, this list comprises some of my current favorites. If you haven’t already plunked down the cash for a good gaming keyboard, consider one of these.
The keyboards in this list represent some of my favorites that I’ve reviewed since 2010. You can also read my gaming keyboard buyer’s guide for some personal recommendations as to what features and qualities to look for. (You can also ping me on twitter @bryanedge_s personally if you’d like to ask about a specific board or product.)
Basic features to consider are the type of switches you like, which can include everything from ‘rubber dome’ to Cherry MX mechanical switches, or the newer ‘gaming optimized’ mechanical switches such as Logitech’s Romer-G switches or Razer’s Green and Orange switches. Better quality switches make gaming and typing feel better and more responsive.
Generally speaking, mechanical keyboards make the best — albeit most expensive (north of $100) options for gaming keyboards. You can save a little money if you opt for a small form factor keyboard, often referred to as a TK or TKL model (tenkeyless, i.e. one without a 10-key pad, which is nigh useless for most PC users and gamers alike).
In addition, consider extra features, such as additional USB ports and audio pass through connectors for added convenience. Programmable macro keys can give you an edge in any game (some might call it “cheating” depending on the context…). And macro keys can even come in handy for work too, queuing tedious, oft-used tasks.
If you want a responsive, quiet, mechanical keyboard in a compact, space-saving and travel-friendly size, look no further. You don’t need to be a pro or play like one to justify owning it—you just need to love fast, efficient, and well-designed mechanical keyboards.
The Logitech G-Pro mechanical keyboard distills the most important features of a gaming keyboard into a package that is as compact as it is responsive. Like the Orion Spark keyboard, the Logitech Pro is based on Romer-G mechanical switches.
Update 2018: I keep coming back to this perpetual favorite, usually as a work keyboard connected to a laptop on a small desk. It also made an excellent stand-in for the Orion Spark connected to my desktop PC after shoulder surgery required me to work in a “narrower” space for a time. I love the footprint and don’t miss the 10-key at all.
Logitech G910 Orion Spark
The G910 is still my go-to desktop gaming keyboard when I’m not reviewing other keyboards. It hasn’t been knocked from its throne yet. It’s a fantastic, feature-rich and innovative mechanical gaming keyboard with whisper quiet, gaming-optimized ‘Romer-G’ mechanical switches created specifically for Logitech. (The Romer-G switches are roughly equivalent to Cherry MX Red or Brown switches in feel.)
Like a number of newer breed mechanical keyboards, the G910 enables you to customize the G910 keys to any color you like on a per key basis, including a range of special effects and variations. The keys also feature a unique, angular, sculpted indentation that provides improved tactile feedback — albeit at a slight cost to typists.
Another key feature of the G910 is a cradle for your smartphone. Using Logitech’s Arx Control application, you can connect your smartphone to the Logitech gaming software on your PC through your wireless network, basically turning your phone into an auxiliary display for gaming.
The G910 also sports dedicated media keys, support for 3 different profiles, and 9 fully programmable macro keys.
The G910 still has some yet-to-be-determined potential with regard to smartphone interoperability and game support for that feature, and a few minor design caveats. But it also offers many unique features and innovations not found in its competitors.
Update 2018: Although I could lose the phone cradle, this is still one of my favorite gaming keyboards and the one I use every day.
Razer Blackwidow series
The Razer Blackwidow series of mechanical keyboards are a persistent favorite of mine, ever since the first one arrived on my desk in 2010. I still use one daily, and it’s neck-and-neck with Logitech’s G910.
Each Blackwidow model varies slightly from its brethren. The Blackwidow Ultimate editions include 5 dedicated, fully programmable macro keys as well as 3.5mm microphone/stereo and a single USB passthrough.
The Razer Blackwidow Chroma is the colorful belle of Razer’s Blackwidow Ball, and it enables you to make any key, any color, any time. Aside from its prettier nature, which includes a range of colorful options and special effects, the Blackwidow Chroma is virtually identical to the current breed of Blackwidow keyboards
The Blackwidow X Chroma removes the backplane for a ‘raised key’ look — something I like because it makes keeping the keyboard clean of hair and dust a bit easier. It also reduces the cost of the keyboard, if only slightly.
Blackwidow boards are backed by either Cherry MX Blue switches or Razer’s custom, gaming-optimized Razer Green mechanical switches. Stealth versions use Cherry MX Brown / Razer ‘Orange’ switches, which are a little quieter.
SteelSeries Apex M500
There isn’t a lot to say about the SteelSeries Apex M500. It’s a no-frills, quiet mechanical keyboard based on Cherry MX Red switches. I used it to replace a noisy Blackwidow keyboard so it wouldn’t annoy office mates. It’s relatively inexpensive, responsive, and feels great under the fingertips.
Update 2018: Although not as feature-rich as some of the other keyboards, the Apex M500 is also a favorite (usually as a work keyboard) for when loud, mechanical keys may result in death by nearby co-workers.
Roccat Ryos MKProFX Mechanical
It’s pretty telling when about the biggest criticism I could really muster about a gaming keyboard is that it deprived me of adding another detachable wrist rest to my collection.
The Roccat Ryos MK Pro feels (and sounds) great under the fingertips, but this feature-loaded beast doesn’t come cheaply. With 5 macro keys, Cherry MX brown switches, 2xUSB ports, and some of the most flexible, robust gaming software of any of its competitors. The Roccat Ryos MKPro is an excellent board. It even talks to you and awards you achievements.
The Roccat Ryos MK Pro may be a big fat desktop hog, but it’s a fat cat that’s worth every penny and every square inch it consumes.
The boards below were also favorites of mine at one point, and may still be worth looking at. They are older now and have largely been supplanted by newer generations; however, that often means the older generation can be had for a reduced price.
SteelSeries Apex Predator
The SteelSeries Apex is a non-mechanical keyboard (the only one on this list still) with chiclet-style keys with a low travel distance and whisper-quiet performance. Although I usually prefer big noisy mechanical keys, the Apex was surprisingly smooth and pleasant to use for gaming and typing. The Apex also has a ridiculous 22 dedicated programmable macro keys (and storage for 4 profiles, for a total of 88 macros) — more than any other keyboard on this list — 5 customizable lighting zones, and 2 USB ports.
And because it’s not mechanical, and it’s older than the other boards on this list, it’s considerably less expensive (under $100) than most mechanical gaming keyboards.
CM Storm Quickfire TK
The CM Storm Quickfire TK is a small form factor keyboard with blue backlighting and mechanical keys backed by Cherry MX Blue switches (my favorite). The Quickfire TK, like the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate, provides nice, ‘clicky’ and responsive feedback, but it’s small enough to be reasonably portable.
The Quickfire TK is also available with different switch types if you aren’t partial to Cherry MX Blues. I used this board extensively as a work keyboard for several years.
The G710+ is a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches, which are quieter and require a slightly softer touch (‘actuation force’) than the Cherry MX Blue switches found in the Razer Blackwidow. (The G710 is also available in a model with Cherry MX Blue switches.)
Logitech’s G710+ boasts a similar layout to Razer’s Blackwidow Ultimate but adds additional, dedicated keys for profile switching, media control, and a well-loved (and used), convenient analog-style roller for volume control. It also has 6 programmable macro keys. I’m not a huge fan of the white LEDs though.