Best gaming keyboards: Our picks for the top budget, mid-tier, and RGB boards
Choosing a gaming keyboard is a matter of personal taste. To that point, there are a plethora of options, with a dizzying mix of features. One person could be into Cherry Browns and white backlighting. Another might favor Razer Greens and a rippling RGB glow. Gigantic wrist pads, compact shapes, numeric keypads, macro keys, volume controls…. You get the picture
Gaming keyboard cheat sheet
Our quick-hit recommendations:
To help you sort through the many options, we’ve rounded up a large number of planks, putting them through their paces, to come up with our top recommendations. All of these are mechanical keyboards, and for good reason—they’re simply more comfortable to use over the long haul. But we’re open-minded, so if we encounter an alternative that works well, you may see it appear on this list. We’ll keep updating it periodically as we test new keyboards.
Updated 1/3/19 to include our review of the Logitech G613 wireless keyboard. With long battery life and multiple pairing options, it’s a solid mechanical keyboard for cable-haters. Scroll to the end of this article to see all of our reviews.
Best budget gaming keyboard
Not too long ago, the CM Storm QuickFire TK was the go-to recommendation for a sub-$100 mechanical keyboard. For good reason, too: Classic black-rectangle design, no number pad for those who hate them, and fully backlit (with the color varying based on the switch you choose). Plus, it uses genuine Cherry MX switches.
The budget-friendly mechanical keyboard market has expanded quite a bit in recent years, though. These days, I’d go with Razer’s new BlackWidow X Tournament Edition—so long as backlighting isn’t a must-have.
It lists for only $70, has the same trendy exposed-metal-backplate design of the larger BlackWidow X, and sports a discreet typeface on its keys. Oh, and unlike Razer’s other keyboards, you can get this one with Cherry MX Blues.
If you’re willing to go right up to $100, the HyperX Alloy FPS offers some nice perks. It comes with backlighting, features Cherry MX keys, and is the slimmest keyboard on the market. I also like that the Mini USB cable is detachable—you won’t have to RMA the board if only the cable busts.
That said, the low end of the market is a free-for-all. Logitech’s G610, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate, G.Skill’s Ripjaws KM570, the Corsair Strafe—these are all fine-to-excellent keyboards that feature (or at least can feature) genuine Cherry MX switches and per-key backlighting for under $100. The biggest difference is design, which is a personal preference. I happen to like the HyperX Alloy’s minimalist look, but someone else could prefer a bulkier body like that of the Strafe. And things are even more complicated now with a…
Best budget RGB gaming keyboard
Oh yeah, Cougar’s done it: an RGB keyboard for under $100. Usually, at least. Technically, the list price of the 2018 Cougar Attack X3 RGB is $109, but both Amazon and Newegg have it perpetually on sale for $99. Good enough for me.
That’s $40 cheaper than our previous low-budget recommendation, the G.Skill Ripjaws KM780—which now takes the mid-tier slot as a result (see below). And it’s on par with the non-backlit models from most companies, such as the HyperX Alloy FPS mentioned above.
Some of our previous recommendations, like Logitech’s single-color backlit G610, actually listed for more than the new Attack X3 RGB (though at this point you can usually find a G610 in the $80 range).
It’s wild. At first I was worried that such a steep price cut meant corners cut, but from our testing that doesn’t seem to be the case. Oh, it’s not the most attractive keyboard by any means—I’m not a big fan of the dual-color metal/black-plastic look. But it’s solidly built and has all the basic features, including media keys emblazoned on the Function row and a rudimentary wrist rest.
Colors are great too, and no surprise—Cougar’s using the same Cherry MX RGB switches that Corsair uses in its own RGB keyboards, like the nearly $200 K95 RGB. Yes, that’s right, at its core this $100 keyboard features the same brilliant lighting as a keyboard nearly twice the price.
And as I said, they’re genuine Cherry MX switches too. That’s actually the most surprising part, since budget keyboards usually opt for a cheaper knock-off to cut corners. By sticking with the real deal, the Attack X3 RGB makes for a great typing experience as well.
All in all, it’s an incredible deal. The only real downside is Cougar’s UIX software, which is needlessly complex and reminds me of Corsair’s early outings. Ugly, too. But that’s a pretty small compromise when it comes to saving $40 to $100 on an RGB keyboard.
Best mid-range RGB gaming keyboard
Fnatic’s second-generation Streak is probably the best bang-for-your-buck RGB keyboard on the market right now. Listing at $130, it’s barely more expensive than our budget pick, and absolutely packed with benefits to justify the price bump.
It’s classy looking, for one. Much classier than the G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 that used to rule this subsection. With rounded corners, a slim chassis, and minimal branding, the Streak barely looks like a gaming keyboard at all.
There are some clever features too. This is one of the few gaming keyboards I’ve seen equipped with a Function Lock button, a standard on laptops but a rarity otherwise. Press it, and your F1 to F12 keys will default to their secondary functions. The wrist rest is also smart. Only about two inches wide, you’re able to move it to any of three different positions. It’s both compact and comfortable.
But it’s the backlighting that really wins me over. Fnatic uses Cherry keys, which are notorious for having an offset LED. You’ll notice on every RGB keyboard except Logitech’s, the letters are shifted towards the top—that’s to let the light through. Fnatic flips the entire switch on the Function row though, putting the LED at the bottom of the key and then front-printing the alternate commands so both are lit up. It’s an elegant solution to a longstanding issue, and indicates how much thought went into reworking the Streak. (Read our full review.)
Runner-up (Cherry MX switches)
The LUX refresh of the Corsair K70 fixes the original’s limitation of 512 colors, plus you get the new-old Corsair “Sails” logo instead of the ghastly tribal monstrosity that shipped on the old K70.
Runner-up (non-Cherry MX switches)
For years and years I hated Logitech’s proprietary Romer-G switch. I often compared its original, tactile form to a rubber dome keyboard—unsatisfying to type on for any length of time.
But Logitech finally got around to releasing a new switch this year, the Romer-G Linear. As you might expect, it’s a linear (non-tactile) switch in the vein of the Cherry MX Red. I’d still prefer a clicky keyboard, but you know what? The Romer-G Linear is perfectly usable, and probably one of the better Cherry knock-offs I’ve tried.
I liked it so much, I even kept Logitech’s G513 keyboard on my desk for a few weeks. The only real downside is a lack of dedicated media keys, but otherwise it’s a pretty great deal for $150. (Read our full review.)
Best wireless gaming keyboard
“Wireless mechanical keyboard.” Until recently the category didn’t exist, and now there are two options: Logitech’s G613 and Corsair’s K63 Wireless. Of the two, Corsair’s version (available on Amazon for $110) is the one were happy to recommend. Not only does it use our preferred Cherry MX switches (as opposed to Logitech’s proprietary Romer-Gs), it also packs full per-key backlighting—the only wireless mechanical keyboard to do so.
Sure, the K63 is a battery hog. At full brightness you’ll eke out a mere 8-10 hours of battery life. Half-brightness, however, can bump that up to about 20 hours per charge, and Corsair claims turning off the backlight extends life to 75 hours.
Having the backlight is great though, especially if you plan to use the K63 Wireless in a dark living room environment. It feels like a full-featured gaming keyboard. There’s also the option to pair the K63 with Corsair’s Gaming Lapboard ($60 on Amazon)—a refresh of the old Lapdog, but one that takes advantage of the K63’s wireless capabilities so you can game on the couch without stringing USB cables across your entire living room.
Either way, it’s an excellent keyboard. I don’t personally see the need for a wireless keyboard as much as, say, a wireless mouse or headset—devices you move around a lot. But for those who want a clutter free workstation, or those looking for a living-room-ready solution, the K63 is by far the best option available today. (Read our full review.)
Best ultra-premium gaming keyboard
There is zero reason to buy Corsair’s K95 RGB Platinum keyboard. Then again, there’s no reason to buy a Lamborghini either. It’ll get you to the same destination as a Honda Civic, right?
At $200, the K95 RGB Platinum is the most expensive gaming-centric keyboard on the market. It’s almost three times as expensive as an entry-level mechanical keyboard, and nearly twice as expensive as the G.Skill KM780 recommended above.
Put that way, the K95 RGB Platinum seems like an absurd luxury—and it is. Most of its appeal is purely aesthetic, with some of the best RGB backlighting I’ve seen on any keyboard, plus an ostentatious and purely decorative light ribbon stretched across the upper edge.
Corsair’s also slimmed down the old K90 a bit, scraping two columns of macro keys off the left side for a much more manageable desk footprint. It keeps other features we loved from Corsair’s keyboards though, including the volume roller and media keys in the upper left, plus a generous rubberized wrist rest that’s more comfortable than it looks.
And it’s worth calling out Corsair’s semi-proprietary Cherry MX Speed switch, too. (I say semi-proprietary because you can find the same design under the name MX Silver from other manufacturers.) The MX Speed switch is a linear design, but has even less resistance than longtime gaming favorite Cherry Reds. Your fingers will fly over these switches, a fact that’s good for gaming but somewhat problematic for actual typing—even a feather-light touch can accidentally trigger a keypress. The resistance is that low.
I came to love the MX Speed switch though after spending a few weeks with it. It’ll never replace my beloved Cherry Blues for typing, but in concert with everything else the K95 RGB Platinum has to offer? It almost makes $200 for a keyboard seem like a sane amount to spend. Almost. (Read the full review.)
Why so many Cherry recommendations?
If you’ve done any research before finding this guide, you’ll have seen the many options outside of our topic picks—like those $30 mechanical keyboards on Amazon.
Chances are, if you’ve found something that steeply undercuts our top choices, it’s not using Cherry MX switches, but rather a knock-off. These have proliferated since Cherry’s patent expired in 2014, and you’ll find a ton of brands on the market. Outemu, Kailh, Gateron, and Razer’s versions are some of the most common.