Why you should trust us
Who this is for
Any keyboard can work for gaming, but when people talk about gaming keyboards they generally mean the kind that provides a gaming mode to disable the Windows key, offers multicolored backlighting, and gives you the ability to record macros—a series of keystrokes you can trigger with a single key. If you don’t care about those things, stick with the keyboard you have, or consider a regular mechanical keyboard. If you want to record macros without changing keyboards, you can do so using free software such as AutoHotkey.
You can find two main types of gaming keyboards: mechanical and membrane. Mechanical keyboards use an independent switch for each key. This design makes the keys more durable and allows them to register a keypress faster than the keys on most membrane keyboards, and many people find them more pleasant to use. Membrane keyboards are sometimes less expensive and much quieter, but they feel mushy and wear out faster than mechanical ones. Most people should buy a mechanical gaming keyboard because such models are more durable; in addition, the budget options aren’t that much more expensive than an RGB membrane keyboard.
How we picked
Since the differences between gaming keyboards and regular keyboards are minor, we focused on the characteristics that set them apart:
Size: We recommend tenkeyless keyboards, especially for gaming, because smaller keyboards allow you to place your mouse closer to your body, which reduces strain on your shoulders, neck, and back. We still looked at full-size options for anyone who prefers them, but tenkeyless is better for most people unless you play games that use the numpad, such as Arma (PDF) or MechWarrior Online. Some gaming keyboards have extra macro keys; these extra keys make a keyboard huge, and we found that they made it hard for us to line our fingers up with the home row when we were typing.
|Name||Type||Actuation force||Actuation point||Travel distance||Noise|
|Razer Yellow||Linear||45 g||1.2 mm||3.5 mm||Low|
|Cherry MX Speed||Linear||45 g||1.2 mm||4 mm||Low|
|Romer-G Linear||Linear||45 g||1.5 mm||3 mm||Low|
|Cherry MX Silent||Linear||45 g||1.9 mm||3.7 mm||Low|
|Cherry MX Red||Linear||45 g||2 mm||4 mm||Low|
|SteelSeries QX 2||Linear||45 g||2 mm||4 mm||Low|
|Romer-G Tactile||Tactile||45 g||1.5 mm||3.2 mm||Average|
|Cherry MX Brown||Tactile||45 g||2 mm||4 mm||Average|
|Razer Orange||Tactile||45 g||1.9 mm||4 mm||Average|
|GX Blue||Clicky||50 g||1.9 mm||4 mm||High|
|Cherry MX Blue||Clicky||50 g||2.2 mm||4 mm||High|
|Razer Green||Clicky||55 g||1.9 mm||4 mm||High|
Actuation force refers to how hard you have to press a key for it to trigger a keypress.
Switch options: Mechanical switches come in different varieties. Tactile ones, such as Cherry MX Brown, have a bump you feel when you actuate the key. Clicky switches like Cherry MX Blue have an audible click in addition to the bump. Linear switches like Cherry MX Red have neither a bump nor a click, instead offering a smooth travel preferable for gaming, though Reds can feel too light for most people to type on. MX Speed and Razer Yellow switches have a higher actuation point, which can make keypresses faster because you don’t have to push the key as far down. All these differences between switches can get pretty confusing, but we cover the topic in depth in our post on mechanical keyboard basics. Cherry MX Brown and Cherry MX Red and their non-Cherry equivalents are the two most popular mechanical switch types for gaming, and we preferred keyboards with at least those two switch types. If you’re not sure which mechanical switch type to choose, buy a switch tester to try them out.
Build quality and design: If you press too hard on the deck of a cheap keyboard, the frame flexes. A sturdier keyboard doesn’t. And a removable cable lets you easily swap it out if it frays or breaks, which is especially useful if you travel with your keyboard often. Paying a little extra for a well-built keyboard gets you something that lasts longer and feels better to use, but if build quality is the most important feature to you, consider a regular mechanical keyboard instead because they tend to focus on quality over lighting features or software.
Keyboards have one of two types of frame: a “high-profile” frame that sets the keys within a plastic case, or a “low-profile” frame that has the keys “floating” on top. Neither is better than the other. High-profile frames offer more control over RGB lighting because the colors don’t bleed between the keys as much. Low-profile frames are easier to clean because dust can’t get trapped anywhere and the RGB lighting tends to be much brighter.
Gaming mode: This important feature disables the Windows key so you don’t accidentally pull up the Start menu and knock yourself out of a game.
RGB lighting: Multicolored lighting is a defining characteristic of gaming keyboards. We looked for vibrant RGB LEDs that are easy to customize with or without software.
Software: Gaming keyboards usually come with software to program macros and create lighting effects. You should be able to save these settings to the keyboard or the cloud so you can move configurations between computers, but we prefer setups that don’t require you to have an account to use these features. Although Windows compatibility is more important, we looked for Mac compatibility too; all the keyboards here will work on either operating system without software, but sometimes without software you can’t customize lights or macros.
Macro recording: You should at least be able to record macros using the keyboard’s software, but it’s even better if the keyboard includes a system for in-game macro recording. You can use a keystroke to begin the recording and start using the macro right away. Some competitive games, such as League of Legends and many Blizzard games, forbid the use of programmed macros in tournaments and might ban you if you get caught using them online to enhance your performance. But if you want to map, say, the Overwatch communications wheel to your number pad or to special macro keys, that’s fine.
Price: For around $50 to $100, you can get a decent gaming keyboard with non-Cherry switches, or one that’s built with less premium materials, usually a plastic case, cheaper keycaps, or a nonremovable cable. Sometimes, the cheaper options have specific problems, such as a loud squeaking sound when you tap the spacebar or a loose-feeling USB port. For $100 to $200, you can get a better-built keyboard, fancier lighting, and extra features like an included palm rest or extra keycaps in the box.
Gaming keyboards tend to take a kitchen-sink approach when it comes to features, which is reflected in their high price compared with non-gaming keyboards. Most people shouldn’t pay extra for media-control knobs, USB and audio passthrough, or a palm rest. For details, you can read about why those features aren’t crucial.
To come up with our initial list of 125 contenders, we read reviews from PC Gamer, PCMag, PCWorld, IGN, and Tom’s Guide, and we scoured manufacturer sites for new models. Since this guide’s original publication, we’ve tested 40 gaming keyboards.
How we tested
We typed on each keyboard for a whole workday and spent at least an hour playing Overwatch or StarCraft II on each one. We then used each manufacturer’s software to customize lighting and record macros. We paid attention to how the LEDs shone through the keycaps and how smoothly the animations played, and we made sure macros triggered correctly. We tested on-the-fly macros on keyboards that supported them, and we made sure that basic functions, such as locking the Windows key, worked. As we narrowed down the contenders, we used them for several days of work and for gaming sessions.
Our pick: Cooler Master MK730
The Cooler Master MK730 is one of the simplest no-nonsense gaming keyboards around. It has a tenkeyless layout and comes with Cherry MX Red, MX Blue, or MX Brown switches. It’s well built, and its RGB lighting is vibrant and easy to customize—you can skip its software altogether and use keyboard shortcuts to change the lighting and record macros. It usually sells for around $120, an average price for keyboards with this build quality and feature set.
We recommend the MK730 with Cherry MX Reds for playing games or MX Browns if you need to type a lot on your keyboard. If you use a shared space, spend a lot of time in voice chat, or stream on Twitch, everyone will hate you for using noisy Blue switches.
The low-profile aluminum and plastic case on the MK730 is sturdy and satisfying to play games on. The front of the keyboard has an RGB light bar, and each side has a smaller sliver of customizable RGB lighting, though neither area is bright enough to see in daylight. Although the keyboard’s top deck has brushed aluminum and doesn’t show fingerprints, the front light bar is surrounded with shiny plastic, which tends to attract scuff marks and hand oils. The bottom half is plastic and includes cable routing out the back or to either side. The MK730 has a removable braided USB-C–to–Type-A cable, a modern update of the BlackWidow TE Chroma V2’s Micro-USB–to–Type-A cable and a more premium option than the miniStreak’s rubber cable.
The MK730 has a more subdued design than most gaming keyboards, including the miniStreak and BlackWidow TE, and if the RGB lights aren’t flashing rainbow patterns nobody will notice this is a gaming keyboard. The brushed aluminum looks classier than the BlackWidow TE’s plastic case. We had better luck keeping the MK730 clean than we did the miniStreak, whose matte anodized aluminum attracted dust. Since the keys on the MK730 and the miniStreak float on top, they’re easier to clean under than those of the BlackWidow TE—all you need is a can of compressed air.
You can enable the MK730’s gaming mode and disable the Windows key through a keyboard shortcut, but that’s it. You can’t customize it to disable other keys or to change the lighting as on the miniStreak or BlackWidow TE.
The MK730 uses Cooler Master’s Portal software, which, like Fnatic’s software, is available only on Windows. Portal is odd to use, though: First, you download the software, and then the software downloads more software specifically for each keyboard.
Portal does the bare minimum we ask of gaming-keyboard software. Aside from choosing between different lighting options, you can record macros, reassign keys, and create up to four different profiles with those settings. Both the miniStreak and the CK530 also support only four profiles. That isn’t enough for anyone who likes to create a profile for every game, but I found myself using only two profiles, one with solid backlighting to cut down on distractions while gaming, and one with fun colors for everything else. You save the profiles onto the keyboard itself, so you can install the software, set up your profiles, and then delete the software and never think about it again. Portal didn’t crash, and its barebones nature means it’s easy to use. Since you can change the lighting using keyboard shortcuts, we didn’t mind the lack of Mac software.
The key lighting is vibrant and bright, but the MK730’s unique light bars are so weak that they look broken, and we ended up turning them off. In software, you can choose from 20 lighting animations, including classics such as the rainbow wave, color cycle, and breathing. You get more preset lighting animations here than on the miniStreak and BlackWidow TE. But the BlackWidow TE gives you more ways to personalize the lighting, such as per-key animations and application-specific lighting options. You can set up custom colors on the MK730 and change the animation direction, but that’s about all. The options are fun to play around with, but Cooler Master’s offering lacks the customizability that you get on keyboards from other brands, such as Razer, Corsair, and Logitech. Weirdly, although you can change animations and choose colors, you can’t adjust the brightness directly; instead, you have to select darker (or brighter) colors to achieve the brightness you want.
Macro recording and key mapping are self-explanatory and easy to use in the software. Portal, like Fnatic’s OP software, can’t handle complex macros that include mouse movements or custom delays, as Razer’s Synapse software can; it can only record keystrokes. This was plenty for us, but if you’re looking for more complicated macros, the Razer BlackWidow TE Chroma V2 is a better option. You can also create macros on the fly using a keyboard shortcut. This feature is useful for strategy games where you do repetitive tasks, such as in a Civilization game where you might want to jump to a base, set a unit to build, and then jump back to where you were last on the map. The MK730 comes with an instruction pamphlet and includes special symbols on the keys, but we still had to watch a YouTube video to learn how it worked.
Like almost every tenkeyless keyboard we’ve seen, the MK730 lacks dedicated media controls. Instead, the MK730 puts them on the nav row. It’s easier to reach the Fn key plus the media controls on the nav row with one hand than it is to reach the function row, where the media keys are on the BlackWidow TE. If you want dedicated media controls, get the Fnatic miniStreak, which has mic and volume mute buttons and a function-switch button for easy access to the other controls.
The standard bottom row on the MK730, miniStreak, and CK530 means that any third-party MX-compatible keycaps will work; you don’t have to hunt down specially sized replacements as you do for the BlackWidow TE or be limited by non-MX stems as with Logitech’s Romer-G keyboards. Cooler Master packs in purple PBT WASD keys, arrow keys, and an Esc key, which I put on the board the second I opened the box.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The palm rest Cooler Master has on the MK730 isn’t as comfortable as the one Razer includes with the BlackWidow TE Chroma V2. The magnet is weak, the covering feels too plasticky, and the padding isn’t as robust as on the Razer. We did prefer it to the Fnatic miniStreak’s palm rest, though, which requires an extra plastic frame to lock in place.
The MK730’s low-profile design is easy to clean, and we think it generally looks better than high-profile options. But it causes the RGB lighting to blend together, making individual key colors less vibrant than on high-profile keyboards such as the BlackWidow TE.
On a keyboard typically priced at $120, we’d like to see better keycaps, though nearly every gaming keyboard fails in this regard. The ABS keycaps feel thin and cheap, especially compared with the nine purple double-shot PBT keycaps Cooler Master includes in the box, which give you a taste of what you’re missing. Considering that the WASD keys are likely your most used keys, we recommend using the extras here.
Runner-up: Fnatic miniStreak
If you want media controls, or if the Cooler Master MK730 is unavailable, get the Fnatic miniStreak. It’s tenkeyless, like the MK730, and it’s available with all the same switch options, as well as Cherry MX Red Silent switches, which are quieter than MX Reds, making them a useful option if you stream or play around other people. The miniStreak’s software is simple and easy to use, though you can at least change basic features, such as the backlight brightness and RGB animations, without it. The miniStreak is usually around the same price as the MK730.
Dedicated media controls set the miniStreak apart from the MK730. In the upper-right corner are three small buttons, for microphone mute, competition mode, and volume mute. The mute buttons are the ones I use most when playing games, so having quick access to these on the miniStreak is useful, though a bug prevents the mic-mute button from working if you don’t have Fnatic’s OP software open. Competition mode functions in place of a gaming mode, but instead of disabling just the Windows key, you can set it up to also dim the lights and turn off any other distracting features.
The miniStreak has a function-lock button between the Esc key and the function row. When it’s enabled, you can use the media keys without needing to hold down the Fn button, similar to how you’d work with these keys on a Mac. As someone who rarely, if ever, uses function keys, I think this is an excellent solution. The dedicated buttons aren’t the best quality, though, as they sometimes stick or are difficult to press down; in testing dozens of keyboards of varying sizes, I’ve found this seems to always be the case.
As Cooler Master did with the MK730, Fnatic took a minimalist approach to design on the miniStreak, giving it a similar low-profile gray aluminum and plastic case. The miniStreak’s anodized matte aluminum looks cleaner than the MK730’s brushed aluminum, but we do worry about its acquiring scratches over time; it also tends to attract dust, which the matte surface makes difficult to wipe away. The bottom half is plastic, but unlike on the MK730, you can route the cable only out the back. Like the MK730, the miniStreak looks like a normal keyboard when the lights aren’t flashing, though it does have a light-up logo plate on the back, and some people might find the Fnatic logo on the spacebar tacky. Whereas the MK730 is angular in its overall design, the miniStreak has rounded corners that give it a softer, less aggressive aesthetic.
Both the miniStreak and the MK730 use shine-through ABS keycaps, though the miniStreak’s are glossier and feel more brittle than the MK730’s, which means they track fingerprints much more noticeably. Every keyboard in this guide would benefit greatly from a set of shine-through PBT keycaps. The miniStreak has a removable rubber USB-C–to–Type-A cable, which doesn’t look as classy on a desk as the MK730’s braided cable.
The keyboard’s “competition mode” is Fnatic’s version of a gaming mode. By default, competition mode disables the Windows key and makes all the lights yellow (you can change that to whatever color you want), but with the software you can change the lighting and disable other keys too.
Fnatic’s OP software is available only for Windows (a Mac version exists, but it doesn’t do anything yet), and its features are similar to those of Cooler Master’s Portal software for the MK730. Like Portal, OP doesn’t require you to have an account to use it, and you can skip it altogether if you don’t care about it. In OP you can customize per-key lighting, pick from premade animations, record macros, and set up to four profiles. Without the software, you can cycle between the animation presets, adjust the brightness, and record macros. We didn’t experience any crashing or other horrendous problems, but the software is still in beta, and we did run into situations with certain features working (or not working) depending on whether the software was running. For example, the mic-mute button didn’t work unless the software was open—but the on-the-fly macro recording button didn’t work whenever the software was running. If you don’t feel like dealing with such issues, stick with the MK730.
The miniStreak has the lighting animations we’ve come to expect from gaming keyboards, including rainbow wave, reactive, and breathing, though the miniStreak’s eight animations aren’t much next to the selection you get from the MK730 and the Razer BlackWidow TE Chroma V2. You can tweak each animation slightly by choosing colors or altering the animation direction, but if you’re looking for fully programmable lighting, check out the BlackWidow TE instead.
You can record macros in the OP software or by holding down the competition key on the miniStreak. Like Portal, OP records only keystrokes, not mouse movement, for macros. But it also allows you to program some advanced actions that Portal doesn’t, such as opening specific programs or files.
The miniStreak is usually around the same price as the MK730 and cheaper than the BlackWidow TE. Fnatic provides a two-year warranty, the same coverage length as Cooler Master, Logitech, and Razer do for their models. Fnatic is a newer company, though, so we can’t speak to its quality control or its warranty procedure. The miniStreak doesn’t have many reviews on Amazon yet, but we’ll keep an eye on them over the next year.
The miniStreak’s palm rest attaches differently than that of any keyboard we’ve ever tested. Instead of using a magnet to lock the palm rest to the front, the miniStreak comes with a two-piece system: One piece is aluminum and locks underneath the keyboard. The second piece is the palm rest, which sits on the first piece, where you can choose from three different preset distances from the keyboard. If you like to have the palm rest far away from the keyboard, this design at least prevents it from moving around, but it does look strange. The palm rest itself isn’t as padded as the BlackWidow TE’s, but it is comfortable, and it feels durable enough that the material won’t crack over time.
Budget pick: Cooler Master CK530
The Cooler Master CK530 is a rare entry-level mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting, decent build quality, and good switches for a great price. Although its case is only slightly different from that of the MK730, it also comes with Gateron switches, omits its sibling’s lackluster light bars, and lacks that model’s removable cable and palm rest. But typically it’s almost half the MK730’s price, and it still feels solid to play games with.
The CK530 is available with Gateron Red, Blue, or Brown switches. Many imitation Cherry switches are scratchier or otherwise of lower quality than actual Cherrys, but Gaterons are just as good, with the exception of the clicky Gateron Blues, which are higher pitched and even more annoying than Cherry MX Blues.
Like the MK730, the CK530 has a floating-key low-profile case with a brushed-aluminum top and plastic bottom. The case is sturdy, with no flex. But whereas the MK730 is essentially a rectangle with a slant at the front, the CK530 angles out on the sides. This design makes it look cheaper and bigger than necessary. The CK530 is also slightly taller than the MK730, which can make certain typing positions ergonomically awkward. I got used to it over time, but the few extra millimeters of height makes a bigger difference than you might expect. The cable isn’t removable and is rubber instead of braided.
The CK530 uses the exact same software- and hardware-based lighting and macro customization as the MK730, though it lacks a handful of animation options such as “fireball.” It still includes the most popular rainbow and per-key RGB customization options, though.
At a typical price of $70, the CK530 is usually around $50 cheaper than the MK730. At that price, you lose out on extras that higher-priced keyboards offer, such as a palm rest, extra keycaps, and a removable cable. The CK530 does have the same two-year warranty as the MK730, as well as navigation-row media controls and a standardized key layout.
Also great: Razer BlackWidow TE Chroma V2
If you want more dynamic lighting options or need complex macro recording, get the Razer BlackWidow TE Chroma V2. It offers a compact tenkeyless layout and Razer’s Orange, Yellow, or Green switches, but we don’t like the all-plastic high-profile case as much as we do the MK730’s aluminum case. The BlackWidow TE Chroma V2 is usually about $20 more than the MK730. It comes with a removable cable, a removable palm rest, and a two-year warranty.
The BlackWidow TE Chroma V2 comes with tactile Orange, linear Yellow, and clicky Green switch options. We didn’t feel a performance advantage (or disadvantage) using Razer’s switches over the Cherry MX equivalents on the MK730. It comes down to personal preference. In side-by-side comparisons we preferred the smoothness of Cherry MX Brown to the grittier Razer Orange, and the crispness of MX Blue switches to Razer’s stiffer Green switches. But the linear Yellow switches are closer to Cherry MX Speed switches, and both felt equally smooth and responsive in the games we played. Razer Green sounds higher-pitched than Cherry MX Blue, an impressive feat considering how loud MX Blue keys are.
The BlackWidow TE’s high-profile, textured plastic case didn’t flex when we pressed down or twisted it, and it felt satisfying to play games with and type on in our testing. The case’s texture isn’t too noticeable, but the angular design draws more attention to itself than the minimalist look of the MK730. We preferred the MK730’s low-profile, brushed-aluminum case, but the BlackWidow TE is still well made. Like the MK730, the BlackWidow TE’s braided USB cable is removable, but as a Micro-USB cable, it feels outdated compared with USB-C.
Gaming mode on the BlackWidow TE is easy to enable with a keyboard shortcut, and in software you can set it to turn on automatically when you launch games.
This keyboard uses Razer’s Synapse software, which is available for both Windows and Mac. You need Synapse if you want to use the keyboard’s two standout features, macros and lighting. Synapse nags you to install it the second you connect the keyboard to your computer, and its integration with other devices, such as Philips Hue smart lights, makes for software that feels bloated and hard to navigate. At least after years of requiring an account, Synapse finally now offers an anonymous guest mode that works offline.
Synapse has a ton of lighting effects, including a colorful rainbow mode, a ripple mode, a wave mode, color cycling, breathing, and of course, static options for each individual key. It has 11 preset animations, technically fewer than the MK730’s 20 animations, but each of those lighting modes is fully programmable—as a result, you can change the speed, set animations for only specific keys, or layer animations on top of each other. You can also customize the brightness, colors, and animation direction on many of these effects; if you want the breathe lighting effect to swap between purple and teal and only on the arrow keys, for example, you can do that. You can’t do the same in Cooler Master’s Portal or Fnatic’s OP software. Unlike in Portal and OP, in Synapse you can assign different lighting profiles on a per-app basis. Razer’s Chroma lighting adds special effects to some games, but the list of compatible games is pretty short.
Within Synapse, you can create macros by pressing the record button and typing keystrokes, after which you can bind the macro to a specific key. You can assign macros to specific applications too, so you don’t accidentally trigger, for instance, StarCraft macros when you’re trying to type an email. And as with the MK730, you can create macros on the fly.
The BlackWidow TE Chroma V2 is usually about $20 more expensive than the MK730. Razer provides a two-year warranty for its mechanical keyboards, which mitigates reports of general quality-control issues with the company’s keyboards. Complaints about Razer’s quality control are common, and we’ve seen reviews mentioning keys registering multiple times, missing keys, and missing palm rests.
Some other models’ included palm rests are merely extra plastic trash, but the lightly padded, soft pleather palm rest for the BlackWidow TE is comfortable, like a big cozy couch. It attaches to the keyboard with magnets so it doesn’t slide around and remains easy to remove. It’s more padded than the MK730’s, and the magnets are much stronger.
As with most tenkeyless keyboards, with the BlackWidow TE you lose out on extra media keys and audio and USB passthrough. Unfortunately, the media controls that people use most, the volume controls, are on F1 through F3; this arrangement requires two hands, to press the Fn key and the F-keys. The MK730, in contrast, puts those controls on the nav cluster so they’re much easier to reach one-handed, while the miniStreak solves this issue altogether with its dedicated media keys and function lock.
Also great: Logitech G513
If you prefer a full-size keyboard, get the Logitech G513. Available with Romer-G Tactile, Romer-G Linear, or GX Blue Clicky switches, the G513 is built with a sturdy aluminum low-profile case, and it has the easiest-to-use software we’ve tested for customizing macros and lighting on gaming keyboards. Usually about the same price as the MK730, it offers USB passthrough and comes with a detachable palm rest, but it lacks dedicated media controls and has a thick, non-removable cable.
The G513 comes with Logitech’s proprietary switches. Romer-G Tactile switches are meant to feel similar to Cherry MX Browns, while Romer-G Linear switches are similar to Cherry MX Reds and GX Blue Clicky switches are like Cherry MX Blues. In our tests, the Romer-G Tactile switches felt grittier than Cherry MX Browns, but the Romer-G Linear switches felt smooth for gaming. These switches don’t use the standard MX stems, which means you can’t buy replacement keycaps as you can for the other keyboards in this guide.
The Logitech G513 has a simple rectangular design. It’s sturdy and well built, and it sports a brushed-aluminum top similar to that of the Cooler Master MK730 and CK530. The underside is a textured plastic and includes gutters for routing cables if you want to run accessories underneath the keyboard, and a USB port sits on the back. The aluminum case did generate a slight pinging sound when we slammed on the keys, though the effect wasn’t enough to annoy us while we were typing or playing games.
Logitech’s G Hub software sits in the middle ground between Razer’s Synapse and Cooler Master’s Portal, offering a lot of features but not overdoing it. G Hub has several options for customizing the lighting, including using presets, making your own color combinations, and personalizing animations; you can also download community-created profiles. You can assign color and macro profiles to specific games, though G Hub doesn’t support in-game actions as Razer’s software does. In the settings, you can find an “Enable Fn Inversion” option that disables the default function row so you can use the media keys without holding down the Fn key. This option is useful if you don’t have any use for the function row on its own, and it makes up for the G513’s lack of dedicated media controls.
You can enable gaming mode on the G513 with a keyboard shortcut, and you can customize which keys it disables through the software.
Thanks to the design of the Romer-G switches, the lighting on the G513 is vibrant. Unlike on the MK730 and CK530, light doesn’t spill out from underneath the keys here; instead, only the individual key has light. This makes animations and custom colors look more focused, though it comes at the cost of brightness: Instead of blasting the entire room in rainbow rays, the G513 provides a more personal experience, where it’s just you and the keys sharing a moment of RGB bliss.
The G513 doesn’t support on-the-fly macros, and you can assign macros only to the function row, which is an odd choice. If nothing else, we’d like the ability to assign macros to the numpad, since the vast majority of games don’t use that. Otherwise, the macro recording is robust, allowing you to record keystrokes, launch applications, drop in an emoji, or trigger system-specific settings such as mute or volume.
At a typical price under $130, the G513 lacks the added features of most of its full-size competition, but you get a better-built keyboard in return. The G513 doesn’t have media keys—but in our testing of dozens of keyboards, we’ve never found a good keyboard with well-made media keys. The G513 does include USB passthrough, though it’s only USB 2.0 and the braided cable is thick and non-detachable.
The G513 has the comfiest palm rest of any keyboard we tested, with a large memory-foam pad that provides plenty of cushion. It lacks the magnet found on the palm rests of the BlackWidow TE and the MK730, but it’s hefty enough that it doesn’t slide around. The G513 also packs in extra, specially molded keycaps for QWERASD and 12345, but we found the shape uncomfortable to use. If you don’t care about the palm rest or the extra keycaps, and if you don’t mind the alternate legends on the keycaps not shining through, the Logitech G512 is otherwise identical to the G513.
The Wooting One offers excellent build quality, the easiest-to-use software we tested, and hot-swappable switches. But its primary selling point—an adjustable actuation point to provide a more “analog” feel—isn’t for everyone. The Wooting One can tell how far down you press a key, so theoretically it can work similarly to a joystick. In testing, we never got used to this effect, and the idea of slightly pushing a key down never turned into habit in third-person adventure games or first-person shooters. Still, we can see the appeal here for racing games and flight simulators, and it’s entirely possible that you might get the hang of it quicker than we did. Setting up the Wooting One takes effort still, as not all games work without some tinkering. When I first plugged it in, pressing down the W key kept scrolling the chat window up in Overwatch, but we fixed this problem by popping into the settings to disable WASD movement. You can change the actuation point on the Wooting One so that you can make it shorter when you’re gaming and deeper when you’re typing. This change helped us improve on our usual high error rate when we were typing on linear switches.
The Ducky One 2 is a sturdy keyboard with RGB effects and macro programmability, but the software handles only lighting, and the keycaps don’t have icons as the Cooler Master keyboards do to remind you how to change settings. If you care only about RGB, the Ducky One 2 is the sturdiest TKL keyboard we tested, and its PBT keycaps are much better than the ABS keycaps on every other keyboard we tried.
Logitech’s G Pro is a cleanly designed and well-built keyboard with the best lighting of any keyboard we tested, but unfortunately it’s available only with the company’s Romer-G Tactile switches. We experienced an annoying metal pinging sound when typing on two different G Pro units, and we’ve seen owner reviews that echo this complaint.
The HyperX Alloy FPS Pro is a well-made and affordable tenkeyless keyboard, but it has red-only backlighting, lacks macros, and isn’t available with Cherry MX Brown switches. The metal deck is sturdy, and the keyboard’s open design makes it easy to clean. It’s too bad this model doesn’t offer more switch or backlight-color options.
The Corsair K63 Wireless is one of the few wireless options, but we experienced occasional disconnects where inputs would not work for a couple of seconds. It’s made of brittle plastic, and the media keys feel especially cheaply made. The non-wireless version felt just as brittle and cheap.
The SteelSeries Apex M750 TKL is available only with the company’s QX2 mechanical switches, which are linear switches like Cherry MX Red but have a shorter actuation distance. SteelSeries has improved its software, and this keyboard’s build quality is solid, but we’d like to see at least one more switch option, preferably a tactile switch like Cherry MX Brown.
If you’re a fan of minimalist keyboards, the low-profile design of the Cooler Master SK630 is eye-catching. Unfortunately, it’s also hard to type on: The keys are close together, and even after a week of use, we never got the hang of it, frequently making typing mistakes. The short travel on the low-profile Cherry MX Red switches doesn’t help matters much since they register errant keypresses easily.
Corsair’s K70 is a crowd-favorite keyboard that’s been a pick in previous versions of this guide, but Corsair’s abysmal software and the general tankiness of this oversize keyboard make it hard to recommend for everyone. Over the past year, Corsair has revamped its iCue software, and on several different computers we’ve experienced crashing in the software, a significant drain on system resources, and in one case, systemwide problems when we installed iCue. If you can get it working, it’s the most advanced software we’ve tested, and you can create some truly stunning RGB lighting if you have the patience to do so. The K70 has the best switch selection of any gaming keyboard we tested, as well, and although we find its media-control buttons chintzy, the volume scroll wheel is a delight to use. We found serious build-quality issues with the newest model, the MK.2, where the keycaps fell off during normal use, a problem we’ve seen mentioned in multiple reviews on Amazon.
The HyperX Alloy FPS is available with Cherry MX Brown, MX Red, or MX Blue switches but only single-color backlighting. The HyperX Alloy FPS RGB offers the same design plus RGB lighting but is available only with Silver Speed switches. The HyperX Alloy Elite RGB has full RGB lighting, media controls, and a charming light bar above the function row, but we found the contrasting silver media controls ugly and cheap feeling.
Razer’s BlackWidow Elite has a lot going for it, including three different switch types, a magnetic wrist rest, and media keys. But we found the media keys oddly placed, and the volume dial felt sticky. The BlackWidow Elite is also stuck with Razer’s obnoxious software, and at this model’s typical price of $150, you can find better keyboards with this feature set. The Razer BlackWidow ditches the media keys and palm rest to be more affordable, but it’s available only with Razer’s Green switches.
The full-size Cooler Master MasterKeys MK750, a larger version of the MK730, has the same low-profile design and a light bar on the front. It’s a solidly built keyboard that’s a pleasure to game on, but Cooler Master’s software isn’t as comprehensive as Corsair’s or even Logitech’s, and this model’s availability has been sporadic since launch.
The SteelSeries Apex M750 has the same problem as its tenkeyless counterpart: It’s available only with SteelSeries QX2 linear mechanical switches.
Razer’s BlackWidow X Chroma and BlackWidow X Tournament Edition Chroma are fantastic keyboards, and we preferred their low-profile, all-metal construction to that of the standard BlackWidow-series models. But unfortunately they’re available only with Razer Green switches. If you like clicky switches similar to MX Blue switches and don’t want a palm rest, give the BlackWidow X Tournament Edition Chroma a closer look before going with the BlackWidow TE Chroma V2.
The Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2, the full-size counterpart to the BlackWidow TE Chroma V2, has a set of macro keys on the left side. Even after a week of typing on this keyboard, I still struggled to line my fingers up on the home row, and I would routinely hit Caps Lock on accident. The construction is similar to that of the TE, but the plastic case feels cheaper on a full-size keyboard. It has the same lighting and switch options as the TE version, as well. We find the extra macro keys overkill, but if you like them and you need a full-size keyboard, this model is a fine option.
We didn’t have a chance to test the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum, but it’s a favorite at PCWorld, IGN, and AnandTech. The K95 RGB Platinum is essentially the K70 LUX RGB with macro keys to the left and a light bar that wraps around the top. Otherwise, the two models use the same brushed-aluminum deck, volume roller, and media keys. The K95 RGB Platinum is pricey, though, usually selling for $200. It’s available with Cherry MX Brown or MX Speed switches.
The Razer Huntsman Elite uses opto-mechnical switches, which use lasers to supposedly register faster than any standard Cherry-style switch can. It’s possible that they do, but we never noticed any difference between these switches and fast switches such as Cherry Silvers or Speeds. If you like the design and don’t mind dealing with lackluster media keys, the BlackWidow Elite is cheaper and just as good.
The Cooler Master MK850 represents the company’s spin on an analog design similar to that of the Wooting One, but the Wooting One is more affordable, has our preferred TKL layout, and comes with better software. The MK850 isn’t bad, but at a typical price of $200, with its main selling point being its analog technology, it’s not for everyone. We found the angular case design tacky, and the media keys oddly placed. The addition of macro keys on the left side makes for a keyboard that’s too large.
John Burek, The Best Gaming Keyboards for 2019, PCMag, April 8, 2019
Alan Bradley, Best gaming keyboards 2019, PC Gamer, May 7, 2019
Marshall Honorof, Best Gaming Keyboards 2019, Tom’s Guide, May 2, 2019
Hayden Dingman, Best gaming keyboards: Our picks for the top budget, mid-tier, and RGB boards, PCWorld, September 1, 2017
Anson Wong, Tom Li, The complete guide to mechanical keyboard switches for gaming, PC Gamer, September 20, 2016
Jason Fitzpatrick, How to Replace Your Mechanical Keyboard’s Keycaps (So It Can Live Forever), How-To Geek, February 8, 2017
Michael Crider, All Those Confusing Mechanical Keyboard Terms, Explained, How-To Geek, July 5, 2017
Seth Colaner, Cherry MX Speed (Silver) Switches Emerge, Tom’s Hardware, April 21, 2016