The Best Gaming Keyboard of 2021 to Fit Every Lifestyle
Many gamers strive to perform well at a specific game. And many strive to be the best. And to be the best at a video game, PC gamers need a high-performance gaming keyboard that boosts speed and accuracy. Some PC gamers want a gaming keyboard that balances performance and style. Whether competitive or casual, PC gaming requires having the best gaming keyboard for every lifestyle.
What to Look For When Shopping for The Best Gaming Keyboard
When shopping around for the best gaming keyboard, consider the different specifications you will need. Ask yourself these questions:
- What type of switches do you want?
- What size keyboard would fit best on your desk?
- Is having the typical “gamer” aesthetics important?
- Is RGB lighting customization important to you?
So what makes the perfect keyboard for gaming? The first question to ask is what kind of switches do you want? Most high-quality gaming keyboards feature mechanical or optical switches, though some also feature membrane options as well. Mechanical and optical keyboards don’t require that you push the key all the way to the bottom to register a keystroke. Instead, the keys activate partway down when pressed. This makes keyboards more responsive and saves you the strain of bottoming out your keys while typing.
Next is what form factor you are looking for. There is, of course, the full keyboard option with function keys and a number pad on the right side. You can also buy tenkeyless form factor boards, which will eliminate the number pad but keep the function keys. If you want to go as compact as possible, you can get a 60% keyboard, which forgoes both the number pad, arrow keys, and function keys entirely.
Gaming keyboards can be purchased for anywhere from around $60 to $200. Lower-end boards will have fewer features and often worse switches. On the upper end, keyboards can feature more responsive switches and better lighting options. A better keyboard can have a material impact on your ability to win games, so it is often worth the investment.
The best gaming keyboard
Switch Type Razer Clicky Optical Switches
Lighting Razer Chroma backlighting
Polling rate 1000 Hz
The Razer Huntsman is the best overall gaming keyboard on this list. It comes in a full-size keyboard form factor and features unique optical switches, which use light to activate the keystrokes for maximum precision. This is a perfect feature for a gaming keyboard, where precision and speed often determine whether you succeed or fail. On top of working great, Razer’s optical switches also provide a satisfying “clicky” tactile feedback that imitates a mechanical board.
As far as aesthetics go, the Razer Huntsman is backlit with fully customizable RGB lighting. You can use the Razer Chroma lighting effects through Razer Synapse which can also integrate with over 150 games.
You can store up to five control profiles on the board itself, and store even more profiles if you choose to use Razer’s hybrid cloud storage. This board itself is made out of aluminum and has an excellent build quality which should last for many years. Should you have any issues with it, though, it also comes with a two-year warranty. The Huntsmen is one of the best commercially available gaming keyboards and is a perfect next keyboard for most gamers.
Easiest Gaming Keyboard to Maintain
Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO
Switch type Roccat Titan Mechanical Switches
Lighting RGB per-key backlighting
Polling rate 1000 Hz
The Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO is a mechanical gaming keyboard that stands out from the pack due to its unique keycaps, which allow you to easily clean under and between keys. This is a great feature for anyone who games in a space that is prone to dust or for anyone who simply hates the process of cleaning by removing keys. If you are looking for a fully-featured gaming keyboard that is easy to maintain, this might be your best option.
The board features Roccat’s own Titan switches. These switches are designed to be highly responsive while giving stronger tactile feedback than the boards made by Razer and Corsair. These switches are also superior in many respects to traditional Cherry MX-designed switches since they are designed to minimize wobble and vibration leading to a much more pleasing typing experience.
The key caps on this board are unique, because they are much shallower, leaving plenty of space beneath them. When these keycaps are combined with the dust-resistance aluminum housing, this keyboard becomes very easy to clean and maintain. On top of that, Roccat included everything you could want in a gaming keyboard, including RGB lighting, media keys with a volume knob, and detachable palm rest. Coming in at $160, this is one of the best-featured gaming keyboards currently available.
Best Smart Keyboard
Das Keyboard X50Q Smart Gaming Keyboard
Switch type Gamma Zulu by Omron
Lighting Full, Per-Key RGB
Compatibility Windows Only
Professionals who also enjoy gaming will love Das Keyboard X50Q Smart Gaming Keyboard. The X50Q from Das Keyboard is an incredible, high-performance gaming keyboard with a focus on boosting productivity. The X50 is a smart keyboard that seems to be unrivaled in the gaming keyboard market. Rather, there is no worthy competition for the title of Best Smart Gaming Keyboard.
The Das Keyboard X50Q is a smart, mechanical gaming keyboard. It uses Gamma Zulu switches made by Omron specifically for Das Keyboard. The key switches have a soft, tactile touch, with a 100 million stroke life cycle. The X50Q has an anodized, black aluminum panel with hex screws that allow for easy customization.
This elite keyboard has per-key, RGB backlighting that is fully customizable with the Q software. The key customization also includes configuring RBG notifications with drag and drop applets. From weather updates to Twitch notifications, to following specific stock quotes, the X50Q takes productivity to the next level.
Best RGB TKL Keyboard
Razer Huntsman Mini
Connectivity Detachable Type-C Cable
Switch Type Choose Razer Clicky (Purple) or Razer Linear (Red)
The Razer Huntsman is one of the best all-around keyboards on the market. The Razer Huntsman Mini is essentially the same, only smaller. This ten-keyless keyboard may be small, but it’s a titan among keyboards.
If you’re looking for a keyboard with a 60% form factor, then you’re likely not worried about missing the function row. The Huntsman Mini still offers the functionality of function keys with secondary shortcuts.
Best Budget Keyboard
Pulsar Nova Optical PRO PK100
Connectivity USB 2.0 Port or higher
Switch Type Swappable Red Linear Mechanical Switches
Lighting 16.8m RGB LED
If you are looking for a keyboard that looks just as good as the competitors but at a reasonable price, you should check out the Pulsar Nova Optical PRO PK100. The chic design immediately catches the eye with its black matte finish, RGB lighting and subtle character font on the keys that makes it feel different than competitors. And on top of that, it is waterproof.
Performance-wise, you are not going to find better on the market at this price point. No, the Pulsar Nova Optical PRO PK100 doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of performance or usage, but it is just as good as many keyboards that are easily double the price.
There are some very minor issues with the Pulsar Nova Optical PRO PK100 – the RGB lighting isn’t as bright as others and the keys are a little bit louder than some – but these really are minor. If you are looking for an affordable gaming keyboard, the Pulsar Nova Optical PRO PK100 is your best option.
Best Ergonomic Keyboard
X-Bows Nature Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard
Connectivity USB-A to USB-C cord
Switch Type Gateron Switches
Lighting Customizable LED Backlighting (16.8 million color options)
Many people are scared of ergonomic keyboards because the learning curve tends to be extremely steep. Even if they may be better for your overall health, the change can be challenging. X-Bows noticed this when designing their keyboards and made things differently. By doubling up on some keys on the keyboard (extra Backspace, Enter, Shift keys etc), the learning curve on the X-Bows Nature is actually much more reasonable.
But, of course, the main reason you chose to switch to an ergonomic keyboard is that it is healthier for you in the long run. The design is meant to alleviate pressure on key points in your wrist, arm and shoulders to ensure no long-lasting damaging effects. Obviously, it is hard to judge that until you have used it for years, but, there has been a noticeable absence of aches after long gaming sessions using the Nature.
The X-Bows Nature is not built specifically for gamers, so it doesn’t have a lot of the bells and whistles many other brands do. And it undoubtedly takes time to get used to in something like League of Legends or Dota. But, if you can get over the initial stages, the Nature is an excellent keyboard for both gaming and your health.
Flashiest Gaming Keyboard
Whirlwind Element V2 Keyboard
Connectivity 1.8m braided cable
Switch Type Gateron mechanical key switches
Lighting Individual RGB LEDs for each key
If you are setting up your gaming station to look as impressive as it possibly can, the Whirlwind Element V2 Keyboard is the best choice. Whirlwind’s most impressive selling feature is their extensive Smart RGB Lighting Software. The software, which is a free but separate download, features extensive lighting that is custom made to various AAA titles. It may not seem huge to someone who hasn’t used it, but it is one step closer to immersion in the game.
But, the Element V2 is more than just a light show. The keyboard dis built with a solid aluminum frame and the keycaps like a huge improvement over the company’s previous designs.
There are some small nitpick issues with the Element V2. The braided cable is hefty, which means it is not the most flexible and it is challenging if you want to make your own lighting designs. However, the pros heavily outweigh these small cons.
The best gaming keyboard for streamers
Corsair K95 RGB Platinum
Switch type Cherry MX Brown OR Cherry MX Speed mechanical switches
Lighting Full RGB Backlit
Polling rate 1000 Hz
The Corsair K95 PRO Platinum is a high-quality mechanical keyboard with a number of features that make it great for both gaming and streaming. It is also the most expensive option on this list, coming in at $199.99 USD. Although it is a solid piece of hardware, it is very difficult to justify that price.
It features standard Cherry MX switches, which are pretty common, but not the highest quality available. You can purchase this product with either Cherry MX Brown or Cherry MX Speed switches. Brown switches have slightly more tactile feedback, while the speed switches will have the fastest possible actuation for more precise gaming. The keycaps themselves are made of PBT, which are generally more durable than ABS caps, like the ones on the Huntsmen.
This board features some nice affordances that are specific to gamers, including a USB passthrough on the back for your mouse or headset, textured keys for WASD, and six fully customizable macro keys. The macro keys are integrated with the Elgato stream deck, as well, making this the perfect keyboard for streamers.
Another feature that sets the Corsair 95 apart from the Huntsman is its fully integrated media controls. It board features volume controls, pause and play buttons, and even a special button to lock your windows key while in-game.
This board also features RGB lighting effects which can be customized using Corsair’s iCUE lighting software. There are a number of presets available in iCUE, and you can build your own lighting profiles very easily from within the application. You can also use iCUE to customize your macros.
The board itself is made of dust-resistant aluminum and comes with a detachable wrist rest as an added bonus. As the most expensive board on this list, this product is probably not the best value proposition. However, if you are a streamer or hardcore gamer, this board offers a lot of great features which could justify the price.
What is the difference between mechanical, membrane, and optical switches?
Membrane switches feature a pressure mat below the keys. When you push the key down, it directly applies pressure downward on the map, activating a keystroke. These keyboards can be tiring to type on, because they require you to apply pressure to each stroke.
Mechanical and optical switches work differently. Instead of pressing down onto a pressure mat, mechanical and optical switches activate on the way down. This means that you don’t have to actually bottom out your keys for the computer to detect the keystroke. Overall this is better for your fingers, more responsive, and definitely better for gaming.
The only difference between optical and mechanical switches is that optical switches use light to detect when the key has been pressed while mechanical switches press a physical switch on the way down. There are various types of mechanical switches with different levels of aural and tactile feedback.
What are the best mechanical switches to buy?
Many people think that Cherry MX switches are the best in the market. This notion comes from the fact that Cherry MX used to be one of the best switches, and the vintage versions of Cherry MX switches are still excellent to this day. However, in 2013 Cherry MX lost their patent on their switch design, so now MX style switches are a generic option that can be made by anybody.
Ever since MX-style switches went generic, other companies have taken the lead in producing high-quality MX switches. For example, Gateron and Halo make incredible MX style switches, but they don’t have the brand recognition of Cherry MX so people often overlook their products. All of this to say, don’t assume that mechanical switches are better because they are Cherry MX. Cherry MX are good switches, but they are no longer at the top of the market.
What gaming keyboards do esports pros use?
There is a huge diversity of available gaming keyboards, even from each individual peripheral company, so many of the keyboards used by professionals are not on this list. However, professional players across multiple esports use many of the keyboards on this list, including the Razer Huntsman.
What keyboard form factor is best for competitive gaming?
Ultimately, any form factor of a keyboard can work for competitive gaming both at home and at a tournament. Some professionals use full-sized keyboards with a num pad, but many also use 80% and 60% versions of the boards, which take up a little less desk space and are less bulky to work with overall. Generally speaking, you don’t need a number pad to play competitive games, so feel free to choose whichever form factor best suits the size of your desk.
How do I clean and maintain my keyboard?
Cleaning your keyboard is a tedious but necessary part of maintaining any high-end board. The best way to clean it is to pull every keycap off the board using a keycap puller. Once you have removed all the keys, submerge them in soapy water for 10-15 minutes to remove the grime and bacteria from the keys. Next, let them fully dry out. It is crucial that you let them dry out as much as possible before you put them back on the keyboard. If they still have any amount of moisture when they are placed onto the board, it could seriously damage your board’s circuitry. While the keys are soaking, you can use canned air or a cleaning brush to clean out the keyboard itself.