The Best Gaming Keyboard of 2021 to Fit Every Lifestyle
To be the best at a video game, you need to be the fastest, and you can only be as fast as your tools allow you to be. As a result, the gaming keyboard you use can have a big impact on your in-game performance. Luckily, a large number of different companies have released gaming-focused keyboards to choose from. There are many different parameters to consider when you are purchasing a keyboard, including what type of switches it has, its overall size on your desk, and whether or not it is backlit with lighting effects to achieve that “gamer” aesthetic.
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 part way 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 the function keys entirely.
Gaming keyboards can be purchased for anywhere 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 for most players.
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 which 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.
Connectivity: Wired | Material: Aluminium | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Switch type: Razer Clicky Optical Switches | Size: Full Size keyboard | Lighting: Razer Chroma backlighting | Onboard Memory: Five profiles | Keycap material: ABS | Media Controls: None
Price: $149.99 USD
The best gaming keyboard for streamers.
Corsair K95 RGB Platinum Gaming Keyboard
The K95 RGB Platinum is a fully-featured gaming keyboard that is built to last. If you are looking for the best board Corsair has to offer, and money is no object, this might be the gaming keyboard to choose.
The Corsair K95 PRO Platinum is a high quality mechanical keyboard with a number of features that makes 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.
Connectivity: Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Aluminum | Switch type: Cherry MX Brown mechanical switches or Cherry MX Speed mechanical switches | Size: Full Size keyboard | Lighting: Full RGB Backlit | Onboard Memory: Three profiles | Keycap material: PBT
Price: $199.99 USD
The best 60% compact gaming keyboard
The Ducky One 2 Mini Mecha is a 60% sized mechanical gaming keyboard featuring either Cherry MX switches or the superior Kailh Box switches. When equipped with the Kailh Box switches, this becomes one of the better mechanical options on this list. Not only are Kailh Box switches an overall better build quality, they are also IP56 waterproof and dustproof certified.
This keyboard comes with some basic RGB lighting options, though there are far fewer customization options when compared to the Huntsman or the K95 RGB boards listed above. The build quality on this board is excellent. It is made of aluminum and features a unique bezel design which lends it a slick look and feel to the product. If you are in the market for a solid but affordable 60% compact gaming keyboard, this is a great option to try.
Connectivity: USB-C Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Aluminum | Switch type: Cherry MX mechanical switches or Kailh Box mechanical switches | Size: 60% keyboard | Lighting: RGB Backlit | Onboard Memory: 5 MB | Keycap material: ABS or PBT
Price: $119.99 USD
Best tenkeyless keyboard for gamers
This board is identical in function, feature, and similar price to the Ducky One 2 Mini Mecha listed above. The only major difference is that this version comes in a tenkeyless form factor. This means that you will have access to your function keys above your number row, and arrow keys on the right side, but there is no number pad on the right side available for use. If you like the features of the Ducky One Two Mini Mecha, but are more comfortable having access to the dedicated arrow keys and some extra function keys, this board might be a better option for you.
Connectivity: USB-C Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Aluminum | Switch type: Cherry MX mechanical or Kailh Box mechanical switches | Size: 80% keyboard | Lighting: RGB Backlit | Onboard Memory: 5 MB | Keycap material: ABS or PBT
Price: $124.99 USD
Best budget friendly keyboard
Coming in at only 50$, the SteelSeries Apex 3 is a membrane keyboard which offers many of the standard features of a gaming keyboard, but at a very low price. The biggest sacrifice you make when buying this keyboard is the switch type and quality.
Unlike most of the other keyboards on this list, the Apex 3 is a membrane keyboard with SteelSeries Whisper-Quiet Membrane Switches. Although these switches are not quite as bad as a standard, the switch quality is still a significant step down from even the cheapest mechanical board on this list.
However, this cheap gaming keyboard still manages to include a lot of the other features you might want. It is IP32 water and dust resistance certified, which makes it a very durable and reliable board. It also includes multimedia controls built onto the board itself for quick access, and comes with RGB illumination lighting which can be synced with various games or even your Discord. As a little added bonus, SteelSeries includes a magnetic wrist rest with this keyboard as well. Although this isn’t the best board on the market, it is pretty great for its price.
Connectivity: Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Aluminum | Switch type: Membrane SteelSeries Whisper-Quiet Switches | Size: Full Size keyboard | Lighting: Full RGB Backlighting | Onboard Memory: None | Keycap material: ABS
Best value gaming keyboard
The HyperX Alloy Elite 2 RGB keyboard is a fully featured gaming keyboard with a steel frame, making it one of the heaviest built keyboards on the market. Costing only $110 to purchase, the HyperX Alloy Elite 2 offers one of the best value propositions of any gaming keyboard in the world.
This keyboard features Cherry MX Red mechanical switches. The keycaps themselves are what HyperX called their “pudding keycaps”. Instead of being solid plastic, like most keycaps, the keycaps on this board feature a translucent texture on the side, which maximizes the RGB lighting underneath by having it shine through the sides of the keys. You can customize the RGB effects on this board by using the HyperX NGENUITY software, which lets you customize your gaming mode, build macros, and customize your lighting down to each individual key if you want.
This keyboard also comes with some of the most coveted features for gaming keyboards, like a USB passthrough for your mouse on the back and onboard memory.
Other than the steel frame, there isn’t much special happening with this product in comparison to the others on this list. However, at only $110, it is the lowest price option for a mechanical keyboard which features all of the hottest options for gaming keyboards.
Connectivity: Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Steel | Switch type: Cherry MX Red mechanical switches | Size: Full Size keyboard | Lighting: Full RGB Backlighting | Onboard Memory: Three profiles | Keycap material: PBT
Price: $109.99 USD
Best gaming keyboard for productivity
The Logitech 840 is a well-built keyboard with none of the frills or fancy lighting that you may expect from most gaming keyboards. Although it lacks the flashy options of many of the other keyboards, it’s still a solid product which is trusted by many gaming professionals. If you are looking for a non-conspicuous, standard keyboard which you can both work and play on, this might be a good option to consider.
This board features Logitech’s own proprietary low profile Romer-G switches. These switches are technically membrane switches, however they are not rubber dome switches which give many membrane keyboards the squishy feeling when you press a key. As a result, these won’t feel quite as good as a standard mechanical keyboard, but they feel better than most membrane keyboards. Also, because it isn’t a mechanical keyboard this board won’t be as loud as the other options on this list.
The biggest downside to these switches is that you can’t use standard keycaps with them. So if you want to switch them out, you will have to buy from only Logitech. Other than that shortcoming, the Romer-G switches work reasonably well, even if they do feel a little bit different than a standard mechanical keyboard experience.
You can also customize the F1-F4 keys out of the box, which is a nice feature for anyone who is looking for an easy place to put their macros. The casing itself is made out of high grade aluminum, so this board is also built to last and should travel well. Coming in at $100, this is a board that is concerned with getting the job done and nothing more.
Connectivity: Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Aluminum | Switch type: MX Blue mechanical switches | Size: Full Size keyboard | Lighting: None| Onboard Memory: None | Keycap material: ABS
Price: $99.99 USD
Razer’s best budget option for gaming keyboards
The Razer Cynosa Chroma offers many of the features you might expect in a gaming keyboard, but at a lower price point than the other Razer products. For 60$, you can have an RGB enabled gaming keyboard that has access to the Razer Chroma RGB lighting software. This board also features media controls in the top right corner, some interesting cable routing options, and a clean, split resistant design. All of this combined together for a competent, if unimpressive, offering.
The big downside to this board is that it features membrane switches. Membrane switches feel fuzzy and difficult to type with in comparison to mechanical and optical switches. Using membrane switches provides a less precise experience and the actuation on the switches is much longer than on its mechanical and optical counterparts. When gaming, having worse actuation can be a serious disadvantage. Although these membrane switches are superior to most membrane switches on the market, they are still worse than the alternatives.
If you are in the market for a cheap keyboard that will look cool, this might be a good option for you. Just be forewarned that the price tag comes with some serious sacrifices in the switch quality department.
Connectivity: Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Aluminum | Switch type: Cushioned Membrane Switches | Size: Full Size keyboard | Lighting: Razer Chroma™ backlighting | Onboard Memory: None | Keycap material: ABS
Price: $59.99 USD
Easiest gaming keyboard to maintain
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 a 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 a detachable palm rest. Coming in at $160, this is one of the best featured gaming keyboards currently available.
Connectivity: Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Aluminum | Switch type: Roccat Titan Mechanical Switches | Size: Full Size keyboard | Lighting: RGB per-key backlighting | Onboard Memory: 512 KB | Keycap material: PBT
Price: $159.99 USD
10. Corsair K63
Best budget mechanical gaming keyboard
The Corsair K63 is a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard which will offer you the high level of performance you expect from Corsair products. And at a $80, nonetheless. Although this may not be the flashiest keyboard on the list, it is one of the best values for your money.
This board uses Cherry MX Red Switches, which offer some audio feedback but no tactile feedback. They are nothing special, but for $80 it’s nice to at least have mechanical switches instead of the membrane switches present on the other budget boards.
This board does feature LED backlighting, but it lacks the customization to select the color. The lighting only comes in red. You can still use Corsair’s iCUE program to customize the brightness and animation of the red lights though, as well as store different customized profiles. This board also features media controls on the top bar. If you are looking for a budget keyboard which won’t sacrifice switch quality, the Corsair K63 is one of the best options.
Connectivity: Wired | Polling rate: 1000 Hz | Material: Aluminum | Switch type: Cherry MX Red mechanical switches | Size: 80% keyboard | Lighting: Single color red backlighting | Onboard Memory: three profiles | Keycap material: PBT
Price: $79.99 USD
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 downward 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 a 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 which 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 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 SteelSeries Apex 3, the HyperX Alloy Elite 2, and 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 key cap 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 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 boards circuitry. While the keys are soaking, you can use canned air or a cleaning brush to clean out the keyboard itself.