You take your gaming seriously, and you’re good at it. But is your keyboard giving you an advantage, or is it holding you back? Make no mistake about it, competitive gamers risk being under-equipped using something that shipped with your desktop, and even casual gamers have a chance to massively upgrade their overall gaming experience by choosing the proper keyboard.
So whether you are using it as a weapon, a tool, or as a smacktalker, if you want to take full advantage of today’s gaming world you need to find the best keyboard for your style. We’ve listed our top picks below, but before we get to that please please please get familiar with the current crop of features available to today’s gamers. Once you see what current tech is offering it’ll make your decision informed and much, much easier:
All of our top-rated keyboards are going to have mechanical key switches. Why? Superior responsiveness, top notch reliability, and even more importantly they feel better. There’s a good reason that most people never look back after switching to a mechanical keyboard, and it’s usually because of the keyswitches.
In contrast, manufacturers looking to save money use rubber dome switches that require greater effort in each keystroke and even worse, they deteriorate over time and slowly get harder to actuate. So no keyboards like this in our gaming recommendations. And yes, we know there are a couple popular options out there that use rubber blubber, but these keyboards have become popular because, uhmm, they cost less to buy.
Many of today’s games require quick combos of keystrokes. Top gamers use macros to execute these combos. Instead of pressing individual keys to crouch, then jump, then throw, you can program a macro key to do it all at once. Top keyboards have dedicated macro keys built into the keyboard casing. And don’t forget that macros can be used to speed up everyday comp use too.
Try opening a Word or text document and pressing ten keys all at once. Did they all register? Or did your comp say no bleeping way? Now try pressing 20 keys, or all of them. Companies that target gamers are producing keyboards with infinity key rollover to accommodate ever increasing needs for complex key combos. This basically means that no matter how many keys you press at once, they are all going to register. Much easier to accomplish this using mechanical key switches and a PS/2 connection. Today’s USB connections will probably limit you to 6-key rollover.
Backlighting. It ain’t just so you can play games in the dark anymore. Companies have evolved and many now offer the option of key-by-key backlighing. Yup, you tell the comp which keys you want to backlight and bink! there they are. Many also offer the option of saving these lighting layouts to manageable profiles.
Textured, swappable keycaps. Wait, what?! Some of the top manufacturers are including textured keycaps on the most used gaming keys, I.e. w-a-s-d, numbers, arrow keys. This will accelerate muscle memory and keep your eyes off the keyboard. But don’t worry, swapping out keycaps isn’t hard if you want normal ones.
Ghosting isn’t a major problem when using mechanical keyswitches, but we mention it because so many companies are blaring about it. Imagine pressing a bunch of keys on a cheap keyboard that uses a single rubber membrane beneath the keys: sometimes a ‘ghost’ key will register when all the circuits surrounding it are activated simultaneously. Annoying if typing an email, deadly if gaming. Not to worry though, our recommendations are all mechanical by nature, making it kinda redundant to mention anti-ghosting.
And quickly, USB pass-through can be super handy if you want to plug in a mouse or external hard drive to the keyboard, and separate media controls are becoming the norm on these keyboards so that you don’t have to leave the gaming environment to adjust volume or music selections.
So there you have it, a comprehensive list of today’s top gaming features. Keeping in mind which features are most important to you, here’s our 2014 Top Gaming Keyboards ranker:
Corsair Vengeance K95
Really tough to beat this keyboard, that’s why it’s at the top of our list. Fully mechanical keyboard using Cherry Red keyswitches. Cherry Reds have linear travel and low operating force, I.e. it doesn’t take much pressure to actuate them and they are easy to double and triple tap.
Coming in at 4.5 pounds the K95 ain’t no lightweight, with the brushed aluminum chassis giving it a stable, sturdy feel.
18 G-keys on the left side can program up to 54 individual macros. Onboard memory lets you take the keyboard anywhere and it’ll remember your setup.
Backlit with white LEDs and also features key-by-key backlighting with the option to save lighting maps to profiles. Does not have textured keycaps but you can get them from Corsair if you want.
Razer Blackwidow Ultimate (2014 Elite)
Probably the most visually appealing keyboard on our list. Green backlit keys, sleek design, eye catching. Razer has a devoted following and the Blackwidow Ultimate is one of the big reasons for that loyalty.
Fully mechanical using Razer’s proprietary keyswitches. The Blackwidow Ultimate model has Razer Green clicky switches, 50g actuation force. The Blackwidow Stealth model has Razer Orange quieter switches, 45g actuation force.
There are five G keys on the left side of the keyboard with on-the-fly recording for macros.
Backlit? Yes sir. Key-by-key backlighting? Nope.
CM Storm Quickfire TK
Cooler Master (CM) has lots of permutations of this keyboard, varying by switch type and layout, so use caution when ordering on Amazon because the listings get a little clumped together.
The Quickfire TK ships with your choice of Cherry Blues, Browns, Reds, or Greens. Yup, you heard right, Cherry Greens! The Greens are rare, similar to the Blues (tactile and audio feedback), but with an actuation force of 80g!
This model is fully backlit with white LEDS and multiple lighting modes.
This is an excellent mid-range priced option.
Corsair Vengeance K70
The little brother of the Corsair Vengeance K95. Fully mechanical keyboard that comes with three keyswitch options: Cherry Red, Cherry Brown, Cherry Blue.
The K70 also comes with the w-a-s-d and 1-6 keys textured for accelerated access. But it also includes standard keycaps and a keycap replacement tool if you don’t like the textured ones and want to swap them out.
The main difference when compared to the K95 is that the K70 does NOT have programmable G-keys, I.e. no macros. But that’s also why this keyboard makes both our gaming list and our top mechanical keyboard list. It’s a top option for some gamers (the ones who don’t need macros), and its also good for coders/writers who want a solid mechanical keyboard from a top company.
Note that the LEDs are red on the K70 and can be programmed key by key, with onboard memory to save the light maps. Also has USB passthrough and multimedia controls.
Hard to go wrong with a brand like Logitech. This is their most popular gaming keyboard and feedback is overwhelmingly positive. It’s also worth noting that the G710 comes with a 3 year warranty, it’s the only keyboard we recommend that has a warranty that long.
Fully mechanical keyboard with Cherry Brown switches. Cherry Browns have the same actuation forces as the Cherry Reds, but in addition the Browns have soft tactile feedback. It also comes with O-rings pre-installed to dampen the keyclack further. Check here if you want more info on O-rings
The G710 has four backlighting levels, all using white LEDs. There’s a dedicated pair of keys used to adjust the ‘zones’. The first zone is the w-a-s-d and arrow keys, the second zone is the rest of the keyboard.
Hardcore gamers love the dedicated game mode key to switch off the Windows key during gameplay.
6 programmable G-keys that can configure up to 18 distinct macros. Also includes USB passthrough, media controls, and a detachable palm rest.