Wondering how to choose the best gaming keyboard for your play style and desk setup? Not every keyboard is a good fit for every gamer, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for. This guide covers the basics of shopping for a gaming keyboard and explores a few top picks worth considering in 2024.
What to Look for in a Gaming Keyboard
If you’re looking for the best gaming keyboard, you’ll have no shortage of recommendations. However, there’s a difference between the most popular keyboard and the best one for you. Everyone’s desk setup, budget and play style is different, so it’s important to choose a keyboard that uniquely suits your needs.
Top-rated keyboards are certainly a great place to start your search, but it helps to have an idea of what you should look for. There are a few main types of gaming keyboards:
- Speciality Mechanical (Analog, Optical)
- Membrane/Rubber Dome
Most gaming keyboards have mechanical switches. More high-end models have specialty mechanical switches like analog or optical switches, which are faster and more responsive than conventional mechanical keyboards.
There are also some membrane gaming keyboards, but these are generally only ideal for people on a very tight budget. They can also be good for kids, who may be at risk of accidentally breaking a more expensive keyboard.
Key Features: Switches and Wired vs Wireless
For most people, a mechanical gaming keyboard is the way to go. Most gaming keyboards are wired, although there are some wireless options. It’s generally better to choose a wired keyboard since they have a more consistent connection with little to no lag.
When you’re shopping for a keyboard, you may have different switch options. For instance, Razer offers yellow, orange and green switches (linear, tactile and clicky, respectively). The type of switch you get is usually just about personal preference. Tactile switches are the sweet spot for many gamers, though.
The most important thing is the actuation force and distance of the switches. Actuation force is how hard you have to press to activate a switch and actuation distance or “key travel” is how far vertically the key moves when pressed. A low actuation force and distance is usually best for gaming keyboards.
Personal Preference Features
Most gaming keyboards also feature LED lighting options, but this has no impact on your gaming or typing performance. The same can usually be said for the keycaps, although PBT keycaps tend to feel better than ABS. If you do like LED lighting, look for a keyboard that allows you to customize your
Another feature that’s mostly up to personal preference is size. There are full-sized, tenkeyless (TKL), 75%, 65%, 60% and numerous other sizes out there for keyboards today. If you need a function row, make sure you choose a full, TKL or 75% size keyboard.
Smaller keyboards like 65% and 60% are often not ideal for gaming since they don’t have dedicated function keys. Beyond that, any larger keyboard size can be great for gaming. If you want to save some space on your desk, though, go for a 75% or TKL size.
5 Best Gaming Keyboard Candidates to Check Out
If you’re completely new to gaming keyboards, the basic criteria above should make it easier to find a keyboard that’s right for you. What are some of the best gaming keyboard candidates you should consider, though? Taking a look at top-rated keyboards is always a good place to start, so check out these five recommendations.
1. Razer BlackWidow V4
Arguably the best gaming keyboard for most gaming enthusiasts today is the Razer BlackWidow V4. The latest update to Razer’s popular BlackWidow lineup brings a game changing feature: hot-swappable keys. This is a rare find in the gaming keyboard space, but it can make a world of difference.
Hot-swappable keyboards allow you to pull out the switches and change them if you want. So, for instance, if your W key starts double clicking or sticking, you can just swap it out instead of buying a whole new keyboard. You can also change your switches if you simply want to try a different sound or feel on your keyboard.
The BlackWidow V4 takes Razer’s durable, low-latency BlackWidow design and packages it in a sleek new case with hot-swappable switch sockets. There are 100% and 75% sizes, both of which feature a volume adjustment scroll bar and side RGB lighting. The backlighting is also customizable through Razer Synapse, as usual.
If you’re getting into gaming keyboards for the first time, this is a great starter setup. It’s hot-swappable, so you can upgrade it down the road. Plus, it’s wired, reliable and low-latency for great all around performance.
3. Wooting 60HE
If you want to game like an eSports pro, the Wooting 60HE should be your go-to keyboard. This is widely acknowledged as the best gaming keyboard for eSports. It has quickly become one of the most popular keyboards for pro gamers all over the world.
The Wooting 60HE really gives competitors like Razer and SteelSeries a run for their money. For $175 you get a hot-swappable, highly customizable keyboard with premium analog switches.
These specialty switches can sense keystroke force much like the sticks on a controller. So, for example, you can press down lightly for slow or minimal movement in-game or press down all the way to sprint. The software that comes with the Wooting 60HE also lets you customize the sensitivity of the analog switches.
It is worth noting that this is a 60% keyboard, so it doesn’t have dedicated function keys. For some gamers, that can be a deal breaker. However, the compact size is great for travel and minimizes the keyboard’s footprint on your desk.
2. SteelSeries Apex Pro
Another popular eSports keyboard is the SteelSeries Apex Pro. This premium gaming keyboard is a bit pricey at $199 but includes nearly every feature you could want. The only downside to this keyboard is that it’s not hot-swappable, which gives Razer’s BlackWidow V3 a slight edge for most users.
If you don’t care about having hot-swappable switches, though, it’s hard to beat the Apex Pro. This keyboard has incredibly fast hall effect analog switches, which allow for customized actuation force. The keys also all individually have anti-ghosting, so you’ll never miss a keystroke in-game.
The Apex Pro has a premium aircraft-grade aluminum case that’s both sleek and durable. What makes it really unique is the built-in mini OLED screen, which allows for some customization directly on the keyboard. There’s also a scroll bar for adjusting your volume and, of course, fully customizable RGB lighting.
4. Razer Ornata V2
What if you want a good keyboard for gaming, but you don’t have $100+ to spend on it? The Razer Ornata V2 is arguably the best gaming keyboard for budget gamers. You get the design and reliability of a Razer gaming keyboard, but in a more affordable package than something like the Huntsman Elite or the BlackWidow V4.
The main differentiating factor of the Ornata V2 is its switches, or lack thereof. The Ornata V2 is actually a membrane keyboard, not a mechanical keyboard. It has rubber domes under the keys instead of switches. This gives it a slightly “spongy” feel compared to more conventional “clicky” gaming keyboards.
That said, this is certainly one of the best membrane keyboards for gaming. If you are on a budget, the Ornata can definitely be an upgrade from cramped laptop keyboards or low-quality Bluetooth keyboards.
5. A Custom Mechanical Keyboard
Finally, it’s worth considering a custom keyboard. Sometimes the best gaming keyboard for you is the one you build yourself. Remember, most gaming keyboards are just mechanical keyboards marketed toward gamers. They can have some cool features or particularly fast switches, but they all tend to look essentially the same.
If you want something designed for you from the ground up, try building your own mechanical keyboard. It’s easier than you might think and requires just a few basic steps. You get complete control over the size and feel of your keyboard. Plus, you can choose unique, colorful keycaps to top it all off!
Choosing the Right Gaming Keyboard for You
Gaming keyboards are an essential for any PC gamer, but how do you make sure you pick the right one? If you’re new to gaming keyboards, start by looking for a wired keyboard with mechanical switches that have a low actuation force. Whenever possible, try visiting local tech stores to test out a few keyboards in person and see what feels best to you.
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