Are you lost in the jungle of gaming keyboards? We take stock of the best models on the market and all the features to take into account before buying your new gaming keyboard.
Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
The best mechanical gaming keyboards at a glance:
- Wireless mechanical keyboards
- Wired mechanical keyboards
- Cheap mechanical keyboards
Along with the mouse, the gaming keyboard is logically one of the most important accessories for the PC gamer. The market for keyboards and in particular for mechanical models is particularly supplied and it can be difficult to navigate. In writing, we were able to test many models that we suggest you find in this complete guide.
Beyond the mechanical switches, the gaming keyboard is also defined by its format and the various features it embeds. In addition to our selection, which fits your budget, you can find the answers to your questions at the end of the article in order to know everything about gaming keyboards.
We also have a selection of the best gaming mice as well as a buying guide for the best PC controllers. And if gaming isn't your thing, then check out our selection of office keyboards and wireless mice.
Wireless gaming keyboards: the frag, without the wire
Asus ROG Claymore II: performance and modularity
The ROG Claymore II has a removable numeric keypad // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
The Asus ROG Claymore II keyboard stands out from other models thanks to its modular design. Indeed, the latter is with removable numeric keypad and can be installed on either side of the keyboard. A very practical addition, which allows the Claymore II to be adapted to all situations.
Beyond this specificity, the Claymore II is positioned as an excellent wireless gaming keyboard. It is equipped with ROG RX switches which are quite simply among the best consumer models on the market. It also benefits from a excellent autonomy which will allow it to be used for several days before needing to be recharged.
ROG RX switches and their scissor system // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Finally, all it lacks is PBT keys, bluetooth connectivity and a better wrist rest to position itself as the benchmark for gaming keyboards of the moment. Of course, this near-perfection comes at a cost, and the ROG Claymore II comes with a suggested retail price of $ 280.
- A well thought-out modular design
- Some of the best ROG RX switches on the market
- Excellent battery life associated with the 2,4 GHz wireless connection
Logitech G915: the king of wireless keyboards
The G915 and its brushed aluminum finish // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
In the wireless gaming keyboards market, the Logitech G915 sets the benchmark. It stands out in particular from its competitors thanks to its ultra-flat design and aluminum finish brushed which gives it a much more premium look. If its chassis is thin, so are its switches and keys.
It is equipped with GL switches, rather reactive and offered in different versions to satisfy as many players as possible. In use, it is efficient and comfortable and ultimately does not require a wrist rest due to its thinness. It is also equipped with additional customizable keys and all the usual multimedia keys.
The keyboard has additional keys // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Like the ROG Claymore II, the Logitech model offers excellent battery life and also benefits from Bluetooth connectivity allowing it to be used with a large number of devices, while switching quickly between them using the dedicated buttons. Available at the recommended price of 250 euros, the G915 is also offered in a TKL version.
In short :
- Unique design and high quality aluminum finish
- Thin and pleasant keys and switches
- Bluetooth and 2,4 GHz compatible with excellent battery life
Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini Hyperspeed: one of the rare 65% wireless azerty keyboards on the market
The BlackWidow V3 Mini is a 65% keyboard // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Razer has continued to develop its line of gaming keyboards with the BlackWidow V3 Mini HyperSpeed which has the main interest of being one of the only 65% wireless keyboards available in azerty at the time of this writing. He takes the lines of previous BlackWidow, in a much more compact format even if we would have preferred it to be even more so.
This model is equipped with Razer Yellow linear switches. These are similar to the usual Cherry MX Red while being a little more responsive. We will therefore recommend this model to players looking for a powerful keyboard for shooting games or MOBAs for example. However, we regret the absence of a wrist rest, which is particularly lacking due to the significant thickness of the keyboard.
We keep a row of keys and the directional arrows // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
This mini keyboard connects to the PC via a 2,4 GHz link provided by a dongle which can be used with other peripherals of the brand. he is also able to connect via bluetooth to be able to use several devices at the same time. His autonomy is however not as interesting than the other references in this guide. The BlackWidow V3 Mini is available at a suggested price of 180 euros.
In short :
- A compact design thanks to the 65% format
- Convincing and silent Razer Yellow switches
- Bluetooth and 2,4 GHz compatible
Wired gaming keyboards: performance and features
Corsair K100 RGB: the most complete
The K100 is a very complete keyboard // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Of all the gaming keyboards that have passed through our hands, the Corsair K100 RGB is undoubtedly the most complete. The brand made no compromises on this model and integrated everything that was possible to integrate: PBT keys, ultra-complete RGB lighting, macro keys, customizable wheel, USB passtrough. All these characteristics have thus been integrated into a imposing metal frame which is particularly qualitative.
On the performance side, the Corsair K100 RGB is equipped with OPX optical switch. In practice, these are particularly reactive linear switches. With their activation point positioned at 1 mm, it will be necessary several hours of use to accommodate it and avoid unintentional strikes. Although it is quite noisy, the K100 RGB will particularly appeal to gamers who are primarily looking for a powerful keyboard.
A very imposing keyboard // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
As often with Corsair, it will be necessary to make with the very imposing braided USB cable. The latter has two USB A ports since the keyboard has an additional USB port. This can be used for your mouse or for example the iCue Nexus that we had also tested. Being so complete, the Corsair K100 RGB is also expensive with a suggested price of 250 euros.
In short :
- The most complete keyboard of our selection
- Corsair OPX switches are very efficient
- Customizable wheel that can find its use
SteelSeries Apex Pro: adjustable switches and OLED display
The Apex range benefits from a simple and modern design // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Older, the SteelSeries Apex Pro none the less interesting. The chassis takes its ideas from the M800 released previously and accommodates a very comfortable magnetic wrist rest. Like the rest of the Apex range, this pro version is very well built while being visually pleasing in order to integrate well into everyone's setup.
The Apex Pro differs from the Apex 7 thanks to its switches. Indeed, the main strike zone is equipped with OmniPoint switches which have the main advantage of being customizable. Indeed, these linear switches can be adjusted as needed to make them more or less responsive. They can also be configured with an activation point at only 0,4 mm!
The OLED screen is a nice gadget // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
SteelSeries has also equipped the Apex Pro with a customizable OLED display. This allows you to configure the keyboard without the driver, but also to display information related to certain games or applications. This appendix is far from essential, but brings that little something that may appeal to some gamers.The SteelSeries Apex Pro is available at a suggested price of 230 euros and is also available in TKL version.
In short :
- A solid and well-built keyboard
- Linear and customizable switches
- An OLED screen that may appeal to some
Razer Huntsman V2: the most pro
The Huntsman V2 in TKL version // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
More recently, we tested Razer's very pragmatic Huntsman V2.. The brand has decided to focus on the essentials by offering a keyboard without frills and with some welcome additions such as a sound insulation layer which limits noise pollution and is usually found on custom keyboards.
The Huntsman V2 takes advantage of a simple and discreet frame and a particularly comfortable wrist rest, although it is not magnetic. The PBT keys house the brand's high-performance optical switches, which are available in different variants, to suit as many people as possible.
The V2 is equipped with a Razer optical switch // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Beyond its performance, the Huntsman V2 is logically equipped with RGB lighting, but Razer has removed the strapping that was present on the V1. The TKL version we tested is available at the recommended price of 160 euros and it will take 200 euros for the full format version. If you are looking for a wired keyboard that performs well, is well finished and gets to the point, this is the one we recommend.
In short :
- A pragmatic keyboard
- Overall convincing Razer switches
- A simple and discreet design
Cheap gaming keyboards: the less expensive alternatives
Because not everyone has the budget to afford the references presented so far, we also offer some more accessible models among those that have passed through our hands in recent months. Here you will find two affordable and quality mechanical keyboards.
The G Lab Keyz Carbon V3: the gateway to the mechanical world
The Keyz Carbon V3 is a very accessible mechanical keyboard // Source: The G Lab
If you are looking for a mechanical keyboard first and foremost, but don't expect the best performance or full functionality from it, you can turn to The G Lab Carbon range. These models are very accessible and offer decent performance given their price.
We should logically not expect miracles on the build quality and design. Likewise, the functionality will be much more limited than on the more expensive models presented in this guide. Nevertheless, for fifty euros, today it is difficult to do better.
In short :
- Very classic construction and design
- A mechanical keyboard for less than 50 euros
- A metal frame that looks sturdy
Asus ROG Strix Scope RX: ROG RX switches above all
The Strix Scope RX is a simple and powerful keyboard // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Just like the Claymore II that we recommend above, the Strix Scope RX is equipped with ROG RX switches of the brand. In our opinion, they are the best consumer linear mechanical switches on the market and we highly recommend them to you.
Here, Asus plays the card of simplicity with a keyboard that goes to the essentials and does not offer additional features. It also doesn't come with a wrist rest which might have been nice for some. Logically wired, it has an additional USB port and is offered around 130 euros.
In short :
- A simple and modern design
- The excellent ROG RX switches
- Half the price of the ROG Claymore II
A few keys to choosing your gaming keyboard
How to choose your gaming keyboard?
Like any other device of its kind, the gaming keyboard must first and foremost be chosen according to your needs. Quite logically, one of the primary functions of such a peripheral will be to accompany you during your gaming sessions. Based on this principle, your choice will be directed towards keyboards with specific characteristics.
Thus, if you are adept at MMORPGs, you will be more inclined to turn to a keyboard equipped with many additional keys in order to be able to assign your different spells and attacks. Conversely, a FPS or MOBA player will primarily seek performance and will therefore be particularly attentive to the switches he chooses.
Some keyboards have additional keys // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Keep in mind, however, that your gaming keyboard will also serve you daily for all other digital uses of the moment. Apart from the fact that we are looking for a solid and resistant keyboard so that it lasts over time, it will logically be necessary for it to be “compatible” with these more traditional uses. The format and the switches will therefore be very important, but we will talk about this a little later.
In the same way, do not neglect the connection. If the vast majority of keyboards work wired, manufacturers also offer wireless keyboards which provide more freedom. Some models also offer Bluetooth connectivity allowing them to be used on multiple devices (including mobile devices). This freedom logically brings a constraint: the fact of having to recharge the battery regularly. In this respect, all models are not equivalent.
Many keyboards now use USB type C // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Finally, the last important element: the price. As with any electronic device, all price ranges can be found among brands in the sector. High prices don't necessarily mean quality and it will be advisable to be attentive to all the characteristics. The purpose of this guide is to recommend the best gaming keyboards to you according to your use, your needs and your budget.
Mechanical and membrane keyboard: what are the differences?
If you use a classic office keyboard on a daily basis (whether at home or at work), its keys are very likely to work with membranes. This very economical technology works (to simplify) with soft plastic domes installed under each of the keys. When a key is pressed, the dome is flattened and the elements which compose it come into contact with the printed circuit of the keyboard thus triggering the recording of the keystroke.
Not all keyboards for players are mechanical // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
The key then returns in place thanks to a small part acting as a spring and being installed inside the dome. The main advantage of this operation is that it is particularly silent. Nevertheless, membrane keyboards are very often criticized for their very soft feel and a lack of responsiveness blatant. As explained previously, their main advantage over mechanical keyboards lies in their low manufacturing cost, but also in their good resistance to liquids which may appeal to the most clumsy.
Players, always in search of performance, quickly turned to so-called “mechanical” keyboards. In practice, it is the switches, installed under the keys, which are here mechanical. These switches are completely independent and work differently from membranes.
Generally, a mechanical switch is built around a small plastic case in which slides a rod on which the button is installed. The key is held in the high position by a spring and a side switch registers the strike when the key is pressed to a certain level.
A keyboard equipped with Cherry MX Red switches // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Mechanical switches have several significant advantages. First of all, they are much more durable than membranes and will be able to accompany you for many, many years. They also offer a much smoother and "satisfying" typing experience, making mechanical keyboards more comfortable than their counterparts. Exit therefore the very soft feeling of membrane keyboards.
Performance is also improved since it is not necessary to fully press the key for the keystroke to be recorded. Demanding players will therefore gain in reactivity and will be able to chain actions more efficiently. Especially since the mechanical switches return much more quickly to the initial position.
Finally, you should know that there are a multitude of manufacturers and models of mechanical switches each with their own characteristics. We explain all this in detail in the next part.
Which mechanical switches to choose?
As we explained just above, one of the main interests of mechanical switches lies in the multitude of references that exist on the market. Before deciding, it is therefore necessary to know the different characteristics of a mechanical switch.
First of all, there are two main families: linear switches and tactile switches.
Linear switches offer a fluid and therefore linear stroke. Thus, if a force is applied to the button (pressing a finger for example), the switch will maintain the same resistance throughout its descent in a linear fashion. The strike will be recorded at a height defined by the characteristics of the switch.
Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Conversely, tactile switches have a mechanism generating resistance at a certain height. The stroke will therefore be linear until this point is reached where the resistance of the key is greater. The strike will be recorded at the very moment when this point of resistance has been crossed. These switches are popular with typists because they offer a tactile feedback to know precisely when the keystroke was recorded. Finally, some tactile switches are called "clicky" and emit a metallic noise when activated. These are the ones who played a major role in giving mechanical keyboards their reputation as noisy keyboards.
These two large families are then characterized by different aspects:
- La activation force required : it defines the resistance of the spring used in the switch. The higher this value, the harder it will be to press the key to “lower” the switch. A low value will increase responsiveness, but will favor involuntary activations.
- La race : it defines the amplitude of the descent of the key. It is therefore the distance between the height of the key when it is pressed and the height of the latter “at rest”. This value is quite similar on most switches, except for flat key models.
- Le point d’activation : this is the distance at which the strike will be recorded by the switch. The lower this value, the earlier the keystroke will be recorded and the more responsive the switch will be. On a tactile switch, this value also represents the distance at which tactile resistance will be felt.
You will often notice that switches are often associated with colors. Historically, red (or red) switches are rather responsive linear switches. Browns are similar in characteristics, but are tactile. Finally, the blues (blue) are tactile and clicky. There are a multitude of colors, but we can only advise you to refer to the technical sheets, because the characteristics may vary for the same color depending on the manufacturer.
Source : Lethal Squirrel
To summarize, a player looking above all for responsiveness can turn to a keyboard equipped with a switch with a low activation force required and a very low activation point value.
Conversely, someone who does a lot of writing is likely to be more comfortable with a keyboard that offers a higher required activation force and a lower activation point, thus avoiding unintentional keystrokes.
In all cases, we welcome you to try by yourself in store or buy tester in order to choose the switches that suit you best.
Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
In addition to these characteristics, manufacturers now offer optical switches. The main advantage of the latter is that it does not rely on an electrical contact to register the strike. The sensations in use are not different, but the use of a light beam brings a better consistency in the recording of the strikes and a faster return to the initial position due to the absence of a mechanism which logically induces additional latency when the key goes up.
TKL, 60%, 65%: which format to choose for your gaming keyboard?
For a few years now, we have seen keyboards flourish in formats, each more original than the next. The days of the 104-key full-size keyboard are a long way off, especially for gamers who are turning to more compact keyboards today.
The main advantage of these new formats is to save space on the desk in order to leave more amplitude and room for the mouse. By extension, this makes it possible to avoid the convoluted positions of the arms which are necessarily too wide apart with a full-size keyboard.
Today, there are several main keyboard families:
- The full-size keyboards : they have 104 keys and offer in the usual typing area, the numeric keypad, function keys and the additional key area with directional arrows. It is the most classic format and the most widespread for many, many years.
- The "Tenkeyless" or TKL keyboards : they take the classic format, but ignore the numeric keypad, in order to gain ten centimeters in width.
- The keyboards 60% : here we abandon the directional keys area and the function keys (F1 to F12). So all that's left is the classic alphanumeric typing zone. All deleted keys are usually accessible using shortcuts. This is particularly the case with the K65 RGB Mini from Corsair.
- The keyboards 65% : halfway between TKL and 60%, they keep the directional arrows and a few function keys grouped to the far right of the keyboard. We were able to test the Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini which is an example of a 65% keyboard.
We would logically recommend the use of a full-size keyboard if you are dependent on the numeric keypad, outside of your gaming uses. If the latter does not matter to you, the TKL format will be the most suitable since it retains many function keys.
Finally, if you are looking for compactness and minimalism, you should rather turn to a keyboard in 60% format. Likewise, if you want to keep the directional arrows and some shortcuts, the 65% format will be more appropriate.
Wired or wireless keyboard: how to make the right choice?
The market for gaming keyboards is welcoming more and more wireless references. Most of these keyboards use a 2,4 GHz link which requires a dongle supplied in the box. The latency logically induced by this solution is imperceptible to ordinary people and will therefore have no impact on your use.
Rather, it is the practical aspect that must be taken into account, in particular autonomy. Gaming keyboards are generally equipped with RGB lighting which will logically consume part of the battery. Despite this, some manufacturers like Logitech and Asus offer keyboards that can be used for at least a week before needing to be recharged.
Some models have triple connectivity // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Last but not least, some wireless models also have bluetooth connectivity. The latter should be reserved for office use where responsiveness is not essential. These keyboards can generally be connected to several devices at the same time, which allows a very convenient simultaneous use in everyday life.
If you don't see any point in having a wireless keyboard, don't ask yourself more questions and look to a wired model. You will enjoy cheaper references and above all you will have a lot more choice.
Conversely, if the freedom of wireless is important to you, turn to a wireless keyboard using 2,4 GHz technology without neglecting the autonomy which can quickly become a brake on use. If you plan to use your keyboard on more than one device, we advise you to use a model that also has Bluetooth.
The other characteristics of a gaming keyboard
In addition to the main characteristics that we have just discussed, manufacturers regularly seek to stand out by offering more or less original additional features. These additions, not necessarily essential, can nevertheless guide your choice.
The wrist rest will be important on some keyboards // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Depending on the thickness of the keyboard, a wrist rest can be a companion of choice. High-end keyboards usually come with a wrist rest, but unfortunately this is not always the case. This is a characteristic to take into account if comfort is of the utmost importance to you.
Not all keys are created equal! Most gaming keyboards are equipped with ABS plastic keys. The main advantage of the latter is that it is inexpensive, but it will not be as durable over time as the PBT that equips high-end keyboards. The touch is also different between these two ways, but generally speaking, if you have a choice, prefer PBT keys.
Example of the Roccat Vulcan and its transparent switches // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
Still with regard to the keys, they are generally associated with a rgb lighting. On most keyboards, each of the keys is illuminated independently of the others. Various effects are integrated and accessible thanks to the software of the brands which are all more or less equivalent. So you have little risk of being disappointed no matter which brand you choose.
For example, many gaming keyboards are equipped with multimedia control keys dedicated. The latter therefore allow you to control the playback of your audio files as well as the general volume of the system using a wheel which is often very practical.
The customizable keys often called macro keys are not as popular as they used to be. However, there are still some keyboard references with several keys that can be customized as needed. We are thinking in particular of shortcuts for MMORPGs, but these keys can also show their interest in certain software such as the Adobe suite to name but one.
The Apex range from SteelSeries is equipped with an OLED screen // Source: Edouard Patout for Idroid
SteelSeries, for example, equips its high-end keyboards with a customizable screen. The latter is used to display information related to games or certain applications. It is also possible to display a personalized image. More recently, Corsair also offered the Nexus, a small touch screen to be added to its keyboard.