Best gaming keyboards: Our picks for the top budget, mid-tier, and RGB boards

We’ve sifted through the latest and greatest to come up with our top recommendations.

Rob Schultz/IDG
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Corsair’s also slimmed down the old K90 a bit, scraping two columns of macro keys off the left side for a much more manageable desk footprint. It keeps other features we loved from Corsair’s keyboards though, including the volume roller and media keys in the upper left, plus a generous rubberized wrist rest that’s more comfortable than it looks.

And it’s worth calling out Corsair’s semi-proprietary Cherry MX Speed switch, too. (I say semi-proprietary because you can find the same design under the name MX Silver from other manufacturers.) The MX Speed switch is a linear design, but has even less resistance than longtime gaming favorite Cherry Reds. Your fingers will fly over these switches, a fact that’s good for gaming but somewhat problematic for actual typing—even a feather-light touch can accidentally trigger a keypress. The resistance is that low.

I came to love the MX Speed switch though after spending a few weeks with it. It’ll never replace my beloved Cherry Blues for typing, but in concert with everything else the K95 RGB Platinum has to offer? It almost makes $200 for a keyboard seem like a sane amount to spend. Almost. (Read the.)


Why so many Cherry recommendations?

If you’ve done any research before finding this guide, you’ll have seen the many options outside of our topic picks—like those $30 mechanical keyboards on Amazon.

Chances are, if you’ve found something that steeply undercuts our top choices, it’s not using Cherry MX switches, but rather a knock-off. These have proliferated since Cherry’s patent expired in 2014, and you’ll find a ton of brands on the market. Outemu, Kailh, Gateron, and Razer’s versions are some of the most common.

So far, knock-off Cherry switches have earned a reputation for being less consistent and less durable over time. It’s hard to to tell whether those claims are based in fact or stem from Internet hyperbole. Regardless, it makes it hard to recommend that el-cheapo $50 Outemu board on Amazon.

Beyond quality claims, the switches themselves can have stark differences. For instance, Kailh switches tend to require more actuation force than their Cherry counterparts, while Outemu Blues have a reputation for being incredibly noisy. Of all the knock-offs, Gaterons are the ones that have received the most positive Internet buzz, but we’ve yet to test them here.

Other switches out there encompass both new (Logitech’s Romer-Gs) and classic (buckling spring, ALPS), and they could appeal to you and your budget. But Cherry MX and Cherry knock-offs cover most of the market, especially the gaming market I’m steeped in as our PC gaming reporter, so that’s the focus here. Sorry, all you buckling-spring fanatics.

How we tested

Each keyboard we’ve reviewed is used over the course of weeks—I’ll type out some articles, play some games, and generally put them through hell. During that time, I keep in mind the following criteria:

Switches: As you may have already noticed through the rest of this guide, Cherry’s mechanical MX switches dominate as a preference. That’s because they’re reliable, durable, and consistent. You also typically have a fairly decent of options among the four common variants—there’s the tactile and clicky Blues, the tactile but quieter Browns, the heavy linear Blacks, and the light linear Reds.

Other switches aren’t automatically disqualified, but few stand out as strongly as Cherry MX switches. If you really require an alternative, Razer’s Green switches are a decent stand-in for Cherry Blues and the SteelSeries QS1 is a good Cherry Red alternative. The only switch we don’t recommend is Logitech’s proprietary Romer-G switch, due to its unsatisfying tactile feedback.

Design: On the whole, “office-friendly” designs are much more universal than keyboards that offer superfluous features or design elements. Legibility of the typeface on keycaps also factors into our final take.

High-end features: Fabric-sheathed cables, macro keys, media keys, N-key rollover, game mode, USB passthrough, audio hub—there are plenty of secondary features that can elevate a keyboard above its competitors. We keep an eye out for which actually work out well in practice.

All of our keyboard reviews

Want to see what else we’ve reviewed? We’ll keep updating this on a regular basis, so be sure to come back to see new products that we’ve put through their paces.

This story, "Best gaming keyboards: Our picks for the top budget, mid-tier, and RGB boards" was originally published by PCWorld.

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