As much as we’d like to believe the old adage about a carpenter and their tools, if you want to take your gameplay to the next level, better equipment is a necessity. Just as a great gaming mouse ensures rocksteady aim, a proper gaming keyboard has quick, responsive keys to precisely execute your movements.
From strafing to crouching to placing items, not just any old keyboard will do. Dedicated gaming keyboards offer more comfort, precise control, and added functionality over the average keyboard, making it easy to streamline abilities in MMOs, dodge bullets in first-person shooter titles, or move players around in strategy games.
The keyboards we recommend are all highly rated by both reviewers and consumers, providing the best gaming keyboard performance on the market with responsive touch and high customizability so you can dial in the perfect profile for each game you play.
For more great keyboards check out our picks for the best RGB keyboards, 60 percent keyboards, and 65 percent keyboards.
The Best Gaming Keyboards
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What to Consider
Short of building a mechanical keyboard with your own layout design and key covers, purchasing a factory gaming keyboard gives you plenty of advanced customization options.
Beyond aesthetic choices like lighting, you can program key bindings to perform menu shortcuts with a single press. These streamlined commands help you better focus on the in-game action.
Outside of gaming, the addition of macro keys, a.k.a. programmable keys, can help you create productivity shortcuts in all of your programs. If you often use video editing software to edit gameplay clips, you can assign actions to macro buttons so you can create content faster. This is especially handy if you plan on using your gaming keyboard for everyday use, too.
Beyond individual key settings, some gaming keyboards include keyboard profiles with specific key functions and lighting tailored to each game you play. For example, a Cyberpunk-themed profile might set your keyboard to a neon yellow glow with the Q button bound to a quick attack.
Most first-person shooters would map the Q button to a special ability or cover, but with individualized profile bindings, you can program each button to perform your desired actions. Certain titles, such as Diablo III, can even use your keyboard’s RGB lighting to indicate when you cast a spell or when your character is in low health for increased immersion.
With tons of keys and lighting options, your keyboard’s body size determines just how many extra buttons or light sections can fit.
Key Switch Types
Mechanical keyboards use three different types of switches for feedback: tactile (usually brown), clicky (usually blue), and linear (usually red).
Tactile switches provide a small bump and subdued clack to confirm registered keystrokes. They are the most popular because they offer the feedback of clicky switches with speed similar to linear switches.
Clicky switches have a higher actuation pressure requirement to reduce typos while writing, a big bump for validation, and a signature loud click that’s music to any typist’s ears but a bane to coworkers’ and housemates’.
Linear speed switches are great for gaming because they’re smooth with minimal resistance and have none of the noise of a brown or blue switch. People often bottom out on these red or silver keys since there’s no clear indication you’ve triggered their actuation point. Linear keys fire off on all cylinders, but they’re not so great for typing because their zippiness can cause typos.
Non-Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Options
Membrane keys aren’t mechanical at all and rely on a single mechanism underneath all the keys to register presses. Some people complain that membrane inputs feel mushy, but they have a longer life than mechanical keys and cost much less since there’s no intricate system of moving parts.
It can be tempting to go for a cheap gaming keyboard and save the extra cash for a better gaming PC or monitor, but higher-quality mechanical switches—in addition to more durable materials, like aluminum, in your keyboard—will improve your performance, provide a sturdier base, and increase your reaction speeds.
How We Selected
As Popular Mechanics’ resident consumer tech expert and a lifetime gaming enthusiast, I’ve gone hands-on with some of the most popular gaming keyboards over the years. I prefer the snappiness of mechanical switches, but I’ve come around to membrane options for their quiet and fast keys.
This article reflects my own list of the best gaming keyboards that I created to narrow down my next keyboard purchase. Although I decided on the excellent Corsair K95 Platinum XT with speed silver switches, everybody is different, and you should prioritize what matters to you in terms of functionality and size constraints.
Beyond the personal experience of our consumer tech experts, we also researched reliable sources such as Tech Radar, PC Mag, and PC Gamer, and read consumer reviews to select the top gaming keyboards. We’ve included a range of options to meet different budgets and preferences so you can find the one that’s right for you.
The Apex Pro leads the pack with its OLED smart display screen, sophisticated design, and tunable actuation force for each individual key. You read that right—you can control the pre-travel distance of each key with ease.
Whether you want to reduce typos at a higher actuation point or ensure rapid typing at a minimal one, this feature works well and is incredibly unique. It’s quiet and comfortable—not to mention highly customizable using SteelSeries’ Engine software, which lets you create extensive profiles and customize everything from key bindings to the information shown on the OLED screen.
You can use the screen as an in-game HUD for compatible games, a monitor for apps like Discord, or even as a GIF display. Although it definitely falls on the expensive side, you get features and appearance equal to the investment.
For an entry level mechanical keyboard that won’t break the bank, the Logitech G413 mechanical keyboard is a great pick. You won’t get all the bells and whistles of more expensive models, but the G413’s Romer-G switches deliver a tactile feel that’s comparable to brown switches.
The keyboard is also very responsive, with just 1.5-mm key travel distance. Other highlights include full function keys or things like controlling volume and skipping tracks and a sleek form factor thanks to its aluminum-magnesium alloy top case that serves as the backbone.
With an ultra-thin design, low-profile keys, and a slick, brushed aluminum chassis, the G915 TKL is the ultimate compact wireless gaming keyboard. Each key press registers instantaneously at a speed faster than one millisecond using Logitech’s Lightspeed technology.
Although the tenkeyless design cuts the number pad, Logitech still provides dedicated media keys. The low-profile keys give you the feeling of a mechanical keyboard without the bulk of a full-sized body.
With more room to maneuver your mouse, a battery that lasts for hours, and fully customizable RGB backlighting, the G915 TKL is a slick travel companion. Although we wish there were a wrist rest and more macro functionality considering the price, this is a high-quality board that will survive travel. Whether you’re heading to an esports tournament or moving your setup to a different room in your house, the G915 is a portable powerhouse.
The Black Widow V3 is one of the best gaming keyboards available. The Pro model makes a good keyboard great by adding lag-free wireless performance. Blending extensive features, snappy keys, and durable construction, the Black Widow V3 Pro is the best built wireless gaming keyboard and a pleasure to use.
Its full-sized body packs full-height keys to match for an unaltered typing experience anywhere you go. Complete with mechanical tactile green switches, the 50-gram actuation requirement offers a satisfying bump and feedback while typing and gaming.
Dedicated media keys with a customizable multifunction dial, a plush magnetic wrist rest, and double-shot ABS keycaps round out a comfortable high-performance package. Its size makes it difficult to travel with, and you’re paying a premium to cut the cord over its equally excellent wired edition, but the Black Widow Pro V3 Pro brings a masterclass silhouette into the next generation by cutting the cable.
The Corsair K95 Platinum XT has just about everything you could want, including powerful macro keys that are compatible with Elgato’s Stream Deck software and a cushioned synthetic leather wrist rest.
It features a sleek, brushed aluminum chassis with a standard 104 keys, including a row of dedicated media keys. Paired with Cherry MX speed silver switches, this model offers one of the fastest inputs with minimal key travel.
The plush wrist rest breathes well, making it one of the most comfortable around for extended gaming sessions. In order to customize your keyboard, you can use Corsair Utility Engine software to change the color and create game profiles. The RGB lighting is also incredibly versatile and can be made as outrageously tacky as your gamer heart desires.
Reddragon’s K585 Diti cuts your average keyboard in half. Although MMO or ability-based game players might lament the shortage of buttons, first-person shooter fans will appreciate the smaller footprint and streamlined control scheme for maximum focus during competitive play.
You have direct access to every action key in a slim and tactile format. Making up for the lost keys, you can customize seven macro keys for quick commands or abilities. The keyboard is wireless, but it lacks Bluetooth support.
In practice, the key travel and bump feel great, as does the magnetic wrist rest that supports you during marathon gaming sessions. The Diti is an impressive standalone keyboard that’s functional, aesthetically pleasing and customizable, but you’ll still need to keep an actual keyboard handy to type in the team chat.
For a mid-range gaming keyboard, the Vulcan 120 doesn’t disappoint. To start, it’s an incredible machine wrapped in a stunning package. The aluminum body, RBG lighting, and exposed keys give the board a truly unique and somewhat industrial look.
The Roccat Titan switches are similar to Cherry MX brown switches, but the company claims they reduce bounce time by 20% for faster gameplay and typing. There aren’t any macro keys, so if you prefer to have them, look elsewhere.
The Vulcan also comes with an attachable wrist rest, but you might be better served changing it out for a different padded one as this is made of a hard plastic.
Razer’s Turret all-in-one lapboard combines a cordless, tactile green switch keyboard with a high-performance wireless mouse for a tactical battle station meant to be used from your couch. Marketed specifically for gaming consoles, there’s even a dedicated Xbox dashboard button.
A magnetic mouse pad retracts for easy storage but slides right out for play time. We wish there was more support for Xbox One titles, but Xbox Dynamic Lighting ensures color-changing immersion in the titles that do support the board. Plus, the Turret works even better on PC, so feel free to plug your gaming rig into a TV and dive into your backlog.
The Everest Max is completely customizable—at any given time, you can change the switch type and the keyboard’s size. Add the number pad for a full-sized experience while you work. If you like to listen to music or podcasts during the day, attach the media dock controls to the left or right side of the keyboard based on your preference.
For added comfort, a magnetic PU-leather wrist rest provides support for extended sessions and is removed easily for travel or when you need more room on your work surface. Granted, the price is eye-popping. But the quality aluminum construction, hot-swappable switches, advanced Base Camp customization software, and a USB Type-C connector ensure that this keyboard will last for years to come.
Amazon best-sellers can be hit or miss, but Klim’s Chroma Wireless delivers on its promise of speedy response times and impressive lighting for an unbelievably low price. Although we’d die on any hill about the superiority of mechanical switches, the Klim Chroma’s silent strokes, low response time, and reactive keys make for a convincing argument in favor of membrane keyboards.
The slim ABS chassis is durable, waterproof against spills, and aesthetically pleasing with strong RGB backlighting. Key presses register quickly, and reviewers are impressed by the snappy, not mushy feedback.
This is the most affordable keyboard on this list, but those savings will cost you Bluetooth connectivity. Chroma features a function button for shortcuts like volume control on the F-keys. Despite its light weight, this is a full-sized keyboard complete with a number pad.
Hunter Fenollol, our resident expert of all things consumer tech, from smart home to VR gaming headsets, has years of knowledge creating product explainers, in-depth reviews, and buying guides to help you get the most from the latest electronics. Throughout college, he covered and reviewed the latest gadget releases for sites like Tom’s Guide, Laptop Magazine, and CNN Underscored. If he’s not elbow-deep in the latest hardware, you can find Hunter at one of Long Island’s many beaches, in Manhattan, or gambling away his paycheck.
Stephen Slaybaugh is a writer and editor with more than 25 years of experience. He specializes in covering consumer tech, and in addition to Popular Mechanics, has written for such publications as Digital Trends, DealNews, and TechRadar. He is also a published music writer and has contributed to Paste, The Village Voice, and The Big Takeover, among others. Stephen holds an MA in Digital Media from London Metropolitan University and in his free time publishes a music webzine, The Agit Reader.