Gamers today need the best gear to compete. In this article we have collected the best gaming keyboards, and researched their competitive performance. We have come a long way since the early days of Brood War, where the most dedicated players had to import mechanical keyboards from South Korea.
The market has since exploded and today there is so many models to choose from. Let’s find the best keyboard for gaming in 2017!
This is the first release of our research and it was published April 13th 2017.
Best Gaming Keyboard: Corsair K95 RGB Platinum
We have found that the best gaming keyboard for most people is the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum. This mechanical keyboard has all the features a demanding player could ask for, and flawless build quality.
From macro-keys, ergonomic wrist rest, RGB-lighting to powerful software and Cherry MX switches. When it comes to premium keyboards there is nothing that beats the mechanical switches from Cherry MX.
Best Esports Keyboard: SteelSeries Apex M500 (Editor’s Pick)
The best keyboard for aspiring esports professionals is the SteelSeries Apex M500. This minimalist gaming keyboard pays homage to its legacy. When we did our research we found that the most popular keyboard amongst professionals is still the older model 6GV2, which has since been removed from the market.
This keyboard is pure quality. There are no extra features that the comfortable gamer probably would like. In return it does what it is supposed to do, perform and last forever. (This is also why it’s become our personal favourite).
Best Tenkeyless Gaming Keyboard: Corsair K65 RGB
The best gaming keyboard for people with small desks is the Corsair K65 RGB. Joking aside this keyboard with a removed num-pad, is the best keyboard for gamers who wants to place their buttons closer to the mousepad.
Other than the obvious design qualities the K65 has the same loved features and build quality as the Corsair K70 RGB, which is still one of the most loved keyboards on the market. All of this makes it easy for us to recommend this mechanical keyboard.
Why you need a good keyboard
Having the best gaming keyboard is key to become a champion. The market is moving fast and modern key switches are faster than ever. There is also a lot of variations available on the market making it harder than ever to find a layout and set of switches that best suits your needs.
Depending on what games you are playing the choice becomes even harder. Different keyboards are made with different genres in mind. Extra macro keys may be an advantage to get world firsts in MMO’s, but if you travel around the world to compete in FPS games such keys are rarely needed.
Before you start looking for your future keyboard you need to decide how you are going to use it. Are you going to travel with your keyboard? Do you prefer a tenkeyless design for better portability, and easier placement closer to the mousepad?
Do you play a game where you need a lot of macro keys? MMOs like World of Warcraft tend to use a lot of different skills for various tasks in-game. Having dedicated macro-keys on the keyboard could give you an advantage.
Do you care for having your gaming setup color matched? The latest trend in gaming gear is RGB LEDs all over the place. Almost all the premium keyboard on the market offer this option today.
Every competitive gamer in our research uses a mechanical keyboard. In today’s market there are many different switches to choose from. And there is also the factor of personal preference.
A few years ago there was only one manufacturer on the market. Cherry has made it’s Cherry MX switches since way back in the 80’s. Back then their mechanical switches was primarily used in airport terminals. During the golden era of StarCraft Brood War, professional esports players picked up these keyboards, and made the mainstream aware of its competitive advantage.
Fast forward to 2017 and now there is quite some competition in the market. Cherry MX is still the most popular switch but Logitech, SteelSeries and Razer has manufactured their own challengers. Logitech has the ROMER-G, SteelSeries has its QS1 and Razer currently has 3 different options available in the Razer Green, Yellow and Orange mechanical switches.
When you need to make fine adjustments to the functionality of your keyboard, you need to use the provided software. All the major manufacturers today have a complete software suite for all of their peripherals.
The software controls everything from macro keys to button backlighting. When doing these adjustments, maybe during gameplay it’s important that the software is responsive and intuitive. No one wants to read the manual in order to navigate the interface.
Another thing to take into consideration is how well the application deals with mobility. Can the user load her settings onto the built-in memory or is it necessary to be connected, and logged into a cloud account. Professionals need to have this all sorted before going out to LAN tournaments.
Logitech has one of the best software suites on the market. Razer has got some criticism over the years because their Synapse software requires login, and is always connected to the cloud. SteelSeries has made it easy for user to opt out of connected account which is good.
Corsair has provided a very complicated piece of software, and their keyboard needs a complete manual for users to fully understand its features. The complexity has gotten better in more recent versions though.
How did we find the best gaming keyboard
As usual we researched the internet to find the most popular gaming keyboard amongst the best competitive players.
Then we ran the results through our first scan, eliminating models that no longer are available on the market. Comparing them to newer models that improves upon the familiar concepts.
After securing a list of a handful keyboards we reached out to players for comments and personal experiences.
Not all famous gamers are professional esports players. When doing our research we are also looking for popular, competitive gamers in the community, and what gear they use.
We are constantly identifying the gear used by the biggest streamers on Twitch, and popular personalities on Youtube and more!
These fine folks put in the hours, and they need the best gaming keyboard to perform during long gaming sessions.
We who writes these articles here on Gamingparagons.com are all passionate gamers and we always take the opportunity to try out new gear. Throughout the years we have tried all different kinds of keyboards and that has given us a good idea on what is working, and what is not.
After we have identified the most popular keyboards currently available we start comparing them using professional reviews. These journalist have made it their careers to quantify and test the gear in order to find the best keyboards for gaming.
Reviewers from the biggest publications online have access to the tools necessary to go in-depth with their examination of the hardware. They also have the means to compare one keyboard to another side by side.
After reading our extensive research, and looking at our picks, it is now time for you to make a decision (hopefully a qualified one!).
What are the main priorities for you when making a decision? Do a review of your play style and compare the results with our findings.
Corsair K95 RGB Platinum: The Best Gaming Keyboard Overall
When trying to find the best gaming keyboard overall there is a lot of thing to consider. According to our research this is the most versatile keyboards on the market.
“It is very difficult to find a real flaw about the new K95 RGB Platinum as a device. We cannot ask for a feature that it does not already have and its programming capabilities are virtually endless. It would be no exaggeration to claim that the K95 RGB Platinum may be the prime candidate for the title of the best mechanical gaming keyboard at this point of time.” – E. Fylladitakis, Anandtech
This keyboard is currently one of the most feature-rich gaming keyboards on the market. Although Corsair decided to cut down on the amount of macro keys, compared to the last version, there is still plenty left for all of your MMO needs.
We really like that Corsair decided to stick with Cherry MX switches. This choice actually sets Corsair apart from competing keyboards made by Logitech and Razer, and others. This decision also makes this a proper premium keyboard. We think it’s worth it if you really want the best keyboard on the market.
“Expectations, then, are high, and Corsair delivers many of the features that enthusiast gamers come to expect. The highlights include dedicated macro keys, RGB backlighting, precise Cherry MX switches, robust build quality and contoured keycaps for your style of gaming.” – Parm Mann, Hexus
The canals on the bottom of the keyboard is awesome for routing any cables to avoid interference during gameplay.
We did not like the thick cable. We understand it’s needed for the USB pass through in the back of the keyboard, but it is really bulky and is hard to work with. This is something that most reviewers are noting as well.
We also did not like the aesthetics of the new font on the key caps. The thick letters seem a little bit off. The overall design of a gaming keyboard like this will get strong opinions, not everyone likes the RGB lights and the bold layout. Our personal opinions is that we like more minimalist design in our gaming peripherals.
The software has come a long way since it was first introduced. It is now easier than ever to use and the CUE software now controls all of your Corsair peripherals.
“Over the past year or so Corsair has been going strong with updates and overhauling the software. The latest update honestly looks good, feels good and is so much more user-friendly that I can now finally classify it as a proper software suite.” – Hilbert Hagedoorn, Guru3D
This keyboard often gets compared to Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 because of its similar feature set. However in all the videos and comparison reviews we have looked at the Corsair always comes out on top.
“Overall, then, the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum is a great success. It has a lot of new features, yet it retains the core of what has made Corsair keyboards so successful in the past.” – Dominic Moass, KitGuru
SteelSeries Apex M500: The best esports keyboard (Editor’s choice)
During our research we found an outstanding number of esports professionals still using the SteelSeries 6GV2. This keyboard gave the phrase “built like a tank” a whole new meaning. This keyboard was one of the first models to embrace the mechanical switches for gaming.
If you are upgrading your keyboard today you should look for the newer version called Apex M500. This keyboard builds upon the legacy of the 6GV2 and improves a few key aspects. And it is the best gaming keyboard SteelSeries has on the market today.
“The APEX M500 being a Pro-Gaming mechanical keyboard tells you right in the name its true intentions, and for games, and at this price, we feel SteelSeries is on point. The fact of the matter is, after a couple of weeks on the desk, we got very comfortable with the APEX M500.” – Chad Sebring, Tweaktown
This model still uses Cherry MX switches, compared to the Apex M800 which uses SteelSeries own proprietary mechanical switch QS1. By going with the industry standard the Apex M500 guarantees flawless functionally no matter what conditions.
Because this keyboard is so specialised towards esports it lacks some of the conveniences of a more versatile keyboard. There are no macro keys and no USB pass through.
Also, because the Apex M500 only features blue LEDs it’s harder to get your whole battle station color coordinated.
“Lacks dedicated macro keys. Backlighting is only blue and occasionally uneven.” – Victoria Song, PCMag
The quote below sums up the software situation pretty nicely.
“For simpler macros and layout changes however, the SteelSeries Engine works great. It is a very simple, smooth and stable piece of software that has great potential should the company decides to throw some more resources into it.” – E. Fylladitakis, Anandtech
To summarise this is a very clean-looking, and high performing gaming keyboard. We really like to focus on performance on this model. Millions of color variations and macro keys are hard necessary to become a champion in today’s most popular esports titles.
This is our editor’s pick!
“The SteelSeries M500 is a sleek, minimalist mechanical gaming keyboard that is comfortable, customizable, and reasonably priced.” – Victoria Song, Pcmag
Corsair K65 RGB: The Best Tenkeyless Keyboard
Tenkeyless keyboards have become a favourite amongst gamers lately. The removal of the num-pad not only makes the footprint of the keyboard smaller, but also makes it easier to position the board closer to the mousepad. The numerical keys on the right side are rarely used anyway.
The best tenkeyless, or TKL-keyboard we have found is the Corsair K65 RGB. It has a similar design as our pick for the best overall gaming keyboard – the Corsair K96 RGB Platinum – but without the macro keys and numpad. This also makes this keyboard cheaper.
As with the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum the cable is really thick. It’s hard to find a good way to route the cable to the case. Corsair needs to look into this going forward if the want to continue stay on top as the best gaming keyboard.
Lately Corsair has developed their CUE software quite a lot. It is now a pleasant experience to use.
“The CUE software is the universal and perhaps the most important feature of all Corsair Gaming peripherals. It is a well-written software with myriads of options, satisfying the new user and the seasoned expert alike” – E. Fylladitakis, Anandtech
Depending on your preferred mechanical switch the Corsair K65 RGB should have an option for most people. By utilizing the Cherry MX family and a solid aluminium build this is one of the best gaming keyboards money can buy.
“I’m still not a fan of the Rapidfire (Cherry MX Speed) switches, but I really like Corsair keyboards, so if I were going to buy a tenkeyless (compact), then the K65 would top the list, but I’d get it in Cherry MX Red” – Rocket Jump Ninja
Logitech G Pro: The new tenkeyless challenger
The Logitech G Pro is the newest competitor in the race for the best gaming keyboard. This model is made specifically for esports, according to Logitech.
The G Pro features a minimal approach similar to the Apex M500, and it is also a tenkeyless design similar to the K65 RGB. Though the industrial design is toned down, the keyboard still features full RGB lighting for every individual key.
The G Pro features Logitech’s own proprietary mechanical switch called ROMER-G. The ROMER-G feels a lot like the Cherry MX Brown switches. While it can’t challenge Cherry in overall performance, Logitech’s own switch is a worthy contender.
“[…]What I do notice is how good the keys feel, with their smooth key caps and soft and meaty mechanical click.” – Mike Fahey, Kotaku
Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2: Runner up, best overall gaming keyboard
The Razer BlackWidow series of keyboards are probably the most sold gaming keyboard ever. And it definitely deserves to be mentioned in a round-up like this.
“The Razer BlackWidow Chroma V2 is a high-end gaming keyboard that boasts plenty of color and function customization options, and keys that feel good for both work and play.” – Matthew Buzzi, Pcmag
Razer started to produce their own mechanical switches a while back, in cooperation with a chinese manufacturer. While the first version was really bad and prone to technical failures, Razer has since started working with another company and they are now a serious contender.
The Razer Blackwidow Chroma V2 is such a popular keyboard. And the features are great. However during our research we always found that the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum is always compared to this model, and the K95 is always the winner.
“As such, we must conclude this review. Taken in isolation, the BlackWidow Chroma V2 is a solid keyboard – but when it is compared to both its predecessor and its main rivals, it starts to look less appealing.” – Dominic Moass, Kitguru
Most comparisons end at the fact that while they are very similar in specs, the Corsair keyboards wins because of its Cherry MX switches. In the end these switches justifies the additional cost.
The future of gaming keyboards
We are going to get more lights. Seemingly infinite color options seems to be where we are heading in the future. Almost every keyboard that we have looked at for this articles has recently been upgraded with an RGB option.
This is something that you either are going to love, (or hate). Not all gamers like to have their gaming station to light up like christmas tree, but there is certainly a lot of people who do. Luckily for the rest of us, the LEDs can usually be turned off in the software.
Companies are going to keep challenging Cherry with cheaper and more specialised mechanical switches. Most of the major brands already have their own adaptation, and most of the are getting really good.
We do still think it’s going to be hard to challenge Cherry when it comes to premium switches. The specialised researchers in germany has made their MX switches for many decades by now, and they constantly iterate in order to preserve their place as the #1.
Gaming keyboard guide
Cherry MX Mechanical Switch
The industry standard. When it comes to pure performance it’s really hard for anyone to challenge the German manufacturers.
Cherry MX Red is the most popular mechanical switch for gaming. It has proven its place in the top for many years now. The MX Red requires less pressure than the similar Black switch, and it counters fatigue in the fingers. It does not have any tactile “clicky” sound when it actuates.
Cherry MX Brown is a balanced keyboard switch that is commonly used for both typing and gaming. It is similar to the Cherry MX Blue but it has a more toned down tactile feedback making it more silent. This is often preferred when mashing buttons during intense gameplay.
Cherry MX Speed is the newest addition to the Cherry MX family. It is made specifically for responsive gameplay
The challenger from Logitech. These proprietary switches feels a lot like the Cherry MX Brown. This is certainly very good and we are looking forward to collecting more data on how they perform over time.
Razer Mechanical Switches
Comes in 3 different variations. Razer has worked with a few different companies in the past, and their current supplier are delivering on the quality
Razer Yellow is the mechanical option from Razer that most closely resembles the Cherry MX switches used for gaming. It’s a linear switch and has a silent operation.
Razer Orange is equipped with a tactile bump, and the mechanical switch is silent. It is more suited for streaming and during voice communication due to it being less noisy.
Razer Green features a tactile bump and has a clicky sound when pressed. The activation point is shorter than normal for a more responsive gaming experience.