Most gamers are picky creatures, especially when it comes to the peripherals they use for gaming—which may not be more true anywhere than it is for keyboards. If you have a gamer on your holiday shopping list and know they need a new board, however, don’t stress—we have you covered.
What to Look for in a Gaming Keyboard
Here are a few general things to consider when selecting a gaming keyboard.
- Switches: The vast majority of gaming keyboards will have mechanical switches, typically either “clicky” or “linear”. Linear switches tend to be preferable to gamers because they’re smooth and accurate, but clicky switches are also loved for their satisfying sounds. Tactile switches have a noticeable tactile bump when pushed down and tend to be preferred for typing, but are also serviceable for gaming.
- Layout: There are many keyboard layouts out there, but the most common ones for gaming keyboards are the standard full-size and “tenkeyless” boards—full-size keyboards without the Numpad. There are still other layouts to choose from though, such as compact layouts like 60% that aim to make the keyboard smaller (we’ll talk more about that later).
- Key Programming: Being able to program a button on a keyboard to do whatever you want is extremely useful to gamers. Whether it’s moving an input to a more convenient location or creating a macro to do something useful, keyboards that feature key programming are definitely worth prioritizing. This is done through companion software and we’ll be sure to link to each keyboard’s software in their respective sections.
- Additional Features: Stuff like RGB lighting and dedicated media controls aren’t necessary by any means, but they are fantastic bonus features to have around. So while not having stuff like this isn’t a deal-breaker, it certainly gives the keyboard bonus points if it does feature them.
Best Overall: Corsair K100
The K100 has it all—solid aluminum frame, RGB lighting, multimedia buttons, removable magnetic wrist rest, and even a dial that can be reprogrammed to do whatever you want. You can reprogram every key in Corsair iCUE, and there are six dedicated “G” keys for additional functions, including Elgato StreamDeck actions (useful for people who want to stream their games on platforms like Twitch). The K100 definitely has the additional features down, and with the Cherry MX Speed Silver linear switches, gamers of all kinds are sure to love this extravagant board.
Corsair K100 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - Cherry MX Speed RGB Silver Keyswitches - AXON Hyper-Processing Technology for 4X Faster Throughput - 44-Zone RGB LightEdge - PBT Double-Shot Keycaps
A feature-packed keyboard that doesn't sacrifice on core performance.
Best Compact Board: Ducky One 2 Mini v2
When it comes to saving desk space, the Ducky One 2 Mini V2 has you covered. Using the ultra-compact 60% layout, this keyboard shaves off the function row, Numpad, navigation keys, and arrow keys to save quite a lot of space. And when it comes to gaming, those keys aren’t all that necessary. But even then, you’re not completely losing access to these keys either as they can be accessed through a variety of key shortcuts printed on the side of the keycaps.
The Ducky One 2 Mini V2 also features fully programmable RGB backlighting customizable through key combinations you can find in the user manual. There’s also a large selection of switches available from the gamer-friendly Kalih Speed Pro Burgundy and Speed Copper linear switches to the more standard Cherry MX linear Red and clicky Blue switches.
Best Wireless Board: Logitech G915 TKL
Logitech’s done a fantastic job eliminating wireless latency with its “LIGHTSPEED Wireless”. This feature alone makes the slim and sleek G915 a great gaming keyboard, but combine that with 12 reprogrammable keys (the function keys), a slew of media controls, and full RGB lighting and you’ve got a great overall package. The battery lasts for about 40 hours with RGB lighting on and you have the choice of three low-profile switches: Clicky, Linear, or Tactile.
If there’s anything unappealing about the G915 it’s definitely the price. This keyboard isn’t cheap, so if you don’t mind being limited to tactile switches and only having six programmable keys then the Logitech G613 is another great option as it still has LIGHTSPEED wireless. There’s also the full-size version of the G915 which also has a wired version. When it comes to reprogramming the G915 and G613 you’ll want to install Logitech G Hub.
Logitech G915 TKL Tenkeyless Lightspeed Wireless RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Low Profile Switch Options, LIGHTSYNC RGB, Advanced Wireless and Bluetooth Support - Clicky
A slim and sleek keyboard with Logitech's latency-cutting LIGHTSPEED wireless tech.
Best Non-Mechanical Board: HyperX Alloy Core
Most gaming keyboards nowadays are mechanical, but if you know that just won’t do for the person you’re shopping for then the Alloy Core from HyperX is a great choice. This keyboard uses the membrane switches you’d find on most standard keyboards, however, it still has plenty of features up its sleeve to appeal to gamers. There are five zones of RGB lighting (colors and effects customizable through HyperX NGenuity), media controls. and anti-ghosting to ensure every keypress is accurately read. The keyboard is also quieter than the other boards and waterproof for up to 120 milliliters of liquid.
HyperX Alloy Core RGB – Membrane Gaming Keyboard, Comfortable Quiet Silent Keys with RGB LED Lighting Effects, Spill Resistant, Dedicated Media Keys, Compatible with Windows 10/8.1/8/7 – Black
A membrane keyboard that keeps the gamer-friendly features of other keyboards.
Best Budget Board: Redragon K552
The K552 is a solid keyboard for the price. It features a tenkeyless layout, linear red switches, and LED Rainbow backlighting. While there aren’t really any unique features to speak of, that’s more than acceptable considering the price. Getting a mechanical keyboard of any sort of quality for under $40 is great, and the K552 is a beyond serviceable gaming keyboard even without some of the features of flashier boards.
Redragon K552 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard RGB LED Rainbow Backlit Wired Keyboard with Red Switches for Windows Gaming PC (87 Keys, Black)
A solid keyboard for a low price.