PC gaming offers many benefits. Being able to use your choice of a wide variety of high-quality peripherals is one of them. You can play PC games with just about any keyboard, but a good gaming keyboard facilitates greater economy of movement, provides you with powerful macro tools and ensures that every keystroke registers and grants you satisfying tactile feedback. Above all, you want a keyboard that is well-designed - it should feel like it can take a beating. The best gaming keyboards let you map dozens of macro keys so you can simplify complicated key combinations down to one keystroke, and customize backlighting options to give you control over the look and functionality of backlights.
The best gaming keyboards we looked at are the Corsair Vengeance K95, Roccat Ryos MK Pro and Logitech G710+. If you want to learn how to make the most of your gaming keyboard, check out our articles about gaming keyboards.
As with most PC hardware, gaming keyboards run a gamut of specs and features. With so many options, you need to know what your preferences are. Some gamers enjoy backlighting and being able to change the backlighting color on their keyboards, while others would rather have more robust macro commands. Many gamers like mechanical keyboards, but some do not. We included a wide variety of keyboards in our review, so there should be something in it for every gamer. We rated each product based on universal benefit, regardless of the type of game you're playing. We broke the reviews down into the following categories.
The special features are what make gaming keyboards stand out from normal keyboards, and from each other. Perhaps the most prominent feature for gamers is key rollover. This is the number of keys that can register simultaneously. If a gaming keyboard touts 10KRO (10-key rollover), that means you can press 10 keys at the same time and every single one will show up in a text document. Many gaming keyboards are limited to 6KRO, but the best gaming keyboards feature NKRO, which means all keys can register at the same time.
You should also look for dedicated media keys, as you don't want to fumble with any function commands to control your music in the middle of a game. Most high-end gaming keyboards come with some form of backlighting. Where the best gaming keyboards differentiate themselves is in the ability to control that backlighting. Some keyboards allow you to change the backlight color generally, while others give you control over every individual LED.
Perhaps the most important part of a gaming keyboard's design is what kind of switches lie underneath the keys. Mechanical switches are more durable, accurate and responsive than membrane switches, which are cheaper to manufacture. Most PC gamers prefer mechanical keyboards because they give stronger tactile feedback. The most common mechanical switches are Cherry MX switches. They come in a range of colors, each color representing different attributes. For example, the blue switches require a hard press and give loud, unmistakable feedback, while red switches require little actuation force and are quiet. We generally rated mechanical keyboards higher than their membrane counterparts.
Other things to consider include a keyboard's dimensions and weight, especially if you have limited space around your monitor. We also checked whether the keyboards included a braided cable or not. A braided cable lengthens the life of a keyboard and reduces cable clutter underneath your desk. A good gaming keyboard also comes with a built-in USB hub so you can plug a headset directly into it.
One of the benefits gaming keyboards offer is the ability to customize. Most gaming keyboards offer at least a few dedicated macro keys that you can assign multi-command functions to. The best gaming keyboards include macro keys, as well as the ability to save and switch between profiles. This means you can set up macros for different games, save the profiles and have access to different macros on the same keys for different games. Many gaming keyboards also come with software that allows you to create those profiles and change keyboard settings within a graphical user interface.
With any PC hardware, you should pay attention to how long the warranty lasts. The best gaming keyboards should last you for at least five years, so if they wear out before that, make sure the warranty is still valid. You should also be able to reach customer support quickly and easily. These keyboards aren't always simple plug-and-play, as their customization software can get quite complex.
As you strive to improve your gaming skills, don't let your hardware limit you. A gaming keyboard is a powerful tool that can help you reach a new level of gameplay. Everyone plays a little differently, and it's important you find a keyboard that suits your needs. Whether you like a mechanical keyboard with its strong feedback or a membrane keyboard with its fancy lighting, make sure you get a keyboard that can keep up with you.