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Technically, you can game with any keyboard — but mechanical models with extra gaming features can amp up the experience. Whether you're gunning down demons or raiding ancient tombs, there is a gaming keyboard likely fit for your needs (and within your price point).
Best Gaming Keyboards in 2021
While there are myriad gaming keyboards out there, if you had to narrow it down to the best, here are the models that will serve most people well across various use cases.
Best gaming keyboard overall: Corsair
The Corsair K95 Platinum XT may not be the highest-end keyboard on the market but it's the best balance of price and features. Its build quality is solid, with an aluminum frame, PBT keycaps that won't wear down and get greasy and three different switch types to choose from — plus, you get dedicated macro keys along the side and a volume wheel. It's pricey but if you want to save some money, the non-XT version eschews the higher-end keycaps for a small discount, and it's also available refurbished for substantially less. Or you can upgrade to the K100 for higher-end optical switches.
Best customizable gaming keyboard: SteelSeries
SteelSeries has done something really interesting with their Apex Pro keyboard: Instead of picking between a bunch of different switches, you can actually adjust the actuation distance of each key, allowing deeper key travel when you want it and fast keypresses when it matters in-game. Combine that with RGB backlighting and a dedicated volume wheel and you have yourself a serious gaming keyboard.
Best affordable gaming keyboard: Logitech
Gaming keyboards can get pricey but there are plenty of decent options on the more affordable end of the spectrum. Logitech's G413, for example, keeps the build quality of good mechanical keyboards while skipping the extra buttons and fancy features. If you want to go even cheaper, brands like Velocifire offer super-budget mechanical options for even the slimmest wallets, but Logitech offers some of the best balance between price and quality.
Best mid-range gaming keyboard: Razer
If you want something a bit more affordable without dipping into "budget" territory, the Razer BlackWidow Elite offers a premium feel with three switch types and a few extra media keys at a price point that's easier to swallow. If the Elite doesn't quite fit your needs, Razer has a ton of other keyboard variations, including a tenkeyless model with no number pad, a wireless model and even an opto-mechanical model.
Best compact gaming keyboard: Cooler Master
Most gaming keyboards are full-size decks with number pads on the right, which a lot of people can't live without. But if you can, a tenkeyless model like the Cooler Master MK730 offers better ergonomics, since you have more room to move your mouse, which is important when frantically scanning the horizon for enemies. You can also customize its lighting and shortcuts without software, which is certainly nice if you don't want yet another program running in the background.
Best gaming keyboards: A simple shopper’s guide
The line between a typical keyboard and "gaming" keyboard can be blurry, but in general, here are some things worth looking out for.
Keyboard layout and buttons
While most keyboards share the same general layout, gaming keyboards may have extra macro keys to act as shortcuts to your spells and weapons, or dedicated media keys to play and pause music. Some will have number pads while others leave more space for your mouse hand, and others will even have volume wheels for quick access to your in-game sound.
Keyboard switch type
Most keyboards use a rubber membrane under the keys, but gaming enthusiasts tend to prefer mechanical keyboards that use physical switches. These feel better, last longer and allow for more precise control, with a number of different switch types, like blue "clicky" switches with tactile feedback or red "linear" switches with smoother travel. Some even have optical switches, which use lasers instead of physical contacts for faster keypresses and better longevity.
Wired gaming keyboards vs wireless keyboards
While wired keyboards have long been popular for those looking to minimize latency, wireless has come a long way, offering comparable performance without the clutter. You do, however, have to charge wireless keyboards occasionally, and it does jack up the price.
Backlighting and effects in your gaming keyboard
If you're the type of person that likes to game in the dark for a more immersive experience, a backlit keyboard is a must. Some offer basic backlighting, while others have per-key RGB lighting that lets you customize the color and add fancy effects (like a rainbow wave or brightness that "breathes" in and out).