Overview and Terminology


Close-up of the Corsair K95 Platinum keyboard.

Gaming keyboards have often featured gimmicks like extravagant styling or trivial functions. However, there are important elements to a keyboard that can definitely improve performance or create a more comfortable and enjoyable gaming experience.

Mechanical keyboards are a staple for PC gamers. Mechanical switches offer more precise, responsive, and consistent keystrokes, and come in all sorts of variations. With that said, let’s define some keyboard terminology before we move on.

Mechanical Switch: The mechanism underneath the keycap which registers a keystroke. Each key has an individual switch to send a distinct signal to register the input. Cherry MX mechanical switches are the most common among mechanical keyboards, and are color-coded to signify different features.

Actuation Point: The point at which a keystroke is registered. Different switches have different travel distances to actuate and some have a tactile bump or click to create distinct actuation feedback.

Actuation Force: The amount of force required to register a keystroke and actuate a switch. The higher the actuation force, the harder you have to press the key. This comes down to preference and how hard you type.

Tactile Click: This characteristic is most often attributed to Cherry MX Blue switches (and the less common Greens and Whites). At the actuation point, there is a distinct click. This provides keystroke registration feedback. Blue switches tend to be very loud to type and game with. It’s probably not the best keyboard to use in a quiet office environment, unless you want to drive everyone mad.

Tactile Bump: This characteristic is attributed to Cherry MX Browns (and the less common Clears). There is a noticeable bump at the actuation point that provides some keystroke feedback. It feels less distinct than the tactile click, but it is less audible and provides a middle ground between Blues and Reds/Blacks.

Linear: Linear switches have no tactile feedback. Nothing impedes keystrokes except the actuation force required. These switches provide the most effortless keystrokes and make for easier double-tapping. Both Cherry MX Reds and Blacks are linear.

For a more detailed background on Cherry MX switches, check out The Keyboard Company’s in-depth analysis.

Tenkeyless: A tenkeyless keyboard ditches the number pad to create a smaller form factor. It’s intended for those with limited desk space or have an affinity for minimalism.

Membrane: Most standard keyboards use membrane pressure pads to register keystrokes. This results in a soft and relatively quiet keystroke, but a squishy feel that detracts from precision and consistency.

Macro Key: A macro key is a key that is outside the standard layout that’s intended to be programmed for a specific action or chain of actions. For gamers, important actions can be bound to these keys for quick access to certain complex moves in games.

N-key Rollover: N-key rollover signifies that each keystroke is registered independently. This means that you’re not limited to the number of keys you can press before it becomes too much to register. All keyboards in this roundup have significantly high to unlimited rollover.

Polling Rate: How frequently your USB connection checks for inputs. Keyboards in this roundup have very high polling rates (1000Hz = detection every 1 millisecond), which is fast enough to mitigate any perceivable input delay.

centinewtons (cN): A measurement of force. You’ll often see grams-force (g or gf) and cN used interchangeably as they are both extremely close equivalents.

Mechanical Switch Specifications

Switch Type Tactile Feedback Actuation Force Actuation Point Travel Distance
Cherry MX Red Linear 45 cN 2 mm 4 mm
Cherry MX Blue Tactile Click 50 cN 2 mm 4 mm
Cherry MX Black Linear 60 cN 2 mm 4 mm
Cherry MX Speed/Silver Linear 45 cN 1.2 mm 4 mm
Cherry MX Brown Tactile Bump 50 cN 2 mm 4 mm
Razer Green Tactile Click 50 cN 1.8 mm 4 mm
Razer Yellow Linear 45 cN 1.2 mm 3.5 mm
Razer Orange Tactile Bump 45 cN 1.9 mm 4 mm
Razer Mecha-membrane Tactile Click Undefined Undefined Undefined
Logitech Romer-G Tactile Bump 45 cN 1.5 mm 3 mm
Logitech Mech-Dome Tactile Bump 50 cN Undefined 4 mm
Steelseries QS1 Linear 45 cN 1.5 mm 3 mm

Each keyboard was used extensively and we tested them with a 60-second typing test and played a round of Overwatch. We also made sure to install its proper software to test macro keys and to examine backlight effects.

With the terminology and methodology out of the way, it’s time to dig into a handful of gaming keyboards and discuss ergonomics, functionality, and features of each.

Prices included in this article reflect the time of publishing.



Corsair K95 RGB Platinum


Corsair K95 RGB Platinum

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Speed (Cherry MX Brown available)
  • Full RGB backlighting, including backlit trim along top-end of chassis
  • 6 programmable macro keys w/ textured keycaps
  • Detachable rubber palm rest
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • Dedicated media keys with scrolling volume control
  • Brushed aluminum base with fully exposed keycaps
  • Dimensions: 18.3″ (width) / 6.7″ (length) / 1.4″ (height)
  • Weight: 1315g / 2.9 lbs

Analysis

The K95 Platinum is Corsair’s update to its top-of-the-line mechanical keyboard, which is almost identical to previous iterations. It’s built with a brushed aluminum base that leaves the keycaps fully exposed. Dedicated media keys and a smooth scrolling volume control are located along the top-right of the base, and backlight control is on the top-left. Six programmable macro keys with textured keycaps reside on the left.

Cherry MX Speed switches were introduced with the Corsair K70 Rapidfire and are featured on the K95 RGB Platinum. They’re a faster version of the linear, non-tactile Cherry MX Red equivalents. Speed switches have the shortest actuation point of any switch at 1.2mm and bottom out at 3.4 mm, as opposed to the Red’s 2.0 mm and 4.0 mm points, but both share the same actuation force of 45 cN. While this allows for quicker keystrokes, resting your fingers or hands on the keyboard may register unwanted inputs, especially if you have a heavy hand.

In addition, the K95 Platinum has a USB pass-through next to its thick braided cord. The keyboard’s RGB backlit keys and outer trim can be fully customized through Corsair’s software. A detachable palm rest comes packaged and has a two-sided rubber pad that adheres magnetically, though the only difference between the two sides is the texture.

Though the K95 is great product on its own, its high retail price of $200 makes it a bit hard to justify a keyboard purchase. Cherry MX Speed switches are tough to come by since only a few manufacturers like Ducky, MK keyboards, or Corsair use them. So, if you feel the need for Speed switches on a board with extra features, the K95 Platinum may pique your interest.

MSRP: $199.99



Logitech G610 Orion Red


Logitech G610 Orion Red

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Red (Brown available)
  • White backlight (customizable effects through Logitech Gaming software)
  • Dedicated media keys, scrolling volume control
  • Braided cable
  • 1 USB input
  • Extra height adjustment (0, 4, and 8 degree angles)
  • Fully customizable key functions (through software)
  • On-the-fly “Game Mode” button to disable keys (customizable)
  • Dimensions: 17.5” (width), 6.0” (length), 1.4” (height)
  • Weight: 1260g / 2.8 lbs

Analysis

The G610 Orion is a no-nonsense keyboard with a minimalist design. The particular model we tested came with Cherry MX Red switches, providing that smooth linear feel, but no tactile feedback. You can also get the keyboard with Browns switches.

The white backlighting can be customized for pulse, wave, or reactive effects through Logitech’s Gaming software. There are dedicated media keys, scrolling volume control, and a “Game Mode” button to disable specific keys of your choosing through the software.

There’s also feet that you can adjust up to either four or eight degrees. The keyboard requires only one USB input and its funneled through a braided cable. Unfortunately, there is no USB pass-through port on the plank.

The base is sturdy and well-built, and the matte finish makes for a clean aesthetic and good grip for your fingertips.

MSRP: $119.99



Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum


Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum

Features

  • Switch Type: Logitech Romer-G
  • Dedicated media keys
  • Customizable RGB backlighting (through Logitech Gaming software)
  • Scrolling volume control
  • Braided cable
  • 1 USB input
  • Extra height adjustment (0, 4, and 8 degree angles)
  • Fully customizable key functions
  • On-the-fly “Game Mode” button to disable keys (customizable)
  • Dimensions: 17.5” (width), 6.0” (length), 1.4” (height)
  • Weight: 1180g / 2.6 lbs

Analysis

The G810 Orion Spectrum is essentially identical to the G610 Orion, with two exceptions; the G810 comes with 16.8 million RGB backlighting and Logitech’s Romer-G switches.

The color and effects are fully customizable through the Logitech Gaming software. The Romer-G switches, made by Logitech, feel very similar to Cherry MX Browns as it offers a slight tactile bump. The difference is that the Romer-G has a shorter actuation point than the Browns (1.5 mm vs 2.0 mm), and a shorter travel distance (3.0 mm, 4.0 mm respectively). This makes the Romer-Gs a technically faster switch, which can be an attractive feature.

Romer-G switches have uniform LED backlighting, which provides richer luminosity. Cherry MX switches that need a separate LED either above or below the switch itself, meaning the light is off center and the keys may not shine as bright.

The G810’s dimensions are exactly the same as the G610, and the G810 is about 0.2 lbs lighter. All other features outside the switches and RGB backlighting are identical to the G610.

MSRP: $159.99



Logitech G Pro


Logitech G Pro

Features

  • Switch Type: Logitech Romer-G (tactile bump)
  • Fully customizable RGB backlighting
  • Tenkeyless design
  • Detachable braided cord
  • Two angles for height adjustment
  • On-the-fly Windows key disabling
  • Dimensions: 14.2″ (width) / 6.0″ (length) / 1.4″ (height)
  • Weight: 1000g / 2.2 lbs

Analysis

Logitech has recently streamlined its gaming-branded products into what’s called the G Pro series, which includes mice. The G Pro keyboard is focused for travel and competition with its tenkeyless design, which omits the number pad. The overall design is simply a compact version of Logitech’s G610 and G810, but it ditches the dedicated media controls.

Like the G810, the G Pro sports Logitech’s own Romer-G mechanical switch, which has a tactile bump akin to Cherry MX Browns. Romer-G switches have a short actuation point of 1.5mm, an actuation force of 45 cN, and bottom out at 3.0mm. It’s currently the only mechanical switch made by Logitech, though it’s very responsive and doesn’t have a coarse feeling of some keyboards that use Brown switches. Logitech also touts its improved keystroke signal processing (KSP) and claims that the USB signal is sent to the computer 10ms faster than other keyboards.

Like the G610 and G810, there is no USB pass-through or audio ports on the board itself. It’s minimalist in its design and features, and specifically caters to the Esports scene, which it does admirably. The G Pro keyboard goes for $130, which is par for the course, and it’s up your alley if you’re in need of a compact keyboard that has fast mechanical switches.

MSRP: $129.99



Das Keyboard’s Division Zero X40


Das Keyboard’s Division Zero X40

Features

  • Switch Type: Alpha Zulu Linear (Alpha Zulu Tactile available)
  • Red LED backlight
  • 5 programmable macro keys
  • Two-tone aluminum top plate (four colors available)
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • 3.5 mm audio and microphone jacks
  • Dimensions: 19.1″ (width) / 6.8″ (length) / 1.2″ (height)
  • Weight: 1500g / 3.3 lbs

Analysis

Das Keyboard also branched off with its own gaming-focused brand called Division Zero, and the X40 is its flagship. It’s similar to the Prime 13, but makes a few changes. The X40 comes with red backlighting, but doesn’t have robust customizability as seen in other keyboards. There is one USB pass-through, an audio jack, a microphone jack at the top-right, and five programmable macro keys to the left.

The most significant change is that Das Keyboard now has its own set of mechanical switches: the Alpha Zulu Linear (most similar to Cherry MX Red) and the Alpha Zulu Tactile (most similar to Cherry MX Brown). The model we tested was equipped with the Alpha Zulu Linear, which is recognized by its olive green color. Its actuation point is 1.7mm, bottoms out at 4.0mm, and has an actuation force of 45g. The tactile version of this switch has the same specs with a tactile bump being the the only difference.

The top aluminum top plate has a two-tone design, it’s removable so you can swap between the four different colors . Its paintjob is a bit garish and un

Much like the Prime 13, it’s a well-built keyboard with smooth, responsive keystrokes. Its retail price of $130 makes it competitive in the sea of mechanical keyboards, even though it may lack a few features.

MSRP: $129.99



Das Keyboard Prime 13


Das Keyboard Prime 13

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Brown
  • White LED backlight
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • Aluminum top plate
  • Media function on function keys
  • Dimensions: 18.0″ (width) / 6.8″ (length) / 1.2″ (height)
  • Weight: 1315g / 2.9 lbs

Analysis

As a dedicated keyboard company, Das Keyboard is known for straight-forward, minimalist products. The Prime 13 is one example of this design philosophy with its the main selling point being a dense aluminum plate atop its chassis.

Our model of the Prime 13 came with Cherry MX Brown switches, which provide a consistent, subtle tactile bump. It comes with bright white LED backlighting and seven brightness levels, but no customizable behaviors. One USB pass-through is at the very top-right, and at 6.5 ft, the braided cable is longer than most other keyboard cable.

If you’re looking for a simple and sturdy keyboard without much flash, the Prime 13 is a prime candidate. Though at $150 MSRP, build quality would have to be your top priority as it doesn’t come with a lot of extra features.

MSRP: $149.99



Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire


Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Speed Switch
  • RGB backlight (customizable effects through Corsair Utility Engine software)
  • Dedicated media keys, scrolling volume control
  • 1x/2x/4x/8x repeat rate options
  • Brushed aluminum base, textured space bar
  • Swappable textured keycaps
  • Detachable palm rest
  • 2 USB inputs (both inputs required for USB 2.0, one input needed for USB 3.0)
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • Dimensions: 17.2” (width), 6.5” (length), 1.5” (height)
  • Weight: 1200g / 2.56 lbs

Analysis

The K70 is Corsair’s flagship mechanical keyboard. We got a hold of the Rapidfire edition with Cherry MX Speed switches. The force required to register a keystroke with a Speed switch is the same as a Red (45 cN), but the actuation point is much more shallow (1.2 mm on Speed, 2.0 mm on Red). For reference, this distance is less than halfway to a key bottoming out (4.0 mm). Those who aren’t hyper-aware of their keystrokes or have a heavy hand may often hold down or hit a key unintentionally. The K70 RGB non-Rapidfire versions can come with Cherry MX Brown, Blue, or Red switches.

The K70’s chassis is made of brushed aluminum, which is very durable and doesn’t add any extra weight. The K70 also features a USB pass-through port, on-the-fly repeat rate options, a detachable palm rest, dedicated media keys, and swappable textured keycaps. The keycaps slope inward, which intend to be more ergonomic, but feels a little awkward.

The Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) may take extra effort to get it to work, but it will allow users to customize keybinds and backlight effects. You’ll get the full color spectrum and special effects like reactive typing, wave, pulsating, and color cycling

The price is steep, but the K70 and its Rapidfire version have specific features that could appeal to certain gamers.

MSRP: $169.99 (K70 RGB Rapidfire), $159.99 (K70 RGB)



Razer Blackwidow Chroma V2


Razer Blackwidow Chroma V2

Features

  • Switch Type: Razer Yellow (Razer Green and Orange available)
  • Razer Chroma RGB backlight
  • 5 programmable macro keys
  • Detachable padded palm rest
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • 3.5 mm Audio/Mic combo jack
  • Dimensions: 18.7″ (width) / 6.7″ (length) / 1.5″ (height)
  • Weight: 1500g / 3.3 lbs

Analysis

Razer’s Blackwidow Chroma V2 is an updated version of its flagship line of mechanical keyboards and doesn’t stray too far away from its original design. A big addition is the magnetic padded palm rest that effortlessly attaches to the keyboard itself.

The most important change is the custom Razer Yellow mechanical switch and functions most similarly to Cherry MX Reds. It’s a relatively quiet linear switch, which means pressing a key is smooth and without the resistance of a tactile bump. What’s different about the Razer Yellow is its shorter actuation point; it’ll register a keystroke at 1.2 mm and bottom out at 3.5 mm, but has the same 45 cN actuation force. Razer’s Orange or Green switches are also an option if you’re looking for tactile feedback similar to Cherry MX Brown or Blue equivalents.

The Blackwidow Chroma V2 is also equipped with five programmable macro keys on the left, and a USB pass-through with an audio/mic jack on the right. Like every other Razer product with the Chroma designation, the keyboard features fully customizable RGB backlighting through its software.

Heft and weight are still part of this edition of the Blackwidow and doesn’t change much from its otherwise functional design. Unless the padded palm rest and custom Razer switches are important to you, $170 is pretty pricey considering what it offers.

MSRP: $169.99



Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2014


Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2014

Features

  • Switch Type: Razer Green switch
  • Green backlight (variable brightness)
  • 5 programmable macro keys
  • 2 USB inputs (both required for USB 2.0, one needed for USB 3.0)
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • 1 audio / 1 microphone jack
  • Weight: 1500g / 3.3 lbs
  • Dimensions: 18.7” (width) / 6.7” (length) / 0.8” (height)

Analysis

The Blackwidow Ultimate sports Razer’s own custom Green switch, which have a similar feel to the tactile feedback of Cherry MX Blue Switches. Much like Blues, the Razer Greens can be loud and annoy those around you. The tactile feedback will ensure that a key isn’t pressed on accident. This can be incredibly helpful if you’re a bit clumsy with your keybinds and you have a habit of glossing over keys by accident and misusing an in-game action.

Razer products use the Razer Synapse software to fully customize keyboard features like macro keybinds and backlight effects. The Ultimate 2014 edition features 5 macro keys on its left side. If you’re a fan of concentrating specific in-game actions, then these can be incredibly helpful. Macro keys won’t do anything unless you assign them a task through Synapse, but the software is very easy to use and keybind changes will be recognized instantly.

The audio and microphone inputs are on the right side of the keyboard, which is helpful for setups that are difficult to reach and if you connect/disconnect your audio devices frequently. The USB pass-through port also improves convenience, and makes it easy to swap mice or charge a device.

This particular model comes with green backlighting, but newer “Chroma” versions of Razer keyboards are available if you want full RGB backlighting.

MSRP: $129.99



Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chroma


Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chroma

Features

  • Switch Type: Razer Green switch
  • RGB backlight (customizable effects through Razer Synapse software)
  • Tenkeyless design (without Number Pad)
  • Detachable braided cable
  • 1 USB input
  • Semi-hard carrying case
  • Weight: 950g / 2.1 lbs
  • Dimensions: 14.40” (width) x 6.06” (length) x 1.18” (height)

Analysis

The Blackwidow Tournament Edition (TE) also sports Razer’s Green mechanical switches. Again, these switches are akin to Cherry MX Blues with a distinct tactile click at the actuation point.

If your desk space is limited and you don’t use a number pad often, then the tenkeyless Blackwidow TE is a great option. It’s very portable and is powered by a detachable braided cable. One feature we would have appreciated on this keyboard is a USB pass-through port on the side, which the standard Blackwidow had.

Chroma models of Razer products feature fully customizable RGB backlight. The Razer Synapse software also allows customizable backlight effects. You can make the LEDs pulsate, cycle through the color spectrum, ripple or wave from side to side, or react to keystrokes. These effects are easy to set and can be an aesthetically pleasing feature.

This also comes with a semi-hard carrying case with a handle, which bolsters its portability.

MSRP: $109.99



Corsair STRAFE


Corsair STRAFE

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Red switches (Brown and Blue switches available)
    • Cherry MX Silent switches available for $10+ on MSRP
  • Swappable textured keycaps
  • Textured spacebar
  • Red backlighting (customizable through Corsair Utility Engine)
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • 2 USB inputs (both inputs required for USB 2.0, one input needed for USB 3.0)
  • 1x/2x/4x/8x repeat rate options
  • Red backlighting (customizable through Corsair Utility Engine)
  • Weight: 916g / 2.02 lbs
  • Dimensions: 17.6” (width), 6.7” (length), 1.57” (height)

Analysis

The Corsair Strafe is a solid piece of hardware. It’s not too flashy and feels great to use. There are no dedicated media keys, but the FN key will swap the functionality of the Function row on-the-fly for media control. The STRAFE does not have macro keys. The Cherry MX Reds offer smooth and responsive typing and gaming, but won’t give you the tactile feedback some people prefer. The base is plastic with a matted finish. There’s also a visible red layer underneath the keys.

This version of the STRAFE only has red backlighting, but lighting effects are customizable through the Corsair Utility Engine software. There is one USB pass-through port atop the keyboard. The cord is not braided and is fairly thick as it funnels two USB inputs, which can be cumbersome to wire through your setup.

The STRAFE also comes with swappable WASD and QERF keycaps that have a grated texture and slope inward. This is aimed at FPS and MOBA players, but I found the sloped keycaps to be awkward. Of course, the keycaps are optional. The stock keycaps also sport a matte finish that makes for a nice grip.

MSRP: $99.99



Cooler Master QuickFire TK


Cooler Master QuickFire TK

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Brown
  • White LED backlight (All keys or WASD and arrow keys)
  • Compact design with number pad included
  • Media controls on Function row
  • Detachable braided cable
  • 1 USB input
  • Weight: 800g / 1.76 lbs
  • Dimensions: 14.9” (width), 5.4” (length), 1.9” (height)

Analysis

The Quickfire TK is unique in that it fuses the number pad and direction keys column together. Swapping between the two functional groups is done through a the number lock key, which will take some getting used to. This way you retain the functions absent in tenkeyless keyboards and still get a compact form factor.

The particular model we tested came with Cherry MX Brown keys, offering that slight tactile bump at the actuation point. Keystrokes are audible, so it’s something to consider depending on your living or work situation.

The version with Brown keys comes with white backlighting, Red keys with red backlighting, and Blue keys with blue backlighting. You can only set the backlighting to cover all keys or WASD/directional keys with five brightness settings. The input cable is braided and can be detached, making the keyboard extremely easy to move around.

The Quickfire TK is very simple in its design and function, but it’s a very solid keyboard that performs well. If you’re not into all the flash and limitless customization, this keyboard will interest you. The QuickFire series of keyboards also come in full-size and tenkeyless, and function identically to each other.

MSRP: $89.99



Logitech G710+


Logitech G710+

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Brown (Blues also available)
  • 6 Macro Keys (left of keyboard)
  • Dedicated media keys, scrolling volume control
  • On-the-fly Windows Key disabling
  • Built-in dampening rings to reduce keystroke noise
  • White backlighting w/ 5 brightness settings (WASD can be lit separately)
  • 2 USB inputs (both required for USB 2.0, one needed for USB 3.0)
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • Detachable palm rest included
  • Logitech Gaming Software drivers to program keys
  • Dimensions: 20.0” (width), 8.7” (length), 1.5” (height)
  • Weight: 1460g / 3.2 lbs

Analysis

The G710+ is flashy with its orange accent of the programmable G keys, silver-tone WASD and arrow keys, and branding along the base. It’s one of the heavier and larger keyboards in this roundup. Some may find it over-the-top, but this doesn’t detract from its overall functionality.

The version we tested came with Cherry MX Brown switches, which offer a light tactile bump at the actuation point. But what makes this keyboard stand out is that it comes factory equipped with silencing rings underneath the keys to dampen noise.

The G710+ offers a bunch of features. There are 6 programmable G keys to the left, three keys atop the Function row to switch profile modes, dedicated media keys, backlight brightness keys to the top-right, and a scrolling volume control. There is also one USB pass-through port. You’ll need either one USB 3.0 port or two USB 2.0 ports to use this keyboard. The cable is not braided and its thickness detracts from its flexibility.

Aside from missing RGB backlighting, the G710+ offers tons of bells and whistles coupled with flashy aesthetics.

MSRP: $129.99



HyperX Alloy FPS


HyperX Alloy FPS

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Red
  • Red backlighting w/ 4 lighting effects (wave, ripple, WASD, and full)
  • Detachable braided cable
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • 1 USB input
  • Red textured keycaps, swappable (WASD and 1234 keys)
  • Mesh padded carry case
  • Weight: 1050g / 2.31 lbs
  • Dimensions: 17.4” (width), 5.1” (length), 1.4” (height)

Analysis

The HyperX Alloy FPS opts for a very low-profile design. The base is very thin and wraps tightly around the keys. This model comes with Cherry MX Blues, giving you that distinct tactile click with each keystroke. It comes with red backlighting and five different brightness settings. There are four different lighting effects; full backlight, wave, reactive ripple, and WASD). These are set on the keyboard itself using the FN and arrow keys.

The detachable braided cable, and padded mesh carrying case adds to its portability. The upper half of the base is a brushed steel plate giving it a solid feel. The swappable red keycaps for WASD and 1234 keys are actually a nice addition. The keycaps have a grated finish and don’t have an awkward slanted surface like other swappable caps.

There’s nothing too flashy about the Alloy FPS, which makes this an attractive option for those who take their keyboard from place to place and appreciate a minimalist design.

MSRP: $99.99



Logitech G213 Prodigy


Logitech G213 Prodigy

Features

  • Switch Type: Logitech Mech-Dome keys
  • Fully customizable RGB backlighting
  • Fully customizable key functions
  • On-the-fly “Game Mode” button to disable keys (customizable)
  • Integrated plastic palm rest
  • Dedicated media keys
  • Logitech Gaming Software for RGB configuration
  • Spill-resistant (up to about 2oz)
  • Dimensions: 17.8” (width), 8.6” (length), 1.3” (height)
  • Weight: 1000g / 2.4 lbs

Analysis

Logitech attempts to create their own membrane-mechanical hybrid switch type with their Mech-Dome keys. The keys feel similar to that of a Cherry MX Brown with a tactile bump. Much like the Razer “Mecha-membrane” keys, a middle ground is struck between the responsiveness of mechanical switches and the softness of membrane keys. As a consequence, concessions are naturally made. While its actuation force is rated at 50g, it feels less consistent than a true mechanical switch, but more responsive than a standard membrane board.

The overall design of the G213 Prodigy is similar to the G610 and G810. Logitech states that the keyboard is spill-resistant up to about two ounces, which is a nice addition for clumsy folk. It has dedicated media keys and on/off button for backlighting. There is no USB pass-through port. This keyboard only needs one USB input and the cable is braided.

The inseparable palm rest and Mech-Dome keys might drive some away, but if you enjoy its look and ergonomics, the Logitech G610 Orion may interest you. It is also one of more affordable keyboards, relative to the others we reviewed.

MSRP: $69.99



Steelseries Apex M800


Steelseries Apex M800

Features

  • Switch Type: Steelseries QS1 mechanical switch
  • 2 USB pass-through ports
  • 6 programmable macro keys
  • Fully customizable RGB backlighting
  • FN keys for media functions
  • Swappable rubber feet for height adjustment
  • Braided cable
  • 2 USB pass-through ports
  • 2 USB inputs (both inputs required for USB 2.0, one input needed for USB 3.0)
  • Weight: 1390g / 3.06 lbs
  • Dimensions: 20.1” (width), 6.85” (length), 1.6” (height)

Analysis

Steelseries takes a shot at creating their own mechanical switch by implementing the QS1 switch into the Apex M800. The QS1 switch is comparable to Cherry MX Reds. It’s a linear switch, meaning no tactile feedback. The difference in the QS1 switch is a more shallow keystroke. It bottoms out at 3 mm and the actuation point is 1.5 mm, as opposed to Reds’ 4 mm bottom and 2 mm actuation point. The actuation force is rated the same as Reds, 45 cN. This all makes for effortless keystrokes.

However, the keys have a noticeable squishy feel, akin to a membrane keyboard. The result is a very quiet keystroke, but it may not feel as responsive as Cherry MX Reds. It is still a significant step-up from standard membrane keys, since keystrokes feel very consistent in terms of actuation and force.

The spacebar is more prominent than a standard design, which makes it easier to hit. The six macro keys reside to the left of the base. The keyboard itself has a simple, clean aesthetic and the keycaps have a low-profile design, but the board itself is a bit bulky and heavy.

There are two USB pass-through ports, both are atop the base. The Apex M800 has full RGB backlighting with customizable effects.

The Apex M800 is a simple mechanical keyboard with very fast switches. The QS1 switches may be a selling point if you need very fast switches with a soft and quiet feel.

MSRP: $169.99



G.Skill Ripjaws KM780


G.Skill Ripjaws KM780

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Red (Blue and Brown available)
  • Red backlighting (RGB available)
  • 6 programmable macro keys
  • 10 swappable keycaps (QWERCASDFG keys, WASD slanted inward)
  • Dedicated media keys
  • Scrolling volume control (onboard LED displaying volume)
  • Detachable palm rest
  • Brushed aluminum base plate
  • 3 programmable modes w/ on-the-fly switching
  • 2 USB inputs (both inputs required for USB 2.0, one input needed for USB 3.0)
  • On-the-fly keybinding
  • Weight: 1360g / 3.0 lbs
  • Dimensions: 20.4” (length), 6.78” (length), 1.9” (height)

Analysis

The KM780 we tested came with Cherry MX Red switches, which provides linear mechanical keystrokes. This model also has red backlighting, but there’s also a model with RGB backlighting.

The design of this keyboard is a bit extravagant. It has an aluminum bar that wraps around the base and an aluminum plate on the top. The scrolling volume control has an LED volume level indicator below and dedicated media keys to the left.

There are 6 programmable macro keys the left of the keyboard. Keys can be reprogrammed on-the-fly and set to three custom modes. There is one USB pass-through port and an audio and microphone jack at the top. The detachable palm rest has a grated finish. Like other high-end keyboards, this one requires either two USB 2.0 inputs or one USB 3.0 port. Audio and microphone inputs are also embedded into the keyboard’s braided cable.

The package comes with 10 red textured keycaps you can swap out (QWERCASDFG). The W, S, and D caps slant inward towards the S key. The slope is pretty steep and feels extremely awkward to use. But since this is optional, it’s not something to hold against the keyboard. The keycaps come with a little case that can attach to the bar that wraps around the base.

MSRP: $129.99



Creative Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08


Creative Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08

Features

  • Switch Type: PRES (Perceive-React-Execute Switches)
  • Customizable Aurora Reactive RGB backlighting
  • Five programmable macro keys
  • Dedicated media keys
  • Plastic detachable palm rest
  • Dimensions: 18.3″ (W) / 8.5″ (H) / 1.5″ (D)
  • Weight: 1450g / 3.2 lbs

Analysis

Hearing that Creative (known for its Sound Blaster brand of audio products) makes keyboards will probably throw you off for a second, but the company does offer one SKU. The Vanguard K08 may not look flashy, but it does have unique features.

First, it comes with custom mechanical switches called PRES, which was made in partnership with Omron. PRES switches have a subtle tactile bump, much like Cherry MX Browns, but they have a 1.5mm actuation point, 3.5mm travel distance, and 45 cN actuation force. However, we found there to be a slightly rough grind to each keystroke, which hampered the consistency of the switches. Second, and better executed, is the fully customizable Aurora Reactive RGB backlighting. The keyboard shines bright since the backlight illuminates in and around each keycap and can sync up with other Aurora-lit devices, like Creative’s Sound BlasterX Katana speakers.

The Vanguard K08 features dedicated media keys and scrolling volume control along the top-right, and five programmable macro keys are situated on the left. One USB pass-through port is on the slant atop the chassis.

The quality of the mechanical switch is of the utmost importance when it comes to a keyboard, and unfortunately the Vanguard K08 comes up short. There are some neat features, but it seems overpriced at $180.

MSRP: $179.99



Razer Ornata Chroma


Razer Ornata Chroma

Features

  • Switch Type: Razer “Mecha-membrane” Switch
  • Razer Chroma RGB backlight (customizable through Razer Synapse software)
  • Braided cable
  • Detachable magnetic palm rest
  • Weight: 950g / 2.1 lbs
  • Dimensions: 18.2” (width) / 6.1” (length) / 1.2” (height)

Analysis

The Razer Ornata introduces us to their hybrid mechanical switch type called “Mecha-membrane.” As the name implies, it attempts to fuse the softness and low-noise of a standard membrane keyboard and the tactile feedback akin to a Cherry MX Blue mechanical switch.

I find the keys to be a bit stiff for typing, but shouldn’t be an issue if you have a heavy hand. The tactile feedback feels appropriate for gaming, but doesn’t match the precision of other mechanical switches. There is an inconsistent force threshold before a key moves down for a keystroke, which feels odd. Traditional mechanical switches require a consistent level of pressure to push down before actuation, but the Ornata feels simply like a membrane keyboard with a tactile click.

Again, as with any of the Chroma products from Razer, this version of the Ornata features a fully customizable backlight profile, from RGB options to backlight effects. The cushioned palm rest is a nice addition to the package. It attaches to the keyboard magnetically, which makes swapping effortless.

Everything else about the keyboard is straightforward. There aren’t too many frills here outside the Chroma features.

If you’re used to traditional mechanical switches, this keyboard may feel like a step back in terms of precision. If you currently own a membrane keyboard, the Ornata will definitely feel more responsive, but as with most peripherals, it’s wise to try before you buy, since the feel of a keyboard comes down to personal preference.

MSRP: $99.99



Cougar 700K


Cougar 700K

Features

  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Blue (Black, Brown, and Red available)
  • Aluminum plate atop the keyboard base
  • 6 programmable macro keys
  • Split spacebar (right half is a macro key)
  • On-the-fly macro button recording
  • 1x/2x/4x/8x repeat rate options
  • Orange backlighting customizable through Cougar UIX software
  • 5 programmable on-the-fly backlight options
  • Dedicated media keys
  • Asymmetric palm rest with extra padding for left hand
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • 2 USB inputs (both inputs required for USB 2.0, one input needed for USB 3.0)
  • Audio and Mic inputs
  • Braided cable
  • Dimensions: 19.2” (width), 9.1” (length), 1.6” (height)
  • Weight: 1200g / 2.65 lbs

Analysis

The Cougar 700K is specifically made for gaming based on all its flair and features. It has six programmable macro keys, with the sixth key being the right-half of the space bar. This design of the space bar will definitely throw people off while typing unless you program “G6” to act as a space. Even then, the gap between the two halves doesn’t feel right. There is also detachable rubber pad that snaps onto the left side of the palm rest. This makes normal typing situations more awkward, but could add comfort for gaming.

This particular model we tested came with Cherry MX Blue switches. Surprisingly, the loud audible click of Blue switches is much more quiet on the 700K compared to other keyboards that use Blues.

The Cougar UIX software is user-friendly. It allows for customized keybinds, setup for the 3 programmable modes, backlighting effects, and performance adjustments (polling rate, rollover, repeat rate/delay).

While the 700K goes for a flashy aesthetic, it’s not bulky and it’s lighter than most mechanical keyboards. If its awkward features don’t bother you, the Cougar 700K has a lot to offer.

MSRP: $149.99



Razer Blackwidow X Chroma


Razer Blackwidow X Chroma

Features

  • Switch Type: Razer Green switches
  • Braided cable
  • Chroma RGB backlight (customizable through Razer Synapse software)
  • Steel plate atop base
  • Media function through F-keys
  • Dimensions: 18.7” (width), 6.7” (length), 1.5” (height)
  • Weight: 1420g / 3.13 lbs

Analysis

The Blackwidow X is equipped with Razer Green switches, just like the Ultimate and Tournament Edition of the Blackwidow. The Razer Greens are much like Cherry MX Blues with the loud tactile click at the actuation point. Media controls are along the Function row, activated through the FN key.

This keyboard’s base has a steel plate on top to give it a simple and sleek style, but it is on the heavier side. This version of the Blackwidow does not have a USB pass-through port or macro keys. It’s powered through a single USB input funnelled through a braided cable.

The Chroma RGB backlighting looks great as it brightens the surface beneath the exposed keycaps. It’s fully customizable with lighting effects through Razer’s Synapse software.

MSRP: $159.99



Roccat Skeltr


Roccat Skeltr

Features

  • Switch Type: N/A (Standard membrane keyboard)
  • Bluetooth connectivity with mobile devices
    • Compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows phones
  • Detachable palm rest
  • Type-to-device functionality
  • On-the-fly audio control between PC and mobile devices
  • Docking slot to prop-up mobile devices
  • RGB backlighting (on keys and base, customizable through Roccat Swarm software)
  • 2 USB inputs (both inputs required for USB 2.0, one input needed for USB 3.0)
  • 1 USB pass-through port
  • Audio and Mic ports and inputs
  • 5 programmable macro keys
  • Braided cable

Analysis

The Roccat Skeltr is the most unique keyboard in this round-up for several reasons; it’s a standard membrane keyboard, offers connectivity functions with smartphones, and goes for a flashy aesthetic.

The top of the keyboard has a docking slot where mobile devices can be propped up at an approximately 45 degree angle. This is convenient for those who like to consistently use their mobile device while on their desktop PC. The biggest factor for this keyboard’s target audience is the type-to-device functionality and through the Roccat Swarm software, you can customize your RGB backlighting on the keys and on the keyboard chassis. Lighting behaviors such as pulse, wave, and fade are programmable, but individual keys cannot be customized. The luminosity of the backlighting between each key is inconsistent. Roccat Swarm also has a mobile companion app to change keyboard settings, and monitor activity like APM and system temperatures.

This keyboard is geared specifically toward those who need to multitask or use their mobile device frequently at their desk. Otherwise, there are better options at this price point.

MSRP: $159.99



Conclusion


Keyboards all lit up!

Finding the right keyboard comes down to preference. Some may prefer the loud tactile switches, whereas others will prefer quieter linear switches. Features that one person may find cumbersome could be useful for somebody else. Since gaming keyboards can be high in price, it’s important to do your research or try out a product before you make a purchase.

I personally prefer a minimalist design and compact form factor. Out of the keyboards here, I was drawn to the Cooler Master QuickFire TK, Logitech G610 Orion, Razer’s Blackwidow Tournament Edition, and Corsair STRAFE.

But what features and switch types do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

Keyboard Summary Table

Keyboard Switch Type Backlight Macro Keys Extra Packaging Onboard Ports MSRP
Logitech G610 Orion Cherry MX Red (Brown available) White w/ customizable effects N/A N/A N/A 119.99
Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum Logitech Romer-G 16.8M RGB w/ customizable effects N/A N/A N/A 159.99
Logitech G213 Prodigy Logitech Mech-Dome 16.8M RGB w/ customizable effects N/A N/A (palm rest integrated) N/A 69.99
Logitech G710+ Cherry MX Brown, noise dampening integrated (Blue available) White w/ 5 effects settings 6 Detachable palm rest 1 USB port 129.99
Corsair K70 LUX RGB Cherry MX Speed (Brown, Red, Blue available) 16.8M RGB w/ customizable effects N/A Detachable palm rest 1 USB port 159.99
Corsair STRAFE Cherry MX Red Red w/ customizable effects N/A WASD QERF textured keycaps, 1 USB port 99.99
Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2014 Razer Green Green w/ variable brightness 5 N/A 1 USB port, 1 audio and mic jack 129.99
Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chroma (Tenkeyless) Razer Green 16.8M RGB w/ customizable effects N/A Semi-hard carrying case N/A 109.99
Razer Blackwidow X Chroma Razer Green 16.8M RGB w/ customizable effects N/A N/A N/A 159.99
Razer Ornata Chroma Razer Mecha-membrane 16.8M RGB w/ customizable effects N/A Detachable magnetic palm rest N/A 99.99
Steelseries Apex M800 Steelseries QS1 16.8M RGB w/ customizable effects 6 N/A 2 USB ports 169.99
CM Storm QuickFire TK Cherry MX Brown (Blue and Red available) White (Blue and Red available for corresponding switch) N/A N/A N/A 89.99
Cougar 700K Cherry MX Blue (Black, Brown, and Red available) Orange w/ customizable effects 5 Detachable palm rest w/ left hand pad, 1 USB port, 1 audio and mic jack 149.99
HyperX Alloy FPS Cherry MX Blue Red w/ 4 lighting effects N/A Red textured keycaps (WASD and 1234 keys), mesh carrying case 1 USB port 99.99
G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 Cherry MX Red (Blue and Brown available) Red w/ 3 brightness levels (RGB available) 6 Red textured keycaps (QWERCASDFG keys), case for keycaps, detachable palm rest 1 USB port, 1 audio and mic jack 129.99
Roccat Skeltr Membrane 16.8M RGB w/ customizable effects 5 Detachable palm rest, 1 USB phone charging cable, 1 phone audio cable 1 USB port, 1 audio and mic jack, 159.99