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The Best Gaming Keyboards for 2021: TKL, 60%, and More
Although that powerful PC next to you seems like the most important aspect of a gaming setup, it’s your peripherals that you interact with regularly. Using a standard mouse or keyboard will get you started, but dedicated gaming gear will vastly improve your PC gaming experience.
Of course, it’s easy to recommend the most expensive keyboards as the best, but chances are that you aren’t looking to spend as much as $250 on a keyboard. These gaming keyboards balance features, performance, and value, primarily focusing on mechanical keyboards with the click-clack factor we all crave.
The best gaming keyboards at a glance
Why you should buy this: The Logitech G513 is a well-rounded, sleek design mechanical keyboard with a great feature set.
Who it’s for: Anyone that’s interested in a sleek and comfortable mechanical switch keyboard.
Why we chose the Logitech G513:
It might have come out in 2018, but the G513 keeps up well in today’s market with a well-rounded feature set that makes it an interesting contender. Although it doesn’t feature dedicated media keys, that’s the only drawback to an otherwise excellent design.
Thealso features a beautiful aluminum design, a thick-sleeved USB cable with a USB-Passthrough port, a choice of Romer-G linear and tactile switches, and a wrist rest that is oh-so-comfortable. In fact, the combination of the wrist rest paired with the tactile switches makes this one of the most comfortable gaming keyboards money can buy, and at the end of the day, that’s one of the most important features when looking for a keyboard for long gaming sessions.
Why you should buy this: It’s an affordable, spill-resistant keyboard that comes with most of the expected gaming goodies.
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants in on Corsair’s RGB lighting but doesn’t want to pony up big cash for a full mechanical board.
Why we chose the Corsair K55 RGB Pro XT:
The K55 RGB Pro XT is a new option that comes in at a very friendly price. Although it isn’t mechanical, it features a membrane keyboard design that is surprisingly pleasant to type on and it comes complete with all the features you otherwise generally want on a gaming keyboard: Per-key RGB lighting, macro support, a full layout, wrist rest, and media keys.
In fact, the K55 RGB Pro XT even goes a step beyond what many mechanical planks offer, bringing spill resistance to your desk. If you’re someone that enjoys eating and drinking at your PC, that could be a disaster-saving feature.
If you’re looking for an all-around keyboard that looks great, has most of the gaming features you’d expect, and doesn’t break the bank, theis definitely one to shortlist.
Why you should buy this: It is hands-down the best sleek wireless mechanical gaming keyboard currently on the market.
Who it’s for: The “money is no object” shopper who wants nothing but the best.
Why we chose the Logitech G915 Lightspeed:
Logitech’s G915 Lightspeed mechanical keyboard offers everything anyone could ever want from a mechanical keyboard for gamers who are willing to invest a little more for an excellent design.
If you do choose to go down this route, it won’t leave you disappointed. From its sleek low-profile aluminum body to the low-profile mechanical switches, excellent per-key RGB lighting, and perfectly good battery life (especially considering the vivid RGB), the is a keyboard that will leave you happy for years to come.
Its battery life is excellent, lasting well over a week with the lighting on bright and 12-plus-hour days, typing action is superbly comfortable, and its gaming performance is as snappy as wired over the fast Logitech Lightspeed wireless connection. There’s no wrist rest, but that’s made up for by the low-profile design — it simply doesn’t need one. The Lightspeed is also well-named for its effortless wireless keyboard response times, so you don’t need to worry about any latency issues. And there’s a TKL (tenkeyless) version for fans of compact layouts.
The best low-profile gaming keyboard: Keychron K1
Why you should buy this: It’s a budget-friendly, low-profile keyboard with wireless connectivity.
Who it’s for: Gamers who prefer a more subdued aesthetic.
Why we chose the Keychron K1:
Though not strictly a gaming keyboard, with a mechanical design and optional RGB lighting, the Keychron K1 v4 is surprisingly popular in the gaming community. It is Keychron’s latest iteration of a low-profile mechanical keyboard, and it can be configured to suit your needs at a friendly price.
Want a full-size keyboard or TKL? Want RGB, or are you happy with just white backlighting? Do you want low-profile red, blue, or brown switches? The K1 can be configured to do all those things, and all variants offer Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
Theis also not an expensive keyboard, offering a lot of value. The only real concerns here are the latency of the wireless connection, but in practice, unless you’re playing ultra-competitive online games, we haven’t noticed wireless connectivity to be an issue.
The best TKL gaming keyboard: Corsair K70 RGB TKL Tournament Edition
Why you should buy this: With 8,000Hz polling, MX Speed-Silver switches, PBT keycaps, and more, this is among the best TKL keyboards currently on the market.
Who it’s for: The shopper who wants a high-quality TKL keyboard for competitive gaming.
Why we chose the K70 RGB TKL Tournament Edition:
Although it’s a little confusing why it took Corsair until 2021 to release a fully-featured TKL keyboard, there’s no denying that it’s a great gaming keyboard with excellent mechanical keys. This model comes with Hyper Axon 8,000Hz polling, which, paired with the speedy Cherry MX Speed Silver switches, makes it one of the fastest, if not the fastest, TKL gaming keyboard money can buy.
Of course, optical switches would be an improvement too, but we appreciate that the K70 TKL RGB Tournament Edition keeps things more affordable while still focusing on quality.
With Corsair’s aluminum chassis, excellent RGB ecosystem, fast responses, and included PBT keycaps, theoffers a surprising number of features at its price point and is sure to make TKL fans who have been waiting for the latest Corsair keyboards happy.
Read our in-depth Corsair K70 RGB TKL Tournament Edition review
The best 65% gaming keyboard: Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini Hyperspeed
Why you should buy this: With a 65% layout, wireless connectivity, RGB lighting, and excellent switches, this is one keyboard that can do it all.
Who it’s for: Small keyboard fans who want dedicated arrow and delete keys paired with wireless connectivity
Why we chose the Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini: Razer’s Blackwidow V3 Mini Hyperspeed is a small keyboard that can do it all. This board has a 65% layout, which is a smidge bigger than the super-compact 60% keyboards, but this added 5% adds arrow keys, a dedicated delete key, page up/down, and insert, making it a whole lot more practical for everyday use.
Meanwhile, Razer decided to pull out all the stops and stick every good bit of tech into the, which includes, you guessed it, excellent wireless connectivity and the company’s superb Razer Yellow switches, which have some of the most enjoyable typing action.
Read our in-depth Razer Blackwidow V3 Mini review
The best 60% gaming keyboard: Corsair K65 RGB Mini
Why you should buy this: It’s a simple, no-frills 60% keyboard with great RGB lighting.
Who it’s for: Buyers who want a 60% keyboard that just gets it right.
Why we chose the Corsair K65 RGB Mini:
Corsair might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of 60% compact keyboards, but its K65 RGB Mini offers up a surprisingly pleasant little keyboard without trying to reinvent the wheel. It features a classic 60% layout which means you’ll have to get accustomed to having a lot of keys as a secondary function, but it will reward you with a generous amount of desk space and minimalist looks.
Indeed,is so small that there’s a lot more room for mousing around, and that’s great in competitive online shooters where it’s all about the mouse action.
Read our in-depth Corsair K65 RGB Mini review
The best custom gaming keyboard: Keychron Q1
Why you should buy this: It’s a wonderfully manufactured, customizable keyboard that doesn’t cost a fortune
Who it’s for: Custom keyboard lovers looking for something great without breaking the bank
Why we chose the Keychron Q1:
Keychron’s Q1 comes into the keyboard market as perhaps a slightly unusual player, but it might be one of the best keyboards ever made. From its milled aluminum frame and hot-swappable lubed switches and stabilizers to the RGB lighting, internal damping, and included premium coiled cable, there’s a lot to love about the Q1. Its 75% layout also bodes well to many different workloads, offering a great balance between a small size for gaming, yet enough keys to deal with most everyday tasks.
Thedoesn’t cost a fortune and offers options for a full keyset or a bare board depending on your customization needs. In fact, between the build quality of the CNC-milled and anodized aluminum chassis, lubed Gateron switches, and premium coiled USB-C cable, we’re wondering how Keychron isn’t making a loss on these.
Read our in-depth Keychron Q1 review
Research and buying FAQ
Generally, keyboards come in a standard 104-key layout complete with a number pad. But for gaming, it can be interesting to contemplate smaller keyboard layouts, sacrificing practicality in favor of a more compact keyboard. The primary reason you would want to do this is to clear up desk space for your mouse — having a wide-open space for your mouse next to a small keyboard allows you to play at lower DPI settings and make longer sweeps without running into your keyboard, thus increasing your in-game performance.
A full-size keyboard is a good option if it’s your only keyboard and it will need to double as a work keyboard. Another answer could be that 60% keyboard layouts are the best for first-person shooters, but as they make a lot of sacrifices to meet the compact footprint requirements, TKL (Tenkeyless, or num-pad free) keyboards generally offer a more desirable balance of features.
In the world of gaming keyboards, switches are all the rave. Generally, mechanical keyboards always take the prize in this category, mainly for the feel of their mechanical actuation. Traditionally, there are three main types of switches: Linear, tactile, and clicky. Linear switches travel down with equal force along the stroke, whereas tactile switches have a distinct bump on the way down. Clicky switches have tactile travel but also offer a click halfway through the stroke to indicate that they have actuated and sent the signal to the PC.
But by now, there are more switch options than just Cherry MX red, brown, and blue. These come in low-profile now too, and there is a new MX Speed Silver switch on the market, which is like a linear red switch but with a faster actuation point and lighter travel.
Meanwhile, a lot of keyboard manufacturers are coming out with their own switches, like Corsair’s OPX optical switch. Razer has its own, Logitech has the Romer-G switch on many of its keyboards, and there are third-party switch makers like Kailh and Gateron that provide switches also used in many of today’s keyboards.
Generally, we recommend linear switches for pure gamers and tactile switches for those who type a lot. If you’re only typing, a clicky blue switch can be very satisfying, though your environment might not be quite as appreciative of your click-clacking keyboard if you go down that route, generally leaving the choice between linear and tactile switches.
If your keyboard is still too loud, you can always consider o-rings to dampen the end of your keys’ travel and prevent the loud clacking when the keys bottom out.
Is RGB lighting on keyboards all the same?
Generally, all gaming hardware nowadays comes with RGB lighting, whether that’s something you care for or not. The best ecosystems, such as those from Corsair, Logitech, and Razer, have software that runs on your PC that allows you to get very nitpicky about your lighting effects and allow for support that can sync with other compatible RGB lighting in your setup. Cheaper keyboards may have similar systems but generally rely on on-keyboard lighting profiles that lack any significant customization options beyond a select few effect types and color options.
Additionally, the RGB lighting quality can also vary massively between keyboards. Some have very lackluster implementations that lack vibrancy and brightness, while others offer exactly that. This can depend on the keycap, switch type, and the color of the backplate underneath the switches.
We don’t really suggest a true ergonomic keyboard design for gaming, as the re-positioned keys can be awkward to use for gaming purposes. However, a good keyboard with the right switch type, elevation, and a quality wrist rest can do miracles for your typing comfort.
Your posture is also important: Sit too low, and you’ll perch your shoulders up. Sit too high, and you’ll have to carry your arms. A wrist rest is easy to improvise with a towel, but wrist pain can take weeks to recover from. Do yourself a favor and adjust your seat, desk, and monitor to the correct height to ensure you don’t have to miss gaming sessions with your friends.
Part of this will always be personal preference, but performance can also make a difference. Faster response times and customization are great features for esports. Some players also like more compact 60% keyboards so they don’t have to make larger, more time-consuming movements with either hand, although this can also vary. Our Corsair K70 RGB TKL Tournament Edition pick is a great starting place. You’ll still want plenty of practice with any new keyboard before getting serious about competitive gaming, though.
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