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February 25, 2024
App & Software Gaming Review

The best mechanical gaming keyboards for 2023

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Technically, any keyboard you utilize for gaming is a gaming keyboard. However a keyboard constructed for gaming typically has options mainstream boards can’t match, like ultra-fast polling charges, per-game macro profiles, devoted media controls, and strong RGB lighting customization (and integration with different components of your setup).

Mechanical keyboards are perfect for gaming. Not solely do they provide a greater and extra exact tactile expertise than the extra widespread butterfly or membrane-switch keyboards, however in addition they last more. They usually permit for a extra customized expertise by offering a wide range of swap choices for various feels, a wealth of aesthetic customization choices within the type of keycaps, and (typically) removable cables. Some gaming keyboards now have hot-swappable PCBs as properly, permitting you to swap out switches at will.

Whether or not you need full-size or compact, wi-fi, analog, or modular, these are one of the best keyboards of the handfuls I’ve examined.

In case you are excited by a mechanical keyboard however don’t want gaming-specific options like straightforward macro programmability, ultra-high polling charges, or software program that integrates with different applications, take a look at our information to one of the best mechanical keyboards. Sure, you may sport with these, too.

The most effective gaming keyboard for many

$139

The tenkeyless Huntsman v2 has the identical optical switches and 8000Hz polling price because the full-size model, and it makes use of a removable USB-C cable.

Structure: Tenkeyless or full-size / Connection: Wired USB-A / Keycaps: Shinethrough PBT / Switches: Razer Optical (linear or clicky) / Backlighting: RGB / Scorching Swap: No

The Razer Huntsman v2 is a stable, accessible off-the-shelf gaming keyboard from a serious model. It’s obtainable in each tenkeyless and full-size layouts, has a reasonably subdued search for a gaming keyboard, and its ultrafast polling, optical switches, and Razer Synapse software program set it aside from extra standard boards. It’s the one I’d suggest to most individuals shopping for their first gaming keyboard.

The Huntsman V2 is offered with both clicky or linear optical switches, which use an interrupted beam of sunshine to register keystrokes and supply a quicker response than normal mechanical switches. The restricted choice might discourage some DIY-hards, however contemplating that linear switches are the weapon of selection for many players, I don’t assume it’s a obtrusive problem. My colleague Jon Porter, in his evaluation of the Huntsman V2, discovered the linear switches’ built-in sound dampening gave them a mushy really feel, however I didn’t thoughts them.

Most individuals gained’t discover the distinction between the Huntsman V2’s 8000Hz polling price and the 1000Hz price of most wired keyboards — we’re speaking .125 milliseconds versus 1 millisecond — however at the least it means your response time, not the connection pace, is your limiting issue. The V2’s different options are extra noticeable: the PBT keycaps really feel nicer and don’t shine as rapidly as ABS and the sound-damping foam helps preserve noise down a bit.

The Razer Huntsman V2 is a good mainstream gaming keyboard with lightning-fast optical switches, sound-damping foam, and PBT keycaps. That is the full-size mannequin.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The Huntsman V2 is available in each tenkeyless and full-size layouts. Until you actually desire a built-in quantity pad, the TKL ought to be your first selection because it enables you to preserve your mouse nearer. The total-size model does have a quantity knob and media controls above the quantity pad, however it doesn’t have a removable USB cable.

$156

The Razer Huntsman V2 is the follow-up to Razer’s preliminary try at a keyboard with optical switches. This iteration brings again their lightning-fast optical switches however consists of sound-dampening foam for higher acoustics, and PBT keycaps.

Among the many few keyboards with comparable layouts, options, and capabilities is the Corsair K100. It’s geared up with Corsair’s personal optical switches however has a bigger footprint, doesn’t have sound-dampening foam, and prices significantly extra — although it does have devoted macro keys and an auxiliary media dial.

The Huntsman V2 goes to suit the invoice for most individuals who need a typical gaming keyboard. If you’d like a extra customizable board, a quantity pad on the left, an analog keyboard, or one thing extra moddable, although, there are many extra fascinating choices. — Alice Newcome-Beill

Learn our evaluation of the Razer Huntsman V2

The most effective premium gaming keyboard

$250

A premium gaming keyboard in practically each respect, the Mountain Everest Max lets you add or subtract options like a quantity pad or devoted media controls. The weighty body is sort of solely aluminum and the PCB is hot-swappable.

Structure: TKL + Numpad (full-size) / Connectivity: Removable USB-C / Keycaps: Shinethrough PBT / Switches: Cherry MX Purple, Blue, Brown, Silver, Silent Purple / Scorching Swap: Sure (3-pin)

The Mountain Everest Max is technically a full-size gaming keyboard. I say technically as a result of it’s modular.

The primary chassis (obtainable individually because the Everest Core) appears like a standard tenkeyless board. The Max additionally features a number pad that may be hooked up to both facet and a multi-function media dock (each obtainable individually) that may connect to both the highest left or high proper of the primary chassis. This flexibility, its construct high quality, and different options make it a robust contender, particularly for folk preferring the quantity pad on the left — a uncommon choice in gaming keyboards.

The quantity pad has 4 macro buttons on the high that may be custom-made with jpegs out of your library (sure, like a Stream Deck). The media dock capabilities largely just like the devoted media controls that you simply’ll discover on different full-size gaming keyboards, with buttons for controlling playback and a bezeled dial for controlling quantity. Nonetheless, the dial additionally has a small display screen that may regulate the lighting in your keyboard, examine system useful resource utilization, or simply present you the time. General, it’s a fairly cool piece of engineering that makes higher use of the area often reserved for rudimentary media capabilities.

The modular kind issue of the Mountain Everest Max makes it a novel and versatile gaming keyboard
Picture by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

The modular design is the Everest Max’s largest differentiator, however it additionally has one of the best construct high quality of any off-the-shelf keyboard I’ve examined, and its RGB lighting will be synced with Razer’s Chrome software program. It has hot-swap swap sockets, although they solely help three-pin switches. (You possibly can all the time minimize the additional legs off of five-pin switches with a flush cutter, however who has the time?)

Along with the media dock and quantity pad that include the Max, Mountain now sells two extra modules: a $109.99 DisplayPad with 12 Stream-Deck-like customizable buttons and a $59.99 MacroPad with 12 hot-swap MX-compatible macro keys. Both will be docked to the left or proper facet of the primary chassis or used standalone.

When you’ll make the most of its modularity, the Everest Max is value each penny. It’s one of many only a few methods to get a gaming keyboard with a southpaw quantity pad, for instance, and the dock system enables you to add a bunch of performance to your desk with out a bunch of wires. However the $250 worth for the Everest Max is a excessive hurdle, and when you purchase piecemeal, it’s much more costly. — Alice Newcome-Beill

Learn my full evaluation of the Mountain Everest Max

Greatest analog gaming keyboard

Close up of 60 percent Wooting keyboard with yellow strap on left side. The Esc key has been removed, revealing an analog mechanical switch with a teal stem and transparent housing.

$175

The Wooting 60 HE isn’t a lot to take a look at, however its Lekker switches provide an unprecedented stage of management amongst gaming keyboards.

Structure: 60 % / Full-size / Connection: Removable USB-C / Keycaps: Shinethrough PBT / Switches: Lekker Corridor Impact analog / Backlighting: RGB / Scorching-swap: Sure (Lekker switches solely)

On the floor, the Wooting 60 HE doesn’t do a lot to seize your consideration, however the secret is within the switches. Whereas different keyboards are busy bragging about increased polling charges, Wooting’s Lekker switches provide a real benefit for the gamer keen to place in some work. As an alternative of registering keypresses by bodily closing a circuit, they use a magnetic subject to sense the place of a magnet contained in the swap — the Hall effect.

Their largest edge is the customizable actuation level, which helps you to regulate how rapidly your keyboard registers (and resets from) particular person keystrokes. This characteristic additionally lets you map completely different instructions to the identical key primarily based on how a lot strain you placed on it and gives translation of true analog motion in your keyboard, much like what you’d expertise with a gamepad. Fast reset — which stops the important thing enter as quickly as you let up on the strain — can present a tangible benefit over different gaming keyboards in twitchy first-person shooters like Apex Legends or Counterstrike. (Steelseries has been utilizing its Omnipoint 2.0 Corridor impact switches in its Apex lineup of keyboards for years now, however the Lekker swap can register a extra granular set of inputs, permitting for as much as 4 separate capabilities versus the Omnipoint 2.0’s two.)

The Wooting 60 HE makes use of analog switches to provide you extremely exact management.
Picture by Alice Newcome-Beill / The Verge

Other than the switches, the Wooting 60 HE is a fairly normal 60 % keyboard, with options like PBT keycaps, a removable USB-C cable, and included sound-dampening foam. One good contact: it’s compatible with most standard 60 percent keyboard cases: I popped the PCB and plate right into a Tofu60 case with no issues. Wooting additionally makes a full-size keyboard, the Wooting Two HE, with the identical switches.

For individuals who will make the most of them, the Wooting 60 HE’s analog switches and customizability justify the above-average worth. However except you’re going to make use of each of those options, the 60 HE is a tricky promote. When you’re searching for a keyboard to tear open and mod, there are different choices on this record that don’t price practically as a lot. — Alice Newcome-Beill

Learn our evaluation of the full-size Wooting Two HE

Greatest 65 % wi-fi gaming keyboard

$150

Razer’s first 65 % gaming keyboard makes use of its HyperSpeed 2.4GHz wi-fi dongle, and it may possibly additionally pair with as much as three gadgets through Bluetooth. The BlackWidow V3 Mini can final for as much as 200 hours on a cost, when you flip the RGB lighting off, and is rechargeable through USB-C.

Structure: 65 % / Connectivity: Removable USB-C, Bluetooth, HyperSpeed 2.4GHz (1000Hz) / Keycaps: Shinethrough PBT / Switches: Razer Linear Yellow, Clicky Inexperienced / Scorching-swap: No

The BlackWidow V3 Mini Hyperspeed is Razer’s first 65 % gaming keyboard. This structure makes for a very good compromise for anybody that desires a keyboard with a smaller footprint that retains directional arrows and navigational keys.

In addition to the structure, the largest promoting level for the BlackWidow V3 is its wi-fi connectivity. Whereas wi-fi mechanical keyboards are more and more widespread, Bluetooth’s comparatively pokey 125Hz polling price isn’t very best for fast-paced gaming. The BlackWidow V3 can hook up with as much as three paired gadgets with Bluetooth, however for gaming, you’re a lot better off utilizing the included HyperSpeed wi-fi dongle — its 1000Hz polling price is as quick as most wired keyboards (although not the BlackWidow talked about above, which is a faster-than-necessary 8000Hz). The dongle can also be suitable with Razer’s HyperSpeed mice and headsets, so you should utilize a single dongle to attach a number of peripherals.

Battery life isn’t unhealthy, both. I used to be in a position to preserve the V3 working for round 17 hours with the RGB lighting on its highest setting, and Razer claims it may possibly final for as much as 200 hours with the backlighting off.

The 65 % structure of the BlackWidow V3 mini retains the naked necessities with out taking on an excessive amount of area
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Similar to different Razer keyboards, the Blackwidow V3 makes use of proprietary switches. They’re obtainable in linear or clicky varieties and are just about indistinguishable from the favored pink and blue Cherry-style switches used within the majority of mechanical keyboards. The general typing expertise is sort of good, though, at this worth, it might’ve been good to get some kind of sound dampening for the chassis, or quieter stabilizers, to enhance the acoustics. Additionally, similar to Razer’s different keyboards, the PCB isn’t hot-swappable. — Alice Newcome-Beill

A terrific customizable keyboard you may sport on

$84

The Keychron V1 is one of the best entry-level wired mechanical keyboard. It has hot-swap switches, full remappability with VIA, nice construct high quality, RGB backlighting, and doubleshot PBT keycaps for underneath $100.

Structure: 75 % (different choices obtainable) / Connectivity: Removable USB-C / Keycaps: Doubleshot PBT / Switches: Keychron Okay Professional Purple, Blue, Brown / Scorching-swap: Sure (5-pin)

The Keychron V1 isn’t particularly a gaming keyboard, however — don’t make me faucet the signal — it’s when you sport on it. It has a 1000Hz polling price, hot-swap switches, nice construct high quality and typing really feel, absolutely customizable key mapping, and even RGB. The one factor separating it from gaming gaming keyboards is the software program: It doesn’t have the straightforward macro programming, granular lighting management, or software program integrations of Razer’s Synapse or Corsair’s iCue. However, it doesn’t have the bloat of Synapse or iCue, and it does nonetheless have macro programming and full keymap customization by way of VIA. It additionally has a quantity knob.

The Keychron V1’s 75 % structure is good for players who don’t want a built-in quantity pad, and it has options that rival boards twice its worth.
Picture: Jon Porter / The Verge

The V1 is a 75 % keyboard, which is a good all-around structure for gaming and typing, although Keychron has plenty of other layout options when you want. It’s obtainable with clicky, linear, or tactile switches, and its hot-swap sockets make it trivial to swap on your swap of selection.

The V1 is a killer deal for what you get — it’s our high decide for mechanical keyboards for a purpose — however if you’d like a heavier, fancier-feeling keyboard, the Keychron Q1 Pro has all of the options of the V1, plus Bluetooth, gasket mounting for a bouncier kind really feel, and a milled-aluminum case. — Nathan Edwards

An affordable low-profile gaming keyboard

$50

A finances TKL gaming keyboard with low-profile switches, the Phantom is a killer deal for the worth. Its software program isn’t as absolutely featured as Razer or Corsair’s, however it’s a lot much less resource-intensive and doesn’t require an web connection.

Structure: Tenkeyless (TKL) / Connection: Removable USB-C / Keycaps: Shinethrough PBT / Switches: Outemu low-profile / Backlighting: RGB / Scorching-swap: Sure (Outemu low-profile solely)

The Tecware Phantom L is a reasonable, low-profile tenkeyless gaming keyboard. A low-profile keyboard makes use of switches with a shorter stem and a extra squat housing that ends in much less journey distance when urgent keys. When you’ve by no means used a low-profile keyboard for gaming, I’d counsel giving it a attempt, and at this worth, there’s little purpose to not. 

Similar to many different gaming keyboards, the Phantom L is offered with linear, tactile, or clicky switches. The PCB is technically hot-swappable, however Tecware says it’s solely suitable with Outemu low-profile switches, and the inventory switches are remarkably troublesome to take away — I needed to double-check that they weren’t soldered in. Nonetheless, on condition that hot-swap PCBs are such a rarity in low-profile keyboards, I’m keen to provide the Phantom L a go, particularly at underneath $50.

The Tecware Phantom L is a tenkeyless low-profile keyboard that’s nearly unbelievably cheap.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The Phantom L additionally options per-key RGB lighting that may be adjusted both through keyboard macros or through the use of the software program obtainable on the Tecware web site. The software program might actually be higher, however it does a satisfactory job of letting you regulate the lighting and arrange macros. In comparison with one thing like Razer’s Synapse software program or Corsair iCue, Tecware’s software program is leaner in each its lighting and profile choices, however it hits the fundamentals.

When you’re searching for a gaming keyboard on a budget, the Tecware Phantom L supplies superb worth for its worth. The low-profile kind issue might not attraction to everybody, and modifying the switches might show problematic down the road, however you’ll have a tricky time discovering one other keyboard with the identical set of options for much less. — Alice Newcome-Beill

Key Phrases Utilized in Gaming Keyboards

Switches — the element that registers every keypress. Out there in many alternative varieties, which roughly break down into three classes:

  • Clicky switches make an enormous audible “click on” sound while you press them. Essentially the most well-known instance is the “Cherry MX Blue” swap, so these are generally known as “Blue” switches. Usually advisable as one of the best swap for typists however have the drawback of being the loudest swap kind.
  • Tactile switches, also called “Brown” switches, after “Cherry MX Brown.” These switches have a small bump you may really feel as you press them. A pleasant midway home.
  • Linear switches, aka “Purple” switches, don’t have any bump or click on. They simply really feel utterly clean. Usually advisable as a gaming swap.

Different switch-related phrases:

Scorching-swappable switches will be eliminated with a easy pulling device with out desoldering. Perfect if you wish to change a keyboard’s really feel with out changing the entire thing.

Low-profile switches have a shorter stem and usually a shorter journey distance and are often paired with low-profile keycaps to provide the keyboard an total slimmer silhouette. Usually incompatible with normal MX-style keycaps.

Analog switches use magnetic Corridor impact sensors versus the mechanical actuation present in most switches. Analog switches let you set customized actuation factors or assign completely different capabilities to a key primarily based on how arduous it’s pressed.

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