The word “mushy” isn’t often associated with the modern computer keyboard, but serious gamers know that a “mushy” keyboard can be a life-or-death deal-breaker in today’s fast-paced games. The definition of a “mushy” keyboard varies from gamer to gamer, but there’s a general rule: Non-mechanical, imprecise keyboards that don’t always register a keystroke even when a button is pressed. A keyboard this imprecise could be the difference between life or death in many popular games, causing opponents to take advantage of a missed shot or something equally dire.
The best solution to the world of imprecise office keyboards is a keyboard dedicated to online gaming. These mechanical keyboards are custom-built for gamers, by gamers, and are far more precise than their office counterparts. Ranging from highly affordable to truly high-end, the top 10 best gaming keyboards in 2016 reviews will result in faster, more precise gameplay that doesn’t leave anything up to chance.
Best Gaming Keyboards in 2017
10. HyperX Alloy FPS
HyperX is one of the few gaming keyboard manufacturers that has focused on the growing market for highly compact, travel-friendly keyboards. Now more than ever, gamers often move their systems between locations and competitions on the fly. Some bulky keyboards make that quite challenging, but not the HyperX Allow FPS. Indeed, this keyboard is smaller than even most compact laptop keyboards.
Despite its small size, however, the HyperX Alloy FPS packs all the must-have features of a top-notch gaming keyboard. The accessory features a fully mechanical design, excellent backlighting for dark environments, universal, plug-and-play compatibility with virtually all operating systems and platforms, and a 2.2mm key travel distance that provides a reassuring “click” with every press.
- Solid aluminum frame provides for a sturdy experience
- Easily the most compact, mechanical gaming keyboard on the market
- Universal compatibility travels well between platforms
- One of the few keyboards on the market that lack dedicated media controls
- Backlighting is provided only in red, which may not match some setups
Among gaming keyboards, MX mechanical designs are the most common. That’s why it’s so notable that the Speedlink Ultor breaks from this tradition by offering a TKL mechanical design instead. Most gamers have already decided whether they prefer MX or TKL switches, which will make it easy for many to choose the Speedlink Ultor. Like the compact keyboard mentioned earlier, the Ultor uses Kailh’s Red Switches, which are considered to be among the best on the market.
Perhaps the most alluring feature of this keyboard, however, is its price. TKL keyboards with Kailh’s Red Switches can draw a hefty price tag when sold by other manufacturers. In this case, the keyboard is among the most affordable TLK models on the market and performs no differently than high-end alternatives. The value-minded gamer likely has no better option available.
- Full-size keyboard that can be used for both gaming and productivity
- Highly responsive buttons and switches with an audible “click” sound
- USB connectivity for plug-and-play installation
- Material design is somewhat bright and noisy, which could be distracting
- Backlighting is not adjustable in terms of either brightness or color
8. G.Skill Ripjaw KM780 RGB
Long a top-notch producer of internal computer components, G.Skill has recently branched out into mechanical gaming keyboards. The company has been met with quite a bit of praise and success for its efforts, especially since it often brings high-end features to market with a low-end price that accommodates value-minded gamers. The Ripjaw KM780 RGB comes with Cherry MX switches that provide excellent travel distance, an audible click, and reliably consistent and predictable performance in even the most challenging games.
Unlike some of the other options on this list, the affordable nature of this keyboard doesn’t prevent the inclusion of media control keys. A full set of media control keys, as well as function and macro keys, can be found on this keyboard. It should be noted, however, that these keys do not have the same Cherry MX reliability and premium feeling as the other switches. Still, it’s a nice upgrade for a value-conscious mechanical keyboard.
- Macro and function keys are included
- Full media controls are present on the keyboard
- USB plug-and-play allows for cross-platform compatibility
- Like so many gaming keyboards, the design is loud, flashy, and distracting
- Media keys, while nice, feel cheap and not as sturdy as the rest of the keyboard
7. Division Zero X40
The Division Zero keyboard lineup is actually the gaming keyboard series from Das Keyboard, a leader in office keyboards. Das Keyboard has long been respected for its careful focus on both accuracy and ergonomics, which has led the company to become one of the most respected and profitable in that industry. The same commitment to quality can be seen in the company’ Division Zero X40 mechanical keyboard for gaming. Das Keyboard has actually equipped this model with its own “Alpha-Zulu” switches, which are designed to feel most like Cherry MX switches. Their quality and reliability, however, is supposed to be even better.
Unlike many gaming keyboards, Das Keyboard understands the power of a rigid and durable material design. That’s why the company made this model from highly rigid, aluminum and steel panels. The result is a keyboard that has virtually no bending or gives in the middle of the device. Key presses and game actions are therefore even more reliable than other models.
- Highly responsive switches, with a durable, custom design
- Compact design, especially when compared to other gaming keyboards
- Aluminum and steel construction for a rigid and highly durable feel
- This keyboard is among the brightest and most distracting on the market
- Included LED color scheme can only be set to blue, which might not work for some gamers
6. Cherry MX Board 6.0
It’s one thing to pick up a keyboard that uses Cherry MX switches, but it’s quite another to buy a complete Cherry MX keyboard. Though not the most affordable option on the market, the Cherry MX-Board 6.0 is easily one of the best options for today’s gamers. It all starts with a completely metal frame, which is unique among the options listed so far. The keyboard also comes with a wrist rest that is extremely comfortable and enhances the ergonomics of both gaming and typing.
As one would expect, the Cherry MX-Board 6.0 uses Cherry MX switches, with approximately 2.2mm of travel between the switch and the base of the keyboard. That means gamers can expect a highly precise keystroke that comes with an audible clicking sound every time. The company fine-tuned the keys for routine productivity use as well, which makes this among the most versatile models on the market.
- Excellent ergonomics that provide wrist comfort during long periods of use
- Enjoyable feel while typing, even during an extended period
- All-metal design provides a premium finish
- No media keys are included with this keyboard
- Some gamers complain that the keyboard is bare bones and lacks some necessary media and macro features
5. Logitech G810
Logitech, long known to be the king of productivity accessories, has also earned respect in recent years as a leader in producing mechanical keyboards for gaming. The company’s G810 keyboard is easily among the most impressive gaming models on the market, with a minimalist design that could fit into any home office, or professional office, with ease. Beyond the keyboard’s minimalist design, however, is a commitment to the most fundamental aspects of a mechanical keyboard.
The G810 is one of the few keyboards to ditch Cherry MX switches in favor of Romer-G switches. These switches are known for being just a touch less responsive than their Cherry MX counterparts, but the design of this keyboard mitigates the difference in response times. Also included are a full slate of media keys, USB connectivity, and full plug-and-play operation with both Windows and Mac platforms, right out of the box.
- Use of Romer-G switches provides a refreshing change of pace for seasoned gamers
- Minimalist design looks good in almost any office or game room
- Keys are comfortable enough to be used for productivity as well as gaming
- No USB pass-through for connecting other peripheral devices
4. SteelSeries Apex M500
Gaming keyboards in 2016 have become decidedly gaudy affairs, with rare exception. The Logitech G810, for instance, is a nice, minimalist keyboard that doesn’t draw attention to itself. It’s decidedly in the minority. Alongside that minimalist keyboard is the SteelSeries Apex M500, which also drops the bells and whistles in order to focus on a superior in-game experience. The keyboard comes with Cherry MX switches. In particular, the switches are Cherry MX Reds, paired with a non-customizable blue backlighting scheme.
In order to achieve its minimalist and compact design, the SteelSeries Apex M500 does drop a few features from the mix that gamers might have come to expect on their mechanical gaming keyboards. Media keys are absent from this model, for instance. This keyboard also drops macro keys, which some gamers might find to be a deal breaker. Even so, this keyboard stands out as being precise, comfortable to use, and among the most compact on the market.
- Compact, minimalist design is different from many competing models
- Key travel is very precise and satisfying during fast-paced games
- Comfortable for use during extended periods of gaming or typing
- Backlighting cannot be customized by the user
- Plug-and-play installation is limited in its Mac compatibility
- No media or macro keys
3. Razer Ornata Chroma
One of the biggest debates that most gamers face, at least internally, is whether to buy a mechanical gaming keyboard or a membrane-style keyboard. That debate is easier to settle in 2016, thanks to the Razer Ornata Chroma. This unique keyboard does away with the Cherry MX keys and instead uses a new type of switch that it calls the “Mecha-Membrane Key.”
As its name might suggest, this switch is a hybrid of both mechanical and membrane designs. The result is a highly efficient and satisfying experience that is also highly precise in fast-paced games. A satisfying click greets every key press, providing for excellent peace of mind in-game. It’s unlike virtually anything else on the market for today’s gamers.
- Unique key design is unlike anything else on the market
- Highly precise and audible switches
- Plush wrist rest provides excellent comfort and ergonomics in-game
- Slightly less key travel than fully mechanical keyboards
- Flashy design that won’t be easily ignored among more traditional decor
2. SteelSeries Apex M800
The top thing that most gamers are concerned with as they play is speed. That’s why the SteelSeries Apex M800 has become one of the top choices for gamers who don’t even have a fraction of a second to spare as they play. The keyboard’s design has an extremely low key travel distance of 1.5mm. This is significantly less than most other keyboards and cuts fractions of a second off the response time in-game. Despite a smaller travel distance, keys still make a satisfying click and provide reassurance that the desired action has been taken.
While the keyboard uses plastic as its primary surface material, steel materials are used within the device to provide added stability. Unlike many keyboards in this list, the SteelSeries M800 also comes with full RGB backlighting that can be very intricately customized. The design also blends into most conventional offices and game rooms, making this a sensible choice for gamers who avoid particularly “loud” keyboard designs.
- Extremely fast operation, thanks to low-key travel distance
- Customizable RGB backlighting system
- Widely compatible with both Mac and Windows titles
- Plastic build isn’t as premium as other options
- Low key travel requires a bit of adjustment
1. Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire
Corsair, long a reputable provider of computer products and internal components, has recently gotten into the gaming keyboard market. In a very short time, the company has managed to create the single best mechanical keyboard currently available. At 1.2mm, the K70 RGB Rapidfire from Corsair has the lowest key travel distance of any keyboard on the market. This makes the keyboard a perfect fit for gamers who value every fraction of a second while playing their favorite games and beating the competition.
In addition to a low travel distance, keys benefit from the super-responsive nature of Cherry MX Reds switches. In fact, these switches are so sensitive that the keyboard is almost useless as a way of typing long messages. Thanks to its inclusion of media and macro keys, as well as RGB adjustable backlighting, this keyboard is a great fit for even the most demanding gamers. If buyers prefer a TKL switch instead, a modified version of the K70 RGB Rapidfire with TKL switches is available with all of the same standard features.
- 1.2mm key travel distance provides for the most responsive gaming experience on the market
- Fully customizable RGB backlighting system
- USB plug-and-play compatibility with Mac, OS X, and Linux platforms
- Keys are too sensitive to use as for productivity tasks
- Unique positioning of the keys virtually requires a wrist rest
Get the Job Done Without Guesswork: Excellent Gaming Keyboards
It’s time to stop using a run-of-the-mill keyboard when playing some of the today’s most popular PC titles. Instead, move to a gaming keyboard that promises better, more precise results and faster gameplay all around. The ten best keyboards of 2016 will result in a better gaming experience overall, come with several features that enhance the usability of both games and most PC applications, and accommodate virtually every budget. If it’s time to move beyond the “mushy” office keyboard of yesteryear, the ten models listed here will meet gamers’ demands from the start.