Having the right tools at your disposal when PC gaming is critical, and the heart of your performance is having the best gaming keyboard. It's your primary input for a large portion of your games, so getting it right is crucial. If you want the absolute best keyboard for gaming right now, you want the SteelSeries Apex Pro.
Best overall: SteelSeries Apex Pro
The SteelSeries Apex Pro is simply unlike any other gaming keyboard you can buy right now. Some go the mechanical route. Others have started building optical switches based on breaking light beams. SteelSeries has gone for a magnetic actuation that you, the gamer, can change on a key-by-key basis to truly customize your experience to how you like to play games.
The Apex Pro makes it possible to adjust the actuation point between 0.4mm and 3.6mm using the onboard control wheel and OLED display or SteelSeries Engine. The software interacts with the magnetic Omni point switches to adjust how each key performs, and you can set keys to different values to save to profiles.
This means you can have different profiles for different games and a mix of instant actuation and, as an example, a heavier actuation on something like a special ability or a grenade to prevent accidental misfires. It's quite pricey, but there's absolutely nothing else on the market like it right now.
- Changeable actuation points
- Onboard storage
- Useful OLED display
- Included wrist rest
SteelSeries Apex Pro
$164 at Amazon $163 at Walmart
You've never seen a keyboard like this before
Changeable actuation on a key-by-key basis makes the Apex Pro the first genuinely customizable gaming keyboard.
Runner-up: Razer Huntsman V2 Analog
If you're shopping on a tight budget, the Razer Huntsman V2 Analog is not going to be your choice. It's expensive. But it's one of the most technologically advanced keyboards on the market today, so there's no brand tax being applied. In fact, there's so much going on with the Huntsman V2 Analog it's hard to know where to begin. This is a keyboard unapologetically targeted at gamers.
The heart of this keyboard is Razer's newest switch. It's an optical, as on the previous generation Huntsman, but that's where the similarities end. The Analog Optical switch is linear, so it's smooth and has no bump action, and has adjustable actuation. Each key can be altered to a value between 1.5mm and 3.6mm.
The other big deal with the switches is the scaling input. For gaming, this is designed to offer an analog feel that you might normally associate with a gamepad. Again, it's customizable on a key-by-key basis, and since you can lock profiles into the onboard memory, you can use them on any PC, too. It only really loses out to the SteelSeries Apex Pro overall on price, as it's a good chunk more expensive, but you get a truly mesmerizing keyboard for it.
- Adjustable actuation points on a per-key basis
- Analog optical switches are light and quiet
- USB-C connection
- Much improved wrist rest included
- Controller-like function for keys
- USB 3.0 pass-through
- Quite chunky and heavy
Razer Huntsman V2 Analog
Razer's most ambitious keyboard to date is also its best by a clear margin. From the switches to the build quality and everything in between, this is a simply staggering keyboard.
$250 at Razer
Best budget mechanical: Havit KB-395L
Havit has released a solid, low-profile keyboard with excellent Kailh mechanical keys. That's a feat in itself, but to have it combined with such a sound typing experience is the icing on the cake. The Havit KB-395L is one of our favorite low-profile mechanical keyboards.
The switches are still perfectly suitable for gaming, but this is a keyboard that comes into its own for anyone who wants to combine their gaming with a ton of typing for work. It's almost crazy how good this keyboard is for its low asking price; it's so comfortable to type on for long periods.
But it's still got RGB, a detachable cable, superb build quality, and durability, and some useful companion software that allows you to create macros, lockout the Windows key, customize the lighting profiles, and a dedicated "game mode."
- Good value
- Excellent typing experience
- Detachable cable
- Low-profile mechanical keys
- Prone to flex in the middle
- No media keys
Best budget mechanical
$67 at Amazon
For when you type and game
This low-profile keyboard is as good for typing as it is for gaming and has a ton of customizable options, all at a great price.
Best membrane: Razer Cynosa V2
Not everyone enjoys the added noise you get from mechanical switches while still wanting something reliable for gaming. The Razer Cynosa V2 is one of the best membrane keyboards around with a quiet sound and a soft cushioned keypress.
Naturally, this Razer keyboard comes with Chroma lighting and supports a 10-key rollover with anti-ghosting. Thanks to the Synapse 3 companion app, you have additional features like locking out the Windows key when gaming, and you can add other functions or macros to any key using Razer Hypershift.
Perhaps the icing on the cake, though, is that the Cynosa Chroma is spill-resistant, which makes it a good companion for the office, too, since you'll never have to worry about that inevitable coffee spill!
- Quiet membrane keys
- 10-key rollover and anti-ghosting
- Macros and customizable key functions
- No detachable cable
- Membrane is not as responsive as mechanical
Razer Cynosa V2
$50 at Amazon
A quiet gaming experience
Quiet, cushioned key presses, gamer-centric features, and protections against spills are a keyboard perfect for work and play.
Best wireless: Logitech G613
There was a time when a wireless gaming keyboard would be unthinkable. Not only is it now an option, but thanks to the Logitech G613, it's a great option with mechanical switches.
Thanks to the company's Lightspeed technology, you get a 1ms report rate while being able to clack away on Logitech's Romer-G switches. That's important because latency without a cable is a thing, but Logitech has worked black magic on keeping it as low as possible.
The wrist rest is permanently attached, and incredibly, Logitech claims it's possible to get a full year's battery life from the G613 through general use. For a pretty affordable price, you get all that, macro keys, and, most importantly, no wires, which certainly helps keep your desk a little tidier!
- Great build quality
- Romer-G mechanical switches
- Macros and customizable key functions
- Great battery life
- Bluetooth support
- Attractive price
- Quite large
- No backlight
- Average wrist rest
$71 at Amazon $70.52 at Walmart
The wireless quality you get from Logitech
Wireless is now a real possibility for gaming, and the response time of the G613 is proof that the future is cable-free.
Best compact: Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini
In our review of the Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini, we gave this mechanical keyboard our full five-star rating, as well as a must-buy recommendation. Razer as a brand has been around for decades and has an almost fanatical following, but you really do get what you pay for. The BlackWidow V3 Mini is a 65% keyboard, so it's super compact, and while gamers are the first thought, in certain configurations this is also the perfect mechanical keyboard for the office.
Razer uses its own Green or Yellow switches in the BlackWidow V3 Mini, depending on whether you prefer tactile feedback or silent actuation. Lots of mechanical switches claim to be silent, but few deliver on the level that the Razer Yellow switches do. The soft, cushioned action and lack of sound make it a dream to spend a day typing on. The keycaps are all of the highest quality, too, and the lack of wobble in any, including the space bar, is reassuring of its quality.
The BlackWidow V3 Mini is mostly plastic, but it's durable feeling with a little weight to it, and certainly doesn't feel cheap or like it might break in any way. It hooks up over USB-C for charging (yes, it's wireless!), and like all good gaming keyboards, has full RGB lighting throughout.
- Choice of Razer Green or Yellow switches
- Compact and clean design
- Razer Chroma integration
- Excellent build quality
- HyperSpeed wireless
- RGB lighting decimates battery life
Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini
Razer just made the best compact gaming keyboard with HyperSpeed wireless, a choice of switches, 65% percent design, and excellent ergonomics.
$150 at Amazon
Choosing the best gaming keyboard
There are a lot of great gaming keyboards out there right now, and PC gamers are spoiled. If the price doesn't put you off, the SteelSeries Apex Pro is the one to get right now. It brings something genuinely new and innovative to the table with its use of magnets to allow customizable actuation points on a key-by-key basis.
No other gaming keyboard does this right now, and it's one of those features you didn't know you wanted until you try. SteelSeries has top-notch build quality, too, and a decent companion application that really will help you get the most from your keyboard. Whether you're typing or gaming, you're in excellent hands with the Apex Pro.
If you don't fancy such functionality and want the best gaming keyboard for competitive play to help you score big online, look no further than the Razer Huntsman. It's compact, amazing to type and game on, and is a little more affordable. There are some excellent choices out there for gaming keyboards and this guide is a solid place to start.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.