September 21, 2020
Best gaming keyboard for 2020

Best gaming keyboard for 2020


The best gaming keyboard is going to be something different for every style of gamer. There are a multitude of options available at a wide range of prices, so deciding what’s right for you often comes down to budget and personal preference. This list is some of the best we’ve tested that are widely available. 

If you’re looking for models that’ll have a little less impact on your wallet, you’ll want to check our best cheap gaming keyboards. There are good options there including the Aukey KM-G12, a $50 mechanical keyboard with per-key RGB lighting, high-performance Outemu Blue clicky key switches and software for programming the lights and remapping keys. But spending more will get you things like discrete media controls, higher-quality switches and construction, a wrist rest and more.

Don’t know a membrane from a mechanical switch? Head to the buying advice section at the bottom. Also, if you think any other mechanical gaming keyboard belongs here, let me know in the comments. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

Our current top tenkeyless (or TKL, i.e. no numberpad) gaming keyboard. A step up from the standard G Pro, the Pro X has swappable switches, letting you choose the exact feel you want with Logitech’s GX switches available in blue clicky, red linear and brown tactile sets for $50 each. Removing and replacing the switches is simple, making it easy to customize your experience if you’ve got the money. It’s modding made easy.

The keyboard’s overall design doesn’t differ much from the G Pro, though, which would be our runner-up pick. It’s made for esports, and its small, sturdy build and removable braided cable makes it good for travel. Logitech’s G Hub software is straightforward to use so you don’t spend a lot of time hunting for settings or control options. Attaching macros to the function keys is painless as well.

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The Elite 2 is a beefier version of HyperX’s slimmer, lighter Alloy Origins and Origins Core TKL keyboards. Instead of an aluminum frame, the Elite 2 has a sturdier steel frame, which gives it some heft to keep it in place on your desk. A thick braided cable is attached at the back and there’s a pass-through USB 2.0 port for your wired gaming mouse or wireless receiver. 

The backlit keyboard is overall larger, too, with the addition of a light bar above the function keys and a separate bar with media controls and buttons for adjusting backlight brightness, choosing one of three custom light modes you can store on the keyboard and turning on the Game Mode, which turns off the Windows key and other key combos that might interfere with your gameplay. 

However, like the Origins models, the Elite 2 uses the company’s homegrown Red linear key switches instead of the Cherry MX switch in the original. Smooth and fast, the HyperX Reds are comparable to the Cherry MX Red switch and perform just as well and should satisfy most gamers. 

The switches use surface-mounted RGB LEDs that are incredibly bright, so if you want a good lightshow from your gaming keyboard, this doesn’t disappoint. Plus, the keyboard is set up with HyperX ABS pudding keycaps that lets the light shine through their translucent sides.  

Josh Goldman/CNET

Das Keyboard might be known for its keyboards with blank keycaps, but the X50Q stands out for another reason: It’s one of the company’s smart keyboards that uses drag-and-drop applets to let you receive notifications for different services. For example, you can set one of the RGB-backlit keys to change color when you receive an email from a specific sender on your Gmail account. The selection of applets for the keyboard is limited, but there are some helpful ones, including one for Twitch and one for when there’s a deal pops on a game you’ve been waiting to buy. There’s also an API available if you decide you want to make your own applet.

The keyboard uses Omron Gamma Zulu switches made for Das Keyboard that are tactile but also soft and relatively quiet for a mechanical keyboard. I prefer a tactile switch for typing and gaming so these hit the spot. The X50Q’s software lets you program lighting, set up macros and everything else you’d expect from a high-quality keyboard. 

There’s a full set of media keys and a volume knob up at the top right that, combined with smart notifications, makes this feel like a desktop command center. And the thing is built like a tank. Plus, Das Keyboard includes a soft-touch wrist rest that clips into the keyboard so it stays put. It’s currently priced at $129, so you’re getting a lot of keyboard for your money, especially if you want a single mechanical keyboard for gaming and work.  

Sarah Tew/CNET

The K70 with mechanical keys is our pick for the best gaming keyboard for shared spaces. This quiet gaming keyboard uses linear Cherry MX Red RGB low-profile switches. That means you get the fast responsive performance of regular Red switches but without the high-profile keycaps, for a thinner, compact keyboard. In other words, it looks and feels more like a modern office keyboard with a more parallel hand position than your average mechanical gaming keyboard. 

There’s per-key RGB backlighting as well as textured keycaps for gaming, including one for the extra-large spacebar. There are LED backlit media controls along the top, so you can find them in the dark. And there’s a USB pass-through. About the only place it feels like Corsair skimped was the included plastic palm rest and wrist rest. 

Corsair’s iCue software is one of the better packages for controlling lighting and programming keystrokes on the keyboard. Plus, if you have other iCue-enabled peripherals and components in your PC, you can control them all from this one application.  

Josh Goldman/CNET

Whirlwind FX made a splash a few years back with its Vortx, a black box that, put simply, uses audio and video cues from the PC game you’re playing and immerses you in the experience by blowing hot or cold air on you, e.g. a nearby onscreen explosion will trigger a burst of hot air from the Vortx. The company’s Element keyboard brings that same idea to your keyboard.

With the included software, you can set the keyboard’s per-key RGB lighting to have different effects during regular use and when media is playing including various games. For example, I tested it out with the newly released effects for Minecraft: Dungeons, which essentially reproduces whatever’s onscreen with the keyboard lights. It does add an element of immersion, but the integration is better with games like Fortnite where the keyboard lights are immersive and helpful by fully changing to pink and red when you take damage, purple when you add experience, and green when you heal, among other things. And if you really like to tinker, you can create your own integrations using the company’s open-platform lighting software.

However, while there are lots you can do with the lights, you can’t set macros or remap keys aside from setting the F1-F4 keys to launch your choice of applications. The keyboard itself is slim and sturdy with Kailh switches, and you have your choice of Red (linear) and Blue (clicky and tactile). And if you really want to enjoy the lights, you can swap the matte-black keycaps for a set of black pudding caps or lightcaps that are translucent white on top with black bottoms and the markings on front. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re going to spend nearly $200 to find the best gaming keyboard and are into mechanical keyboards, oh do we have the device for you. This mechanical gaming keyboard is our top pick at the moment for a great gaming experience, and a lot of it has to do with the lighting effects. It’s a solid keyboard in design and performance with Razer’s Purple optomechanical switches delivering fast response time performance and good typing experience if you like clicky, tactile feedback. There are media controls (though it would be nice if the icons on them lit up, not just the outside) and they’re programmable just like all the other keys. 

Razer’s Synapse software gives extensive control over the full-sized keyboard’s setup, though you can stick to presets if you’re not into tweaking settings. Along with the per-key lighting, there’s also a band of light that goes around the outside of the keyboard and the included padded wrist rest, which magnetically attaches to the keyboard. 

It’s a wired keyboard, so it does eat up a second USB port on your computer, though, and there’s no USB passthrough on the Huntsman Elite to make up for it. If that’s important to you, go with Razer’s BlackWidow Elite, which is about $50 less with a choice of switches.  

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roccat developed the switch for this mechanical keyboard, called Titan. It’s a quiet, tactile switch with a well-defined bump when actuated with no wobble and is firm and responsive for gaming. The shallow keycap and switch design make it seem like the keys are floating above the metal chassis top, giving it the look and feel of an island-style keyboard. The Vulcan is fine for typing, too, but I liked it more for gaming. 

The company’s Swarm software isn’t as straightforward to use as others, but you’ll find all the same sort of design tools for creating custom lighting setups and macros with different profiles. You can even make your key presses sound like laser blasts or a typewriter, among other things, through your speakers or headphones. And if you have other AIMO devices, the lighting can be matched between them. 

Other extras on this mechanical gaming keyboard include a knob that adjusts volume and the brightness for the RGB per-key lighting, and a wrist rest, although the latter is hard plastic and attaches loosely, so it can shift around some while gaming. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

Most gamers swear by wired keyboards and for good reason: It eliminates lag and potential signal interference. That said, I didn’t experience either while testing the G915 using its Lightspeed wireless adapter. It can be connected via Bluetooth, too, and as long as you keep the backlight off or low, battery life is fairly good. 

The per-key RGB lighting, as well as all keys, can be programmed with Logitech’s G Hub software. The app is generally easy to work with and you can set up to three profiles that you can change to without opening the software. 

Its compact size and the company’s low-profile GL Tactile switches make it a viable choice for work and gaming, which is good considering it’s $230. You can also get it with GL Clicky or GL Linear switches and in two colors: carbon with black keycaps or silver with white caps. 

Just like picking out a new gaming mouse, getting the right gaming keyboard has a lot to do with personal preference (and budget). For instance, I like tactile switches — ones where you can feel the actuation point — but I don’t care for clicky key switches that make a sound when actuated. Linear switches, like Cherry MX Red switches, don’t have that tactile feedback, but because of their low force and smooth actuation they’re preferred for gaming, especially where multiple taps of the same key are necessary. 

Also, some keyboards might feel great for gaming experiences, but you might not like them for day-to-day typing. For example, those same Cherry MX Red switches that are great for gaming might be too light for some typists. If you have a chance to test out different types of switches before you buy, I highly recommend it. You can check out this glossary of keyboard terms to help narrow your preferences.


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