Aside from your gaming mouse, your mechanical keyboard is the primary weapon in your peripherals arsenal. Switches, actuation distances, and macro bindings can seriously impact your competitiveness. On top of that, the way keycaps feel under your fingertips and the way switches sound can either keep you hyper-focused or shatter your concentration, making the difference between victory and defeat.
Every year, it seems like dozens of new mechanical gaming keyboards are unleashed on gamers at large. They're all vying for supremacy in the ever-escalating keyboards arms race. Some are truly innovative, bringing new tools and specialties to the strategy room and the battlefield, while others operate under the guise of innovation, only to be found lacking in both design and engineering.
But we're not here to talk about those imitators. Instead, we're here to talk about the mechanical gaming keyboards that get the job done -- and those you need to add to your armory. With the holidays just around the corner, here are some of the best you can get right now.
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The first of three Corsair mechanical keyboards on this list, the Corsair K63 is a compact, tenkeyless option that stands head and shoulders above the rest of its cheap (read: budget) mechanical keyboard peers. In a nutshell, very few compact boards of this design live up to the resiliency and reliability of the K63.
Providing huge bang for your buck, this Corsair offering uses Cherry MX Reds that provide the short actuation distances you need to be highly competitive. That distance isn't as rapid as Corsair's RGB Platinum offering, which has an absurdly low 1.2mm actuation distance, but for most players, the difference between the two is negligible. With complete N-key rollover, this board will register all of your key presses at lightning speed.
And although this board doesn't have dedicated macro keys, that doesn't mean it isn't highly customizable. Corsair's inimitable CUE software, which has functionality for almost all of the company's products, allows you to fully customize each of the board's keys, set timer cooldowns, and remap every single key. That's a lot of firepower for such a small board at such a low price.
The main caveat here is that the K63 isn't as ergonomic or as comfortable as it could be. Although you can purchase a wrist rest separately, doing so will push you over the $100 mark and closer to the Corsair K68's price point. But at $80, you expect to make a few compromises.
Read our Corsair K63 keyboard review to learn more.
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The Razer Ornata Chroma is a unique entry in 2017's mechanical keyboard catalog. On the surface, it might look a lot like other boards on this list, but under the hood, the Chroma is an entirely different beast. And it begins with the board's switches.
Under the shallower-than-normal keycaps, the Ornata Chroma houses a proprietary, hybrid switch design that couples mechanical technology with membrane technology. Here, mechanical switches depress silicone domes to register keystrokes. This technology allows for faster response times -- and fewer deaths in battle.
Unlike other keyboards in its price range, such as Corsair's K63 and K68 models, the Chroma offers 16-million color RGB backlighting via its downloadable software, Synapse. The program also allows you to select from on-board lighting presets or design your own programmable color patterns with ease. On top of that, you can also program macros and specific keystrokes to the board, as well as view a heat map of your typing, pinpointing where you're missing strokes or presses.
Coming with a generously cushy wrist rest, Razer's Chroma is one of the more ergonomic choices of 2017. However, it doesn't provide any pass-through options like the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum and is devoid of media keys, leaving you to use the board's function key to perform menial media tasks.
But with those exceptions aside, the Razer Ornata Chroma is a fantastic budget gaming keyboard with a few bells and whistles to set it apart.
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For $20 more than the Corsair K63, you can get the company's ten-key K68 model -- which comes with a wrist rest. It's a lot like the K63 across the board except for one important thing: this keyboard is water and dust resistant.
Adhering to IP32 standards, the Corsair K68 keyboard is able to keep dust particles and debris up to 2.5mm thick, as well as vertical water spillage and dripping water, from entering the nuts and bolts of the board. Corsair's engineers accomplished this feat by bonding a translucent rubber covering around the board's plate-mounted Cherry MX switches and the K68's chassis. This rubber covering contains built-in channels than funnel water and debris past components and out of the drainage ports in the back of the keyboard.
If you've ever used a Corsair product, then you've seen what the K68 can offer on the lighting front before. Like the K63, the Corsair K68 provides Red RGB backlighting and pattern customizability through Corsair's CUE software. But that's about it. You'll get myriad lighting effects but not the customizability found in other boards.
Coming in at $100, you won't get dedicated macro keys or full customization options here, either, but you will get a keyboard that will last a long (long) time, one that provides accurate response times, and one that provides something almost no other keyboard does.
Read our Corsair K68 keyboard review to learn more.
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We didn't name the HyperX Alloy Elite mechanical one of the best gaming keyboards of 2017 for nothing. Sporting a solid black aluminum body and a detachable wrist rest, the board houses accurate Cherry MX switches (which you can get in red, brown, or blue) and a ten-key numpad. It also comes with detachable textured W/A/S/D keycaps and a nifty (if often overlooked) keycap remover.
The switches are highly responsive and precise, and while they do require greater actuation pressures than other boards on this list and aren't optimal for typing, they're currently some of the most reliable for hardcore gaming and twitch play. Additionally, this mechanical boasts N-key rollover and 100% anti-ghosting.
The only gripes we have with this keyboard are minimal. The wrist rest isn't entirely comfortable, sometimes causing a bit of fatigue after hours of play, and the F12 key is precariously placed, which can sometimes lead to unnecessary presses during frenetic play.
The HyperX Alloy Elite is practically a steal at its current price point when compared to other boards in its range. However, if the high(er) price point doesn't fit in your budget -- or you're looking for something just a bit more compact -- check out its close cousin, the HyperX FPS Pro. It retails for $79.99 and gives the Corsair K63 a true run for its (and your) money.
Read our HyperX Alloy Elite review to learn more.
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Like the SteelSeries M750 later in this list, the Logitech G Pro gaming keyboard was designed with the eSports player in mind. A tenkeyless option, this keyboard is perfect for gamers on the go and those without a ton of desk space.
Unlike some of the other mechanical keyboards on this list, the Logitech G Pro keyboard employs Romer-G switches to do its heavy lifting. These proprietary switches can only be found in Logitech G products and use short actuation distances and low forces to make this mechanical one of the fastest on the market. Add to that Romers are guaranteed for around 70 million presses, and it'll be a long time before this board needs any maintenance.
As with most modern mechanicals, RGB lighting is a big draw for the G Pro, which has myriad customization options. Here, you've not only got access to all 16 million colors on the RGB spectrum, but you've also got control over what color shows underneath each key. And creating your own RGB lighting effects is a cinch. Unlike other mechanicals, you aren't locked into a catalog or presets, something that sets this board apart.
With a tough metal chassis, good spacing between keys, and wonderful software, it's hard to pass on the Pro -- especially at its current price point.
Read our Logitech G Pro Gaming review to learn more.
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With the Apex M750 mechanical gaming keyboard, SteelSeries has set out to engineer and manufacture the ultimate eSports gaming keyboard to meet the needs of the most competitive gamers and eSports enthusiasts. It might not be the most revolutionary mechanical keyboard on this list, but it's one of the most reliable and dependable ones you'll find on the market today. Despite what some might say about SteelSeries products, this board stands toe to toe with the likes of the Ornata Chroma and the BlackWidow V2.
Sleek and understated out of the box, this board's design belies the strength that its aircraft-grade aluminum chassis provides. It's lightweight and compact for a ten-key construction, which helps it stand out from other keyboards in its price range. If you're a gamer on the go and need a numpad, you can't do much better than the M750 in that regard.
And while this SteelSeries board isn't ideal for office work, it is ideal for what it was made to do: make you a better gamer. The M750's proprietary QX2 switches are responsive, swift, and comfortable. With full N-key rollover, 100% anti-ghosting, and sensitive keys, you won't have to bottom out to register ults and in-game movements.
Complete lighting effects make an appearance here, alongside SteelSeries PrismSync, which helps you match the M750's colors with those of other SteelSeries peripherals. The only real downsides are that there is a bit of light bleed underneath the keycaps, and you won't get dedicated macro keys on this board.
Read our Apex M750 review to learn more.
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Logitech G's latest offering is a bit of a departure from the company's typical peripherals set. The only wireless keyboard on this list, the Logitech G613 gaming keyboard looks a lot like something you'd find in a cubicle -- but it's something that offers the high-performance functionality of a gamer's mechanical.
The board's unibody chassis is sleek and minimalist, and its underside houses spaces for the wireless dongle and two AA batteries, which are rated to provide you with about 18 months of use -- even in the most hardcore of environments. On the top, you'll find textured, plastic keycaps above Romer Gs with an actuation distance of 1.5mm.
Because of its egalitarian design, the G613 doesn't provide any fancy RGB backlighting or effects. Instead, you'll find the keys have the typical black-and-white lighting of a traditional keyboard. And while this board functions just as well -- if not better -- than some of its price-range contemporaries, you might want to look to SteelSeries' Apex M750 or Corsair's K95 RGB Pro if you need a little lighting pzazz in your life.
But if you're looking for a mechanical keyboard that performs under pressure or one that's crazy comfy and full of ergonomic panache, the G613 is well worth the price. Oh, and did we mention that it has multi-host capabilities? Using the board's Bluetooth capabilities, you can seamlessly switch between typing on your computer and your mobile device. That's a function set you won't find on any other board.
Read our Logitech G613 Wireless review to learn more.
Price: $169.99 (orange switches); $129.99 (green switches)
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On the surface, the Razer's BlackWidow Chroma V2 looks a lot like the Ornata Chroma: it has a similar layout and RGB backlighting profile. However, when you look under the hood, you'll see that there are some distinct differences that push it into the upper echelon of mechanical gaming keyboards.
Where the Ornata Chroma is a keyboard geared toward casual gamers, the BlackWidow Chroma V2 is a precise, tournament-grade peripheral. You'll get 1,000Hz ultra-polling, macro re-programming, full RGB customization, and an ergonomic wrist rest. On top of that, you'll have access to three different switch types: Razer Green, Razer Orange, and Razer Yellow.
Each switch type provides its own pros and cons, but the Razer Yellows are by far the best of the bunch when it comes to actuation forces, actuation points, and actuation distances. Coming stock in the BlackWidow V2, these switches are most comparable to Cherry MX Silvers, providing increased resistance and quieter typing.
However, there are a few caveats to note about the BlackWidow. Unlike most of the other mechanicals on this list, you'll only get 10-key rollover here, which could impact some MOBA and MMO players. And the switches require about 45 to 50 grams of force to actuate (depending on which switches you choose), which can take some getting used to.
Overall, the BlackWidow V2 is a gamer favorite for a reason. It's one of the best mechanical gaming keyboards you can get for the price.
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While the HyperX Alloy Elite was one of our favorite gaming keyboards from 2017, Corsair's K95 RGB Platinum was the other. Standing leagues above its competitors in performance, reliability, and functionality, the Platinum earns its lofty price tag -- and gives gamers a hefty return on investment.
Flaunting an absurdly low 1.2mm actuation distance, the Platinum's Cherry MX RGB switches are some of the swiftest of any keyboard on this list. Rated for more than 50 million key presses, they're sure to last you a veritable lifetime. Throw on top of that that you're provided textured W/A/S/D and Q/E/R/F keycaps and a keycap puller, and you're sure to get a lot of life and customizability out of this board's keycaps and switches.
However, the feature that stands out the most about the RGB Platinum is its six dedicated macro switches. Not only can you fully program (or re-program) every key on this mechanical, but you're also able to program the board's six G keys to whatever function or keystroke you like, from special-move commands to advanced combinations and bindings.
Like other Corsair boards, you also get access to millions of backlighting colors and dozen of lighting profile options via the company's CUE software. Comfortable with or without a wrist rest (it comes with one), this mechanical gaming keyboard is a complete powerhouse and perfect for competitive gamers -- whether they play MOBAs, shooters, or MMOs.
This is one we can't recommend enough.
Read our K95 RGB Platinum review to learn more.
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OK. This isn't technically a gaming keyboard. It doesn't have dedicated macro keys, and its RGB lighting choices are threadbare. However, it's one of the very (very) best mechanical keyboards from 2017. Hands down.
Coming in at 104 keys, the Cherry MX Board 6.0 has full N-key rollover and 100% anti-ghosting technology. You've got your typical numpad here, standard playback buttons, and a Cherry key that locks your Windows keys alongside other macros such as Ctrl+alt+del.
But what we're really here for is this board's switches. Housing Cherry MX Reds, the Board 6.0 is insanely accurate and precise, registering your keystrokes with the slightest pressure. The keycaps aren't flimsy or cheap like in some of its gaming keyboard brethren -- and on top of that, they're registered for 50 million key presses.
Using an analog signal path, there's no digital scanning between switch points on the board. The 6.0 is able to register your presses much faster than other keyboards (roughly a millisecond). That means that while this isn't branded as a mechanical gaming keyboard, you'll find that it works more than well in even the most intense of gaming matches.
At $200, this is a keyboard that's exceedingly functional at both gaming and office tasks, giving it dual-threat capability. From its resilient metal chassis to its comfortable keycaps, this keyboard excels at practical functionality.
Read our Cherry MX Board 6.0 review to learn more.
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The Topre REALFORCE mechanical might not look like much at first glance, but don't let that fool you. If you're in the market for a high-end gaming keyboard, the Topre REALFORCE is one you don't want to dismiss.
Much like other boards on this list, you'll get fully programmable RGB lighting, full N-Key rollover, anti-ghosting, and comfortable, interchangeable keycaps. But really what sets the Topre apart from those other mechanicals is the REALFORCE's exclusive switches. Similar to the hybrid mechanical/membrane switches found in Razer's Ornata Chroma and Blackwidow models, this model's Topre switches provide an innovative alternative to Cherries and Romer Gs -- with a twist.
Instead of the REALFORCE's switches being locked into a specific actuation distance, you're able to alter individual switch distances using the board's Actuation Point Changer capabilities. This means you're able to choose distances from 1.5mm, 2.2 mm, and 3.0 mm on the fly. So whether you're playing an RTS and need rapid-fire presses, typing code and need standard presses, or playing an MMO and need long-fire presses, you can set the board to your specific needs with little hassle. It's something you won't find anywhere else and something that truly sets this board apart.
The composite nature of these switches also means that they're quieter than your typical Cherries and Romer Gs. For those gamers that care about clicky, more tactile switches, Topres might not be the best bet. But for all the functionality you get from the REALFORCE, that's a small price to pay.
With the holidays right around the corner, it's a safe bet that the PC gamer in your life could use a keyboard upgrade. From budget keyboards to the highest of the high-end, there's something for every gamer on this list.
Of course, there are tons of other great keyboards out in the wild worth checking out. If you didn't see anything that suited your fancy on this list, check out our other awesome keyboard suggestions:
Header image: Schwitz 18