The 6 Best Gaming Keyboards to Buy in 2016

Buy the top budget, splurge-worthy, portable and design gaming keyboards

Standard keyboards are fine for office work, but to take your gaming to the next level, you need the speed and precision that only specialty gaming keyboards can offer. Gaming keyboards offer higher quality components to give you more precision, programmable keys to put vital controls at your fingertips, backlighting to help you play in a dark room and more. They can be pretty expensive, unfortunately, but the upgrade in quality over a standard keyboard is usually worth it. If you’re in the market for a gaming keyboard, we have six of the best across a wide range of prices and features right here.

1
Best Overall: Corsair K95 RGB

Corsair K95 RGB
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The current king of gaming keyboards is the K95 RGB from Corsair. While it's not cheap, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth with heavy duty aluminum construction, Cherry MX mechanical key switches and a multitude of programmable key options. It comes in a couple of different variations – one with Cherry MX Brown keys (smooth motion with no click, but does have tactile bump) and one with Cherry MX Red keys (smooth motion with no click or bump), so consider your preference before choosing one, as the feel of the keys when you’re typing or playing games is very important.

Features across both models include full 122-key rollover, so you can actually press all 122 keys at the same time and they will all register as separate commands, and every single key has individual backlighting that you can program to glow any color you want. The backlighting is important because it allows you to light up only the keys you need for a particular game, for example. It also has 18 “G-Keys” that you can assign long pre-set macros (specific game commands) to in order to make playing certain games much easier. In terms of both features and performance, the Corsair K95 RGB can’t be beat.

2
Best Budget: Turtle Beach Impact 100

Turtle Beach Impact 100
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Opting for a less expensive gaming keyboard means you’ll miss out on fancy features like backlighting and mechanical keys, but there are still quality gaming keyboards out there for cheap if you’re willing to settle for something more plain. The Turtle Beach Impact 100 doesn’t have lights or programmable macro keys, but it does have one thing that sets it apart from cheaper keyboards and that is that the keys feel great and are much more precise than a standard membrane keyboard.

Mechanical keys are usually preferable for gaming because each key is a mechanical switch and is more sensitive, while membrane keyboards use a silicone membrane that requires a full press to activate. The membrane keys in the Impact 100, however, use a new technology that makes them feel and respond like mechanical keys, but at a much lower price. It isn’t quite the same as a mechanical keyboard, of course, but if you want a gaming keyboard on a budget, the Turtle Beach Impact 100 is a solid choice.

3
Best Splurge: Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7

Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7
Courtesy of Amazon.com

On the other end of the spectrum, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 from Mad Catz has a ton of extra bells and whistles that will make you the envy of your friends. The full-sized mechanical keyboard splits into three parts – the standard keyboard, a modular number pad, and a function strip with programmable macro buttons. It also includes three wrist pads, and a control module with a TFT LCD touchscreen.

The touchscreen module is the real star here, as it gives you access to all of the keyboard’s various functions and programmable macros, as well as volume controls and the ability to launch other apps on your PC. Everything is modular and is able to be connected together in multiple different ways, so you can customize the positioning of the keyboard parts and wrist rests, as well as the touchscreen, however you want.

4
Best for Portability: Delux-T9 Mini

Delux-T9 Mini
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Most gaming keyboards are full-sized, but you usually only ever use a handful of buttons to actually play games. If you want to cut out the clutter and use a smaller keyboard that is a little more portable, the Delux-T9 Mini Gaming Keyboard is just what you need. It is essentially only the keys you can reach with your left hand and nothing else, which means it is small, lightweight and gives you everything you need without having to lug around a full sized keyboard. It can be used either right-handed or left-handed, thanks to having space bar keys on both sides of the unit. It doesn’t have extra features like macro buttons and you won’t be able to type sentences with it, of course, but for most games it has more than enough keys to get the job done and is much cheaper than other gaming keyboard options.

5
Best Design: Razer BlackWidow X Chroma

Razer BlackWidow X Chroma
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Most gaming keyboards have some sort of back lighting these days, but not all backlighting is created equal. If you want the brightest and most colorful keys that are integrated into the actual games you’re playing, and just plain coolest looking gaming keyboard overall, the Razer Black Widow X Chroma wins hands down. It functions like a champ, thanks to reliable and precise mechanical keys, but the real attraction here is the Chroma backlighting with 16.8-million total customizable color options. The backlighting can be customized however you like, but many games will also have built in presets to light up the keyboard in specific ways just for that game like matching character colors or changing color to show ability cooldowns in MMO games. The Razer BlackWidow X Chroma turns keyboard backlighting into an art form and is definitely the coolest looking gaming keyboard on the market.

6
Best Wireless: Razer Turret

Razer Turret
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Wireless keyboards and mice are convenient, but the slight lag that is always present in wireless solutions make them less than optimal for fast and intense games. There are a lot of other types of games out there besides just twitch shooters that require lightning reflexes, though, so if you’d like to sit back on your couch and play something a little more easygoing, the Razer Turret is a solid choice.

It comes with a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse – both of which can connect either via Bluetooth or a USB dongle – and the keyboard has a built in mousepad. The mousepad can only be used on the right side, unfortunately, so lefties may struggle, but for right-handed folks the Razer Turret is solid. Battery life is around 40 hours for the keyboard and up to 4 months for the mouse, and both can be recharged with the included dock.

Performance suffers a bit because of the smaller than standard size of both the keyboard and mouse, but once you get used to how everything feels it all works great. There are certainly other wireless keyboards out there, and for less money, but they aren’t really designed with gaming in mind, which is what sets the Razer Turret apart.

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