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The best gaming keyboards of 2023

No K/D ratios were harmed in the making of this guide.

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

The best gaming keyboards can make you feel in total control when playing a competitive first-person shooter (FPS) or bring you a greater sense of luxury when taking in a solo adventure. They’re not half-bad for typing either. To help those looking to upgrade, I’ve spent more time researching gaming keyboards than any person reasonably should, testing more than a dozen top options along the way. Here are the best gaming keyboards I’ve found, including compact, analog, wireless and budget-level picks.

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What to look for in a gaming keyboard

To be clear, any keyboard can be a “gaming keyboard.” If you play lots of video games today and have never sighed to yourself, “man, this keyboard is holding me back,” congratulations, you probably don’t need to pay extra for a new one. Self-proclaimed gaming keyboards often come at a premium, and while the best offer high-quality designs, snazzy RGB lighting and a few genuinely worthwhile features, none of them will give you god-like skill, nor will they suddenly turn bad games into good ones.

Mechanical vs non-mechanical

Now that we’ve touched grass, I did prioritize some features while researching this guide. First, I mostly stuck to mechanical keyboards, not laptop-style membrane models. They can be loud, but they’re more durable, customizable and broadly satisfying to press — all positive traits for a product you may use for hours-long gaming sessions.

Size

Next, I preferred tenkeyless (TKL) or smaller layouts. It’s totally fine to use a full-size board if you really want a number pad, but a compact model gives you more space to flick your mouse around. It also lets you keep your mouse closer to your body, which can reduce the tension placed on your arms and shoulders.

A trio of gaming keyboards of different sizes and layouts rest on a light brown wooden table. From top to bottom: A 96 percent keyboard, a tenkeyless (or 80 percent) keyboard and a 60 percent keyboard.
From top to bottom: A 96 percent keyboard, an 80 percent (or tenkeyless) keyboard and a 60 percent keyboard. (Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget)

Switches, keycaps and build quality

Linear switches, which are often branded as “red,” are generally favored by gamers. These give keystrokes a smooth feel from top to bottom, with no tactile “bump” that could make fast, repeated presses less consistent. They usually require little force to actuate, and they tend to be quiet. However, if you prefer the feel and/or sound of a more tactile or clicky switch, get one of those instead. You might lose some speed in esports-style games, but nothing is more important than your comfort.

Some gaming keyboards are based on different mechanisms entirely. Optical switches, for instance, use a beam of light to register keystrokes, while Hall effect switches use magnets. These often feel linear, but they can allow for a more versatile set of gaming-friendly features, such as the ability to set custom actuation points. (You can read more about how this works below.) In general, they’re faster and more durable too. But keyboards with those extra features typically aren’t cheap.

Regardless, you want a frame that doesn’t flex under pressure, keys that don’t wobble and stabilizers that don’t rattle when you hit larger keys like the spacebar. I prefer double-shot PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) keycaps over those that use cheaper ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic, as they won’t develop a greasy shine over time and their icons won’t fade. A hot-swappable PCB (printed circuit board) that makes it easy to change switches if the mood arises is ideal, as are dedicated media keys.

For the sake of simplicity, I only considered prebuilt gaming keyboards for this guide, though many of the picks below allow for customization down the line. If you (and your bank account) really want to go wild, check out our guide to building a custom keyboard.

Software, connectivity and RGB

If a keyboard has companion software, it should let you program macros and custom key bindings for games without frustration. For convenience, a wired keyboard should connect through a detachable USB-C cable. A good wireless keyboard won’t add serious lag, but only if it uses a USB receiver, not Bluetooth. (It’ll probably cost more as well.) Some gaming keyboards advertise super-high polling rates — i.e., the speed at which a keyboard reports to a computer — to reduce latency, but unless your monitor has an especially fast refresh rate, the usual standard of 1,000Hz should be fine. And while nobody needs RGB lighting, it’s fun. Consumer tech could use more of that, so the cleaner and more customizable the RGB is, the better.

A close-up of a gaming keyboard with two keycaps removed, displaying the
A close-up of a gaming keyboard with two keycaps removed, displaying the (Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget)

How we tested

The best way to evaluate a keyboard is to just… use it, so that’s what I did. To cover a variety of use cases and design styles, I identified 15 keyboards that have broadly received high marks from professional reviewers and users alike. I then used each of these keyboards as my “daily driver” for several days. Since I write for a living, this gave me enough time to get a strong sense of each keyboard’s typing experience.

For gaming, I gave special focus to each keyboard’s responsiveness in fast, reaction-based online shooters such as Halo Infinite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Apex Legends, Valorant and Overwatch, as many would-be gaming keyboard buyers get one in the hopes that it’ll help with that genres in particular. I made sure each keyboard felt comfortable with other types of games, though, including Baldur’s Gate 3 (a turn-based RPG), Hi-Fi Rush (an action game with an emphasis on timing and rhythm), and Forza Horizon 5 (an arcade racing game). I used the latter to better evaluate the pressure-sensitive features of the analog keyboards I tested.

If a keyboard could be configured with multiple switch types, I got the linear model. Upon receiving each keyboard, I removed several keycaps to ensure none were chipped or broken. I noted whether any keys felt wobbly, whether the case flexes under pressure, whether the texture and finish of the keycaps changes after use and whether larger keys like the spacebar felt particularly rattly or hollow. I typed on each keyboard in quick succession in a quiet room to get a sense of where they ranked in terms of noise. For wireless models, I checked whether the battery drain at 50 percent RGB brightness aligned with a manufacturer’s estimate. I looked to results from sites like Rtings to ensure nothing was out of order with latency. I did my own testing on a 144Hz monitor with my personal rig, which includes a 10th-gen Core i9 CPU and an RTX 3080 GPU.

This helped me ensure each keyboard met a baseline of overall quality, but to reiterate, so much of this process is subjective. I can tell you if a keyboard is loud based on how I slam my keys, for instance, but you may have a lighter touch. What my tastes find “comfortable,” “pleasing,” or even “useful,” you may dislike. As I’ve written before, keyboards are like food or art in that way. So, keep an open mind.

Best gaming keyboard overall: Wooting 60HE

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

If you play tons of PC games, the Wooting 60HE’s inventive feature set and well-built design make it one of the few premium gaming keyboards to justify its cost.

$175 at Wooting

With most gaming keyboards, claims of “improving your play” are just marketing fluff. With the Wooting 60HE, it’s actually true — or at least, it can be. The key is its analog Lekker switches, which can respond to varying levels of pressure, much like the triggers on a PlayStation or Xbox controller. These use magnetic Hall effect sensors, so they have fewer physical contact points that can suffer from wear and tear over time.

This setup enables a few genuinely beneficial features. For one, you can adjust the actuation point of each key anywhere between an ultra-low 0.1mm and 4mm, in 0.1mm steps. With a fast-paced FPS, setting the actuation point low makes the keys more sensitive and thus exceptionally responsive to quick movements. For a turn-based RPG or simply typing, raising that pre-travel distance makes each press more deliberate and less prone to errors. You can also mix and match, making your WASD keys faster to actuate but leaving the rest at a less touchy level.

Another feature, “rapid trigger,” registers the actuation and reset points of a key press dynamically. This lets you re-actuate a key mid-press, before it has to go all the way back up, so you can repeat inputs faster. It’s a boon for shooting and rhythm games in particular: In a 1v1 shootout in Halo Infinite, you can strafe, stop and start with a little more speed and granularity. We’re still talking milliseconds of difference, but sometimes that’s all that separates defeating a foe and leaving them with a sliver of health.

Beyond that, you can tie up to four actions to one key based on how far it’s pressed. For example, you could lightly press a key to pull out a grenade, fully press to throw it, then release to reequip your main weapon. This requires some brain retraining, but it can ultimately lessen the need to contort your fingers to perform a full set of commands.

Because the keys are pressure-sensitive, you can also set them to mimic an Xbox controller. With a racing game Forza Horizon 5, the W and S keys could stand in for the LT and RT buttons, while A and D replicate the left joystick. Does this feel as natural as using real joysticks or a good wheel? Of course not. But for games that don’t expect you to use a mouse alongside the keyboard, it’s really not as clunky as you’d expect.

That caveat is important: Plenty of games aren’t designed with analog keyboards in mind, so don’t expect the 60HE to replace your gamepad. Owning this won’t magically make you a top-tier player either. When you’re up against other people around your skill level, though, the extra bit of precision these features provide is tangible.

The 60HE isn’t the only keyboard with features along these lines, but it stands out for getting most of the fundamentals right. Its double-shot PBT keycaps feel crisp, its keys are well-spaced and the pre-lubed, linear-style switches are smooth and satisfying to press. (They’re technically hot-swappable too, though the 60HE is only designed to accept Hall effect switches.) It sounds a smidge chattery, but it’s still pleasing to the ear and not especially loud. The compact case doesn’t flex or wobble either. The charmingly-named Wootility software makes it easy to remap keys, assign macros, create profiles or adjust the RGB lighting — and, refreshingly, it’s entirely accessible through the web. That per-key backlighting is tidy, and changing profiles right from the keyboard is simple.

That said, there are a few downsides. The case, while sturdy, is largely plastic and only has one incline setting. It doesn’t come with a wrist rest (though you can buy one separately for $30), and the 60 percent layout won’t be for everyone. If you want to add dedicated arrow keys and a numpad, get the full-size Wooting Two HE instead; just note that you can only buy each model from Wooting, which sells its gear in batches.

Runner up: Razer Huntsman V2 TKL

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

If you don't want to pay quite as much, the Razer Huntsman V2's light optical switches, effective sound dampening and crisp PBT keycaps are pleasant for work or play, though its switches aren't hot-swappable.

$100 at Amazon

If you don’t need all the extra features of the Wooting 60HE and just want something a little less pricey, consider the Razer Huntsman V2 TKL. There’s no rapid trigger, analog input or custom actuation here — just a solid, well-built keyboard from a major brand with low latency for gaming.

The best thing about the Huntsman V2 is that it’s unusually quiet, as an internal layer of sound-dampening foam gives it a nice muffled tone with no audible pinging. The linear optical switches are light and responsive, but bottoming out doesn’t feel stiff. The double-shot PBT keycaps have an agreeable texture, while the aluminum-coated case doesn’t creak or flex. The per-key RGB lighting shines through the keycaps neatly. Just about every key is macro-programmable, the whole thing connects over a detachable USB-C cable, and it comes with a decent leatherette wrist rest in the box. The latter isn’t magnetic though. And while you can sneeze and find a million complaints about Razer’s Synapse software around the web, I’ve always found it easier to read than many competing apps. (That says more about the state of gaming software than Synapse, but still.) Razer recently promised to launch an improved version of the app as well.

I’m specifically recommending the model with Razer’s red linear switches; another version uses purple clicky switches, but those sound harsher and have a slightly higher actuation point (1.5mm instead of 1.2mm). There are other nitpicks either way: The PCB isn’t hot-swappable, and the stabilizers on the space bar, backspace and enter keys are a tad more rattly than everything else. The keyboard can technically support up to an 8,000Hz polling rate, but that’s mostly a gimmick. Media keys would be nice too.

Razer sells full-size and analog versions of the Huntsman V2, but those are usually priced too close to the more versatile Wooting 60HE and Two HE to recommend. (Shortly before this guide was published, the company did announce a new Huntsman V3 Pro line with a more Wooting-esque feature set; we plan to test that soon, though Razer is keeping the V2 models around at a lower price.) At its MSRP of $160, we’d probably skip the Huntsman V2 TKL too, but we’ve often seen it go for $40 to $50 less in recent months. At that price, it’s a better value.

A good traditional mechanical keyboard: Keychron V3

The Keychron V3 is an excellent entry point for those looking to get into mechanical keyboards as a hobby, which makes it a nice value for more casual gaming. Just don't expect a deep feature set or super-low latency for more involved games. 

$84 at Keychron
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$85 at Amazon

If you aren’t intense about esports-style online play and just want a good mechanical keyboard that also works for gaming, try the Keychron V3. For less than $90, it delivers a stable frame, a hot-swappable PCB, soft double-shot PBT keycaps and smooth stabilizers. By default, it comes with Keychron’s K Pro Red (linear), Brown (tactile) or Blue (clicky) switches: I used the K Pro Red, which is sufficiently light for everyday gaming and, with the help of some sound-dampening foam, mostly quiet. Each switch comes pre-lubed, which helps keep the out-of-the-box typing experience from feeling or sounding cheap. The keys are comfortably spaced and gently rounded, making it easier to avoid accidental inputs. All of it connects over a removable USB-C cable.

The V3 isn’t as focused on ultra-low latency as a dedicated gaming keyboard, and it doesn’t have any of the special features available with the Wooting 60HE, but it should be responsive enough for all but the most competitive players. A built-in switch lets you swap between Windows and macOS modes, and there are OS-specific keycaps in the box. (It works with Linux too.) You can program the board through the VIA software, which may take a second to figure out and isn’t loaded with gaming-specific bonuses, but makes it easy enough to remap keys, create macros or adjust the backlight across OSes. It's also accessible over the web.

The V3’s keys are individually backlit, and you can adjust its RGB effects right from the board. This looks odd with the default, non-translucent keycaps though. There’s a pair of foldable feet on the back, but this is a high-profile keyboard that doesn’t include a wrist rest, so it’s not the most ergonomic setup. The chassis is also made of plastic, so it’s hard to call “premium.” Nevertheless, this is a comfortable, customizable entry point for those looking to get into mechanical keyboards as a hobby, which makes it a strong value for non-twitchy games.

The V3 is the tenkeyless model in Keychron’s V Series. It strikes a good balance between size and functionality, but Keychron sells similar models ranging from 60 percent to full-size. You can configure them with a programmable volume knob for an extra $10. The V Series is wired-only though. The Keychron K8 Pro adds wireless functionality for $99, but only via Bluetooth, which isn’t ideal for steady gaming performance.

Best budget gaming keyboard: G.Skill KM250 RGB

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

The G.Skill KM250 RGB's PBT pudding keycaps, hot-swappable base, RGB lighting and discrete volume knob belie its ultra-budget price tag. 

$45 at Amazon

If you want to pay as little as possible for an acceptable, honest-to-goodness gaming keyboard, get the G.Skill KM250 RGB. For $40, it offers PBT keycaps, hot-swappable switches, per-key RGB backlighting, adjustable feet, a detachable USB-C cable and even a dedicated volume control knob. Its translucent “pudding” keycaps look funky but help show off those RGB effects. The linear Kailh Red switches are quick and smooth enough, without the pinging noise that often plagues budget keyboards. Its 65 percent layout doesn’t chew up space, but it still fits in a set of arrow keys. Though there’s no dedicated software for programming the KM250, you can quickly swap through lighting effects right from the device. Avoiding potential bloatware may be better anyway.

Now, this isn’t a miracle. The plastic frame is lightweight and surprisingly sturdy, but you don’t get the level of sound-dampening foam, reinforced stems or pre-lubed springs you’d find in a more premium keyboard. Key presses sound hollower and feel a bit stiffer when you bottom out as a result. Plus, while having PBT keycaps at all in this range is great, they aren’t as pleasingly textured as more expensive options.

But come on, it’s $40. For that price, everything here is beyond functional. And if you ever want to upgrade some of its lesser elements, you can.

Best wireless gaming keyboard: SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL Wireless

The Apex Pro TKL Wireless delivers useful features and a detachable wrist rest in a cable-free frame. It doesn't come cheap, though.

$200 at Amazon
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$250 at SteelSeries

If you want a gaming keyboard you can take on the road, or you just despise cable clutter, check out the SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL Wireless. Similar to the Wooting keyboards above, its linear-style switches use magnetic Hall effect sensors, which open up a range of legitimately useful gaming features. You can raise or lower the actuation points of individual keys anywhere between 0.1mm and 4mm, enable a rapid trigger mode to repeat presses faster and bind multiple commands to one key based on how far it’s pushed. (For example, you could lightly press W to walk, then hold it to run.) There’s no full-on analog mode, and you can “only” assign two actuation-based commands to a key at once, but the Apex Pro TKL still allows for finer control than most wireless options.

The “keyboard” part of the Apex Pro TKL is satisfactory as well. The double-shot PBT keycaps avoid grime, the aluminum-plated chassis is robust and the per-key RGB looks fine. You can connect over a 2.4GHz dongle, Bluetooth or a detachable USB-C cable. There’s a set of feet with two incline angles around the back and a magnetic wrist rest in the box. On the front is a volume roller and a mini OLED display, the latter of which lets you check the battery, quickly swap profiles, adjust the actuation, set macros, change backlight brightness and even see info from certain apps.

You’d buy this for gaming first and foremost though. The Hall effect switches are comfy, but there’s an audible, mildly sharp click to each press. It’s not harsh, but it’s not soothing. The space bar, however, is noticeably louder and more hollow-sounding than everything else. (The switches aren’t hot-swappable either, though that’s to be expected given their unique design.) SteelSeries’ Engine software is also wonkier to navigate than apps like Wootility; I often had to leave it open to ensure my custom actuation profiles weren’t overridden. The battery life, estimated around 40 hours with the wireless dongle, isn’t all that long either.

And at $250, none of this comes cheap. If typing and key feel is your primary concern, we have a better value in our honorable mentions below. But for gaming specifically, the Apex Pro TKL’s feature set gives it a slight edge. SteelSeries makes several other Apex Pro keyboards in different form factors, but we’d recommend the Wooting 60HE and Two HE over those unless you must go wireless and prefer a TKL layout.

Best low-profile option: NuPhy Air75 V2

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

The NuPhy Air75 V2 isn't explicitly designed for gaming, but it'll still serve you well if you prefer a slim, low-profile design. You can also use it wirelessly.

$130 at NuPhy

A low-profile keyboard combines the flatter shape of a laptop keyboard with the more gratifying feel of mechanical switches. Compared to typical mechanical keyboards, low-profile models aren’t as tall, and their switches have a shorter travel distance. This can make it harder to type accurately, but since low-profile switches usually require little force to actuate, they’re almost inherently well-suited for gaming.

If you like this sort of design, get the NuPhy Air75 V2. Like the Keychron V3, it’s not outright marketed for gaming, so it’s not as feature-rich as our other picks, but its core experience makes it worthwhile. Latency is low enough for online shooters, and the linear “Daisy” switches in my test unit are light and responsive across games. They bottom out quickly, so they can strain your fingers over time, but they’re fast. The keys also sound nice, with a mild clack to each press. If you want something more tactile, clicky or even lighter, NuPhy sells the Air75 V2 with several other switch options as well. (NuPhy technically doesn't pre-configure the device with the Daisy switches, but the "Cowberry" model should feel similar, if a bit faster.) The switches are also hot-swappable, though the market for low-profile keycaps and switches isn’t super extensive.

The board itself is impressively slim, so you don’t have to contort your wrists to type comfortably. It's a 75 percent model, so it saves space yet squeezes in arrow keys and a full Fn row. (The layout can feel a little overstuffed, but I’d rather have more dedicated keys than fewer.) While the chassis will flex a tiny bit if you push down hard, the keys are stable, the stabilizers don’t rattle and the fold-out feet are firm. The wide, double-shot PBT keycaps give ample room for each press. Plus, it all looks kind of cute. There’s per-key RGB as well, but the default keycaps aren’t shine-through, so the effect looks clumsy — plus it’ll drain the battery faster.

On a related note, this is another wireless model, one that can connect over a USB dongle, Bluetooth or a removable USB-C cable. I did notice a few connection hiccups using the dongle when I had a wireless mouse paired at the same time, but for non-gaming tasks, the option is nice to have. The device works with Windows, macOS and Linux, with system-specific keys in the box and a switch on the top for swapping between the first two platforms. Regardless of OS, it uses the VIA software for remapping keys, assigning macros and the like, just like the Keychron V3. (As of this writing, you may need to do a little extra setup to get VIA to recognize the keyboard, but not much.) With the backlight off, NuPhy says it can last up to 220 hours; with it on, that drops between 35 and 57 hours.

The Air75 V2 is a new keyboard from a smaller company, so it may take a little longer than usual to ship. NuPhy said my review model was part of its first mass production batch — hence the switch and software quirks — so it could make slight tweaks in the future. Still, this is largely an iteration of a keyboard we already liked, so we can recommend it confidently.

Honorable mentions

ASUS ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless

The ASUS ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless (phew) is a close second to the Apex Pro series if you must go without a cable. It’s a joy to type on, with superb sound dampening, pre-lubed ROG NX switches, an impressively sturdy case and stable, PBT-coated keys. It’s hot-swappable, its battery life rating is much higher than the Apex Pro TKL Wireless (90 hours with RGB on) and it has a multi-function key that puts volume, media and RGB controls in one place. At $180, it’s also $70 cheaper than our SteelSeries pick. That said, it doesn’t have the rapid trigger or custom actuation tricks of a Hall effect model like the Apex Pro TKL Wireless, and ROG’s Armoury Crate software is a bit of a mess. But if you care about typing experience more than extra gaming-friendly features, it’s excellent.

ASUS ROG Azoth

The ASUS ROG Azoth, meanwhile, is like a smaller version of the ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless with a few more enthusiast touches, such as a gasket-mounted design — which gives keystrokes a softer feel — a programmable OLED display and a toolkit for lubing switches in the box. It’s exceptionally well-made by any standard, not just “for a gaming keyboard.” But its feature set still isn’t as flexible as the Wooting 60HE or SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL Wireless, which makes its $250 price tag a tough ask.

Razer Huntsman Mini

The Razer Huntsman Mini is a solid, no-frills option if you want a more affordable 60 percent gaming keyboard. It often retails for less than $100, but its textured PBT keycaps and aluminum top plate keep it from feeling too cheap, and it uses the same fast optical switches we praised with the Huntsman V2 TKL. Again, I would opt for Razer’s red linear switches, as the purple clicky ones sound distractingly sharp.

Corsair K70 RGB TKL

The Corsair K70 RGB TKL is a worthy alternative to the Huntsman V2 TKL if you see it on sale. It covers most of the essentials, with dedicated media controls and the option to use Corsair’s optical-mechanical switches or various Cherry MX models. It's noisier than the Razer keyboard, however, and its iCue software is more of a pain to navigate.