The keyboard may be the most unglamorous of peripherals, with its uncomfortable tendency to conjure up images of sitting in office cubicles. But if you're a mad-keen online PC gamer then finding the best keyboard is vital.
Whether you use it to control strafing in all directions in a first-person shooter, or to select from an arsenal of spells in an MMO, it's the primary tool that allows you to showcase your skills and establish an all-important reputation. So it pays to invest in the best one available.
- A great keyboard deserves the best gaming mouse
With that in mind, we've selected the 10 best gaming keyboards available for all the different flavours of PC gamers. Whether you're a World of Warcraft ninja or an up-and-coming Counter-Strike: GO expert, and whatever your financial situation or space requirements, you should be able to find the best keyboard among this selection.
1 Razer BlackWidow Chroma
Beautifully made and handsome to behold
Something of a status symbol among high-end PC gamers, Razer's BlackWidow Chroma takes a thoroughly bespoke approach to fulfilling gamers' needs. Instead of using Cherry's mechanical keys, it boasts its own specially designed ones, with less travel, but still bags of feel. This could prove to be to your taste, but you still might want to try before buying. It also has five programmable macro keys, keeping the MMO and MOBA-lovers happy, and you can customise the colours of its rainbow backlighting.
2 Roccat RYOS MK Pro
Not the prettiest, but robustly built
The RYOS MK Pro might just be the most high-tech gaming keyboard in existence, with not one but two 32-bit ARM processors built in. So you can record and unleash up to 500 macros on the fly, which could give you the edge in an MMO or MOBA. A clever 'Easy-Shift' key lets you remap the entire keyboard, and you can light up individual keys or groups of them. Plus it has a palm-rest, a USB hub, and built-in audio jacks, and is available with all the different flavours of Cherry MX mechanical keys – black, red, brown and blue – which have subtly different amounts of travel.
3 Cougar 600K
Worth consideration by FPS ninjas
With its brushed aluminium body, Cougar's 600K is uncommonly handsome for a keyboard, and its feature-set and customisability options manage to do justice to its looks. As with most of its peers, it uses Cherry MX mechanical keys and, uniquely, has four keys for setting repeat rate (up to 8X), letting you persuade keys that they are being held down. It lacks individual macro keys, but is especially well-suited to playing first-person shooters, with a detachable rubber palm-rest below the W, A, S, D keys.
4 Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. TE
Souped up looks and loads of features
Looks-wise, the S.T.R.I.K.E. TE polarises opinion – it rather reminds us of a car fitted with after-market spoilers and decals. But specification-wise, it scores heavily. Slightly controversially, it use Kailh keys, rather than Cherry ones (and is only available in the brown, mid-range weighting flavour), but that at least keeps the price down. However, it's particularly well-suited to those who favour MMOs, MOBAs and real-time strategy games, thanks to the presence of no fewer than 12 programmable macro keys. It also lets you illuminate groups of keys, and has a big wrist-rest.
5 Turtle Beach Impact 700
Premium gaming keyboard with a minimal footprint
If you favour gaming keyboards at the more compact end of the spectrum, Turtle Beach's Impact 700 does away with a wrist-rest, and has as small a footprint as is possible for a keyboard that includes a numeric keypad and uses Cherry MX Brown keys. It does lack programmable macros, though, so lends itself more to devotees of first-person shooters – especially since it comes with spare W, A, S and D keys (along with others), and a tool that enables you to remove worn-out ones. Plus it lets you illuminate key-clusters. Not the cheapest, but worth considering by those who have a tendency to hammer their keyboards into oblivion.
6 Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. M
Funny-looking but great value
We'll admit that if you rock up at a LAN party and pull out a Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. M, derisive hoots of laughter will probably ensue. Nevertheless, it's a unique and versatile keyboard that could end up coming in handy – particularly if you don't class yourself as a thoroughly hardcore gamer. It's tiny and wireless (via Bluetooth), and has a built-in optical sensor with buttons that acts like a mouse. And although the keyboard is a membrane one, it feels surprisingly tactile. Perfect for gaming on Android devices or when you're on the move.
7 Logitech G910 Orion Spark
Not cheap, but a very impressive piece of kit
The G910 Orion Spark uses another type of mechanical keys – the Romer-Gs – which, Logitech claims, are the fastest ones on the market. It's a handsome beast thanks to full colour-control over key illumination, and has a clever mobile phone dock, which is handy for those games that have accompanying apps. Nine programmable macro keys should excite the MMO/MOBA brigades, too.
8 Razer DeathStalker Ultimate
An expensive option, but with unique touch sensitive screen
Razer's apocalyptically named DeathStalker Ultimate is another gaming keyboard that tends to polarise opinion. It's fearsomely expensive, yet has a membrane keyboard, so if you demand mechanical keys, you can safely ignore it. But it has one totally unique feature: a touch-sensitive LED screen (with 10 programmable touch-keys above it) that has all manner of gaming applications. With custom-designed apps for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Battlefield 3, Counter-Strike: GO and Team Fortress 2, you can assign all sorts of useful functions to the touch-screen, and you can design your own apps for it if you're that way inclined. A curiosity indeed, but it might just give you the edge if set up properly.
9 Roccat RYOS TKL Pro
Everything you need for top end gaming
Essentially a RYOS MK Pro with the numeric keypad removed, Roccat's RYOS TKL Pro is one of the best-value gaming keyboards around. Like its bigger sibling it's a great all-rounder, suitable for first-person shooters, MMOs and MOBAs, and sports Cherry MX keys and a wrist-rest (slightly oddly, given that it would otherwise be impressively compact). Three thumb-keys below the space bar give it decent macro-launching capabilities, in conjunction with Roccat's Easy-Shift system. While it lacks USB and audio ports, it still has everything you need for top-end gaming.
10 Logitech G105
No frills but amazing value
If you really are strapped for cash, Logitech's G105 is a definite contender. It may look like a mechanical keyboard, but there's a membrane beneath those keys, so its feel is accordingly mushy if you happen to like that kind of thing. And features-wise it's not too bad, with six programmable macro keys and a Windows key-disabler – to avoid those embarrassing moments when you accidentally drop yourself out of a crucial gaming bout. It's a no-frills keyboard, for sure: but what would you expect at that price?