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Best gaming keyboard 2022: all the top membrane and mechanical decks

GamesRadar logo GamesRadar 4 days ago Tabitha Baker
best gaming keyboard © Provided by GamesRadar best gaming keyboard

A lot of attention goes to your graphics card or RAM, but the best gaming keyboard is actually the secret weapon of your PC arsenal. The highest-quality decks will help you be as nimble as possible on the digital battlefield, and they provide incredibly fast response times to help you react as quickly as possible regardless of whether you're playing a strategy game or The Sims. Because there's so much choice out there nowadays, we've called upon our experts to point you in the direction of top-tier tech. You'll find their recommendations below to suit every budget.

Whether you're looking for a cheaper membrane keyboard (where all your keys are positioned under a rubber dome), or a slightly more premium mechanical gaming keyboard (where each key has its own mechanism to register), we're bringing you our top picks based on our own hands on experience. We've worked and played with all of these gaming keyboards to find the absolute best contenders on the market right now, and regularly revisit boards to test them against the latest releases as well. 

No matter what you choose, the best gaming keyboards will make the perfect companion to the best gaming mouse and the best gaming monitor, completing your setup and - if you stick to a single brand - unlocking some particularly cool RGB effects. 

The best gaming keyboards in 2022

The elevator pitch for this keyboard is right there on the tin. The Razer Huntsman V2 Analog exists to replicate the feel of an analog stick using switches that offer a sliding scale of actuation, rather than a simple on-off clicker. That isn't something we've seen before when it comes to the best gaming keyboards, and this piece of premium kit made a hearty impression as a result. 

That analog design might not sound like a big deal, but it is. Although many keyboards struggle with nuance when it comes to in-game movement (changing from 'run' to 'walk' normally requires a hotkey, for example), the Analog imbues the WASD keys with a sense of precision they've never had before. We were surprised by the difference these switches made in Watch Dogs: Legion, for example, giving us precise but subtle movement during our testing, to a level we hadn't experienced before. We were gently ambling around the map instead of pinballing across it, getting the drop on our foes by sneaking up on them slowly.

Of course, we don't think this substitute will match the ease of the best joysticks in something like Elite: Dangerous, but in our testing it was certainly a much smoother experience with the Huntsman V2 Analog in tow. Edging around asteroids and making subtle flight path changes felt incredible compared to the clunkier, sweeping motions we were used to.

Of course, those analog keys will only come in clutch if you're playing a game that supports them. Certain games, or even sections within games, will become convinced that you're using a controller as soon as you hit those variable WASD keys, leaving certain functions mapped to triggers that don't exist. We got around this issue by remapping more commands, but it's worth noting you'll need to spend a lot of time in the Synapse software to really make the most of this feature set.

None of this is 'necessary', yet it feels borderline essential once you've gotten used to it. Because this is also one of the nicest keyboards we've ever gotten our hands on, it's a real contender if your budget can stretch that far.

Read more: Razer Huntsman V2 Analog review

Gaming keyboards are an essential purchase if you play on PC, but they can easily break the bank. In contrast to the Hunstman V2 Analog's hefty MSRP, however, the Razer Cynosa V2 is a budget-minded godsend. Although it's not the best gaming keyboard on paper, it still puts in a very respectable performance at an affordable price.

As a 'membrane' device, this version of the Cynosa is much quieter than the competition - a design feature that we particularly appreciated compared to the louder mechanical decks we're used to seeing. That's because its keys are pressing down on a rubbery sheet, meaning you don't get that distracting typewriter 'clack'. In other words, it's perfect in a busy household or at work where you don't want to cause too much noise.

It's excellent under stress, too. More specifically, the speed and resistance of each key is spot on. Our fingers were flying across them in use, but they never felt cheap - they're much lighter switches than those found in cheaper membrane keyboards, like the Roccat Magma featured elsewhere on this list, so we'd recommend if you're looking for twitch reflex actions without the price tag of a more expensive mechanical option. The smooth plastic keycaps were satisfying to type with, too. Considering the Cynosa V2's low cost, that's an impressive feat.

We did encounter a few squeaky keys in our test unit, and this has long been an issue in our experience with Razer Cynosa keyboards. While this isn't constant, it is certainly noticeable.

Macro settings which allow you to program each key add further value, while a smaller footprint means you won't have trouble fitting it on your desk. Once there, it certainly looks the part; RGB lighting adds a pop of color to its sleek black shell.

Read more: Razer Cynosa V2 review

The HyperX Alloy Elite 2 sits in a Goldilocks zone of high end features and reasonable pricing, making it the best gaming keyboard for the majority of users. That's because of the suite of onboard functions (dedicated media keys, USB passthrough, and bright RGB lighting) and the slick design of HyperX's proprietary red switches. It's difficult to find a deck that combines all of these specs into a price point that doesn't stray too far into the $100 bracket, and certainly not with the build quality on offer here. 

We were particularly impressed with the red linear switches tucked away under those pudding-style keycaps. There's far less travel time here, compared to the likes of Cherry MX and Gateron, which means we were able to feel the speed of a more twitch-sensitive switch without any accidental keypresses. Everything feels slick and precise, even in more chaotic Fall Guys and Rocket League testing. Not only do those switches offer up a more precise actuation, though, but we also found them incredibly comfortable for both typing and longer play sessions. 

Unfortunately, the HyperX Alloy Elite 2 isn't without its sacrifices. We were disappointed to find that this model ships with cheaper ABS keycaps. While you're still getting doubleshot legends, which will improve durability, two weeks of testing quickly left oily shine on regularly tapped keys, which made the texture-less caps feel even less sturdy underhand.

Nevertheless, you just don't see this level of performance and features on many keyboards in this price range. If you're running up against a $100 budget, we'd heavily recommend keeping a close eye on deals here, or pushing past that cut-off slightly for far better value for money.

Read more: HyperX Alloy Elite 2 review

The Logitech G915 sports the brand's trusted Lightspeed technology to provide a solid wireless connection no matter how frenzied your attacks are. Long considered the gold standard for wireless gaming keyboards, the G915 is a slimline powerhouse, offering a low profile key set and a competitive battery life to boot. You'll be able to run this particular deck at full brightness for 30 hours - that's considerably better than the runtime of the Razer BlackWidow V3 Pro for slightly less cash to boot. While some wireless gaming keyboards can run for much longer than Logitech's without that RGB lighting, though, this is a solid all-rounder which will appeal to those looking for a balance between aesthetics and performance. 

With five dedicated macro buttons, a whole panel of media controls, and a sleek aluminium top cashing, there's plenty of luxury baked into the bare bones of this device as well. Not only that, but this isn't exactly a new release, which means we're seeing those lofty $229.99 / £209.99 starting prices sliding significantly. You'll likely find it closer to $180 / £140 right now. 

The Roccat Vulcan 121 AIMO is a keyboard that turns heads. It's absolutely gorgeous to look at thanks to its durable aluminium frame, exposed key stems, and vibrant RGB lighting. Much like the original Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO, our test-copy consistently drew compliments whenever anyone saw it on our desk.  

It's not just a pretty face, either. The Vulcan 121's performance is every bit as good. While the bottom row's unusual convex shape won't suit everyone, we found this deck to be comfortable, reliable, and satisfying to use. It particularly shines for typing. Its switches provide a pleasant click (with the Cherry Red variety, anyway) and tactile bump with each press. Meanwhile, those exposed stems give it an air of a ye-olden-days typewriter. That special, transparent housing minimises wobble, too.

What's more, its Titan switches actuate between 20-30% faster "than standard" depending on the version you go for. That makes it a great companion for the equally quick Roccat Kain 120 AIMO mouse. Throw in an easy-clean design to avoid dust buildup and you're left with something special with one of the best gaming keyboards which is great for day-to-day use too.

It can be difficult to find a mechanical gaming keyboard worth your time for under $100, but that's where this budget brand excels. Roccat produces a wide range of affordable gaming accessories, but its Pyro mechanical keyboard does far more than the bare minimum you might expect. We were seriously impressed by the smooth, responsive TTC switches in here, particularly seeing as the whole experience still remained satisfying and tactile while linear in nature. 

There's a speedy snap back after each key press which makes gliding across the deck all the more natural, and while you are sharing your media controls with the function row you even get a badass looking volume dial to play with. 

Despite the low price, the Roccat Pyro doesn't skimp on its software either. This is a fully remappable deck, configured through the program Swarm, and Easy Shift functionality can double up your macros for even more customization. 

The chassis itself is a plastic material, which is to be expected at this price tag, but the brushed effect underneath the keys does make the whole experience feel a little more premium than it actually is. The smoother ABS keycaps feel soft under the hand, but unfortunately do tell of this lower price point. There's nothing to grip onto here, which was a small frustration in our testing. 

Read more: Roccat Pyro review

You're not paying much for the Roccat Magma, and that places it in a particularly popular category. We were impressed by the value for money on offer here. Unlike some other contenders in this space, though, you're still getting a smooth, responsive experience with 26 key rollover, anti-ghosting, extra macro functionality, and customisable RGB lighting zones.

There are some sacrifices to be made to achieve such a low price tag (for example, the RGB lighting is set across ten individual LEDs which means you're not getting per-key customization, and the membrane keys do have a heavier actuation force than more tap-sensitive switches), but if you're not interested in premium speed or aesthetic customization, those setbacks won't encroach on your day-to-day experience. 

There's a real sense of quality to the Magma, and despite initially being put off by that extra heft, we found that each key-press offers a satisfying resistance. However, if you're after something a little lighter, we'd recommend taking a look at the hybrid SteelSeries Apex 5 or the Razer Cynosa V2 - though you'll be paying a little more.

In addition, Roccat's EasyShift macro control is still present and correct with the Magma. This allows you to customize dual-functionality for certain keys, giving greater flexibility that offers a fighting chance against the best gaming keyboards. Not only that, but we were surprised by the durability of the chassis overall as well, while we can forgive the plastic design at this price point there was a sturdiness that impressed us considering the price point.

Overall, you're getting an excellent piece of kit for your cash here - even if you are skimping on the luxuries a little.

Read more: Roccat Magma review

SteelSeries is well known for making some of the best gaming keyboards, but many of them are pricey. This is where the SteelSeries Apex 5 swoops in. It offers a stripped-back version of everything that makes the expensive models great. More specifically, you're getting a slimline design, snappy actuation, and an OLED smart display in the upper right-hand corner to go with its affordable cost. We felt that the mini screen is underused during our testing, but it's a cool touch nonetheless.

Although this model doesn't have customizable per-key actuation like the costly SteelSeries Apex Pro, it's still satisfying to game or type with. Its clicky keys only require the smallest amount of pressure to activate, and, once we got used to the sensitivity on offer here we were travelling across the deck with a kind of speed that's rare to find in similar gaming keyboards.

That's thanks to hybrid switches which bring together mechanical and membrane tech for the best of both worlds. We personally found the matte keys to be pleasingly soft to the touch, but those after a more tactile experience may need to swap out these ABS caps.

It's a memorable experience and the build quality never feels sloppy despite the lower price tag. You're still getting SteelSeries quality, but for much less than normal. It's superb value for money and a great keyboard all-round.

Read more: SteelSeries Apex 5 review

If you're after an investment piece that you can continue to customize over time, then look no further than the Mountain Everest Max. We were blown away by the feature set packed into this modular hot-swappable gaming keyboard, as well as the premium build quality. 

The Everest Max comes in a TKL format straight out of the box, with an additional number pad and media control panel to slot into the available USB-C ports. Being able to strip down from a full-sized deck when the heat is on is a particularly useful feature, but we'd thoroughly recommend keeping that digital control dial in your setup. From tracking APM to providing PC info, there's plenty of nifty features baked in here that turn your desk into a full command centre. 

Don't get us wrong, this isn't a cheap gaming keyboard. At $299.99 you'll need to know that you'll make the most of the features on offer here. However, this is a rare release that really does live up to its value. There's nothing quite like the Mountain Everest Max on the market right now.

While we had a few hiccups with the Cherry MX Red switches not being factory lubricated, and the ABS keycaps felt a little cheeky on a keyboard this expensive, the sheer customization options open to you mean that you can't go wrong. We simply opened up those switches and had them running smoothly in no time, and swapped in some PBT doubleshot keycaps for an extra level of personalization as well. 

Read more: Mountain Everest Max review

While we loved the previous generation HyperX Alloy Origins 60, the new 65% model improves on a few key areas to bring it up to the level of the best gaming keyboards on the market. The HyperX Alloy Origins 65 is the best mini keyboard available right now, with its reponsive, comfortable switches, improved PBT keycaps and spacing, impeccable build quality, and - of course - those all important arrow keys. 

The Alloy Origins 65 is incredibly comfortable to use for both work and play, offering up some of our favorite PBT keycaps with a soft yet slightly grainy texture, and a solid range of movement as well. In our testing, we found precision movements a lot easier with these keys, compared to the cramped 60% model and its super sensitive switches. Actuation feels a little deeper in this model, making for far more accurate keypresses as well.

With low latency responses and a snappy debounce, those looking for their first competitive level keyboard will find a great home for their fingertips here. You're still only getting three onboard memory slots though. That's the same as the previous model (and several HyperX boards), but it does fall slightly short of the average offering of five.

With its slimline form factor that doesn't impinge on functionality, comfortable typing experience, and speedy reactions, the HyperX Alloy Origins 65 is the best miniature gaming keyboard on the market. It can't quite keep up with the level of customization on offer in the hot-swappable Mountain Everest 60 or the actuation gradient of the Razer Huntsman Mini Analog. However, it combines enough of the features everyday players will actually use every day to make it a clear winner.

Read more: HyperX Alloy Origins 65 review

The K70 is one of Corsair's most successful lines of mechanical gaming keyboards, so it makes sense for them to bring the speed of the full sized model to a TKL form-factor. The result is a deck that feels tailor-made for tournament play, boasting 8,000Hz hyper-polling and 4,000Hz key scanning rates. It feels like an understatement to claim that the Corsair K70 RGB TKL is fast.

That's to say nothing of a feather-light actuation response, either. We were moving across these keys with minimal effort, but there's enough grip and anti-rollover at play here that we rarely had any trouble with multiple key presses in our testing.

While you are losing out on some dedicated macro controls and USB passthrough, every key is programmable itself. However, a quick flip of the new Tournament switch can also reset your keyboard to competitive standards as well. 

Finally, that new TKL size makes for a far more ergonomic feel. However, we were disappointed to find that the wrist rest is sold separately, and the lip of the keyboard itself proved a little harsh on the palms after longer play sessions. Still, there's so much functionality packed into this TKL model - functionality that we shouldn't take for granted in competitors' models - that it's easy to compensate for this minor irritation.

Thanks to the detachable cable, you're all set up for travelling too. Although the build could be a little lighter to fully make the most of this competitive use, you're getting a stunning and durable brushed effect on top as a trade-off that's not to be missed. 

Read more: Corsair K70 RGB TKL review

Available across 60%, 65%, TKL, and full sizes, the Ducky One 3 is one of the best feeling gaming keyboards we've had our hands on. A super soft landing thud to each of its hot-swappable switches makes for a real treat, and the high quality craftsmanship on display in the chassis serves to further highlight the impeccable attention to detail here. There's one problem here, which is stopping the Ducky One 3 from taking a more prominent role in our guide. A lack of dedicated software for programming macros, configuring RGB, and setting up onboard profiles means this latest iteration won't be threatening the top spot of the Razer Huntsman V2 Analog overall, or the Mountain Everest Max's hot-swapping crown. 

Don't get us wrong, this is a fully programmable deck. But you'll be following pages of manuals in order to program this thing directly on the keyboard itself. We managed to program a few regular commands in our own testing, but the process was particularly laborious - and hit or miss in its results. 

However, the Ducky One 3 does reign supreme in its quality of life features. You're getting a gorgeous aesthetic here, with deep, rich colors eschewing the typical black palette of the best gaming keyboards. With smooth switches and sound dampening foam, every keystroke feels luxurious - soft but with a satisfying thud. Not only that, but you can up your game with far more premium switches should you prefer, to really make this deck buttery smooth. 

We were also impressed with the speeds the Ducky One 3 was able to maintain - especially considering its $149 / £130 price point and hot-swapping features. This deck was plenty fast in our everyday testing, and even held up well during more intense battlefield tests as well. 

Read more: Ducky One 3 review

What are the best gaming keyboard brands?

If you're looking to narrow your search, or you're looking to build a whole ecosystem of RGB lighting, it's worth sticking to one brand. We've had our hands on a massive selection of keys, and our top three brands are Razer, Corsair, and Roccat. These are the brands that most often appear in our top roundup above, with plenty of range in their prices catering to entry level buyers and pros alike. 

What makes a gaming keyboard good?

Some of the best gaming keyboards all share a specific set of features and qualities that make them stand out from the rest of the pack. A good gaming keyboard is one that offers a satisfying and precise typing experience but still packs a high response time (the speed at which the keyboard communicates with the PC) and additional customization options. 

In your search for the best gaming keyboard, you should check three main features; switches, macro programming, and response times

The switches you use will determine how each key-press feels under your hand, but each switch will register that key-press at a different speed. The moment that the keyboard registers that something has been hit is called the actuation point; a lower actuation point is better for gaming because you'll be able to react with faster twitch reflex inputs. The best switch for a gaming keyboard is subjective, but red linear models are generally found in the top decks. 

Macros set the best gaming keyboards apart from other every-day mechanical devices. A good gaming keyboard will offer around six additional keys that can be re-mapped for easy access to in-game actions like reloading, switching a weapon, or aiming down sights. However, some keyboards also eschew these dedicated keys for a fully remappable deck as well. 

The speed of your keyboard is generally measured through its response time. While other aspects of your device can effect the speed of your inputs, like the actuation point, switch debounce times, and layout, the response time measures how long it takes the keyboard to scan each key press and send that information to your computer. A good gaming keyboard should have a response time between 1 and 8ms. 

Should you use mechanical or membrane switches in a gaming keyboard?

Switch type is perhaps the most subjective aspect of a gaming keyboard. Before you even dive into the world of different switch types, it’s worth researching whether you’d like a mechanical or membrane keyboard - or perhaps a hybrid version of the two. 

A membrane keyboard is cheaper and generally quieter, but won’t last as long and doesn’t offer the characteristic snap of a mechanical deck. That means actuation will feel a little mushier, and your key presses might not register as quickly. We’d recommend picking up a membrane keyboard if you’re new to kitting out your PC, or if you prefer a softer typing experience and don’t need that twitch reflex speed in the games you’ll be playing. 

A mechanical keyboard is the go-to in the world of PC gaming. That’s because of its durability, customization options, and response speed. Once you start spending a little more cash on your setup, it’s worth investing in a mechanical keyboard that feels good to you. Choosing a switch type is the next step, but for that we’d recommend picking up a cheap switch tester like the Griarrac Cherry MX switch tester ($15.99 at Amazon). 

Which switches should you use in a mechanical gaming keyboard?

Mechanical gaming keyboard switches come in three broad strokes; linear, tactile, and clicky. The first describes a switch that moves straight down when pressed, with no bumps in its feel or clacks in its sound. These linear switches are generally the most popular, allowing players to press keys repeatedly very quickly, and generally move across the board easier as well. They're also smoother and quieter for a more comfortable use as well. 

However, you may want to try a tactile switch if you're looking for instant acknowledgement that your key press has registered. These switches feature a small bump when you press the key down fully - actuating (registering a keypress) when the bump is hit, rather than when the key is fully pressed. That makes for a more accurate keypress, and if you get used to feeling for the bump, a faster typing experience overall. 

Clicky switches are still tactile, offering the same feel when a gaming keyboard key is pressed, but do so with a louder clack sound. That's excellent if you're looking for a clicky audible experience, but not so good if you're working or playing in a shared area. 

What size gaming keyboard should you use?

Gaming keyboards come in a range of shapes and sizes. Thankfully these days we’re seeing fewer RGB bricks with jagged corners and a weight that would bend a desk. However, there’s still a good variety of size configurations to choose from. 

A TKL, 60 or 65% keyboard drops the number pad and may even lose your arrow buttons and function keys as well. That’s better for keeping your desk space, and making sure you can still swing your mouse around in the heat of battle, but can limit you functionally. 

If you’re using your desk setup just for gaming, and that happens to be faster paced, more agile shooter titles, this is an excellent option. However, if you’re working on your keyboard as well, or if you can’t do without your macros or media controls, a full sized board may be required. 

How we test gaming keyboards

Every keyboard that takes up residency on our desks goes through a series of tests to see exactly how it ranks among the best decks on the market. We check everything from the n-key rollover to the keyboard's scan rate to make sure all features are as described, but we also put each set of keys through their paces through a series of genres and titles. We test response times, debounce, switch speeds, ease of macro use, travel, weight of switches, and polling rate using faster first person shooter and action titles as well as strategy, simulation, platformer, and racing genres as well. 

We also pay close attention to how well the form factor lends itself to the useability and speed of each device. That means we're always judging whether the build materials are solid and watching out for flex, keycap wobble, and inconsistent or unreliable switches. We use each model for weeks at a time, bringing them into our daily lives for work and play - so we can gather an early idea of whether any scuffs or scratches will appear from standard everyday use. However, crucially, we keep these keyboards in our rotations far beyond the publication of our final review - which means we can watch out for longer-term durability concerns and update our findings as well. 

Our testing also covers those all-important switches. We check how well the actuation feel, travel distance, and speed comply with the overall design and intended use-case of the keyboard itself. We also fully strip and rebuild any hot-swappable keyboards that we review as well. 

At the end of our testing, we make an assessment not just on performance, but also concerning the overall value of the product itself. That means we measure all of our findings against the price point and competing models within that bracket as well. 

For more information on how we make our recommendations, take a look at our full GamesRadar+ Hardware Policy. You'll also find more details on how we test gaming keyboards specifically as well. 

If you're fully upgrading your setup, it might be time to think about diving into the world of the best gaming PCs, or checking out our top pick for the best gaming laptop if you plan on taking your games on the go. 

We're also rounding up all the best gaming chair brands, and - if you're not interested in the best gaming headsets on the market - you'll also find all the best computer speakers right here as well. 

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