Best Gaming Keyboard 2017: 7 mechanical keyboards for gamers

There’s no doubt that the best keyboards are mechanical keyboards, but which is best for you? We’ve rounded up seven of our favourite gaming keyboards we’ve tested recently, and put together this buying guide to help you make your choice.

If you’re an avid PC gamer, one of the cheapest but most satisfying ways to up your game is with a mechanical keyboard. If you’ve never used one before, it’s a big change from your classic low-profile laptop keys or the cheap no-brand keyboard that came with your PC, and takes some getting used to, but as you’ll see with our guide and the seven boards on offer here, you can get a great piece of kit for around £100.

Scroll down for the full list

In this guide, we’ll take you through all that you should consider when buying a mechanical gaming keyboard. You’ll come away equipped to make the best choice to level up your gaming rig and buy the best gaming keyboard possible.

Related: Complete your setup with our best gaming mouse guide

In this round-up are our more recent reviews of mechanical keyboards that are still on sale, but if you have any suggestions of other keyboards we should get in for review, let us know in the comments. Currently in the works we have reviews of both Razer and Logitech’s latest offerings, and if they make the grade we’ll add them to this list.

Mechanical switches explained

One of the most confusing elements of a mechanical keyboard are the colour-coded Cherry switches, which you’ll find on most brands. There are a few exceptions, however – some keyboard manufacturers, such as Razer and Logitech, have their own custom mechanical switches.

Mechanical switches are very different to the switches you’ll find on cheaper keyboards. They provide much better feedback and a more satisfying action. They’re not for everybody, though, so it’s worth trying before you buy.

Related: The ultimate gaming PC build guide

Cherry manufactures six distinct types of MX keyboard switch, named after colours.

Blue and Green switches are similar. Blue switches give a tactile click the moment the button becomes activated, meaning you get instant feedback for every keystroke, which is very satisfying. Green switches are similar, but require more force than the Blue switches to activate. These are fantastic for typing but exceptionally loud – so if you’re in a shared workspace, or have thin walls, then they’re best avoided.

Ozone Strike Battle
MX Brown switches are similar to Blues but the tactile click is far less pronounced. They’re also less noisy than their Blue and Green siblings, feeling more like a bump than a click. MX Clear have a less pronounced click than the Brown switches, and require less force to activate. These switches are a good middle-ground for gamers who also type a lot.

MX Red switches have no tactile click and instead have an extremely smooth keystroke all the way to the bottom of the board. These are the most common switches on gaming keyboards due to their exceptionally easy and quick operation. They’re less comfortable for long periods of typing, and the lack of feedback can prove discomforting for some. MX Black switches are very similar to Reds but require more force to activate.

Finally, there are the new MX Speed switches, which have a very small actuation point of just 1.2mm.

Descriptions are all well and good, but you really need to try them out to determine which is best for you. You can buy MX switch samplers, although these cost in excess of £10, so you should probably try your local PC store first and get them to unbox some for you.

Since Cherry MX switches are interchangeable (usually not by the buyer), many of the keyboards on this list will offer multiple specifications with different MX switches.

Non-Cherry keyboards are becoming more common, with the likes of Logitech and Razer choosing to ship keyboards with their own custom switches. As you’ll see below, Cherry still dominates the list but alternatives are becoming more popular.

Other features

Many gaming keyboards also have extras that set them apart from the crowd. For example, some will come with USB passthroughs, meaning you can hook up USB peripherals to your keyboard directly, without having to plug them into your PC.

SteelSeries Apex M800 19

Some will also come with extra buttons for gaming shortcuts, which can be programmed through software that you can download from the manufacturer’s website.

You should also look out for coloured backlighting. Some keyboards will ship with a single colour, others will offer customisation options. This will no doubt add to the cost, and if you don’t like garish flashing lights, then you’re better off steering clear.

Logitech G413

1 of 7

Score

Key features:

  • Romer-G switches
  • Silver and black designs
  • USB passthrough
  • Review price: £100

The Logitech G413 is the best £100 keyboard we’ve reviewed. It ticks all the boxes for a keyboard that’s going to be used for both work and play, and its attractive design means it won’t look out of place in a more subtle desk setup.

The full-size ‘board uses Logitech’s Romer-G switches. No, they’re not Cherry MX, but we’re starting to be won over by their mix of tactile feedback but relatively quiet performance.

There’s a USB passthrough for peripherals, which isn’t always a given at this price, and Logitech’s Gaming Software is fairly basic but gets the job done as far as macros go. Our only slight reservation are the single-colour backlights; we’re not fans of the bright red on the black model, but that’s down to personal taste.

All in all, Logitech’s latest mid-range gamer is a mighty success.

Read the full Logitech G413 review

Score

Key features

  • CherryMX Red switches
  • Blue backlighting
  • Fully programmable keys
  • No dedicated macro buttons
  • Review price: £95

The SteelSeries Apex M500 is one of the more basic mechanical keyboards around, but it does its job well and looks great.

It includes proper CherryMX switches, a robust design and stylish blue backlighting, along with excellent customisation software.

It doesn’t have a passthrough or any of the macro keys you’d get from more advanced keyboards, which is something to take into account if you value gaming-specific extras.

You don’t have to spend too much more to find yourself at one of the other keyboards on this list, but if you don’t care about extra features, there’s not much point in spending an awful lot more.



Read the full SteelSeries Apex M500 review

Score

Key features:

  • CherryMX Blue switches
  • Red backlighting
  • Removable, braided cable
  • USB port (for charging devices only)
  • Review price: £100

The Alloy FPS is HyperX’s first attempt at a gaming keyboard, and it’s a solid first effort.

There’s no denying it’s a basic keyboard, but there’s a lot to like. The nearly bezel-less design means it won’t take up much space on your desk while still making room for a number pad.

Elsewhere, it’s a fairly basic keyboard with single-colour red key backlighting and no extra buttons for macros or media. But in this case, simplicity is its strength, and means it doesn’t cost the earth, either.

The braided USB cable is removable and it comes with a drawstring bag for easy LAN party transportation. There’s also a USB port from which you can charge devices, such as a smartphone.

You get spare key caps in the box for the WASD and 1234 keys for extra grip when gaming. It’s mostly superficial, but it looks good.

A basic keyboard, but the Alloy FPS is a decent deal, and as prices come down it’ll get even better.



Read the full HyperX Alloy FPS review

Cougar 700K

4 of 7

Score

Key features:

  • USB and audio passthrough
  • Macro keys
  • Multimedia buttons
  • Review price: £109

Cougar’s 700K is ridiculously cheap for what it offers. For £109 or less you get Cherry MX switches (Red seems the be the switch most frequently available), multimedia keys and extra buttons for your gaming macros.

There are downsides, however. Its angular design will divide opinion and its orange backlighting can’t be changed – although it can, of course, be switched off. We’re also not fans of the US layout of the keyboard, which displaces the “£” symbol and reduces the size of the Return key.

Another interesting design choice is the split space bar key, one half of which acts as you’d expect while the other can be assigned to an alternative macro function, such as a double jump or something completely different. This makes it rather strange to type on but very customisable for gamers.

It’s cheap and isn’t hugely pretty, but the Cougar 700K is great value, especially since it’s come down in price since our original review.



Read the full Cougar 700K review

Score

Key features

  • USB passthrough
  • Backlight
  • Multimedia keys and volume wheel
  • Review price: £129.99

Corsair’s gorgeous, brushed-metal keyboard comes in Cherry MX Red, Brown or Blue switches. It’s fully backlit, albeit with only red LEDs. It comes with a set of contoured keys for the commonly used WASD and 1-6 number keys, which makes them easier to find in the heat of battle.

Note that the keyboard doesn’t come with any extra macro keys, which may limit its appeal to game players who rely on shortcuts – MMOs and other fast-paced titles, for example.

The lack of a surround around the buttons themselves gives the board an industrial look. Although dirt and dust will be more of an issue as a result, those who take good care of their keyboard will be rewarded with great performance and shiny looks.



Read the full Corsair Vengeance K70 review

Score

Key features:

  • Optional number pad
  • Cherry MX Brown, Red, Blue or Black switches
  • RGB lighting
  • Metal core
  • Review price: £150 without number pad (£50 extra)

As we move into the luxury section of our round-up, the Asus ROG Claymore is an essential entry here.

It’s a beautiful thing, with a robust plastic and metal build, lack of bezel around the edge and fancy RGB lighting that can sync up with Asus Aura motherboards and graphics cards. There are some features missing, including both a wrist rest and USB passthrough, which are surprising omissions given the price.

There’s a wide variety of Cherry MX switches available, so gamers of all stripes should at least consider the Claymore.



Read the full Asus ROG Claymore review

Score

Key features:

  • Full RGB lighting
  • “LightEdge”
  • Cherry MX Speed switches
  • Review price: £199.99

Corsair’s K95 Platinum is the most over-the-top gaming keyboard we’ve ever seen. Seemingly not satisfied with being the king of RGB, Corsair has added what it calls LightEdge – an RGB strip – to the top edge of the keyboard, so you can completely satiate your mighty appetite for glowy lights.

Some of the Trusted office actually quite like it, but if you don’t, you can turn it off.

The rest is standard Corsair excellence: the base is sturdy, there’s a USB passthrough and a comfortable wrist rest and it’s all powered by Cherry MX Speed key switches, which have the most responsive action of any key switch we’ve seen.

It’s monstrously expensive, but you pay for the best.



Read the full Corsair K95 RGB Platinum review

Black Friday Deals