PC gaming has long been the pinnacle of the video game world, offering the best performance and visuals over consoles and mobile platforms (source).
Until recently, that power was only limited to those willing to dish out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on high-tech gaming rigs.
But modern PC’s and Mac’s have narrowed the gap, allowing even casual gamers to play some of the best games developers have to offer.
Sometimes though, even the casual gamer needs to up their play a little bit and go for the better equipment.
Most modern laptops, while great for work and school, do not offer the comfort and responsiveness of a true gaming keyboard.
So, if you are in the market for something a little better than the average keyboard, yet do not want to spend the hundreds of dollars on the top-of-the-line stuff, this list is for you!
Most gaming keyboards will be an upgrade to your standard option right out of the box, but there are a few categories that separate the good options from the average ones.
Ergonomics, backlighting, key functionality, and keyboard type are among the most important criteria and we have expanded on all of these below.
Comfort is important when you are talking about using something, possibly in the same exact position, for hours on end. A keyboard designed to be ergonomic for the consumer is instantly going to win some points.
However, this may also be the most subjective of all the categories so it may come down to your personal preference—as in, what works for you may not work well for someone else.
This category will also encompass the style of the keys. Most modern keyboards are meant to feel crisp, yet remain relatively quiet. However, some gamers prefer the original, mechanic sound of previous generations.
This will again come down to personal preference, but some gaming keyboards can be adjusted, offering an even better experience.
Backlighting is almost standard today. Most keyboards of any kind have it in some form, but having dynamic backlighting can make a big difference in your performance.
Many gaming keyboards today have the ability to change the color of certain sections of the keyboard, making it easier to catch your footing (so to speak) while playing.
Having the ability to dim, turn off, or change the colors can also be helpful as bright lights in an otherwise dark room could be distracting. The more customizable the keyboard is, the more likely it will suit your needs.
This category might be the most important, especially when we are essentially talking about how smart you want your keyboard to be.
Antighosting or conflict-free keys (meaning you can press multiple keys at once) are fairly standard features today, but cheaper models may not be able to distinguish what was an accidental keystroke and what was intentional.
Furthermore, many gaming keyboards will have additional keys and/or options that will allow you to program certain functions.
For example, maybe your standard keyboard has the ability to dim your screen or mute your volume; some gaming keyboards can retain that functionality or even be programmed to do additional tasks.
Our last keyboard is also going to come down to personal choice, but it can limit what you use your keyboard for. Many of the options here follow the standard, full keyboard layout that most will be familiar with.
However, a couple of these options either condense or completely eliminate certain sections entirely. If you want to use your keyboard for both gaming and professional use, then a one-handed keyboard might not be the best choice (more on this later).
Ultimately, each of the following options will be rated on these four categories, in addition to their overall value, and be ranked accordingly.
|Corsair K55 RGB Gaming Keyboard|
|HyperX Alloy Core RGB|
|Skywin Programmable Gaming Keypad|
Best Overall—Redragon K552-RGB
Redragon is fairly reputable in the gaming world, offering good-quality accessories at modest pricing. The K552 is among the most expensive options on this list, but the added cost is worth the features.
For one, the K552 is arguably the most durable here. With a combination of an aluminum frame and ABS plastic keys, it should handle any potential drops and/or light wear.
Obviously, this is still a keyboard so, but the K552 should be able to handle any day-to-day challenges that might arise.
All 87 keys on the K552 light up and they are even scratch-resistant. They can also be removed, either for maintenance or adding personal flair.
The backlighting features five different primary modes in addition to being fully customizable. However, where Redragon’s K552 really shines is on the inside.
The USB connector uses a gold port for a faster response time. All of the keys are conflict free and the WIN key can even be shut off during gaming. The K552 also uses a plate mounted key technique that ensures even keystrokes and durability.
The only major drawback, which may not be a problem for most, is that the K552 is a compact style keyboard. It still has all of the keys that are essential for gaming, but the smaller design could be jarring to get used to at first.
Overall, the K552 simply packs too many features that are typically reserved for multi-hundred dollar keyboards.
Runner up— Corsair K55 RGB Gaming Keyboard
While the Redragon K552 takes the top spot, Corsair’s K55 is not too far behind. For the same price, Corsair’s model comes with an ergonomic hand rest and a full suite of keys; as in, it’s not a compact model like the Redragon. That alone may be enough to entice some potential buyers.
The backlighting is not as extensive, but the Corsair does have adjustable keys. Furthermore, the K55 is one of two keyboards on this list that are designed to be quiet.
This will come down to personal preference; with some gamers preferring key-mashing sounds, whereas others only see it as a distraction.
The K55 also comes with six programmable macro keys with onboard recording. This is a great feature for serious gamers, but may be lost on casual players.
Third Option— HyperX Alloy Core RGB
HyperX’s Alloy Core RGB is nearly identical to Corsair’s K55, but with a couple of extra features (minus the ergonomic hand rest).
The biggest difference comes from its durability. The Alloy Core is highly durable and tested to be spill resistant up to 120ml, which is about half a soda can.
The HyperX also lacks Corsair’s macro keys, but it retains the dedicated media keys. These are not necessary for gaming, but they do add a bit of convenience for the user.
Another interesting feature is the Alloy Core’s ability to lock itself while not locking up the PC itself. This isn’t a world-changing feature, but it is useful if you need to step away for a minute.
Ultimately, these features may not make the additional cost and potential for a weaker response time, worth it. However, the Alloy Core may appeal to casual gamers or even office workers that may require the extra durability.
Best Gaming Keyboard on a Budget—Rii RK100+
If you are relatively new to PC gaming or you simply want to give it a shot, buying a $50 keyboard may be a little intimidating. Rii’s RK100 Plus gaming keyboard keeps the RGB backlighting and that is about it.
However, the keyboard is highly-reviewed as a budget option and still offers more flexibility than most laptop keyboards.
The backlighting can be controlled from the keyboard itself, but is not customizable beyond brightness.
That being said, for only $22, you are still getting a keyboard that is probably just as effective as high-end office keyboards.
As one potentially useful feature, if the backlighting is off, the keyboard will automatically enter a sleep mode (that is easily ended by pressing any key).
Best One-Handed Keyboard—Skywin Programmable Gaming Keypad
One-handed keyboards fill a niche role in the PC gaming world. They strip away the parts unnecessary for gaming and leave the user with a compact and easy-to-use package that tends to be favored by laptop users.
Skywin’s model offered some of the best features as the standard-layout keyboards above, but in the smaller package.
The big draw will probably be the sleek and ergonomic design; as the Skywin comes with an attached hand rest.
The backlighting is dynamic, which may not be as functional on a smaller keyboard, but it is a nice touch nonetheless.
Skywin’s option is the easiest to transport as it hardly weighs anything; again making for a good pairing with a gaming laptop.
However, those looking for a true gaming keyboard will lose out on certain functions that only a full-size keyboard will be able to handle.
As with any purchase, personal preference will be a big factor in choosing a new gaming keyboard. For under $50, there is a good chance that you will not get all of the fancy features you may desire.
However, both Redragon and Corsair make models that cover a wide spectrum of features. Redragon gets the upper hand in terms of responsiveness, materials and design. However, Corsair offers the six programmable macro keys and a full keyboard layout.
Ultimately, as far as the high-end keyboards go, the Redragon probably offers the best true-gaming keyboard experience.
Most high-end keyboards use high-grade materials like gold to increase response times, and the Redragon K552 is the only keyboard here to explicitly offer this under $50.
If you do not want a full or compact keyboard at all, however, check out Skywin’s Programmable Gaming Keypad.
While it does not offer many of the high-end features that the Corsair or Redragon do, the Skywin does have the ability to turn a regular, modern PC into a portable gaming rig.
As always, some of these decisions can only be made by you—but hopefully this buyer’s guide can narrow down some of the options!