The perfect gaming keyboard

For gamers, a keyboard must be robust, precise, and reliable. And depending on the game, the keyboard must have additional features or functionality to make playing more comfortable -- or even give you an advantage over the enemy. There are numerous manufacturers and models on the market, which is why this article will tell you everything about the perfect gaming keyboard.

Switch technology: CHERRY MX remains the first choice

Hardcore gamers must be able to rely at any time on a precise interpretation of keypresses and macros. That's why they usually go for mechanical CHERRY MX switches, which have the highest precision and robustness on the market. MX technology is the golden standard for mechanical key switches and this technology be found in many keyboards from well-known manufacturers. Thanks to exemplary processing and high-quality German engineering, CHERRY guarantees that its switches retain their quality for over 50 million keystrokes.

These CHERRY MX switches are ideal for gamers

CHERRY offers MX switches in different variants. They can be distinguished by the color of their stem. MX Red switches are very popular with gamers of fast-paced first-person shooters, like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Call of Duty, since they require relatively little actuation force (45 centinewton) and a very short pre-travel of 2.0 millimeters. The linear switching characteristics ensure a high typing speed as well. Even faster are the MX Speed Silver switches: while the actuation force remains the same, the keypress is already registered after 1.2 millimeters. CHERRY also offers MX Red as a Silent variant, in which the manufacturer has integrated noise dampening, without affecting the switch characteristics.

CHERRY MX Red

CHERRY MX Red

If you frequently experience problems with accidentally pressed keys, then go for MX Blue switches. These require a comparatively high actuation force of 60 centinewton, with a pre-travel of 2.2 millimeters. It is also a tactile switch: when the switch is triggered successfully it gives an audible and noticeable feedback. That is especially useful for gamers who wear a gaming headset. Similar characteristics can be found with MX Brown switches, which require a very similar actuation force (55 centinewton) but only provide a noticeable feedback; there is no audible click.

CHERRY MX Blue

CHERRY MX Blue

Of course, there are other MX switch variants by CHERRY. Usually, you should try out the various switches first to get an idea of your preference. Good places to find these switches are at electronics markets or trade fairs. For an overview of all regular MX switches, make sure to check out "CHERRY MX SWITCHES AT A GLANCE".

More space thanks to TKL keyboard layout

The TKL layout for keyboards is particularly popular with e-sports professionals. TKL stands for “tenkeyless” and means that the keyboard has no number pad. As a result, these keyboards occupy less space on your desk, which is ideal in situations where desktop space is limited. Another benefit is that the mouse can be placed closer to the keyboard, which can save valuable time in the heat of the battle.

TKL-Format

The TKL keyboard compared to a regular layout.

RGB backlight for better looks and visibility

Even if some gamers consider RGB backlighting for keyboards as a gimmick, there are some indisputable advantages to this functionality. On one hand, the keyboard can be identified faster and easier under bad lighting conditions. Depending on the driver software, individual keys or areas can be colored differently or show special light effects to distinguish them visually. Some of them are just to give the keyboard a nicer look, but some of them are actually useful while gaming: for example, a keyboard with RGB lighting can have specific keys mimic the player’s health bar, flashing in red when the health reaches a critical state. Or act as a timer to indicate when the next spell can be casted or the next potion can be drunk. One final advantage is purely aesthetic: thanks to the almost infinite number of colors that can be reproduced (16.8 million with RGB), the keyboard can be seamlessly adapted to the rest of the gaming setup.

RGB-Beleuchtung in Aktion

RGB lighting in action

Anti-ghosting and key rollover

Many games require that you press several keys simultaneously to perform certain actions. With low-cost keyboards, there is a possibility that the keyboard incorrectly registers adjacent key presses as well. Since this causes actions to be executed as if a ‘ghost hand’ has pressed these keys, the term "ghosting" is used for this behavior. If you are a gamer, you should always opt for a model that offers anti-ghosting to prevent these false inputs.

Ghosting: Obwohl nur die Tasten S, D und C gedrückt werden, wird auch X weitergeleitet

Ghosting: Though just the keys S, D and C are pressed, X will also be forwarded.

It is also possible that some of the simultaneous key presses are simply not registered or ‘forgotten’. That’s why keyboards should provide so-called key rollover. Some keyboards are able to process a limited number of simultaneous keypresses. For instance, a 6-Key rollover means that the keyboard recognizes a maximum of six simultaneous key presses without errors. Keyboards with N-Key rollover, on the other hand, detect all keys presses that are triggered at a specific moment.

Key-Rollover

Key-Rollover

Media control and macro keys for more comfort

Controlling multimedia playback with your keyboard is a very common feature. Many models make use of an Fn (Function) key so they can assign multimedia controls to existing keys, like the F1-F12 keys. This has the disadvantage that you always have to press two keys at the same time to control the volume, skip through songs, or resume playback. It’s much more comfortable to have dedicated media keys, where a single keypress suffices. And even more intuitive when it comes to controlling the sound level is a dedicated volume wheel.

Separate Multimedia-Tasten inklusive Lautstärke-Drehrad

Separate media control including a volume wheel.

If you often use macros, you will appreciate gaming keyboards that offer dedicated macro keys. These keys can be programmed with key sequences and combinations -- ideal for complex moves in MMOs, MOBAs or round-based titles. 

Links: Separate Makro-Tasten

On the left: Separate macro keys

Extra features: USB and audio hub, smartphone holder and more

Depending on manufacturer and retail price, a gaming keyboard can offer many additional features. To give you a few examples, how about USB ports to quickly connect a gaming mouse or USB stick? Or audio connectors for your headphones and microphone? These ports are ideal when your PC is located under your desk or at a distance from where you’re sitting.

Extra-Feature: USB-Hub

Extra feature: USB hub

Some keyboards are even equipped with smartphone or tablet mounts, including the option to charge these devices. This allows you to have your mobile device within line of sight during your gaming sessions, or to use these devices as a "second screen" to display further information or even add functionality to your game. A perfect gaming keyboard is rounded off by a braided connecting cable that protects the cable from cuts or breaks.

Gaming-Tastatur von G.Skill mit Smartphone-Halterung

Gaming keyboard from G.Skill with smartphone dock

Gaming keyboards: our current recommendations

There are many keyboard manufacturers on the market, each offering a huge variety of keyboard models. A few of these manufacturers offer the full range of CHERRY MX switches for their keyboards. To get you started in picking the best keyboard for your system, we will give you some specific recommendations for manufacturers and models.

One of the brands that almost offers you too much choice is Corsair. And we don’t mean that in a bad way: they offer their gaming keyboards in pretty much every single possible layout and with nearly every MX switch variant currently on the market, including the MX Speed Silver and MX Silent range. We are big fans of their TKL models, and they even offer splash-proof keyboards. If money is not an issue, there is one gaming keyboard that you should definitely take into consideration: the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum. This flagship combines high-quality materials, an extensive feature set, RGB lighting, and a choice between CHERRY MX Brown or MX Speed Silver switches. Read more about this keyboard in our blog post "CORSAIR K95 RGB PLATINUM [PRESENTATION]".

Corsair K95 RGB Platinum

Corsair K95 RGB Platinum

For almost every keyboard in the portfolio of Cooler Master this company has a TKL variant available. The designs are usually a bit minimalistic, but these keyboards do not lack in functionality, offering features such as dedicated macro keys and RGB lighting. If you’re looking for something special, Cooler Master also frequently offers special editions of their keyboards. For example, the CM MasterKeys Pro L GeForce GTX Edition has been developed in cooperation with graphics cards manufacturer Nvidia and features specially designed key caps. This model is available with MX Red switches.

Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L GeForce GTX Edition

Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L GeForce GTX Edition

If you want to earn money with PC gaming, you’ll need an extremely durable and reliable keyboard. HyperX has worked with e-sports professionals to create keyboards that are specifically designed to be used at gaming tournaments. The HyperX Alloy Elite consists of robust aluminum, separate media controls and a gaming mode. This keyboard is available with CHERRY MX Red, Blue or Brown switches. The Alloy FPS Pro is the TKL variant of the first HyperX keyboard Alloy FPS and uses much less space on your desk. It’s currently available with MX Red switches exclusively, but further switch variants are expected to follow soon.

HyperX Alloy Elite

HyperX Alloy Elite

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