Best gaming keyboard 2020: Digital Foundry's picks

Leading mechanical and non-mechanical keyboards tested.

Choosing the right PC gaming peripherals can make a world of difference, by making it easier to survive in competitive games like Warzone or simply become immersed in your favourite virtual world for hours on end. We've already covered the best gaming mice and gaming headsets, and now it's time to take a closer look at another critical area: the best gaming keyboards.

Whether you prefer a simple non-mechanical keyboard that nails the essentials or a full-fat mechanical option that brings all of the best features too, you're sure to find something that appeals within our top recommendations. We've tried to ensure that each of the ten options here are distinct, rather than ten variations on the same theme. With a bit of luck, you'll find some great new brands and keyboards here that you may not have even heard of, let alone considered.

We've also collected Frequently Asked Questions at the bottom of the page, like what kinds there are, the differences between mechanical and not and why some keyboards look funny.

Why take my word for it?

I've exhaustively tested each of the keyboards on this list - and many more that didn't make the cut. I've been reviewing gaming keyboards for years, from the rebirth of the mechanical keyboard almost a decade ago to the RGB-encrusted examples with unique switches and crazy features hitting the market as we continue into the halcyon days of 2020. It can be hard to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation in this unassuming space, so allow me to be your guide.

Of course, it goes without saying that while there are certainly better and worse keyboards on the market, choosing the right keyboard is also a very personal experience. We've tried to consider a range of viewpoints and value judgements, but my number one choice might be one you wouldn't even consider. Keep an open mind as you go through the selections, and feel free to chime in with your own questions or recommendations in the comments. We'll continue to update this article over time, and the more feedback we get, the better we can make it!

With that out of the way, let's get straight to the top ten - and our bonus selection for Xbox users. Click the links below to jump straight to those entries, or scroll on to read our full recommendations!

Best gaming keyboard 2020

  1. Corsair K100: a full-fat mechanical with truly unique features
  2. SteelSeries Apex Pro: a beautiful design with plenty of extras
  3. Corsair K60 RGB Pro: a clean keyboard with Cherry Viola switches
  4. Razer Cynosa Chroma: the best membrane keyboard available
  5. Razer Huntsman TE: a compact optical switch keyboard with three additional variants
  6. HyperX Alloy Elite 2: a well-equipped keyboard with pudding keycaps
  7. Wooting One/Two: an advanced optical keyboard from a small Dutch firm
  8. Corsair K57 RGB Wireless: a rare premium membrane keyboard with low-latency wireless
  9. ADX MK04: the best cheap mechanical keyboard
  10. Razer Turret: a peerless wireless keyboard and mouse set for Xbox

1. Corsair K100

A full-fat mechanical with truly unique features

k100
  • Full-size with dedicated media controls, volume wheel and multi-function wheel
  • Cherry MX Speed or OPX optical mechanical switches, ideal for gaming
  • Best-in-class software for recording macros, rebinding keys and adjusting RGB lighting

Corsair has a proud history of creating all-out mechanical keyboards with features that other manufacturers wouldn't be able to copy for years, starting with the K90 way back in 2011 and K95 in 2014 - and now we've finally gone to the next tier with the K100. If you've used a high-end Corsair mechanical keyboard, the K100 is a logical evolution that adds on a very cool new feature: a multi-function wheel capable of some surprising things.

Like the K90 and K95, the K100 is a full-size keyboard with a num-pad, plus a dedicated column of macro keys on the left, media keys on the right and a volume wheel in the upper right corner. What's new for the K100 is that second wheel in the upper left, which can be used for tons of different things - zooming in and out, scrolling vertically or horizontally, skipping tracks, launching programs, swapping apps and so on. You can press the button in the centre to switch between different functions, with a different colour denoting each mode. Everything can be customised in the company's iCUE software, which remains the most comprehensive tool available for tweaking lighting effects, recording macros and rebinding keys. Corsair also owns Elgato, so expect tight integration with products like the Stream Deck as well.

Aside from the wheel, the K100 offers other noticeable improvements over its predecessors. The new optical OPX switches feel great under the finger, with a pleasant report and near-instant recognition, thanks to the lack of a debounce delay and 4000Hz polling, and you can go for a Cherry MX Speed alternative if you prefer. The lighting effects look as good as ever, with rainbows shooting out of each key, the logo and new side channels too.

icuenexus

You can even mount the recently-released iCue Nexus touch screen onto the keyboard if you want to adjust keyboard settings, see system stats or launch commonly-used programs. I set up a screen with buttons to launch TweetDeck or the Eurogamer CMS on one side and my current CPU and GPU temperatures on the other - fantastic. If you miss the classic Logitech G15, this is a really nice modern take on the same great idea.

Overall, it's easier to list off what the Corsair K100 can't do than what it can do. If you have the desk space for a full-size-and-then-some keyboard and you'll actually use its many many features, then the K100 is worth every penny of its premium asking price.

Note - this has just been announced so there's no availability yet; please stand by.

2. SteelSeries Apex Pro / Apex Pro TKL

This keyboard boasts hyper-advanced features while still nailing the essentials

apex
  • Adjustable actuation switches can be tuned for gaming or typing
  • Bright RGB backlighting and beautiful design with a super extra OLED display
  • Superb build quality and long feature list justifies the premium price

The SteelSeries Apex Pro is our new runner-up pick, thanks to its strong fundamentals and truly meaningful extras. The first thing you're likely to notice is the OLED screen in the upper right, which allows you to see your in-game stats, chatters in Discord or the music you're playing; it also lets you adjust settings using the convenient volume wheel nearby. This feature even makes it into the smaller TKL (tenkeyless) version, though the volume wheel is substantially thinner.

Less obvious but more impressive are the magnetic sensors built into each switch, which allow the actuation point - the point at which a keypress is registered - to be set anywhere from a crazy-short 0.4mm to a super-deep 3.6mm. This lets you reap the responsiveness benefits of a "speed switch" keyboard for gaming, then swap back to a more standard feel for typing and general computer use with a push of a button. It sounds trite, but this really is like having two keyboards in one.

As well as offering advanced features, the Apex Pro is just a nice keyboard to look at and to use. It feels well built, with an gently rounded aluminium alloy frame, and its bright RGB backlighting spills out of the large capital letters on each keycap. A USB pass-through port, elegant cable routing, intuitive companion software and a comfy palm rest complete the package.

3. Corsair K60 RGB Pro

Cherry's latest Viola switches impress

k60_rgb_pro
  • Stylish floating keycaps, RGB and a clean aluminium design
  • Cherry Viola switches are soft, silent and satisfying
  • Relatively compact, despite the full-format layout with numpad

The K60 RGB Pro is perhaps Corsair's most restrained keyboard to date, and a far cry for the gamer stylings that the brand has traditionally been known for - ever since the first K60 in 2011. Rather than contrasting colours and red highlights, the K60 uses a black anodised brushed aluminium chassis with low profile ABS keycaps lit by (optional) RGB backlighting. Inside, Cherry's new Viola switches provide a pleasant amount of feedback while remaining smooth and linear with 2mm of total travel. They're pretty quiet for a mechanical switch too, and the keyboard worked well for both gaming and typing in my testing.

Apart from the novel switches, the K60 RGB Pro includes a full layout, including number pad, with media controls, Windows Lock and other functions built into a Function layer. That allows for a much smaller footprint than Corsair's more comprehensive keyboards, like the K100 we recently recommended. We also appreciated the build quality of this keyboard; despite being rather thin the brushed aluminium top plate provides considerable rigidity. All things considered, it's a solid evolution from Corsair that offers reasonable value at its $90/£110 RRP.

There are three more K60 variants coming out too. I've not had the chance to test them, but the vanilla K60 offers the same features as the K60 except with single-colour (red) backlighting, the K60 Pro SE adds a wrist rest and PBT keycaps and finally the K60 Low Profile uses low profile switches for a more laptop-like feel.

4. Razer Cynosa Chroma

The best non-mechanical membrane keyboard we've tested

cynosa
  • Membrane keys provide a soft feel, work quietly and resist water
  • Full RGB backlighting and integration into Razer's well-developed ecosystem
  • Somewhat expensive for a non-mechanical keyboard

If you prefer the softer feel, quieter operation and lower cost of non-mechanical keyboards, the Cynosa Chroma from Razer is the best we've tested so far. The membrane switches still offer decent tactile feedback, they're water resistant and up to 10 keys can be pressed at once - not always a given on non-mechanical keyboards! Razer's software for remapping keys and RGB backlighting is among the best in the biz too, not least because a fair few games come with their own backlighting schemes. For example, in Overwatch, you'll find different backlighting for each hero in the game, with keys lighting up as your cooldowns finish.

5. Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition

A compact optical switch keyboard with three additional variants available

huntsmante
  • Stabilised optical switches with a soft, linear feel
  • Modern design with detachable USB-C cable
  • Macros and custom lighting, with or without software
  • Larger (Huntsman, Huntsman Elite) and smaller (Huntsman Mini) versions available

Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards are popular for gaming as they omit the little-used numpad, giving you more space to move your mouse and keeping your arms in an ergonomically superior position. The best TKL we've tested so far is the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition, thanks to its modern design with floating RGB-backlit PBT keycaps atop an aluminium top plate. The switches are remarkable too; they're soft linear switches somewhat akin to a Cherry MX Red that register a key press using an optical sensor, cutting out the debounce delay inherent to more traditional switch designs. Each key has a stabiliser fitted, something you'd normally find only on large keys like space and enter, in order to cut down on key wobble.

The Huntsman TE comes in a completely standard layout, so you can choose a new set of keycaps down the road, and no space is wasted with alternate functions on the F keys. These allow you to record and replay macros, adjust the brightness of the RGB lighting and access media controls. Razer's Synapse software is available for setting up lighting effects, with five profiles fitting on the device's built-in memory.

If you like the idea of the Huntsman TE but prefer a larger keyboard, you can pick up the full-size Huntsman which includes a number pad. The Huntsman Elite is an even fancier version which includes a plush vegan leather palm rest, a volume wheel, dedicated media keys and RGB underglow lighting - additions that seem worthwhile given the relatively low price difference between the two full-size boards.

The Huntsman Mini, a 60% size mechanical keyboard, is also now available. This is a great choice if you want a diminutive board for gaming, whether that's to maximise the space you have for your mouse or just to lighten your load when going to a LAN party. For more details, see our write-up here.

6. HyperX Alloy Elite 2

A well-equipped keyboard with pudding keycaps

alloyelite2
  • Pudding keycaps made from provide a beautiful look
  • Includes extra keys for media and lighting controls, plus a volume roller
  • Full-size layout, but no palm rest or extra keycaps in this revision

The HyperX Alloy Elite 2 is one of those keyboards that you plug into your computer and instantly fall in love with. For me, that's largely down to its pudding keycaps, which allow the bright RGB backlighting to shine through the sides of each keycap as well as the legend on the top. That creates a mesmerising sea of rainbow colours, making this one of the best-looking RGB keyboards on the planet. HyperX have sold their pudding caps separately for some time now, so it's great to see them make the leap to including a similar design, albeit in ABS rather than PBT, as standard on a premium mechanical keyboard.

While the keycaps are a big improvement, the Elite 2 doesn't include some add-ons provided with the original Elite. There are no replacement keycaps for WASD and a palm rest doesn't come in the box, although it's clear that the frame is still engineered to accept one. I personally used neither of these, but if you do want a palm rest you might consider a third-party option instead.

Despite these omissions, the Elite 2 still feels like a full package. The HyperX Red switches underneath each keycap perform well, providing a soft and linear feel that's well suited for gaming, and there are dedicated buttons for adjusting the backlighting effect or brightness, toggling game mode and controlling media. A notched volume wheel is also provided in the upper right corner of the board, allowing you to make on-the-fly adjustments without needing to dive into a settings menu - handy when you're listening for footsteps in Warzone. There are no dedicated macro keys here, but the revised Ngenuity software allows you to rebind other keys easily - as well as choosing from a wider range of lighting effects or simply set the backlight to a static colour. Altogether, the Elite 2 is a well-crafted full-size mechanical keyboard that ticks pretty much all the boxes.

7. Wooting One & Wooting Two

An exciting keyboard that nails the essentials and delivers a killer new feature too

two
  • Analogue optical switches provide a rapid response and new gameplay possibilities
  • Clean design with full per-key RGB backlighting
  • Available as the Wooting One (compact) and Wooting Two (full-size)

The Wooting One and Wooting Two are made by a small firm in the Netherlands, quite unlike the big gaming brands on this list. These keyboards set themselves apart thanks to their analogue controls - rather than seeing if a key has been tapped or not, the keyboard uses optical sensors to gauge how far down it's been pressed. That gives you incredibly granular control, so you can steer in a driving game like you're using a racing wheel or change between walking and running in a shooter just by pressing down harder. You're not sacrificing anything to get these unique features either - the Wooting keyboards feel nice to use with tactile or linear switches, come with per-key RGB backlighting and a sleek design. Where other keyboards are using optical-mechanical switches just for fractionally faster inputs, Wooting is doing something revolutionary.

Wooting also produces a great line of wrist rests, made from comfy (and easily washable!) silicone. Choose from black or blue, full-size or tenkeyless. As these don't need to clip in place, they of course work with any keyboard.

8. Corsair K57 RGB Wireless

A rare premium membrane keyboard with low-latency wireless

k57
  • Non-mechanical membrane switches are soft and quiet
  • Full-size layout with dedicated volume, media and macro keys
  • Long battery life for a full RGB-backlit keyboard

It's rare to see a truly premium non-mechanical keyboard these days, but that's exactly what you get with the K57. This keyboard uses Corsair's low-latency Slipstream wireless tech which we enjoyed on the company's recent gaming mice, and this is backed with Bluetooth and standard USB so it's easy to connect to a wide range of devices from PCs to tablets and smartphones. We didn't notice any performance penalty from using the Slipstream wireless connection, even in fast-paced games like CS:GO. Battery life is astonishing too, rated at up to 170 hours thanks to advanced RGB lighting and a sizeable battery.

The keyboard feels nice under the finger too, with the membrane switches providing a soft landing and very quiet operation - ideal for family rooms and offices. The full-size layout offers everything you could want in terms of features, barring except a rolling volume wheel - instead, you'll have to make do with only six macro keys, seven media controls and three other small buttons for recording new macros, adjusting the full RGB backlighting or locking the Windows key. Corsair's iCUE software is on tap if you want it, with deep options for programming custom lighting patterns or interfacing with other apps and games. There's even a nice wrist rest that echoes that found on the considerably more expensive Corsair K70 MK.2. All in all, a cool modern membrane keyboard that goes some way to justifying its nearly three-figure price tag.

9. ADX Firefight MK04

A mechanical gaming keyboard cheaper than many membrane alternatives

mk04
  • Full UK layout with function keys, RGB backlighting and clean design
  • Outemu soft linear (Red) mechanical switches are ideal for gaming
  • Not available outside of the UK

This keyboard from Currys offers excellent value for money, offering a full set of 105 fully mechanical keys for less than £40. The keyboard looks and feels better than the price would suggest, with effective RGB backlighting, handy function keys and surprisingly clean aesthetic. The keyboard is a little loud, like other mechanicals, but the increase in feedback and longevity makes this small concession entirely worthwhile. This is a sterling introduction to mechanical keyboards at a very reasonable price.

For US buyers, consider the similar Redragon K551 (full-size) and K552 (compact) keyboards, which come with clicky MX Blue style switches.

10: Razer Turret for Xbox Series X, Xbox One and PC

The best keyboard and mouse set for couch gaming

razer_turret_50
  • Satisfying clicky switches with full RGB backlighting
  • Comes with fold-out mousepad and mouse based on Mamba Wireless
  • An expensive proposition, even though it's three peripherals in one

The Razer Turret is the best dedicated mouse and keyboard set for the Xbox Series X and Xbox One, supported by a decent range of games including Fortnite, Sea of Thieves and Metro Exodus. The Turret also works great on PC, particularly on computers hooked up to a TV for couch gaming. The keyboard is a compact tenkeyless design with clicky switches, providing excellent tactile and auditory feedback plus full RGB backlighting. The mouse is based on the Razer Mamba Wireless, and adheres magnetically to the flip-out mousepad integrated into the keyboard. All three components - keyboard, mouse and mousepad - feel well considered. The only drag is needing to recharge the keyboard and mouse each week. If the couch is your go-to gaming destination, the Turret is well worth considering even at its premium price point.

Frequently questioned answers

What's better, mechanical or non-mechanical?

It depends! Mechanical keyboards feel better to type or game on for many people, and are sometimes described as faster or more responsive. While membrane keyboards harden over time, mechanical keyboards provide a consistent experience for decades. Mechanical keyboards are also available in many different switches, each of which has their own characteristics - loud versus quiet, tactile versus linear, long travel versus short travel and so on.

However, mechanical switches are expensive to produce and often sound louder than their non-mechanical counterparts. By comparison, non-mechanical keyboards tend to feel softer, cost less to produce and don't sound as loud. While both options have their objective strengths and weaknesses, it often comes down to personal preference.

What types of mechanical keyboards are there?

Mechanical keyboards are defined by their switches. The most common options are MX switches, originally made by Cherry and now made by a range of manufacturers. Each switch is described by its colour; the three most popular are as follows:

  • Blue: Clicky and tactile, with a relatively high actuation force
  • Brown: Not clicky but still tactile, with a relatively low actuation force
  • Red: Linear, not clicky or tactile, with a relatively low actuation force

Clicky feedback is fun and can make typing easier, but it can be annoying to others - especially if you're in an shared space or streaming. Tactile feedback also makes it easier to know when a key has been pressed, which can be handy for typing or gaming. Linear switches eschew this added feedback, but operate more smoothly and are therefore most commonly selected for inclusion in gaming keyboards. As usual though, a lot of this comes down to personal preference so experimentation is key.

Since mechanical keyboards became popular about ten years ago, there has been explosion in the numbers of mechanical switches available. Many peripheral producers, such as Razer and Logitech, now make their own proprietary switches which are takes on the original Cherry MX design. The most common modifications allow for faster keypresses (e.g. MX Speed Silver), quieter operation (e.g. MX Silent Red) and improved RGB backlighting (e.g. MX RGB Red). We've also seen the introduction of more major redesigns, such as including optical sensors in order to offer adjustable actuation points or full-fat analogue switches as in the Wooting One, above. Laptop-style Cherry ML switches are also becoming a thing.

What types of non-mechanical keyboards are there?

There are quite a few options, with the most common being traditional membrane keyboards that use a dome of rubber beneath each key to let you know that your key press has been recognised. Hybrid switches, sometimes described as 'mecha-membrane', attempt to provide additional tactile feedback, similar to a mechanical switch, without giving up the low cost and soft feel of a membrane. Scissor switches are another option, which provide a little more tactile feedback and a short travel distance, like you'd expect to find on a laptop.

What is the point of keyboards that don't include the number pad?

Many keyboards, particularly mechanical ones, don't include the number pad. This might be done for several reasons: to lower manufacturing costs by reducing the number of expensive mechanical switches included, to save space on crowded desks or to create a more portable design. However, the most important benefit of so-called 'tenkeyless' designs is that of ergonomics: with no number pad, right-handed gamers can keep their mouse hand more in line with their arm. This position is easier to maintain over long periods - although regular breaks are always advised! - and puts less stress on the limbs and joints. There are also even more compact designs, i.e. 60% or 75%, which drop more keys in order to achieve even smaller sizes.

Are there quiet mechanical keyboards?

Yes. There are many keyboards on the market made with MX Silent Red switches, including options from Corsair, Fnatic and others. Some popular examples include the Fnatic Gear Rush, Fnatic MiniStreak, Corsair Strafe and Corsair K70 Lux; these keyboards and other quiet mechanical keyboards are linked below. However, no keyboard is completely silent, and these are no exception!

Why do some keyboards have differently shaped Enter and Shift keys?

In short, there are two major keyboard layouts in the world: ANSI for the US, China and some other regions, and ISO for the UK, much of Europe and most other countries. ANSI features a wide left Shift key and a wide Enter key, while ISO instead uses a thin left Shift key and a tall Enter key. If a keyboard's layout looks unfamiliar, this might be why.

Regardless of which layout you're used to, you can learn to use the alternate layout without too much difficulty as your computer's keyboard layout setting overrides what is printed on each keycap - so pressing AltGr + 4 on a US keyboard on a British computer will result in the '€' symbol as normal. While most mainstream gaming keyboards come in both layouts, some keyboards are only available in one or the other - and often, it's Europeans that have to accept an American layout. This can be annoying at first, but it does allow you to consider a much wider range of keyboards.

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About the author

Will Judd

Will Judd

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2.

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