For the average computer user, it’s easy to assume that all keyboards are made equal. For the most part, this is true: the majority of keyboards pumped out of the major manufacturers over the last decade have been “monoblock” keyboards.
If you’ve used a keyboard in an office setting, it’s a given you’ve used this type of keyboard. Rather than use an individual sensor for each key, a “monoblock” keyboard uses a keyboard-wide electrical circuit to know when you’re pressing a key.
However, if you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you’re aware of something better: the mechanical keyboard.
Read on to find out what exactly a mechanical keyboard is, why you should use one if you’re a gamer and a glimpse at some of the best mechanical keyboards on the market today.
What’s the Best Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming?
Introducing the Corsair K95 Platinum XT, a mechanical gaming keyboard so good that if you were to describe it as the outright best on the market, everybody would nod and understand even if they don’t agree.
Few mechanical gaming keyboards can match the Corsair K95 Platinum XT and its bevy of features and tricks.
For example, this mechanical gaming keyboard comes with highly programmable RGB backlights and edge lights that can reflect action happening in the game. There is also full dedicated macro, media, and volume controls incorporated into the keyboard, along with a comfortable wrist rest and a USB port.
But this keyboard was not built just with gaming in mind. A lot of thought was put into the typing process. An interesting selection of switches is used within the setup to make for a memorable typing experience. For example, you have the rare MX Speed options and the more-easy-to-find Cherry switches. And all these are held together in place by a sturdy body that features an aluminum chassis and PBT keycaps to provide longevity.
As you would expect, a solid gaming mechanical keyboard like the Corsair K95 Platinum XT comes at a price that is commensurate to the value provided. However, if you believe in paying for perfection then you would consider the Corsair K95 Platinum XT to be adequately priced and well worth a look before deciding on a purchase.
The product of German manufacturing firm Roccat, the Vulcan comes with a few features that set it apart from other mechanical gaming keyboards out there.
Apart from the iconic Titan switches and skinny keycaps that cover the individual keys, this mechanical gaming keyboard also comes with a floating-key design and brushed aluminum top plate that provide a polished finish and professional look.
As far as features are concerned, the Roccat Vulcan comes with a useful volume knob and a mute button, both located on the upper right side of the keyboard. You also get to enjoy super programmable RGB backlights, thanks to the Roccat Swarm software.
You can choose from a variety of Vulcan models if you choose to go for this mechanical gaming keyboard.
The Vulcan 120 is really popular, and comes with a detachable wrist rest to set it apart from the lower-priced Vulcan 100 model. You also have the Vulcan 80 model that comes without the backlights and media controls that make the 120 so enjoyable. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the Vulcans 121 and 122 which are relatively later releases. The 121 is designed with a black anodized aluminum finish, while the Vulcan 122 is designed with a white paint finish.
What do you do if your budget doesn’t permit you much leeway in terms of getting a good mechanical gaming keyoard? You can either cry and feel sorry for yourself or you can decide to look harder for a budget keyboard that delivers great value for price even without the help of premium features.
That’s just what the Fnatic Streak is: a budget mechanical gaming keyboard that costs so little and yet still manages to deliver great value . If you like full-sized gaming mechanical keyboards with number pads and all the usual, then this is the keyboard for you. You get real Cherry MX switches with this device, which is rare in this price bracket.
You also get the full gaming keyboard treatment with the features: media controls, USB passthrough for your headset and your gaming mouse, optional red backlighting for every single key, and a dedicated game mode that disables the Windows key.
You get all that plus a sturdy setup. The Fnatic Streak feels like something built to be solid. And it is, more so than you would expect for gadgets at such rock-bottom prices. Once you look past the low price, it is not difficult to see why many in the gaming community swear by this keyboard.
Designed and created by the renowned Japanese manufacturer Omron, the Das Keyboard X50Q RGB is a premium mechanical gaming keyboard that comes with enough premium features and tricks to justify it being described as incredibly high grade.
Many among the gaming community tout the Das Keyboard X50Q RGB mechanical gaming keyboard as pound for pound the very best gaming keyboard in the world—mechanical or not.
Whether that claim holds true universally or not is beside the point, which is that this is a great gaming keyboard, well worth the premium price tag.
For example, the design and aesthetic diverges from the norm and takes on an understated appearance instead of a flashy one, resulting in a look that positively oozes class. The aluminum top plate adds to this overall aesthetic by acting as a sturdy weight and providing a smooth feeling beneath your fingertips.
One of the most useful and interesting features that come with the Das Keyboard X50Q RGB is the dedicated game mode which, when activated, deactivates the Windows keys to ensure that all functions and resources are optimized towards your gaming.
You also have the extra-long two meter cable for connections, a control knob on the top right to regulate certain output, and a palm rest that is coated with a material that is soft to the touch and comfortable to support extended gameplay.
Long story short, this is a beautiful, thoughtfully engineered mechanical gaming keyboard that would top the list of many PC gaming enthusiasts.
Razer has made a name for itself in the gaming accessories niche because they keep adopting bold, revolutionary moves in order to push the boundaries and wow their fans.
The Razer Huntsman Elite is another strong entry in this best mechanical keyboard list. Many consider this the best mechanical gaming keyboard on the market. And this is for good reason:
First of all, there is the bold decision that Razer took concerning switches, combining the optical sensors of their keyboard with mechanical switches to their proprietary optomechanical switches. Unlike the switches found in other gaming keyboards which use metal contacts, these optomechanical switches operate by actuating with the help of a beam of light that fires through the switch whenever you hit a key.
Given the speed of light, the difference in speed is nothing to be scoffed at, to say the least, making the Razer Huntsman Elite the clear leader in terms of input speed and latency reduction.
You also get a bouquet of colors across your keyboard while plugged in due to the RGB backlighting. These come with enough customization options to keep you interested in them long after you should have gotten used to seeing them.
If you are a gamer who loves your aesthetics and peripherals, you’re going to love this. And it doesn’t take away from the typing experience either should you decide to use your Razer Huntsman Elite as an office tool as well (It would work great thanks to the input speed).
If you’re wondering what the downside to all this stellar performance, that would be power. It takes a lot of juice to keep this baby running on all cylinders, and as such the Razer Huntsman Elite requires two USB cables to keep it going. So consider that before buying.
That notwithstanding, this remains one of the best mechanical gaming keyboards you can shell out your money for today.
The SteelSeries Apex 3 continues a great tradition established by the celebrated manufacturer SteelSeries. With this mechanical gaming keyboard you get the usual attention to detail and the prioritization of quality, but at a budget price. The SteelSeries Apex 3 is one of the best budget keyboards you can get on the market today.
Features-wise, the SteelSeries Apex 3 comes with a board loaded with a 10-zone RGB backlighting which is stunning, to say the least. It also comes with an IP32 water resistance rating that is impressive enough to raise eyebrows, given the budget price point.
As a wide keyboard, the Apex 3 has enough space to accommodate a ten key number pad, dedicated media controls, and every other button you would expect from a gaming keyboard. Normally, such a wide keyboard would leave you at risk of tiring out your wrists after hours of gameplay, however there is downward slope built across the board leading to a comfortable wrist rest to avoid this.
SteelSeries’ Whisper-Quiet switches are incorporated into the SteelSeries Apex 3 to make it quiet while you game. These Whisper-Quiet switches are membrane switches that are tuned to be fast and responsive enough to meet the needs of gamers.
Finally, there is the compatibility of the Apex 3 with the SteelSeries Engine 3 customization software to consider. This puts it head and shoulders above even some higher priced mechanical gaming keyboard models. Add a strong cable management to all that we have discussed so far, and it is not hard to see why the SteelSeries Apex 3 remains a favorite, in spite of its price, for many in the gaming community.
88 keys, millions of backlight colors, and an attractive slim form that you would find hard not to reach out and touch, the Logitech G915 TKL could be said to have it all together. Include into the mix a dedicated volume wheel, optional Bluetooth capabilities, an easy-to-use macro editor, and instant wireless connection, and this mechanical gaming keyboard could be said to have no weaknesses—only treasures.
And that is just as well, because the Logitech G915 TKL comes at a relatively steep price. It is a wide panel, given that it holds so many keys, but you can circumvent this reality if you want by going for the smaller, more compact, but still amazing, “tenkeyless” version of the Logitech G915.
The “tenkeyless” is easier to place on a desk, and also easier to carry around; but it still retains all the typing beauty of its larger counterpart. With this keyboard, you get a choice between 3 types of mechanical keys for you to customize according to your preferences.
Now, this is a great product from one of the industry leaders, and apart from a few areas where there could have been more customization options, this mechanical gaming keyboard could very well be the best all round keyboard on the market. If you have the budget for it, the Logitech G915 TKL could be your best option for a low latency keyboard primed and ready to meet every need you might have on a day to day basis as a gamer.
The HyperX Alloy Origins sits squarely at the sweet spot where affordable pricing meets quality performance. You would be hard pressed to find another keyboard that gives you as much assurance of its performance, design, and quality at this price as this mechanical keyboard does.
With the HyperX Alloy Origins, you have the perfect gaming accessory to ease you into the world of dedicated gaming stations and gaming corners. With a set of Cherry MX Red mechanical keys and a comprehensive array of media buttons to regulate features, you don’t have a lot left to be desired at this price point. Add to that a stunning array of backlights with a range of lighting effects, which include an 18 LED lightbar.
Design-wise, this keyboard is no slouch either. It comes with a futuristic style that still manages to look sturdy rather than flimsy. In fact, apart from a lack of macro support, there is not much that is lacking in this mechanical gaming keyboard, and this is why the HyperX Alloy Origins simply had to make our list.
Yet another entry from the manufacturer, SteelSeries, the Apex 7 is a compact mechanical gaming keyboard that is packed with loads of features to make your gaming session memorable. One of the most memorable of these features is the OLED smart display embedded on the keyboard: an integrated smart display that delivers real time information from your game, Discord, Spotify, and more.
But apart from the stunning innovative twists, this gaming keyboard also gets the basics right. As a SteelSeries product, for example, you already know the framework and build are top notch and designed to stand out from the pack. The SteelSeries Apex 7 is made from Series 5000 aircraft-grade aluminum, and it also features a magnetically attached wrist rest for comfort.
In addition to that, the Cherry MX mechanical switches with which this mechanical gaming keyboard is built ensures longevity since they remain viable for about 50 million key strokes.
Ultimately, the SteelSeries Apex 7 is clearly one of the leading contenders for the best mechanical gaming keyboards in 2020.
A wireless mechanical gaming keyboard to bridge the gap between PC gaming and wireless keyboard technology; the Corsair K63 Wireless is just what the doctor ordered.
Don’t let the wireless connection fool you in any way, this gaming keyboard comes with a 1ms super-fast connection rate that leverages a 2.4 GHz optimized wireless setup to provide blinding speed. This speed is not hampered by distance from your screen either.
Rest assured you will still enjoy the familiar clicking sounds of the keyboard as you play, thanks to the Cherry MX Red switches that underline the setup. In fact gold-plated contacts are used in this switch design. In addition to that, the full range of backlights and the media keys are features you are also going to enjoy.
One final thing worth noting about the Corsair K63 is the fact that one single charge can give you 15 hours of game time, so you never have to worry about running out of power during those long gaming sessions and all-nighters.
What Are Mechanical Keyboards?
Mechanical keyboards are pretty analogous to the typewriter in that individual sensors recognize each key stroke with a “click” or a “clack” so you know the button was fully pressed and actuated. But this design quickly fell out of favor with manufacturers because it is expensive to produce.
Manufacturers quickly pivoted to the “monoblock” electrical system that featured printed on keys. Prices of keyboards rapidly fell, and this is the predominant keyboard type until this day.
In spite of their popularity however, monoblock keyboards are fraught with reliability issues and poor response—none of which make them suitable for PC gaming. So mechanical keyboards are making a comeback due to rising popular demand, and this time they are faring much better in the market as technological advances make them much more affordable than they were 30-40 years ago.
Why Use a Mechanical Keyboard?
Mechanical keyboards are ideal for gamers and programmers because of the precision and durability they bring. However, these machines would be great for anybody who uses a computer in any capacity.
First, we’ll tackle the elephant in the room: cost. While mechanical keyboards are significantly more expensive than their mass-produced “monoblock” counterparts, this high cost ensures you’re getting a high-quality product that will stand the test of time.
Unlike your standard keyboard, which is designed to be easily replaceable, mechanical keyboards are built to endure a significant number of keypresses.
When your fellow gamers are on their sixth or seventh standard keyboard, there is a significantly high chance that your mechanical keyboard will still look good as new, no matter how rough you are with it.
Part of this is due to how, thanks to individual sensors for each key, both the keys and sensors on a mechanical keyboard are easily replaceable.
Damaged your “Shift” key on your mechanical keyboard? No problem, just replace either the key or sensor at a small cost. Damaged your “Shift” key on a regular keyboard? You’ll likely be throwing that keyboard in the trash and looking for a brand new one.
At their core, mechanical keyboards are one-time purchases for a larger sum upfront while your standard keyboard is a cheaper upfront investment but one you will frequently replace. In other words, you get your money’s worth in a mechanical keyboard over the course of a few years.
Earlier, we mentioned that mechanical keyboards are a necessity for programmers, and this is due to one reason: fewer typos. In fact, anyone who uses a computer at all can likely benefit from fewer mistakes, whether it’s in a Skype chat with a friend or writing an important business email.
Just how does a mechanical keyboard lessen typos when compared to a standard keyboard?
Due to the tactile feeling you get from pushing in the key on a mechanical keyboard, it’s far less likely that you’ll press a key twice. Also, since mechanical keyboards require more pressure to push a key fully in, you won’t make mistakes accidentally by sliding your hands over unwanted keys.
On average, most computer users don’t even realize they’ve made a typo on a standard “monoblock” keyboard because there is no feedback on the individual keys. A mechanical keyboard gives you both a tactile sensation along with that satisfying “clack” sound when you’ve fully pushed in each key.
Whether you’re a casual gamer or a professional, a mechanical keyboard can give you the edge, especially in action-based games.
Your average first-person shooter or action game likely requires precise control, and you just won’t get the level of control on a standard keyboard as you would on a mechanical one. Due to the sensitivity on a mechanical keyboard, you’ll have full control over when and where you press your keys; you won’t need to worry about triggering your special attacks accidentally when using a mechanical keyboard.
Lastly, some users will find that they just enjoy the heft and feel of a mechanical keyboard.
These keyboards are usually heavier than their standard counterparts, meaning you won’t need to worry about your keyboard sliding around on your desk as you type. Some users even find they love the noises a mechanical keyboard makes, especially older users who are nostalgic to how keyboards sounded in the good old days.
What is Hysteresis?
In laymen’s terms, hysteresis is when the actuation point – which is the point where the computer recognizes a key press, and the reset point where the key returns to the normal position – do not match.
For gamers, the bigger the gap between the actuation point and the reset point, the worse the keyboard is for gaming. Having a large gap means that after pressing a key, you must wait for a significant amount of time before pressing the key again; in other words, keyboards with hysteresis prevent you from rapidly tapping keys, making double-taps almost impossible.
In games where rapidly pressing a key is essential to gameplay, hysteresis can prevent you from successfully completing those events. If you’re looking for a gaming mechanical keyboard, make sure you get one with absolutely no hysteresis.
Some of the Most Common Mechanical Switches
Unlike standard keyboards, not all mechanical keyboards are created equal. While each mechanical keyboard will operate similarly, the type of mechanical switch found on each mechanical keyboard will subtly change how they work.
Below are four of the most common types of mechanical switches you’ll find in mechanical gaming keyboards. While this list isn’t all-inclusive, we’ve opted not to focus on proprietary switches that are unique to one or two keyboards or companies and concentrate more on switches that you’ll see in a majority of mechanical keyboards.
- Cherry MX Black
This mechanical switch registers a keystroke when pressed halfway in and releasing the key once it is fully depressed. Gamers will love this because it makes double tapping a key simple while making it tough to push the wrong key accidentally.
However, non-gamers may find this keyboard strenuous to use when typing, because you must fully press in every single key as you type. Cherry MX Black switches are one of the few mechanical keyboard switches where hysteresis is not a concern, which is why this kind of switch is so popular among gamers.
- Cherry MX Red
The Cherry MX Red switch shares all the same features as the Cherry MX Black except these switches require less force to push down, making them a bit easier to use for typing.
While most hardcore gamers who are primarily using their keyboards to play games will opt for the Cherry MX Black switches, casual gamers who spend a lot of time typing will prefer the Cherry MX Red. Like the Cherry MX Black switches, you won’t need to worry about hysteresis with mechanical keyboards that use the Cherry MX Red switches.
- Cherry MX Brown
The Cherry MX Brown switch is almost identical to the Cherry MX Black and Red switches but with one huge exception: the release is at the halfway mark at the same spot as the sensor. Having the release and sensor in the same location allows you to get the same double-tapping speed as other switches but also allows you the keyboard to adapt to other non-gaming tasks, such as typing.
If other people are going to be using your computer and keyboard, the Cherry MX Brown switches are tough to beat. However, due to the tactile bump found in Cherry MX Brown switches, hysteresis rears its ugly head; gamers who enjoy first-person shooters may want to look at other mechanical keyboard switches.
- Cherry MX Blue
With a release point located above the activation point, mechanical keyboards that use Cherry MX Blue switches aren’t going to be ideal for gamers. However, the bad news doesn’t just stop there for gamers; the Cherry MX Blue switches also suffer from a severe case of hysteresis, making them almost worthless if you’re planning on doing some heavy duty gaming involving first-person shooters.
However, if you’re looking for a mechanical keyboard that excels at typing, you can’t beat Cherry MX Blue mechanical keyboards.
What to Look For
Other than making sure your mechanical keyboard does not suffer from hysteresis, what to look for in a mechanical keyboard primarily comes down to personal preference. For example, if you’re going to use a mechanical keyboard in a space where others are present, you may want to look for a mechanical keyboard that is on the quiet side. If you plan to play games that require you to press buttons rapidly, look for a mechanical keyboard that prides itself on its durability. In general, the more you spend on a mechanical keyboard, the better the keyboard you’ll get; however, a budget mechanical keyboard is still a far better choice than any standard “monoblock” keyboard, especially when it comes to gaming!