Table of Contents
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Construction: The overall quality of the keyboard’s construction is a very important factor to take into consideration. All of the gaming keyboards we review in this lineup use mechanical switches, which are extremely durable and long lasting. You will definitely want to consider the build quality of the keyboards you are interested in before making a final decision on one in particular. Truly high-quality keyboards do not flex very much, and the really good ones are made out of metal or a solid plastic material. The better quality the material your keyboard is made from, the longer it will last and the better it will serve you over the years.
Key Switches: Most truly high-quality keyboards will provide you with a number of different switches that you can use when gaming. The Roccat Ryos MK Pro keyboard comes with Red, Black, Brown or MX Blue switches. There are lots of different types of switches, and you will learn more about them later on as you keep reading.
Key Rollover: When you have decided the kind of switches you want for your gaming keyboard, you will need to pay particular attention to the keyboard’s key rollover or KRO. You will find that this number will tell you how many key presses the keyboard is capable of registering simultaneously. A majority of gaming keyboard manufacturers brag about their products’ great KRO values, but you will need more than just that before making a final decision. Just because a keyboard has a 10 KRO, that may only apply to specific sets of keys on the keyboard as opposed to all across the entire keyboard.
Backlighting: Customizable backlighting is definitely one feature that you will need to make a point of looking for when you are trying to find the right gaming keyboard. A majority of the keyboards we offer provide you with the ability to control the backlighting for each individual key. Some keyboards control the backlighting via software while with others it is an integrated function. It is important to keep in mind that both of these methods have their advantages and drawbacks. Keyboards that offer RGB lighting typically cost more than those with regular backlighting, but the result is usually well worth the extra expense.
Programmable Keys: When you are searching for the right gaming keyboard to match your needs, it is very important to look for ones with programmable keys. These days a lot of gaming keyboards give you the option to program individual keys so they will perform the functions you want when you are playing games. This feature is definitely something important to keep in mind when doing this research.
Software: You will need to consider how easy it is to use the software that comes with each gaming keyboard that you consider buying. If you aren’t accustomed to using this type of software, you will probably want to look for a keyboard with software that is very user-friendly. The overall functionality of the software is something else to keep in mind.
Layout: The layout that keyboards use isn’t always the same, so you will therefore need to keep this in mind when you are searching for the right gaming keyboard. You may find some key layouts to be easier to get used to than others, so you will therefore need to look for a keyboard that has a layout that you like. While comparing gaming keyboards to one another isn’t always simple and easy because of how many different factors there are to consider, we ran a number of tests to gather data on a number of different keyboards. The data that we got from our tests helped us to rank each keyboard in our lineup.
We used each of the keyboards in our lineup to play Stars Wars: The Old Republic, StarCraft II, XCOM: Enemy Within, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, and Borderlands 2. Each keyboard that we used with these games performed well overall. Keyboards that had dedicated macro keys tended to work better than others for SW:TOR and are great for MMO games in general. The gaming experience you have can vary hugely depending on what keyboard you are using. There are certain mechanical switches that are better for gaming than others. The Cherry MX switches are both consistent as well as reliable, though some people like switches that have a higher actuation point. Cherry MX switches register a key press at just 2mm into a key press. There are some new switches, such as Logitech’s Romer-G and SteelSeries’ QS1, that have a 1.5mm actuation point. Essentially, the key strokes will register faster than CherryMX switches because they key doesn’t have to go down as much. While a higher actuation point may allow you to react faster while you are playing a game, the reduced travel means that it can be easier to make mistakes. Higher actuation points make the key significantly more sensitive, which can be both a good and bad thing. You will need to realize that it’s the kind of thing that you may have to adjust to over time.
Each of the keyboards we selected underwent a typing test to see how they performed respectively. The tests we conducted consisted of typing full sentences with proper punctuation and grammar. Even though these are officially gaming keyboards, most people who buy them will use them for typing too. A lot of games these days require fast keyboard controls, so the typing aspect is very important overall. These typing tests helped to determine how well the keyboards would help gamers communicate while playing different games. There are a number of different factors to consider when comparing keyboards to each other in terms of typing. In these tests we paid particular attention to overall speed (words per minute) as well as accuracy.
We subjected the regular keyboard of each tester to a series of tests as well. This provides control so we could compare the data accurately. The testers were more familiar with their regular keyboards, so we kept that in mind. A majority of the keyboards on our lineup only affected typing speed a little bit. The testers usually typed just a little bit slower than they would have on their normal keyboards. There were however a few keyboards that seemed to prevent the user from typing quite as fast though. These speed drops were consistent for those who tested the same keyboards. The data we gathered told us that not all keyboards are great when it comes to just typing. Over time it is likely that the testers would become more comfortable using the keyboards and start to type faster though. We also took a close look at typing accuracy when performing these tests. There were a couple of keyboards that reduced the number of incorrect entries by up to 20 percent, though other keyboards produced incorrect entries by up to 50 percent.
Due to the fact that all of the keyboards in our lineup use mechanical switches, we thought it prudent to see just how loud each one is. A lot of keyboards give you the option of choosing from various switch types when you purchase them, so you will want to keep in mind that this test doesn’t necessarily apply to specific keyboards but rather types of switches. Certain people like to type harder than others on their keyboard. The overall construction of the keyboard, similar to the keycaps that are used, can have a profound effect on how loud they keyboard is. Through our tests we found that mechanical keyboards tend to be a little bit louder than traditional membrane models. Depending on the type of switch as well as how the keyboard is constructed, you will usually get a noise increase of up to 25 percent in decibels from a traditional membrane keyboard. It is important to note that this is a fairly significant increase, going from around 56 dB to 68 Db. We measured the noise levels in a standard office setting with no soundproofing. The noise levels are not just tied to the keyboard itself, but not many people will use keyboards in secluded rooms.
Key Actuation Force
Key actuation depends largely on the type of switch rather than the actual keyboard. Each type of switch requires a different amount of force to activate the keys. While we could have looked at the force needed to activate the keys on these keyboards, we focused on consistency instead. Mechanical switches are typically made with a very specific margin of error for actuation, so a certain amount of variability is to be expected. A majority of the keys on most keyboards meet the manufacturer’s specifications with no issues, though those specifications can sometimes be generous to say the least. The actuation force is almost always within the manufacturer specifications even if it is off by up to 40 percent for certain switches. Our testing has revealed that the very best keyboards had consistent actuation forces across the entire board. Actuation forces only varied from switch actuations by around 10 percent. There were a few keyboards that extraordinarily consistent actuation forces. A significant part of this is related to the fact that many keyboard manufacturers have their own QA departments so that all quality standards will be met.
Keyboards are built with different quality standards, so it is important to keep that in mind. We took a close look at many different aspects to determine what kind of build quality each keyboard had. Some of these factors include the type of plastic used to make the keycaps as well as their overall weight. Each keyboard underwent a flex test so we could determine how much give there was to its construction.
Keyboard Switch Types
There are three main different types of switches beneath each key on any given keyboard, mechanical, scissor and membrane. As soon as you press your finger down on a key, the switch completes the circuit, sending a signal to your computer that a certain one was pressed. Every type of switch has a unique feel, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages.
Membrane switches are definitely the most common type, mainly because they don’t cost very much at all to make. Pretty much any cheap stock keyboard from Dell or Logitech is made with membrane switches. When you press down on the keys, the bubble collapses and causes the current to jump, which in turn sends a signal that you pressed a key.
Scissor switches are the second most common type of switch. These switches are typically referred to as chiclet keyboards. Almost all laptops as well as Apple keyboards use these type of switches. Scissor switches are basically a more stable form of membrane switches. There are two cross arms that support the keycap. When you press down on the keys, the keycap pushes against a rubber dome to complete the circuit and send a signal that a key was pressed. The best thing about these keyboards is their slim and attractive design.
Mechanical switches have been used in designing keyboards all the way since the 1980s. These switches have plastic stems that fit into each individual keycap. There is a spring located at the bottom of each stem, which moves out of the way of a metal contact when pressed down. Due to the construction of mechanical switches, your typing is experience is enhanced with regards to actuation force. There are lots of different types of mechanical switches, and manufacturers usually make a number of variants with unique physical characteristics.
Cherry is the best-known manufacturer of mechanical switches in the Western world. This company’s line of Cherry MX switches can be identified by the color of the stem. Some of the more common colors include Cherry MX Red, Clear, Brown, White, Blue and Green. Both the red and clear switches made by this company are linear, so when they are pressed they move directly down without any physical feedback until they are pressed in all the way. Kailh switches are essentially mechanical switches from Kaihua Electronics that are knockoffs of Cherry MX switches. These switches haven’t been around very long in the Western part of the world, but they still have a decent reputation. One of the things that makes these switches so popular is that they are far less expensive than Cherry MX switches, but there is a noticeable drop in quality. Some of the bigger manufacturers of keyboards have started coming out with their own mechanical switches, colluding with switch manufacturers in the process. Logitech joined forces with Omron to make Romer switches, which are recognizable by their short, square stems. Both SteelSeries and Razer have worked together with Kaihua to make their own switches as well.
1. Corsair Vengeance K95 RGB Review
Corsair’s Vengeance K95 RGB gaming keyboard has a lot to offer for the average gamer. This particular keyboard has an aluminum back plate with RGB backlighting as well as Cherry MX mechanical switches. There are also a number of dedicated macro keys, and the Corsair Utility Engine customization software is another great feature that will definitely appeal to lots of gamers.
With this keyboard you will be able to choose from three different Cherry MX switches, including Red, Brown, and Blue. The Red and Brown switches are quite common, but the Blue one is much rarer and hard to find. Cherry is an extremely reputable manufacturer of switches, so you can completely trust that they can meet all of your needs. You can identify the various Cherry switches by the color of their plastic stems. You will find that each color switch has its own unique physical characteristics that will provide you with different overall typing experiences. The Red switches won’t provide you with a lot of tactile feedback, but they do have a low actuation force. Keyboards with these switches are widely regarded as being great for gaming. The Blue switches offer a little bit more tactile feedback that will let you know when the key press registers, but they make quite a bit of noise. These particular keyboards are excellent for regular everyday typing. The Brown switches have decent actuation force but they are a bit quieter than the Blue switch keyboards. No matter which switches you choose though, you can count on them to last a long time and serve you well.
The Vengeance K95 RGB definitely has staying power and is a great long-term solution for all kinds of gamers. When compared to other keyboards in our lineup, this one in particular has amazing build quality. The aluminum back plate offers excellent rigidity, and it has a very solid overall feel. There isn’t a whole lot of flex to this keyboard, and you will be sure to appreciate the clean and stylish look of it. Overall, this is one comfortable and tough gaming keyboard. While this keyboard has a lot of great design features that you will find in higher-end gaming keyboards, it is lacking somewhat. One of the drawbacks of this keyboard is that it doesn’t have any USB pass-through. This means that you won’t be able to plug any USB devices into this keyboard. The complete absence of an audio jack is something else that might be off putting to some gamers.
According to the typing tests we did with this keyboard, it was lacking a little bit in terms of sheer speed when compared to some of the other ones in our lineup. This can most likely be explained by the fact that the keyboard is somewhat larger and that the bottom row of keys has a layout that isn’t exactly standard. While it may take a little while for you to get used to the K95 RGB, it is definitely still worth looking into overall. Overall we really liked the backlighting on this keyboard. Each key is raised and reveals a little bit of the switch as well as its LED. This makes for a really nice look, but it does result in quite a bit of light bleed. The light that comes from each of the keys’ LEDs shines all around the keys as opposed to being isolated to just the keycap. Certain people won’t like the result of this, but they are definitely bright enough to where you can see them without any issues.
Most people either love or hate dedicated media keys. A lot of people will not purchase a keyboard without these keys, while many others don’t like them at all. The K95 RGB has a number of media keys that will allow you to change music tracks, adjust volume and pause or play media. If you want to adjust the volume, there is a scroll wheel that will allow you to do so. We have seen a lot of volume wheels on gaming keyboards in the past, but the one on this keyboard is very well implemented.
The Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) gives you the ability to customize almost every aspect of this keyboard’s software functions. You can assign colors to specific keys, create lighting themes and play basic games using the backlighting. CUE is very powerful overall and provides you with complete control over the keyboard as a whole. Changing the colors of specific keys is pretty easy, but this software can be a little difficult to grasp when you first start using it. One of the best things about the K95 RGB is its 18 different macro keys, which are located on the left side. These keys are strategically placed in three sections of six keys each, providing the user with quick and easy access to every macro you need. You can choose to set up elaborate macros and assign them to certain profiles. When you launch a game like World of Warcraft, CUE automatically loads your macro profile for the game and you are all set to start playing. When it comes to programming, you can use CUE to remap any key on the keyboard to your own personal preferences. You will also be able to prom each individual key to perform whatever function you want. This is definitely a handy feature for gamers, as it will allow you to do whatever you need to with the push of a button, whether it is launching a certain application or assigning a name to a character in a game you are playing.
The Corsair Vengeance K95 RGB is definitely the best overall gaming keyboard on the market right now. While it’s true that this keyboard isn’t perfect, it still has a ton of useful and attractive features to offer. With an excellent overall build and powerful customization software along with wonderful backlighting, you simply cannot do much better than this keyboard.
2. Roccat Ryos MK Pro Review
The Roccat Ryos MK Pro has a very solid overall design with lots of customizable options, making it an excellent choice for many gamers. Each key on this keyboard is backlit, and there are a number of Cherry MX switches as well as software that allows for full customization.
A good solid design is one of the more important things in any keyboard, and this one definitely has that. The subtle design and unique shape of the keyboard itself are just two of its attractive features that you will be sure to appreciate it. Due to the fact that this keyboard has a mechanical design, it has somewhat of an edge over membrane models. This keyboard features full N-key rollover (NKRO) via USB. This is a feature that can be found on lots of high-end gaming keyboards, providing you with the ability to push as many buttons as you want at the same time and have them register simultaneously. There is no need for a PS/2 port or adapter to take advantage of NKRO with this keyboard. Most games require you to press multiple keys at one time, and that is something you can easily do with this keyboard without having to worry about accuracy at all.
One of the very best features about this keyboard is its amazing backlighting capabilities. Although backlighting certainly isn’t a necessity, it can be a very practical and nice-looking thing to have, especially for gamers. The Ryos MK Pro allows you to completely customize the backlighting for specific keys. This means that you can turn backlighting on your keyboard into the health bar in a game, thereby enhancing your overall experience. There are five dedicated macro keys located on the left of the Caps Lock key, so you can quickly and easily set up and use macros. With the ability to assign long sequences of commands to just one key, you will be able to gain a definite edge in your gaming. Each key on this keyboard is remappable, so you have completely control over the entire thing. One of the main reasons that this particular keyboard is so incredibly versatile is its driver software. This software will track your statistics and provide you with achievements when you reach specific milestones. If you are one of those gamers that loves getting achievements, this keyboard is definitely worth taking a close look at.
Overall, the Roccat Ryos MK Pro has a lot of useful features to offer for those who are really into gaming. The mechanical switches, customizable backlighting and solid build are just a few of the highlights of this amazing gaming keyboard.
3. Logitech G910 Orion Spark Review
The G910 Orion Spark from Logitech had mechanical switches when it was first launched, and it is also this company’s first RGB backlit keyboard as well as one of the best gaming keyboards on the market today. With this keyboard you will get lots of practical features, including backlighting as well as macro keys.
There were a number of unique design decisions made with this keyboard, but some of them may not appeal to certain users. The housing material for this keyboard is made entirely of plastic, which is not uncommon at all. There is, however, a smartphone tray built into the top and center of this keyboard, allowing you to easily access Logitech’s Arx Control app in order to enhance your overall gaming experience. This feature was definitely a smart decision on Logitech’s part, as a majority of gamers have smartphones and can certainly benefit from using them while they are playing a number of games. There is a removable wrist rest on this keyboard, which is a little strange but useful at the same time. There is really nothing wrong with this wrist rest, but you won’t be able to remove the plastic structure underneath it. So the wrist rest is essentially a cover and you will never be able to remove it completely. This particular feature will be nothing more than a nuisance for some users. This keyboard doesn’t offer any USB pass-through at all, which is something else that many gamers will undoubtedly find annoying as well.
You will find that instead of using Cherry MX or Kailh mechanical switches, Logitech took the time to develop its own mechanical switches. The Romer-G switches are characterized by wide stems that are known for being more stable than even Cherry switches. This wide design lets Logitech place RGB LEDs in the middle of each key, which keeps light bleeding to an absolute minimum. Every single switch has two contact points, enhancing their reliability considerably. These switches have a lifetime expectancy of about 70 million keystrokes, which is far superior to that of Cherry MX’s. This keyboard’s Romer-G switches have an actuation point of 1.6 mm, which is precisely 0.4 better than Cherry’s 2 mm. This means that you only have to press down each individual key 1.6 mm before it registers. This keyboard’s switches are a lot more sensitive, allowing you to double-tap a key very fast without any issues. Logitech claims that only 45 grams of force is required to reach the full actuation point. Through our extensive testing, we discovered that most of the keys on this keyboard actuate at about 50 grams.
The keycaps on the G910 have somewhat of a strange design. The keycaps on the left side of this keyboard have three indented sides, but the right side has caps with only two indented sides. There is an asymmetrical design to this keyboard that is supposed to help users find the keys they want with minimal effort, but we can definitely see this having the opposite effect for lots of gamers. Although the layout might be a bit awkward at first, you will most likely get used to it over time. There are a row of dedicated media keys that will allow you to change the volume of the music you listen to quickly and easily. There is also a built-in volume wheel that you can use to control your system’s volume. This means that whether you are playing a game or just listening to music, you can adjust the volume however you want without any hassle at all. This is by far one of the keyboard’s better features. There are other buttons that you can use to change tracks as well as pause media. The Windows key lock option prevents the game you are playing from minimizing if you were to accidentally hit the Windows key.
The backlighting that the G910 offers is quite impressive for a number of reasons. The overall construction of the Romer-G switches is great, and the backlighting is evenly distributed and illuminates the keys perfectly. You will be able to assign specific keys certain colors as well as create a rainbow effect if you so desire. You can also create sections of keys that have certain colors in common. The backlighting on this keyboard is definitely the best implemented among Logitech’s. Logitech gives game developers a software development kit for this keyboard, allowing them to take completely control of its backlighting to do all kinds of interesting thigns. Developers will also be able to use the Arx Control to communicate in-game information through their smartphone. Keyboards with this particular function have started becoming increasingly common, as it is a very useful feature for many game developers. Arx Control can be very practical because of the fact that it displays information about your CPU as well as GPU so you get the information you need.
The Logitech Gaming Software offers complete control over everything this keyboard is capable of. You can use this software to utilize all of this keyboard’s functions at any given time. There are three separate profiles that you can save lighting schemes and macro configurations to. It is extremely easy to switch between profiles, as all you need to do is hit a button. Logitech definitely did a great job with the software aspect of this keyboard, but the Romer-G switches take away from hardware customization. If you want to replace the stock keycaps on this keyboard, there is nothing you can really do.
The Logitech G910 Orion Park is definitely an impressive gaming keyboard, despite some of its obvious flaws. If you are currently looking for a new gaming keyboard, this one is still certainly worth taking a close look at because of everything it has to offer as a whole.