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Best gaming keyboard 2021: the top mechanical and wireless keyboards for gaming

Our favourite gaming keyboard picks for all budgets

The best gaming keyboards make games more pleasurable and typing less miserable, so it’s worth pairing one of them with your PC. Which to choose, though? Just as with the best gaming mice, there are more variations to this peripheral type than one might suspect, and with some savvy shopping you can find a keyboard that suits your budget, typing style, performance needs, or desk size much more closely than other models.

Indeed, from affordable membrane keyboards to those with clacky mechanical switches, all keyboards can feel different, and that’s before getting into features like macro and media keys or USB passthrough ports. You may not even need a full-size keyboard, as there are enough top-quality compact designs that could still have you sorted for games.

Allow us, then, to make some suggestions. The keyboards you’ll find below are our best picks from the many different models we’ve tested over the years, and they cover the full breadth of the gaming keyboard market. Read on to find out which of the best gaming keyboards should be parked under your fingertips.

Best gaming keyboard 2021

Roccat Vulcan

The best gaming keyboard overall

The Roccat Vulcan is more expensive and doesn't have quite as many features as the previous holder of this title, the sadly discontinued Fnatic Streak, but the Vulcan sure is wonderful to type and play games on.

A large part of that is down to the Vulcan's fantastic Titan switches, which Roccat have developed in-house together with switch maker extraordinaire TTC. At their core, they're tactile switches that probably closest to Cherry's MX Browns in feel, but their shorter actuation point (the bit where the keyboard registers a key has been pressed) and overall travel distance makes them feel just as lovely and fast as Cherry MX Reds, giving you the best of both worlds. Roccat have recently released a new model with Titan Speed switches (the black Vulcan 121) as well, which are 30% faster than their original tactile ones.

It's also beautifully made thanks to its sturdy aluminium chassis, and it comes in a variety of different models and feature sets, too. The top-end Vulcan 120 gets you a removable wrist rest and all the additional media keys and volume knob, while the middle sibling Vulcan 100 is exactly the same minus the wrist rest. The entry-level Vulcan 80, meanwhile, is just the standard keyboard with a blue LED backlight instead of flashing RGBs. There's also a white version of the Vulcan 120 called the Vulcan 122, and the aforementioned black Vulcan 121 as well. They're all still quite expensive compared to other keyboards on this list, but those Titan switches are a real treat if you're after something a bit different from the standard Cherry MX options.

Read more in our Roccat Vulcan review

Roccat Horde Aimo

The best hybrid gaming keyboard

A photo of the Roccat Horde Aimo keyboard.

This spot was previously filled by the Asus TUF Gaming K5, but this has vanished from reputable retailer sites, so it’s safe to say Asus has taken it ‘round the back with a bolt gun. At least there’s a worthy replacement in the Roccat Horde Aimo, which like the K5 marries the affordability and quietness of membrane keyboards with the swiftness and precision of mechanical switches.

The Horde Aimo has another rare quality too: its multifunctional Dial. Lots of keyboards have a little volume wheel, but Roccat’s Dial can scroll through web pages and documents, zoom in on the screen, or even act as an undo/redo input. On top of this keyboard’s very capable gaming performance, the Dial also grants it an unusual degree of flexibility for everyday browsing and working.

Read more in our Roccat Horde Aimo review

Razer Cynosa Chroma

The best budget gaming keyboard

For those of you who'd rather have something cheap and cheerful that doesn't make an absolute racket during daily use, you'll probably want to stick with a membrane keyboard instead of a loud mechanical one, and our current best membrane gaming keyboard recommendation is the excellent Razer Cynosa Chroma. It's also our first and foremost recommendation for those after an excellent budget gaming keyboard, too.

It's a little more expensive than your typical membrane board, but you can really feel where the extra money's gone. Not only is it more responsive than your average membrane keyboard, but it's also got some decent gaming features such as RGB lighting and a special game mode that disables the Windows key. You can also use it to record your own macros - which you can't do on the similarly-priced and almost-as-good HyperX Alloy Core RGB.

It's also one of the more tasteful-looking gaming keyboards on this list, with its plain black chassis largely free of obnoxious logos and corporate stylings. Plus, since this is a membrane keyboard rather than a mechanical one, it's also much quieter than practically every keyboard you'll read here. If you're looking to upgrade your existing membrane model without the full clickety-clack of a hybrid or mechanical keyboard, the Razer Cynosa is a great choice.

Read more in our Razer Cynosa Chroma review

Logitech G915 Lightspeed Wireless

The best wireless gaming keyboard

The Logitech G915 Lightspeed Wireless might be expensive, but by golly is it worth it. With its super slim aluminium frame, oleophobic key cap coating, gorgeous volume roller and dual-height adjustable feet, this is an outstanding piece of wireless gaming keyboard design.

Available in three different types of Logitech GL switches (clicky, tactile and linear), the G915 Lightspeed Wireless feels wonderful under your fingers, offering loads of tactile feedback and quick, sharp key presses. Logitech's Lightspeed tech means it feels super responsive as well; Katharine reported it feeling just like using a traditional wired keyboard. The clicky version we were sent for review wasn't too loud, either, making it nice and easy on the ears.

It's also got great battery life. Even after a couple of weeks use, the G915 only lost about 35% of its charge with its full RGB lighting going, so you could easily use this for an entire month without having to connect it back up to your PC. Even better, it only takes three hours to fully charge up again, and you get a warning when it gets down to 15% so you're not suddenly cut off mid-game.

Logitech has since launched a more compact tenkeyless version of the G915, too - the G915 TKL, giving you even more options when it comes to size. Plus, if the wireless version is out of your price range, there's a cheaper wired version that has exactly the same design called the Logitech G815 Lightsync, which is just as lovely and costs £139 / $170.

Read more in our Logitech G915 Lightspeed Wireless review

Razer Huntsman V2

The best optical-mechanical gaming keyboard

A Razer Huntsman V2 keyboard on a desk.

The father of opto-mechanical switches returns in the Razer Huntsman V2. These switches, made big by the original Razer Huntsman, can register inputs faster than regular mechanical switches by virtue of actuating via a laser and optical light sensor – so they literally work at the speed of light. In all honesty it’s not a major moment-to-moment distance, but the Huntsman V2 absolutely feels fast. I tested the non-clicky linear version, and the switches’s combination of light sensor and a shallower travel depth than (for instance) Cherry MX Reds produced an enjoyable swift sensation.

While classic mech switches are livelier and sharper, the Huntsman V2 isn’t as mushy as a membrane keyboard either, and the layer of foam that Razer includes in the chassis means that there’s enough audio feedback to each press without the more fatiguing sound of bottomed-out keys pinging off the chassis. It’s a quieter and more refined kind of gaming keyboard, something that’s in keeping with the straightforward looks and two-step folding feet. Not that Razer is playing against type: there’s still customisable RGB lighting, including on the newly-added volume wheel.

Roccat Vulcan Pro TKL

The best tenkeyless gaming keyboard

A condensed version of the Roccat Vulcan above, the Vulcan Pro TKL is another brilliant addition to Roccat's mechanical keyboard family. It chops off the number pad for a more compact form factor, but still retains the same great build quality and Roccat's fantastic Titan switches.

Roccat have opted for new optical versions of their proprietary Titan switch for the Vulcan Pro TKL, producing a much quieter gaming keyboard that doesn't grate on the ears. It will likely still drive friends and family up the wall if they're nearby, but not the same extent as conventional mech switches.

The Vulcan Pro TKL's smaller size doesn't mean it skimps on features, either, as you still get a lovely, tactile volume wheel and a dedicated microphone mute button. Roccat's Swarm software also lets you add a secondary function to practically every key on the keyboard, too, giving you plenty of customisation options. It's expensive, but if you're after the best tenkeyless keyboard around, it doesn't get better than this. For a cheaper alterative, check out the Fnatic Streak65 below.

Read more in our Roccat Vulcan TKL Pro review

Fnatic Streak65

The best compact gaming keyboard

As its name implies, the Fnatic Streak65 is a 65% keyboard that's even smaller than the Roccat Vulcan Pro TKL above. It's about as small as you can go without it starting to become impractical for everyday use. While it doesn't have much in the way of extra features due to its small footprint, you still get those all-important dedicated arrow keys (which you don't get on the HyperX Alloy Origins 60 detailed below), as well as media keys mapped to the Fn buttons.

It's a brilliant little keyboard that's great for both work and play, and Fnatic's low-profile Speed keys look and feel almost identical to their classic Cherry MX counterparts, too. It won't be for everyone, especially when it's practically the same price as the slightly larger Fnatic miniStreak, but if you're determined to go ultra compact and don't mind making a couple of compromises here and there in terms of features, then the Fnatic Streak65 is the best compact keyboard around.

Read more in our Fnatic Streak65 review

HyperX Alloy Origins 60

The best 60% gaming keyboard

A photo of the HyperX Alloy Origins 60 gaming keyboard.

It’s possible to go even smaller than the Fnatic Streak65, and the HyperX Alloy Origins 60 is about as dinky as a keyboard can get before the keycaps start shrinking. By shuffling around some of the keys, the Alloy Origins 60 manages to measure in at just 296mm across, despite having full mechanical credentials.

Like just about every other HyperX I’ve used, it’s wonderfully built, with an almost soft-touch finish to the metal bodywork and linear yet satisfying mech switches by HyperX’s own design. Even the folding feet (with two height options, twice as many as on most keyboards) feel nicely sturdy.

Fair warning: this doesn’t have some of the Streak65’s creature comforts, like a double-height Enter key or even dedicated arrow keys. These are instead called into action by the Function key, which took me some getting used to. Nonetheless, for basic WASD-wrangling, the Alloy Origins 60 handles like a dream, and with minimal hogging of desk space.

Asus ROG Strix Flare

The best RGB gaming keyboard

If RGB lighting is the most important thing to you, the Asus ROG Strix Flare is another fantastic mechanical keyboard that's worthy of your consideration. It's come down a lot in price recently, too, making it an even better bargain than before. It's tastefully designed keyboard that cuts a fine, sophisticated profile on your desk, and its elegant, dual matt and brushed finished design that sheers diagonally down the right side of the keyboard helps give it a bit of personality that's both refined and understated.

There are plenty of RGB LEDs, too. They're not only on the keys themselves, but there are also two strips underneath the keyboard as well as another couple shining out of the top, transparent cut-out that can be used for slotting in 3D-printed gamer tags or the bundled plastic ROG logo (as shown above).

You'll need to download Asus' Armory software to start customising the ROG Strix Flare down to a per-key lighting level, but you get plenty of options once you do so. The underglow strips are also surprisingly subdued for those who prefer a more subtle approach to their rainbow-coloured light shows, and Katharine didn't find them particularly distracting when playing games either.

Read more in our Asus ROG Strix Flare review

Roccat Pyro

The best cheap mechanical gaming keyboard

A photo of the Roccat Pyro keyboard with its wrist rest attached.

You might need to be quick to get the Roccat Pyro at its current sub-£70 pricing, as most retailers are listing it for the standard £90 RRP. Even the latter, however, is a great price for a fully mechanical keyboard that’s as comfortable and customizable as the Pyro.

Other than some plasticky edges and an unpadded (but detachable) wrist rest, Roccat has hidden the affordable nature of this keyboard very well indeed. It uses linear, non-clicky TTC switches that feel as smooth as classic MX reds, and in addition to the media controls built into the Fn keys, you get a Vulcan-style volume dial perched in the top-left corner. Unlike a lot of cheap mechanical keyboards, the Pyro also has fully customisable RGB lighting.

At £90, the Pyro is a good deal for anything who wants a proper mechanical board. Find it any cheaper, like on Amazon at the time of writing, and it’s a steal.

How to choose the right gaming keyboard

Membrane or mechanical?

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a mechanical gaming keyboard or a membrane one. Generally, mechanical keyboards are better for gaming due to their fast, clean and linear movements and their short actuation points (when the keyboard actually registers you've pressed down a key). They are, however, more expensive, with most commanding prices of at least £100 / $120, if not significantly more. They're more durable than membrane keyboards, though, and are (in theory) easier to repair as you only need to replace the individual switch instead of chucking out the entire keyboard.

Membrane keyboards, on the other hand, are usually a lot quieter and cheaper than their mechanical counterparts because they're made from less expensive materials. However, his in turn makes them more prone to breaking and are generally a bit of a pain to fix. Given their low price, it's often easier to just to buy a brand-new one.

Mechanical keyboard switches explained

If you do decide to opt for a mechanical keyboard, the next thing to decide is what type of switch you want. Most gaming keyboards tend to use the German-made Cherry MX switches, but you'll occasionally see other types from Kailh and Outemu as well, or in the case of Logitech and Razer, their own in-house switches. Broadly speaking, though, they tend to fall into one of two categories: linear or tactile.

Taking Cherry's MX switches as our primary example, linear Red switches are often considered the fastest and best for gaming. Their clean, up and down movements don't provide a lot of tactile feedback, making them less suitable for long typing stints, but their short actuation points make them a popular choice for FPS games and competitive online games. You'll also find even faster linear variants known as MX Silver, too, which have an even shorter actuation point than MX Reds.

Tactile Blue switches, on the other hand, are generally considered better for typing thanks to their loud and clicky sound, while Brown switches are a sort of half-way house between Red and Blues. They're a bit quieter than other switch types, but when you press them you'll often feel a small bump halfway down, giving you a bit more physical confirmation that you've pressed a key correctly.

We're also starting to see more Kailh or Kaihua switches appear on mechanical keyboards, too. These are made in China and the most common linear models are Kailh Reds, which are very similar to Cherry MX Reds, and Speed Silvers, which as you might have guessed is Kailh's answer to Cherry's MX Silver. You'll also find tactile Kailh Browns and Blues, but they've got a few more tactile 'Speed' variants, too, including Speed Bronze and Speed Copper. These are less common, but are a lot more 'clicky' (i.e.: noisy) than their linear Speed Silver counterparts.

Outemu switches are also made in China, and also largely correspond to what you'll find in the Cherry MX camp. They're generally found in budget gaming keyboards and come in very similar colours: Red, Blue and Brown as well as Black. The latter are linear like their Red switches, but have a much heavier actuation force, meaning you'll need to press it down harder in order for a keystroke to register.

Razer, on the other hand, have a completely different colour scheme to Cherry and Kailh. They only have one linear type (Yellow) and two tactile types (Green and Orange). Yellows are closest to Cherry's MX Silver switches, while Greens are effectively the same as Cherry MX Blues. Orange, meanwhile, are Razer's answer to MX Brown switches.

As for Logitech, their naming convention is much easier to understand. While they all include the name 'Romer-G', they're usually described as either Romer-G Linear or Romer-G Tactile. Simple.

For more RPS recommended hardware, here's a complete list of our best hardware guides:
Best graphics cards Best CPU for gaming Best SSD for gaming Best gaming monitors
Best gaming headsets Best gaming mouse Best VR headsets

About the Author

James Archer avatar

James Archer

Hardware Editor

James retired from writing about Dota for RPS to write about hardware for RPS. His favourite watercooler radiator size is 280mm and he always takes advantage of RGB lighting by setting everything to a solid light blue.

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