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Best gaming keyboard 2021: SAVE this Black Friday on our favourite mechanical and membrane keyboards for gamers

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Looking to gain the edge in your favourite games? Here's our pick of the best gaming keyboards you can buy

We get it. The best gaming keyboards often seem to be the ones that catch your eye with explosively colourful RGB lighting. But it isn't all about looks: It's far too easy to end up forking out for a keyboard that looks stunning in the photos but doesn't offer any of the basics.

Don't panic: we're here to help. Choosing the best gaming keyboard is no different to choosing any other PC peripheral, in that you'll need to work out how much you're willing to spend, and then answer a few crucial questions. For example: Do you want a mechanical keyboard? Do you need a num-pad? Do you often create Macros? And do you really need the most RGB-intensive product you can possibly find?

We'll help you answer all of those questions (and many others). Further down, you'll find our guide to buying the best gaming keyboard for you; if you already know the basics, you'll find our recommendations immediately below.

Here's our pick of the best gaming keyboards you can buy.

HyperX Alloy Core RGB: Exceptionally cheap this Black Friday

Our favourite budget gaming keyboard is currently even cheaper at Amazon. The HypeX Alloy Core RGB is packed with features and types beautifully - you can find out more below.
Amazon
Was £45
Now £37

How to choose the best gaming keyboard for you

What kind of keys do I need?

There are two main parts of the key: the keycap and the key switch. The keycap is the bit with the printed letter/number/symbol on it. The switch is the mechanism that activates when you press the keycap. It’s not quite that simple, but those are the important bits.

When you press the keycap, you also press the key switch down until it hits the actuation point, which is when your keyboard registers the press. You’ll find that the time it takes to hit that actuation point varies from keyboard to keyboard.

Key switches are generally either mechanical or membrane. Mechanical switches are physical buttons that you actuate when you hit the keys, while membrane switches are pressure plates that activate a sensor when pressed.

Mechanical switches can be separated into three categories. Choosing the right one for you comes down to experience a little bit, but you’ve probably unknowingly tried at least one or two of the following types of switch.

Linear switches are characterized by a smooth, uninterrupted press - that is, you will feel no resistance when you hit the actuation point, only when you bottom out. 

Tactile switches have a noticeable “bump” that interrupts each press of the key, so you know the second you’ve hit the actuation point.

Clicky switches are similar to tactile switches but produce both a bump and a clicking noise when you hit the actuation point.

Linear switches are faster, quieter and easier to use. This makes them great for games that involve fast finger movements, like shooters.

Tactile and clicky switches make for a more satisfying typing experience, as you have a physical cue to tell you when your keypress has registered.

Membrane switches tend to err on the side of linear: they’re quiet and easy to actuate, and they benefit from a bit of spillage resistance too.

These days, manufacturers tend to make their own key switches, so you’ll have to read up on their naming conventions to work out which switch is which. We list the switch we tested in the key specs.

READ NEXT: The best mechanical keyboards to buy

What size keyboard should I buy?

Some keyboards lack the num-pad on the right-hand side. These are called tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards, and they have a smaller sibling: 60% keyboards ditch the arrow keys and Home/Ins/Del cluster.

We’d recommend sticking to a full-size keyboard if you plan to work on the same keyboard you game on. Losing the Numpad and directional keys is in our experience a real blow to productivity.

What optional extras should I consider?

Media controls: On a gaming keyboard you might find a set of dedicated buttons/scroll wheels/dials for controlling audio playback. These are usually positioned in the top-right corner.

Keyboards without these dedicated buttons will often have the same functions baked into a few of the Function keys along the top like many regular keyboards do.

Other keys/functions: Most gaming keyboards include a method of locking the Windows key to prevent accidental presses mid-firefight. Some also offer lighting controls built in, and many will also allow you to assign macros - functions that condense multiple key presses into a single command executed by a key of your choice.

Lighting: Multi-coloured lighting is a staple of most gaming keyboards. But where some offer the ability to change the LEDs that sit beneath the keys on an individual level (known as RGB), others simply glow in one colour, while others limit you to a few preset lighting effects.

Ports/cables: Some gaming keyboards will have braided cables with a fabric cover. They might even have two cables, or one that splits into two: this is usually to serve a USB passthrough port on the side of the keyboard. You could use this port to plug in a USB flash drive or gaming mouse. Some keyboards even have a 3.5mm jack for a pair of headphones.

Other: Lastly, you might notice that a few expensive gaming keyboards come with wrist rests, keycap removers and even alternate keycaps for a bit of individual flair.

READ MORE: Best gaming mice | Best gaming monitors | Best budget gaming monitors | Best gaming PC | Best gaming laptops | Best gaming chairs | Best wireless gaming headset | Best gaming headset for PC | Best gaming headset for PS4/Xbox One | Best gaming TV | Best PC controllers

The best gaming keyboards to buy

1. HyperX Alloy Core RGB: The best budget gaming keyboard

Price: £45 | Buy now from Game

The HyperX Alloy Core RGB is an understated keyboard to look at. But look a little closer and you’ll find an exceptional array of features packed into that unassuming frame; there’s nothing too glamorous about the Alloy Core RGB, but if it’s gaming on a budget you’re after, you really won’t find much better than this.

Pictures don’t really do the Alloy Core RGB justice: the simple black frame is much sturdier (and much less tacky) than it looks, and it sits relatively flat atop your desk, offsetting the lack of a bundled wrist rest. It’s also spill-resistant, which is a nice bonus. The membrane keys are soft to the touch, making them easy to type on, although gamers who prefer clicky mechanical keyboards will need to look elsewhere.

The star of the show here, however, is the suite of additional controls. The Alloy Core RGB has four dedicated media buttons (stop, rewind, pause/play and fast forward) all easily accessed above the Numpad. It also has dedicated volume control buttons (volume up/down and mute) and even a triad of more unusual buttons: one to change the colours of the five-zone RGB backlighting; one to adjust the brightness of said lighting; and one to turn on Game mode, which locks the Windows key to prevent accidental presses.

If you need a cheap keyboard that doesn’t skimp on extras and don’t mind the membrane key switches, the Alloy Core RGB is the one for you.

Key specs – Switches reviewed: HyperX membrane; Backlit: Zonal RGB; Wrist rest: No; Additional ports: None; Dimensions: 443 x 175 x 36mm

2. Trust GXT 856 Torac: The best gaming keyboard for kids

Price: £35 | Buy now from Amazon

Trust has developed quite a reputation for delivering gaming peripherals that look the part without costing an arm and a leg. The GXT 856 Torac is absolutely perfect for parents looking for an entry-level gaming keyboard for their child: the viciously angular frame and pulsating RGB backlighting might not be to everyone’s taste but they’re sure to impress a budding young gamer.

From a practical standpoint, the Torac is a very basic keyboard, but that’s reflected in the price. There are no dedicated media controls here, no accompanying software for tweaking macros or customising the backlighting. The LED backlight is controlled as a single unit via a key on the keyboard - you can’t change the colours, but you can toy with the intensity and speed. And in Trust’s defence, media controls are accessed via the Function keys, so the option is there at least.

The key switches are seemingly membrane and are firm to the touch, with no clickiness and a deep actuation point. In short: these are not keys for typing on. These are sturdy keys made for animated gaming sessions, and that’s absolutely fine by us; the Torac is cut from a slab of metal and feels solid enough to withstand anything an overexcited Fortnite enthusiast could throw at it.

Key specs – Switches reviewed: N/A; Backlit: LED; Wrist rest: No; Additional ports: None; Dimensions: 188 x 468 x 37mm

3. Roccat Vulcan 120/121/122 Aimo: The best gaming keyboard

Price: £144 | Buy now from Scan

Roccat’s magnificent Vulcan 120 Aimo – one of our all-time favourite gaming keyboards – has two siblings. The Vulcan 121 Aimo reviewed here is the 120 Aimo in a black colourway, while the 122 Aimo is the same model in white. No matter which keyboard you buy, however, you can be sure of one thing: you’re spending money on one of the best gaming keyboards around.

The Vulcan’s striking design is facilitated by a unique Titan key switch that’s strong enough to allow Roccat to remove the housing that usually surrounds the keys. The result is quite spectacular, particularly if you’re a fan of RGB. The Titan switches come in two varieties, a 1.8mm “tactile” and a 1.4mm “linear”; we tried the former and absolutely loved the travel depth, low resistance and general clickiness (that’s a technical term).

Like many gaming keyboards, the Vulcan 121 Aimo has a selection of media controls, including a volume dial that’s immensely pleasing to use, and comes with a slim plastic wrist rest that, while utilitarian, does the job well enough.

Although it does lack dedicated macro keys, you can adjust key functions (as well as lighting effects) using Roccat’s detailed if a bit cluttered Swarm application.

There’s no simpler way to put this: if you want to treat yourself to a top-notch gaming keyboard, buy the Roccat Vulcan 121 Aimo.

Read our full Roccat Vulcan 120 Aimo review for details

Key specs – Switches reviewed: Roccat Titan; Backlit: Per-key RGB; Wrist rest: Yes; Additional ports: No; Dimensions: 462 x 235 x 32mm

4. Razer Huntsman Mini: The best compact gaming keyboard

Price: £100 l Buy now from Amazon

It’s not cheap, but Razer’s Hunstman Mini is the best keyboard for gamers with limited desk space. Penned as a 60% gaming keyboard, the Huntsman Mini uses the absolute bare minimum of keys – it doesn’t have a home cluster, Numpad or function row, for instance, although all of these inputs can still be accessed via secondary functions. Simply hold down the Fn key, and the shortcut keys (with side-printed functions) light up.

The Razer Hunstman Mini is available in two colours: ‘Black’ and ‘Mercury’ and can be picked up in a choice of two key switches. The first, which we reviewed, uses Razer’s ‘Clicky Optical’ switches, or you can opt for Razer’s ‘Linear Optical’ switches, which dampens the sound and has a smaller actuation distance – the better choice for aspiring pros that don’t want to annoy their teammates with their clicky inputs over the mic.

And yes, the Huntsman Mini also comes fully equipped with Razer’s excellent Synapse software, allowing you to fully customise the RGB lighting, and sync it up with any of the other Razer peripherals you own. The only downside is that the keyboard is raised quite a bit, and since it's quite small, it can be difficult to find an appropriate-sized wrist rest.

Key specs – Switches reviewed: Razer Optical; Backlit: Synapse RGB; Wrist rest: No; Additional ports: None; Dimensions: 294x 104 x 37mm

5. Logitech G613: The best wireless gaming keyboard

Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon

The Logitech G613 is a wireless mechanical gaming keyboard that boasts an impressive 1ms report rate over Logitech's own Lightspeed wireless technology. This provides a wired-like experience for a select few Logitech products, including the G613.

Logitech has included six programmable keys, which can be customised via the Logitech Gaming software. There are dedicated media controls to the right and a game-mode button that will lock the Windows key. As for battery life, the G613 has a quoted battery life of 18 months and takes two AA batteries, which are included. The most impressive feature of the keyboard is its wireless and Bluetooth connectivity. With a simple click of one of the physical buttons, you'll switch between the two modes. As for performance, the Romer-G mechanical switches are a real joy to type on.

Alternatively, if you're looking for RGB mechanical backlit keys, a low-profile design (similar to the Roccat Vulcan 120 Aimo, above) and want to keep things wireless, consider the G915. The keyboard also includes a new low-profile GL switch that's made by Kailh. Be warned, however, the G915 will set you back £210.

Read our full Logitech G613 review for details

Key specs – Switches reviewed: Romer-G; Backlit: No; Wrist rest: Integrated; Additional ports: None; Dimensions: 478 x 216 x 33mm

6. Razer BlackWidow V3 Mini Hyperspeed: The best 65% gaming keyboard

Price: £180 l Buy now from Razer


If desk space is a bit limited, but you don’t want to completely cut down on the available keys (à la Razer Huntsman Mini), then Razer’s BlackWidow V3 Mini Hyperspeed is the next best thing. Razer’s first 65% gaming keyboard is an absolute triumph, with full-height Doubleshot ABS keycaps and a proper navigation cluster, as well as dedicated arrow keys on the right-hand side. MMO gamers might still lament the loss of the function row, but you do get the option to program various macros via Razer’s Synapse software at least.

The BlackWidow V3 Mini Hyperspeed comes with a choice of two key switches; tactile and clicky ‘Green’ switches and linear sound-dampening ‘Yellow’ switches (which I was sent for testing). It’s also one of the few wireless Razer keyboards on the market and can connect either through a low-latency 2.4Ghz connection, via the supplied Bluetooth dongle or plugged into the USB-C cable (which is used for charging).

Arguably the keyboard’s best feature is that you can share the Bluetooth dongle connection with a compatible Razer wireless gaming mouse (DeathAdder V2 Pro, Naga Pro and Orochi V2) to free up USB space on your PC. My only complaint is that you might need to charge the keyboard reasonably often since a full work day’s worth of typing at a dimmed RGB brightness level dropped the battery down to 59% from full in my tests. It’s also a shame that Razer doesn’t supply a small form factor wrist rest, even as an optional extra purchase.

Key specs – Switches reviewed: Razer Linear (Yellow); Backlight: Per-key RGB; Wrist rest: No; Additional ports: None; Dimensions: 320 x 104 x 45mm

7. HyperX Alloy Elite 2: The best gaming keyboard for features

Price: £109 | Buy now from Amazon

HyperX’s rather jazzy “pudding” keycaps are the first thing you’ll notice when you catch sight of the Alloy Elite 2 – they don’t do anything, unfortunately, but they are pretty spectacular to behold. Look past the striking exterior, however, and you’ll find a remarkably well-equipped mechanical gaming keyboard that actually represents pretty good value for money.

The Alloy Elite 2 has a full suite of large, easily accessed media controls, including playback controls (pause/play, rewind, skip) and volume controls (a mute button and volume wheel). It also has a button to cycle the brightness of the RGB lighting; a button to cycle the lighting effect; and a button to activate Game mode (locking the Windows key to prevent accidental presses). The cherry on the cake is a USB pass-through port for your gaming mouse or external storage device.

HyperX’s mechanical switches – found on the keyboard in question – are available in three variants. The red (linear) switches we tested were well suited for work and play but lacked the overly clicky actuation that gamers tend to like. Those with a penchant for clickiness might want to try the blue switches instead.

In general use, though, the Alloy Elite 2 was a pleasure to type and game on. The lack of a wrist rest is mildly disappointing, but probably the only drawback to what is an otherwise excellent gaming keyboard with a fiercely competitive – though still hefty – price tag.

Key specs – Switches reviewed: HyperX mechanical (Red); Backlight: Zonal RGB; Wrist rest: No; Additional ports: 1 x USB-A; Dimensions: 444 x 174 x 37mm

8. Roccat Pyro: The best mid-range gaming keyboard

Price: £80 | Buy now from Scan

The Roccat Pyro manages to dislodge our previous favourite mid-range gaming keyboard - the MSI GK50 Elite - by offering more features for the same amount of money. This is a mechanical keyboard with what Roccat calls “advanced” anti-ghosting and n-key rollover. The switches are linear, and they actuate fairly loudly with little resistance, so you’ll have no trouble flying across the keyboard mid-firefight (or mid-email). 

As is often the case with Roccat products, the Pyro is a good-looking bit of kit, with soft edges and a grey aluminium base plate nestled beneath the keys. The lighting is quite understated, so you won’t stick out too much if you choose to use the Pyro at work, and it’s also totally customisable via the Swarm desktop application. There, you can also assign macros and pick out alternate key functions, the latter of which can be accessed on the fly simply by holding the Caps Lock key. 

However, it’s the extras that earn the Pyro its place on this roundup. By this we mean the volume dial that sits in the top-right corner of the keyboard, and the simple plastic wrist-rest that comes bundled in. It might not seem like much, but at this price every additional feature is a huge bonus, and there’s a lot to be said for having a bit of support for your wrists while you type/game. Most similarly priced gaming keyboards will forfeit these features, so if it’s value for money you’re after, the Pyro is the keyboard for you.

Key specs – Switches reviewed: TTC mechanical (linear); Backlight: Zonal RGB; Wrist rest: Yes; Additional ports: None; Dimensions: 447 x 152 x 36mm

9. SteelSeries Apex 7: The best high-end gaming keyboard

Price: £179 | Buy now from Currys

If money is no object, or if you’re looking for a classy gaming keyboard to flash at the next LAN party you attend (yes, we’re stuck in 2001), the SteelSeries Apex 7 is the keyboard for you. Available in both full-size and TKL layouts, the primary gimmick here is an OLED display nestled in the top-right corner of the board that can sync with certain apps and games (like Spotify, or CS:GO) to display pertinent information – or just a picture of Jeff Bezos, if you’re a weirdo like me.

But it’s not all about the gimmicks. The Apex 7 is an incredibly competent keyboard. Although it doesn’t use the undeniably superior Cherry MX switches, SteelSeries’ own versions do a pretty good imitation; we used the “tactile and quiet” Brown switches and found them easy to type on and easier still to game on, with a noticeable bump halfway down the 2mm actuation distance. Gamers looking for a “clickier” experience should make sure to purchase the Blue switches instead.

With a frame built from a single sheet of aluminium, the Apex 7 has a pleasing weight to it. The dual-USB cable is similarly hefty, and can be channeled left, right or centrally via the underside of the keyboard. The only misstep in terms of build quality is the keycaps themselves – they’re perfectly good to type on, but they look a bit dated when paired with the trendy exposed keyswitches.

The Apex 7 also has one USB-A passthrough port (to make up for the two it hogs on the back of your PC) plus a simplified set of media controls situated next to that OLED display in the top-right corner. These controls – a volume wheel and pause/play button – are simple enough to use, but do sit quite far from the nearest keys, so jabbing at them without hitting any other keys is a bit tricky.

Everything from button functions to macros to lighting to the image on your OLED display can be customised in SteelSeries’ excellent Engine app, a constant high point of the broader SteelSeries experience.

Key specs – Switches reviewed: SteelSeries Brown; Backlight: Per-key RGB; Wrist rest: Yes; Additional ports: 1x USB-A; Dimensions: 403 x 17 x 139mm

10. Razer Huntsman V2 Analog: The most extraordinary gaming keyboard around

Price: £250 | Buy now from Amazon

What makes the Razer Huntsman V2 Analog so incredibly expensive? The clue's in the name: where most keyboards offer digital inputs – that is, the key switch is either on or off – the Razer Huntsman V2 uses lasers to produce an effect similar to pushing on the analog stick on your PS4/Xbox controller. That’s right: this keyboard allows you to control your car’s throttle, or your character’s movement, with more nuance than ever before.

It really works, too. In Razer’s excellent Synapse app, you can choose how varying degrees of pressure affects how the keys respond and even assign multiple actions to a single key. This means you could set the R key to, say, reload when tapped and throw a grenade when pressed firmly.

You can also use this function to set how firmly you have to hit a key when typing, making the Huntsman the first keyboard with adjustable actuation points. The only slight issue is that the resistance you feel when you press the key doesn’t change when you adjust the actuation, so you will have to get used to tapping/firmly pressing the keys.

Set the analog aspect of this keyboard aside for a minute and you’ll still find the very best that Razer has to offer. It’s an appealing blend of form and function: for example, the plush leatherette magnetic wrist-rest has a strip of RGB lighting running around the sides that syncs with a similar strip on the body of the keyboard when connected, producing a stunning light show. The media controls are slick and easily accessed – we love the volume dial in particular – and the rest of the keyboard is much the same. It’s Razer, which means well-built and immensely customisable.

Key specs – Switches reviewed: Razer analog; Backlight: Synapse RGB; Wrist rest: Yes; Additional ports: USB 2.0; Dimensions: 48.7 x 19.8 x 9.1cm