Gaming keyboards have become big business for a lot of manufacturers the past few years, and that means that the market for them is growing incredibly crowded. We want you to know that when we recommend one, it's because we ourselves enjoyed using it, and we've tested it thoroughly to make sure it surpasses a certain threshold of excellence. In fact, we assembled a brand new central hardware team here at GamesRadar for specifically that purpose, to properly stress test and evaluate the tech that gamers actually want to buy and use. Mechanical keyboards aren't a small investment, so if you're going to sink your hard earned cash into one, we want to ensure it's money well spent. So how do we sort out the best gaming keyboard?
We thoroughly test them for gaming and typing
While the main thrust of our search is to isolate the best keyboards for gamers, we're well aware how important a great typing experience is too. As someone who types for a living and spends an inordinate amount of time parked in front of my Razer Huntsman Elite clacking away, a pleasant typing experience is vital to me personally, and we factor that heavily into our reviews and buying guides. Whenever possible, I like to spend at least a few days with every keyboard I'm testing as the full time replacement for my current deck, stress testing it in games and through several days at the office.
We evaluate the switches
You may assume that a Cherry MX Red or a Razer Green is the same switch regardless of which deck it's built into, but that's not always the case. There's a surprising amount of variation across boards that incorporate the same switch, so we try to make as few assumptions about feel and performance as possible during testing. A part of how each switch performs is also dependent on other components of the board, things like the backplate and especially the keycaps, which can subtly alter the characteristics of a switch. If there are significant differences (or issues) with the way a switch is utilized, be sure we'll call it out and factor it into our evaluation.
Comfort is key
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how attractive a keyboard is or how satisfying it is to use if it leaves you with cramped wrists or aching hands. If you spend any meaningful portion of your day typing (or gaming with mouse and keyboard), you know how crucial it is to get adequate wrist support and the proper angles. And it's not just about a cozy PC experience, it's also about avoiding serious issues like repetitive stress injuries or carpal tunnel. That's why spending tens of hours actively using every keyboard is important, so we can evaluate not only the initial sensation of using it but how it feels once you've really settled into a new deck and have been hammering on its keys across lengthy sessions.
We consider real world use cases
Testing hardware in a sterile lab environment only takes you so far. The tech we look at here is as likely to be used in a bedroom or living room as in a carefully controlled office environment, and we fully recognize that sometimes gamers can be a little rough with their peripherals. The best keyboard will be as much use for people who use their PC as the center of their entertainment center as it will to those who exclusively game on their machines, so we factor in stuff like dedicated media keys as well as macros, and consider USB and headphone passthroughs in case you want to type or game while you're lounging on the couch.
We consider value, not just price
Of course, there's a segment of people who will just grab whatever mechanical keyboard looks halfway decent and is the lowest price, but for the more discerning consumer we need to make sure that you're getting real quality for your dollar. A keyboard that costs more might need to go further to justify its price tag, but if it's extremely well designed and packs in a lot of (genuinely useful) bonus features, we're happy to recommend it. On the other hand, if a keyboard is bargain basement cheap but with trashy production value or is in some way broken, we want to make sure you're not throwing your money away on dross.