Roundup: The Best Gaming Keyboards

Posted by Lauren Hall-Stigerts on March 26, 2014 in Gaming Lifestyle -- Share:

It’s likely you’re not playing on your ideal gaming keyboard, and not just any old keyboard will do. In an earlier post we learned that little pieces of silicone can slow down your game progress, wireless keyboards aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and what all those weird, extra keys on some keyboards are all about. (Go read that post nowif you haven’t yet! It’s cool – we’ll wait right here.)

Gamers playing at computers on keyboards

Gamers playing computer games at keyboards. Photo credit: włodi via Compfight // cc

Now that you’re a little more learned on keyboards, let’s explore several models to consider. I’ve again collaborated with gaming expert Dylan Hall to line up a selection based on our previous finding: the best gaming keyboards for good performance are wired with mechanical switches.

Azio Levetron Clicker Mechanical Keyboard

Type: Wired Price: $50-$60 Great for:Shooter games, action games, adventure games

Azio Levetron gaming keyboard

Azio Levetron gaming keyboard

Azio’s Levetron Clicker is a solid mechanical keyboard. It’s not only one of the most inexpensive mechanical keyboards on the market, but one of the most solid all around. Durability is decent, the keys are moderately loud, key angle helps hands into a neutral position, and the keyboard provides good physical feedback. The main feature is that the W-A-S-D keys and arrow keys have rubber tops, allowing players to easily find the movement keys.

Azio Levetron gaming keyboard with box

Azio Levetron gaming keyboard with box

The downsides are it only comes with the basics (no multimedia functions), some keys are in unexpected locations (WASD keys are shifted downward a bit and the backslash key is in a different row entirely), and some users have had inconsistent key activation or unresponsiveness – which can be frustrating if you’re trying to initiate actions quickly. The Azio Levetron is a decent mechanical keyboard for those who are on a budget.

iOne Scorpius M10 Mechanical Keyboard

Type: Wired Price: $55-$65 Great for:Puzzle games

iOne Scorpius M10 gaming keyboard

iOne Scorpius M10 gaming keyboard

The Scorpius M10 is known for its durability and smooth typing feedback. If you like the comfortably clacky keys of the original IBM keyboards, you’ll enjoy this modernized version. If you’re looking for longevity and a great feel, iOne’s M10 may fit the bill as its price is hard to beat.

iOne Scorpius M10 gaming keyboard with mechanical switch keys

iOne Scorpius M10 gaming keyboard with mechanical switch keys

However, there are a few possible issues a user may experience with this keyboard. First, the keyboard is very heavy so if you’re looking to carry it around you may want to think twice before you buy. Second, the keyboard doesn’t have a key roll-over function. This means that it will only register a few keys simultaneously, usually two to three, slowing down faster typists and hampering gameplay that may require multiple rapid inputs. The Scorpius M10 is a great everyday keyboard – but gamer beware.

Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition Keyboard

Type: Wired Price: $75 – $100 Great for:Shooter games, multiplayer online battle arena games (MOBA), real-time strategy (RTS) games

Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition

Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition gaming keyboard

On the lower end of Razer’s price range for keyboards lies the Blackwidow Tournament keyboard. It features a high level of portability due to its lightweight design, detachable USB cable for improved storage, and the included carrying sleeve. It can register up to 10 keys pressed simultaneously in gaming mode (“10 key rollover”), programmable keys with easy macro recording capabilities where complex combinations can be saved for later, and basic multimedia features.

Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition

Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition gaming keyboard

The Razer Blackwidow’s downsides are it doesn’t come with a number pad due to the ten-keyless design, only some parts of the keyboard are backlit (caps lock, scroll lock, and macro recording keys), key switches are mounted making replacing or repairing keys very difficult, and the detachable USB cable may loosen over time causing disconnects when the keyboard is shifted (forcing the user to reconnect their keyboard). This keyboard is great if you are in need of a portable keyboard to take to LAN parties, tournaments, or whenever you’re on the go.

Razer DeathStalker Keyboard

Type: Wired Price: $70 – $80 Great for:shooter games, MOBA, RTS, massive multiplayer online role-playing (MMORPG) games

Razer DeathStalker gaming keyboard

Razer DeathStalker gaming keyboard

On the lower end of Razer’s price bracket is the Razer DeathStalker. This keyboard features chiclet keys (small square and flat keys that look like Chiclet gum), low-profile key heads that are common on laptops and ultrabooks, with scissor switches. The DeathStakler includes the same features and key roll-over as the Blackwidow, but unlike the Blackwidow the DeathStalker is fully backlit and has a number pad.

Razer DeathStalker gaming keyboard

Razer DeathStalker gaming keyboard

The downsides are that its wrist pad cannot be detached, finger oil shows up on the keyboard very easily, keys are sensitive resulting in the double typing of letters from one keystroke for some users (depends on typing style), the keyboard is large and uses up a lot of desk space, and some users have disconnection issues that force them to reconnect the keyboard. Key visibility in a dark room is challenging: when the backlight is off it’s difficult to see the letters and symbols on the keys. Gamers who are moderately to very invested in MMORPGs, RTSs, or shooters but are still on a tighter budget would enjoy this keyboard.

Razer DeathStalker Ultimate Keyboard

Type: Wired Price: $240 – $250 Great for:Shooter, MMORPG, RTS, MOBA games

Razer DeathStalker Ultimate gaming keyboard

Razer DeathStalker Ultimate gaming keyboard

The DeathStalker’s bigger sibling, the DeathStalker Ultimate has a wide set of unique features. This keyboard shares the same qualities as the DeathStalker: mounted wrist rest, chiclet keys, scissor switches, full backlight, 10 key roll-over, and so on. Let’s focus on what makes the Ultimate stand out from its predecessor. The Ultimate comes equipped with Razer’s Synapse 2.0 program which allows users to store all of their programmed keys, macros, and profiles onto accounts which can then retrieve the information on any system for easy access and setup (this service is free with purchase of the Ultimate).

Razer DeathStalker Ultimate gaming keyboard

Razer DeathStalker Ultimate gaming keyboard

It’s time to address the elephant on the keyboard: the touchscreen. This interface is called the Switchblade UI (User-Interface), and it’s basically a second screen that’s on your keyboard in place of the number pad. It has a countless variety of functions such as being a number pad, watching videos, controlling music, custom key layout, web browsing, and much more. The Switchblade UI comes equipped with mobile app versions of popular websites like Twitter, Gmail, YouTube, and Facebook which allows the user to continue their social networking while playing. The YouTube app can become very handy for those who would like to watch a walkthrough while playing their game and lack a second monitor. The Switchblade UI can also function as a track-pad and has pre-programmed track-pads for specific games, like Team Fortress 2. Unfortunately, the drawbacks of the Ultimate can be a list just as long as the benefits. Many users have had error issues with the Synapse software. This software has given users issues such as the touchscreen crashing, whole Razer applications crashing, and the software has even caused users’ computers to crash upon start-up.

Razer DeathStalker Ultimate gaming keyboard

Razer DeathStalker Ultimate gaming keyboard

There is an issue with some users’ USB ports producing an electrical current that causes glitches in the touchscreen. For the price the keys are pretty low-quality, as most other Razer products come with mechanical switches this keyboard uses scissor switches which don’t feel as smooth as mechanical, and that difference really stands out for gamers who play shooters and MMORPGs. The rubber wrist rest may be comfortable but it is a magnet for grime and is tough to clean. When browsing a website that has a pop-up it consumes the entire touch-screen. Finally, this is a really expensive keyboard, one of the most expensive on the market, and costs half the price of a new console such as the Xbox ONE. We would only recommend this keyboard to users who are veryinterested in experimenting with the Switchblade UI as right now there are too many issues to justify the price point.

Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Type: Wired Price: $140 – $150 Great for:RTS, MMORPG

Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

The Vengence is Corsair’s flagship keyboard that was produced after critical user feedback. It uses high-quality Cherry Red mechanical switches that allow for fast double and triple taps without audible clicks, making it one of the fastest and quietest mechanical keyboards available. It is fully backlit with brightness customization for every individual key, contains 18 programmable keys with three different banks for storage, and the software is user friendly.

Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

The standout programming feature of this keyboard is the on-board hardware playback feature which allows the user to store and use macros without software running. The wrist rest is also detachable allowing the user to determine whether or not they’d like to use it, and the keyboard has multimedia options as well. The downsides are the software requires some manual operation to switch between program setups and it doesn’t have on-the-fly macro recording (the software would need to be running to record macros), the backlight color is limited to white, and the keyboard requires two USB ports (it compensates with an on-board USB port).

Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Corsair Vengeance K95 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

This isn’t only an excellent gaming keyboard – it also has powerful capabilities for programmers and web-based activities. The keys can easily be programmed to execute multi-staged tasks in specific programs or open your web browser and automatically navigate to your favorite website, like Big Fish Games!   There you have it! This list is just the beginning of what’s out there, of course. Now you have a taste of gaming keyboard assessment and can make some smart decisions for your next peripheral. Which keyboard are you going to consider?

About Dylan Hall, guest contributor

Dylan Hall is a undergraduate student at the University of Washington Bothell, studying in the Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences program for a major in Media and Communication Studies. He is a video game enthusiast having been introduced to them by his older sister and brother at a young age, and has avidly played them his whole life. Dylan aspires to one day obtain a career related to or directly involved with video or tabletop gaming.

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Lauren is a lifelong gaming fan. She expresses her love of strong female pop-culture characters by costuming at conventions. Internet marketing consulting, playing the clarinet and sax, practicing martial arts, and geeking out over tea keeps her busy the rest of the time. Find more of her shenanigans on Twitter @hallstigerts and Google+!

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