Different people prefer different keyboards so to some extent rating them is like rating art. Nonetheless, grouping them together for a test is very useful because what specs suggest can be very different to what happens in reality.
Most of these keyboards have different switches beneath the keys – most made by German company, Cherry - which have different attributes. But the switch doesn’t tell the whole story. Cherry has several types of switches denoted by different colours (a short, helpful video can be seen, here). Red requires a relatively light press to register while Black requires a bit more pressure (as such Red tends to get preferred by gamers). Then there’s Blue which offers a slight bump when being depressed (which typists tend to like because each keypress feels that bit more definitive) and it also makes a loud clicky noise so you (and usually anyone around you) can actually hear you pressing one. Green is like Blue but requires more pressure. Then there’s Brown which also has the slight, tactile bump (like Blue) but there’s no clicky noise.
A newer Cherry switch that's currently used exclusively by Corsair (for the next few months) appears on the K70 Rapidfire. The Cherry MX Speed switch is like a modified Cherry MX Red switch only less pressure is required and the keys only need to travel 1.2mm instead of 2mm to actuate it.
Elsewhere we see Cherry switch clones from companies like TTC and Logitech's own Romer-G switches which require 1.5mm of travel to actuate. These are all separated from cheaper and less-precise keyboard technologies like "membrane" which is quieter and squishier but feels a bit meh - although some people actually prefer that.
Best Gaming and typing keyboards
1. Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum | Price: $189 on Amazon
Logitech’s G810 is a solid black beast rendered colourful with its RGB-backlit keys. The switches used are Logitech’s own (more can be read about the Romer-G switches, here) and we approve: they’re not nearly as rattly as Cherry’s MX switches, they feel more solid and yet they’re very smooth to depress. We found it very comfortable and accurate for typing but also responsive enough for great gaming.
Unlike the Corsair keyboards, Logitech's keyboards use an enclosed base. This means that any crud falling into the keyboard is going to be very difficult to extract. However, it also means there’s less noise and resonance when typing. Also, the RGB LED lights only show up through the letters and not across the whole base. While the effect is less colourful it’s less messy and and more precise.
Read more: The Division review
Logitech’s software allows you to program the keyboard. A game-mode button allows you to disable keys (like the Windows Key) when gaming. Lighting modes include a uniform soft-blue backlight for general typing, WASD colour accenting for gaming, and other colour modes which include rainbow waves, a star effect and lighting up on each key press. Logitech also provides a heatmap to log which keys you press most – should this be required for some reason. The usual macros can be programmed and profiles for various games can be downloaded or programmed in.
There’s only one connector which will please or annoy some people depending on whether they like having USB passthrough (we don’t like having that).
There are media keys (similar to the Corsair boards) along with a button that turns the backlighting on and off plus a button that disables some keys when gaming. For what it’s worth, the G810 is also the only keyboard to place the letters in the middle of each key. We couldn’t tell you why the others (including the G610) position their letters at the top, but we actually prefer having them in the middle.
Everyone who tried this keyboard preferred it to the others: it’s quieter, more solid and arguably the most comfortable to use out of everything we tested - whether gaming or typing. It’s not cheap, but it’s one of the cheapest on test and, to us, it's the best. Rating: 5 / 5
2. Corsair K70 Lux RGB | Price: $210 on Amazon
There’s not much difference between the Rapidfire K70 and K70 Lux beyond the keys themselves. The Lux uses Cherry MX Red switches instead of the special MX Speed switches and the key caps are different too (the Lux keys feel classier with their matte caps). It’s not the quietest keyboard but it’s noticeably less noisy and rattly than the Rapidfire K70.
Of the two, we preferred the Lux for both typing (not just the noise) as the keys feel more solid and more accurate. The Red switches have less of a hair-trigger actuation too so there were fewer typos too but they are still good for gaming.
Ultimately, however, we preferred Logitech's G810 for both gaming and typing but some may find its styling too subdued. Rating 4/5
3. Corsair Rapidfire K70 RGB | Price: $233 on Amazon
The Rapidfire K70 is Corsair's flagship keyboard and mechanically different to the rest of the regular K70 range. It uses exclusive Cherry MX Speed switches which are like Red but with a very-short, 1.2mm actuation distance (instead of 2mm). It’s a full-sized keyboard with media buttons and a number pad. As with the other Corsair keyboards it has two USB connectors one of which is for the USB pass-through port which supports USB 3 speeds. There’s also a switch at the back which affects polling speed of the keyboard via different BIOSes. We couldn’t find an application that would register any noticeable difference here but some pro-gaming FPS player somewhere might notice something... maybe. Being able to switch between UEFI settings may also help an electronics student somewhere too. There’s also a button for turning the back-lighting on and off and one for disabling the Windows key (and some other game-ruining combinations).
The Cherry MX Speed switches get very loud and this noise seems to get enhanced by the solid, unenclosed, aluminium backing which makes the sound resonate more. Indeed, unlike other keyboards the keys sit on top of the base (they're not encased within it) meaning that it’s easier to clean than traditional keyboards (like the Logitechs) where crud falling behind the keys is hard to access.
The switches all have RGB LED bases and software easily allows you to create various colourful lighting effects. The effect is certainly popular and very pleasing although the lack of containment surrounding the keys means that it can look rather messy – everything glows, not just the lettering. The software is comprehensive and allows you to set up many different profiles and macros, but it’s not very intuitive despite the high degree of configurability.
The low pressure requirement and low actuation distance means that the pressure required to type is very light - to the point where all but the most accurate typists will be making typos just by grazing the wrong key with their fingers.
This is all sounds good for hardened gamers who require the best speeds but the difference is hard to relate to in the real world - it's like replacing bolts on your racing bike with low-weight Titanium versions in order to save weight and go faster. Theoretically it's making a difference, but are the final results actually measurable? Sometimes the psychological boost is more real.
Corsair also provides special, replacement contoured gaming keys that can fit onto the WASD area to help your hand know where it's sitting at all times. These become hard to live without once you’ve tried it when gaming.
Some people may also lament Corsair’s penchant for labelling the keys non-centrally – the letter labels are on the upper portion of the key and appear squashed. This seems to be a style thing but labelling-clarity loses out.
At $200 this is the most expensive keyboard in an expensive keyboard test. We actually preferred using the K70 Lux which is basically the same but with different switches and key caps - it's still good for gaming but more accurate for typing and costs about $20 less. The keys also look and feel more solid and are less noisy. But this is a preference thing. Most potential buyers of this keyboard will already have decided to buy the Rapidfire purely because of those Cherry MX Speed switches. Everyone else should check out the Logitech G810. Rating 3.5/5
4. Logitech G610 Orion Brown | Price: $166 on Amazon
Logitech’s G610, at a glance, looks like the G810, but there are, ahem, key differences. The keys use Cherry MX Brown switches and the backlit keyboard is not RGB – just white light.
As such, you can’t adjust the colour of the lighting effects (you can adjust the brightness) but the main difference comes from typing.
The Cherry MX Brown switches lend themselves to typing over gaming. There’s more of a tactile bump when each key is pressed and it feels more accurate for typing than the other Corsair and Logitech keyboards on test – we didn’t make as many mistakes by grazing the wrong keys on this board. However, this also does mean that it’s not the best for gaming – your fingers will be pounding the keys with more purpose with every keypress and this will likely cause reaction issues in lengthy gaming sessions. But there’s not much in it.
While it’s not as as loud as the K70 or K70 Lux it’s certainly not quiet and it's noticeably louder than the G810.
Ultimately it’s very solid and typists who don’t mind the noise will like it. At $149 it’s still not cheap, but it offers something genuinely different to the other competitors. Rating 3.5/5
5. Corsair K65 Rapidfire Gaming Keyboard | Price: $186 on Amazon
The K65 is like the Rapidfire K70 but without a number pad or media keys - so it’s much narrower. This will appeal to gamers who don’t like slamming their mouse into the side of the keyboard (obviously one of the most infuriating things ever) and who want those 'fast' Cherry MX Speed switches. It also makes it much easier to transport.
While the keyboard in general feels solid, the keys still feel a bit rattly and wobbly. You do feel like they could snap off if dropped though and that any lateral pressure or jolt could cause damage. We’d feel more comfortable wrapping it up for transport and perhaps a travel bag would have been a good inclusion (especially at this price). Rating 3.5 / 5
6. Roccat Suora – RGB Frameless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard | Price $152 on Amazon
We thought the K70 with its Cherry MX Speed switches was loud but the Suora could be heard from the other side of our office. This keyboard uses switches from a company called TTC (more on that here) which is something of a cheaper knock-off of Cherry Switches.
The keyboard is similar to the Corsair’s in that the keys aren’t enclosed by a base. There’s no frame either which means it doesn’t take up much room on the desk despite offering a keypad and media keys.
Typing feels quite similar to the Cherry Brown switches of the Logitech G610 but the loud switches, resonance from the keys (the noise echoes off the base) and the lack of containment means that it’s incredibly noisy to use.
It’s backlit with blue lights only and these can be customised with different patterns.
Roccat offers some unique features with its Swarm software which lets you configure the keyboard via an app on your phone (so you don’t have to leave the game!). So far only Android is supported but iOS is on the way. We were unable to test the desktop version – having downloaded it from the site and installed it as an administrator, it demanded to download an update and update itself which we couldn’t then run in administrator mode.
The software nonetheless allows you to configure lighting patterns and Game Mode functions (there’s a dedicated key) as we've seen elsewhere.
The main problem with this keyboard (apart from the noise) is the price. At $150 it’s only slightly cheaper than what’s being offered elsewhere. While the frameless nature will appeal to some, the small K65 is also worth looking at (even though it doesn’t have media keys). Rating 2 / 5