Best gaming keyboards under $200 for 2019 – CNET


Razer’s Huntsman Elite shines brightly. 

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You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good basic gaming keyboard. In fact, one of our favorite mechanical keyboards is the Redragon K561 Visnu that sells for around $40. But if you want things like per-key RGB lighting, easy macro key setup, discrete media controls, high-performance key switches and the best build quality, you’re going to have spend more.  

Just like picking out a new gaming mouse, getting the right gaming keyboard has a lot to do with personal preference. For instance, I like tactile switches — ones where you can feel the actuation point — but don’t care for clicky switches that make a sound when actuated. Linear switches, like Cherry MX Red, don’t have that tactile feedback, but because of their low force and smooth actuation they’re preferred for gaming, especially where multiple taps of the same key are necessary. 

Also, some keyboards might feel great for gaming, but you might not like them for day-to-day typing. For example, those same Cherry MX Red switches that are great for gaming, might be too light for some typists. If you have a chance to test out different types of switches before you buy, I highly recommend it. You can check out this glossary of keyboard terms, too, to help narrow your preferences. 

Our picks below aren’t definitive as we’re still testing. For example, the new Steelseries Apex Pro that has adjustable per-key sensitivity and Logitech just announced the G815 and G915 wired and wireless low-profile keyboards available with three switch types. If you think any other gaming keyboard belongs here, let me know in the comments. And note that CNET may get a share of the revenue from the sale of some of the products in this guide.

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If you’re going to spend nearly $200 on a keyboard, this is our top pick at the moment, and a lot of it has to do with the lights. It’s a solid keyboard in build and performance with Razer’s Purple opto-mechanical switches delivering fast performance and good typing experience if you like clicky, tactile feedback. There are discrete media controls (though it would be nice if the icons on them lit up, not just the outside) and they’re programmable just like all the other keys. 

Razer’s Synapse software gives you extensive controls over the keyboard’s setup, though you can stick to presets if you’re not into tweaking settings. Along with the per-key lighting, there’s also a band of light that goes around the outside of the keyboard and the included padded wrist rest, which magnetically attaches to the keyboard. 

The keyboard does eat up a second USB port on your computer, though, and there’s no pass-through on the Huntsman Elite to make up for it. If that’s important to you, go with Razer’s BlackWidow Elite, which is about $50 less with a choice of switches.  

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Our current top tenkey-less (TKL) keyboard for the money. The G Pro is all about size, speed and sturdiness. The Romer G Tactile switches give you just a touch of feedback without being clicky. It’s made for esports, so it’s fairly bare-bones, e.g. there’s no media keys or wrist rest. But it does have a removable USB cable for travel and three levels of height adjustment. And its body can stand up to getting knocked around. 

Logitech’s G Hub software is straightforward to use so you don’t spend a lot of time hunting for settings or control options. Attaching macros to the function keys is painless as well.

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Just a good, solid keyboard for fast gaming and typing. The linear Kailh Speed Silver switches are quiet and smooth with a low actuation force and short actuation point so quick double and triple taps weren’t a problem. Plus, swapping the stock keycaps for the new white pudding double shot caps make it look amazing.  

The NGenuity software is easy to use with game presets and custom setups. You can store up to three profiles to the keyboard’s memory, too. At just over $100, you don’t get a wrist rest or discrete media controls, but it’s one of the only ones here with a removable braided cable, and there’s a USB pass-through for charging a phone. 

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An excellent choice for shared spaces, the K70 uses quiet, linear Cherry MX Red RGB low-profile switches. That means you get the fast performance of regular Red switches but without the high-profile keycaps for a thinner, compact keyboard. In other words, it looks and feels more like a modern office keyboard with a more parallel hand position than your average mechanical gaming keyboard. 

There’s per-key RGB lighting as well as textured keycaps for gaming including one for the extra-large spacebar. There are media controls along the top, and they’re lit so you can find them in the dark. And there’s a USB pass-through. About the only place it feels like Corsair skimped was on the included plastic wrist rest. 

Corsair’s iCue software is one of the better packages for controlling lighting and programming the keyboard. Plus, if you have other iCue-enabled peripherals and components in your PC, you can control them all from this one application.  

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Roccat developed the switch for this keyboard called Titan. It’s a quiet, tactile switch with a well-defined bump when actuated with no wobble and is firm and responsive for gaming. The shallow keycap and switch design make it seem like the keys are floating above the metal chassis top giving it the look and feel of an island-style keyboard. The Vulcan is fine for typing, too, but I liked it more for gaming. 

The company’s Swarm software isn’t as straightforward to use as others, but you’ll find all the same sort of tools for creating custom lighting setups and macros with different profiles. You can even make your key presses sound like laser blasts or a typewriter among other things through your speakers or headphones. And if you have other AIMO devices, the lighting can be matched between them. 

Other extras include a knob that adjusts both volume the brightness for the RGB per-key lighting and a wrist rest, although the latter is hard plastic and attaches loosely so it can shift around some while gaming. 

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If you’re big into notifications and just generally doing more with the lights on your keyboard, the Apex M750 is worth a look. The company’s Engine software lets you do all the typical lighting tweaks you’ll get with other keyboards, but you can also install apps to give you light notifications for game chat platform Discord, display effects for your music, or even convert an animated GIF for playback using the lights. 

The keyboard uses the companies linear QX2 switches, which were good and fast for gaming and quick typing, thanks to their short actuation point and low force. However, while the switches themselves are quiet, there’s a lot of clack when the keys bottom out, along with some noticeable wobble. 

The rest of the keyboard is fairly unremarkable, though, lacking higher-end touches like a braided cable, USB pass-through, discrete media controls or even adjustable feet. 

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The Strike 4 has the basic requirements for a higher-end decent gaming keyboard: Cherry MX Red switches, per-key RGB lighting and a metal body. The overall performance is solid due to those switches and the keys have just a little clack when they bottom out, so it’s fast overall but quiet. The USB cable isn’t removable, but it can be routed to left, center or right to help keep your desktop a little tidier. 

I lean more toward clean and simple designs, so I’m not crazy about the branding on the front. However, what might be a bigger issue is the front edge, which isn’t straight, so not all wrist rests will sit flush across the front.

The software is the weakest link with the Strike 4, though. It looks like an OEM application that’s been skinned for Mad Catz. It gets the job done, but it’s pretty basic and takes some hunting that the software from other keyboard makers doesn’t require. 

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