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Best Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming

Find out which mechanical keyboard is best for gaming and learn what makes a mechanical gaming keyboard great.

Mechanical Keyboard Anas Alshanti / Unsplash

Last Updated: November 17, 2021

Written by Brandon Jones

Qualities to Look for in a Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

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There are many benefits of using a mechanical keyboard over standard membrane keyboards. But other qualities in a mechanical keyboard make them even better for gaming. Those main qualities are its polling rate, key switches, customization, and macro keys.

I'll discuss those qualities more below, along with my recommended mechanical keyboard for gaming.

Are Mechanical Keyboards Better?

If you want to learn more about how mechanical keyboards are better than membrane keyboards for gaming, check out my article: Are Mechanical Keyboards Better? Mechanical vs. Normal.

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Corsair K100 RGB Optical-Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

  • Find the Corsair K100 Mechanical Keyboard on Amazon (affiliate link).

  • The 4,000 Hz polling rate on the Corsair K100 allows for more keystrokes to be detected per second and is excellent for gaming.

  • This keyboard has optical-mechanical key switches that have a 1.0 mm actuation distance and smooth linear travel.

  • Six dedicated macro keys allow for customized key mapping and commands.

  • It also has an aluminum frame and dynamic per-key RGB backlighting.

  • This keyboard has all of the benefits of being a mechanical keyboard. Corsair K100 RGB Optical-Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Corsair K100 RGB Optical-Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Polling Rate

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The polling rate of a keyboard is the frequency of how often your keyboard sends data to your computer and is measured in Hurtz (Hz). The faster the polling rate, the quicker the response time of each keypress. It's best to have at least a 500 to 1000 Hz polling rate for gaming.

For example, if you had a keyboard with a 125 Hz polling rate, it'd be eight times slower at responding to each keypress when compared to a keyboard with a 1000 Hz polling rate.

With gaming, every millisecond matters and could mean the difference between getting the first shot out or dodging bullets faster.

Keyboard Polling Rates
Polling RateResponse Time
125 Hz 8 ms
250 Hz 4 ms
500 Hz 2 ms
1000 Hz 1 ms
2000 Hz 0.5 ms
4000 Hz 0.25 ms

Optical-Mechanical Keyswitches

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Optical switches can also be removable, whereas regular switches are soldered onto the board. Having optical switches adds more flexibility for customizing or replacing parts later on.

Regular mechanical switches use a metal contact to detect when a key is pressed (actuation). Optical switches, on the other hand, use light to detect actuation. When a key is pressed with optical switches, a light beam passes through part of the switch then sends the keypress signal to your computer.

Optical switches can detect a keypress up to twice as fast as regular mechanical switches, making them better for gaming.

Customization

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Optical switches can also be removeable whereas normal switches are soldered onto the board. This adds more flexibility for customizing or replacing parts later on.

Mechanical keyboards, in general, allow you to customize parts of the keyboard. Besides the optical switches that you can customize, you can also swap out the keycaps, which are the pieces of plastic that you type on that are fitted on top of the switches. There are many different types of keycaps available, ranging in colors, design, and material.

With an RGB keyboard, you can also customize the lighting on the keyboard. You can change the colors, lighting animation, and fade effects.

Macro Keys

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Macro keys allow you to make specific keys perform actions (one or multiple) with the press of that button. For example, you could set a macro key to do something simple like capturing video quickly. You could also make a macro for something more complex, like having one macro key make you switch to your primary weapon, run forwards, and shoot.

These are just a few examples, but many other options make your creativity the limit. Macro keys are helpful in games, especially if it's some repetitive action or wanting to do something outside of the game but don't want to minimize your game to do it.

Wired Keyboard

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It's best to get a wired mechanical keyboard, opposed to a wireless one because wireless can add some latency (delay) to the overall usage. Wireless can also have a slower polling rate compared to a wired keyboard. While it's nice having a clean desk, if you want the fastest experience, a wired keyboard is the way to go.

Pros of Mechanical Keyboards

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Overall, mechanical keyboards improve the quickness, lifespan, and tactile feel of a keyboard. Mechanical keyboards are popular among gamers, programmers, touch typists, and people who work with them all day during work.

A mechanical keyboard's clicky feel is more satisfying than the mushy feel of an ordinary membrane keyboard. You can feel every keypress easily, which makes mechanical keyboards great for accurate and precise typing.

Quickness

The precise feedback and control of a mechanical keyboard are incomparable to membrane keyboards. Instead of a generic mushy press, each press on the key will feel like you are actually pressing something.

The feedback of a mechanical keyboard will improve the quickness of your typing or in-game movements since you won't be second-guessing any presses or having missed presses.

Because mechanical keyboards are precise, your muscle memory will work more efficiently, optimizing your workflow and speed.

Lifespan

Mechanical keyboards don't wear out as fast and feel like new longer when compared to membrane keyboards. In most cases, you won't get stuck or wobbly/inaccurate keys like with membrane keyboards.

Mechanical keyboards have been tested to last up to 30–70 million key presses. Membrane keyboards only last around 5 million keypresses.

To back up these claims, I'm writing this article on my Corsair mechanical keyboard I bought six years ago, and it's still going strong!

Tactile

The mechanical switch in a mechanical keyboard offers a satisfying typing experience with its tactile feedback.

When you press a key down, you'll feel feedback when you reach its actuation point (when a press is registered), with a slight bump that lets you know when a key is successfully pressed.

Some types of key switches for mechanical keyboards don't have as much tactile feel (or any). You can look in the description of each product to know what type of key switches the keyboard has.

Customization

Another great thing about mechanical keyboards is choosing different versions of switches to fit your preferences. Some key switch types provide more feedback, others have a gentle feeling, or they can be a mix of both. You can sometimes even remove the keycaps and install custom ones to make them one of a kind.

Here are a few of the most common mechanical keyboard key switches:

  • Cherry MX Brown: Most popular. An excellent hybrid for gaming and typing while allowing for fast key presses. Provides tactile feedback, but not as noisy as other switch types.
  • Cherry MX Blue: Provides tactile feedback with a loud and clear click sound, so you'll know when a keypress is registered. Favorite among writers or anyone who types often.
  • Cherry MX Black: More linear and doesn't provide feedback when hitting the actuation point (when a press is registered) but makes noise when bottoming out.
  • Cherry MX Red: Similar to Cherry MX Black, but requires less force and less time for a keypress to be registered.

Cons of Mechanical Keyboards

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While we can agree there are many great qualities in a Mechanical Keyboard, there are some downsides that some people won't like.

  • Noise: The tactile feel comes at a cost; mechanical keyboards are known to be loud. If there are others nearby who won't like the noise or need to be quiet late into the night, mechanical keyboards may not be for you.
  • More Expensive: Mechanical keyboards can be pricy. However, take into account the higher price reflects the quality and longer lifespan.
  • Heavier: If you want a keyboard to carry around in your backpack during travel, this might not be for you. Mechanical keyboards are built sturdier, which makes them heavier.

Despite these cons, many people (including myself) still think mechanical keyboards are worthy of their praise.

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SteelSeries Apex Pro

  • Find the SteelSeries Apex Pro on Amazon (affiliate link).

  • It is made of an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy frame for long-term durability.

  • Has dedicated multimedia controls.

  • This keyboard has adjustable switches to customize the actuation distance of each switch.

  • Responsive switches: up to 0.7 ms response time and 0.4 mm actuation point.

  • Customizable RGB key backlights.

  • Includes a detachable palmrest. SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Lenovo Legion K500

  • Find the Lenovo Legion K500 on Amazon (affiliate link).

  • This keyboard has seven media keys and a dedicated game mode key.

  • 100% anti-ghosting (no lost keypresses)

  • Has linear red mechanical switches, rated for 50 million clicks.

  • Customizable RGB key backlights.

  • You will have the ability to tilt the keyboard between 2.58 and 8 degrees.

  • Has a detachable textured palmrest. Lenovo Legion K500 Lenovo GY40T26478 Legion K500 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Corsair K70 RGB MK.2

  • Find the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 on Amazon (affiliate link).

  • The Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 comes in multiple key switch types, including Cherry MX Brown, Cherry MX Blue, and Cherry MX Red.

  • The anodized brushed aluminum frame is excellent for durability and aesthetics.

  • The USB pass-through port makes it easy to connect a mouse or other devices.

  • 1000Hz polling rate allows for more keystrokes to be detected per second and is great for gaming.

  • This keyboard has all of the benefits of being a mechanical keyboard. K70 RGB MK.2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard — CHERRY MX Brown K70 RGB MK.2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard — CHERRY MX Brown Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

HyperX Alloy Origins Core

  • Find the HyperX Alloy Origins Core on Amazon (affiliate link).

  • This keyboard has Linear HyperX red key switches.

  • It is made of an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy frame for long-term durability.

  • Compact and portable, with a detachable USB C cable.

  • Customizable RGB key backlights. HyperX Alloy Origins Core HyperX Alloy Origins Core Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)

Learn More About Mechanical Keyboards

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Want to learn more about Mechanical Keyboards? Check out the articles in this Mechanical Keyboard series: