Best Mechanical Keyboards for Gaming - 2014 Buyer's Guide

By Published November 24, 2014 at 5:20 am
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Back when computers were becoming commonplace in business, mechanical keyboards such as the IBM Model M, were common. The Model M uses springs that buckle under pressure to complete a circuit, allowing for a letter to be typed. For the way the springs function, they are aptly named “buckling springs.”

Then, the rubber dome was invented.

The rubber dome is literally a dome of rubber that, when depressed, completes a circuit and causes a letter to be typed. While these seem to be very similar, they differ substantially in feel and design. Buckling springs allow for faster, more tactile and loud clicky-clack typing. Despite the advantages of a buckling spring, rubber domes are much cheaper to produce, so now rubber domes are by far the most common switch used in keyboards.

The usage of mechanical switches in keyboards has rapidly increased in recent years. Cherry Corp., a mechanical switch manufacturer and one of the oldest switch makers, is among the most-used switch manufacturers; other companies like Kailh, Matias, and Topre trail behind Cherry. The recent popularity of mechanical keyboards ensures that more manufacturers are making their own keyboard lines, to include Corsair, Razer, Cooler Master, Ducky, Logitech, and Thermaltake (among others).

Competition has continued to increase which has helped push prices down. The downside to this is that choosing a keyboard out of the multitude of those available can be daunting. For these reasons, we have created our 2014 best mechanical keyboards buying guide, with a side focus on gaming features.

It should be noted that different switches have much different feelings (they’re emotional, OK?), so keep that in mind when deciding which keyboard to purchase.

Mechanical Keyboards for Gaming - $50 to $200

Keyboard Switch Alternative
Price
Rosewill RK-6000 Tai-Hao Alps Clone Nixeus MODA ($60)
Kailh Brown
$50
Tesoro Tizona G2N Kailh Blue Tt eSports Poseidon Z ($70)
Kailh Blue
$70
Logitech G710+ Cherry MX Brown Corsair Vengeance K70 ($130)
Cherry MX Blue
$110
Das Keyboard Professional Cherry MX Red Das Keyboard Blue ($136)
MX Blue
$150
Topre Type Heaven Topre CM Storm NovaTouch TKL
Topre
$155
Logitech G910 RGB Romer G Razer BlackWidow Chrome ($170)
Corsair K70 RGB ($170)
Corsair K95 RGB ($200)
$180

Gaming Mechanical Keyboards Comparison

~$50 Ultra-Budget Mechanical Keyboard - Rosewill RK-6000

Mechanical keyboards tend to err on the side of costly due to the switch supply costs. That being said, one of the cheapest budget options on the market is Rosewill’s Striker RK-6000. The Rosewill RK-6000 uses Alps clone switches, manufactured by Tai-Hao, and are rated for 20 million actuations. As shown by reviews on both Amazon and Newegg, this keyboard isn’t amazing, but it’s unrivaled in its price point. The Rosewill Striker RK-6000 is available for $50 on Amazon.

This all being said, I would suggest opting to spend just a bit more to get a keyboard with better reviews and features, like the Nixeus Moda for $60 (review here).

~$70 Budget Gaming Mechanical Keyboard - Tesoro Tizona G2N & Tt Poseidon Z

tesoro-g2n-2Tesoro G2N. tt-poseidon-z-1Tt eSports Poseidon Z.

Beginning at this price point, mechanical keyboards become numerous and competition is fierce. We previously reviewed Tesoro’s G2N Kailh Blue mechanical keyboard, feeling overall positive but wishing the price had been lower than $90. With thanks given to sales and time on the market, the G2N is now available at a competitive $70, facing up against the Thermaltake Poseidon Z (reviewed here) for our budget recommendation. Both keyboards are good options, but have vastly different feel; the decision should be made on a user-to-user basis.

Tesoro’s board uses Kailh Blue switches, offering a slightly quieter typing environment with quick, low-fatigue actuation and softer feel. The Poseidon Z uses Kailh Blue clone switches, resulting in loud, clacky typing and a punchy feel.

The Thermaltake Poseidon Z board features a blue blacklight, Kailh Blue switches (a click and a tactile bump upon actuation), 6-key rollover, and an impressive 5-year warranty. At its current price of $70 on Amazon, the Thermaltake Poseidon Z is a smart buy for users desiring the Blue feel. It should be noted that a tenkeyless version of the Poseidon Z is $70 on Amazon and $50 on Newegg. The only difference between the two is that the tenkeyless version has n-key rollover and lacks a numpad.

~$110 Mid-Range Mechanical Keyboard - Logitech G710+

At this price point, keyboards begin to include premium features like macro programming and exceptionally high build quality. One such keyboard is the Logitech G710+. The G710+ features Cherry MX Brown switches, 26-key rollover, included rubber o-rings (to help damp bottoming-out, reduce noise, and soften depression), 6 programmable macros, backlighting, and a media control panel. The G710+ also includes a removable wrist support. Priced at $110 on Amazon, the Logitech G710+ is gaming-oriented keyboard with great value. For those who want something a bit more subtly styled without the “gamer” aesthetic, Corsair’s Vengeance K70 for ~$130 is also a good choice.

~$150 High-End Professional Keyboard - Das Professional

While some of the keyboards in this guide may be more “flashy” (replace with “gaudy” as you see fit) and marketed towards gamers, the “Das Professional” is marketed towards those wanting a more professional and minimalistic look.

The Das Professional with Quiet keys comes with Cherry MX reds, 2xUSB 2.0 ports, media keys, and n-key rollover. Two of the biggest advantages to this keyboard are its non-flashy looks and high build quality. The Das Professional with Quiet keys comes in at ~$150 on Amazon. Das also sells both MX Brown and MX Blue variants for ~$135 on Amazon.  

~$155 High-End Topre Keyboard - Topre Type Heaven

kb-guide-topre-1 kb-guide-topre-switch

Topre switches use a combination of rubber domes and springs to create a quiet-yet-tactile switch. Keyboards using Topre switches are more rare and expensive compared to keyboards using Cherry MX switches, so finding cheap Topre keyboards is challenging. The Topre Type Heaven is typically one of the cheapest options out there for Topre switches.

Topre’s Type Heaven is a simple keyboard without any flashing lights or large logos. It should be noted that it features 6-key rollover, so gaming on it won’t be an issue. The Topre Type Heaven is currently ~$155 on Amazon. Another good Topre keyboard is the CM Storm NovaTouch TKL, which uses Topre switches with Cherry MX stems. This allows for Cherry MX keycaps to be used on the keyboard. The NovaTouch also features N-key rollover and pre-installed O-rings to help damp bottoming out. The CM Storm NovaTouch TKL is currently ~$180, about $25 over the Topre Type Heaven.

~$170-200 RGB Keyboards - Logitech G910 Orion Spark & Others

logi-g910-6

Ever since our CES 2014 coverage of them, RGB mechanical keyboards have been all the rage. Razer, Logitech, and Corsair have all released RGB mechanical keyboards that allow control of each individual LED.

The Razer BlackWidow Chroma ($170) is clearly marketed towards gamers with its overall style, 5 macro keys, media keys, 10-key rollover, and mechanical switches; Razer even says that it’s “designed from the ground up specifically for gaming.” The BlackWidow Chroma uses Razer Green switches, similar to Cherry MX Blue switches in that they have a click and a bump upon actuation.

Logitech’s G910 Orion Spark keyboard ($180) uses the brand new Romer G switch type, which helped earn the keyboard our Editor’s Choice award in a review. The G910 offers a mechanical feel and noise without being overly loud or fatiguing to use; we found the keyboard’s software to be phenomenally well-designed, with the RGB switches featuring almost no bleed-through and very vibrant colors.

Corsair’s K70 and K95 RGB keyboards use Cherry MX switches, have a more reserved style, include a wrist rest, and have 104-key rollover – not that any human has that many fingers. The K70 lacks the 18 programmable macro keys that the K95 has. The Corsair K70 RGB is ~$170 on Newegg, while the K95 RGB is ~$200 on Amazon.

Unique And Notable Keyboards

There are three unique keyboards I would like to point out in this section, and they’re certainly not for everybody.

First is the Matias Laptop Pro, which uses Matias’ Alps-inspired, quiet click, mechanical switches. It is wireless and works with Macs, iPads, and any other bluetooth-supported device. The Matias Laptop Pro sells for $160. It is meant to be as quiet as possible while still feeling as good as other mechanical switches.

As mentioned in the beginning, the IBM Model M -- the original mechanical keyboard -- uses buckling spring switches rather than Cherry MX or Topre switches. Unfortunately, the Model M is no longer made, and buckling spring keyboards are basically non-existent. The saving grace to this is that the Model M is a tank, and most hold up well even to this day (so buying used isn’t out of the question, and one company makes replica Model Ms. Unicomp manufactures and sells Model Ms for $80-110. The downside to this is that the quality of Unicomps’ keyboards is not quite as good as the Model M, but they still have high build quality.

Final Thoughts

Now is one of the best times to buy a mechanical keyboard due to the multitude of options on the market, which has subsequently aided in driving prices down. We hope this guide helps in decisions on what keyboards to buy this upcoming holiday season; leave a comment below or on the forums if you require assistance!

As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below.

- Michael "The Bear" Kerns.

Last modified on November 24, 2014 at 5:20 am
Michael Kerns

Michael Kerns first found us when GN's Editor-in-Chief was tirelessly answering questions on reddit pertaining to a new product launch, likely after the Editor had stayed up all night writing the news post. Michael offered a tired Editor reprieve, taking over the role of questions-answerer-extraordinaire when it was most needed. These days, Michael can be found pulling his mechanical keyboard collection apart and building Frankenstein's Monster-like monsters of keyboards. Michael wrote the vast majority of our mechanical keyboard dictionary and is an expert in keyboards.

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