We watched over 40 video reviews and spent hours poring over written reviews to come to this conclusion, there isn’t a ‘best’ keyboard for everyone, it depends on your preferences.
With preferences mind, the keyboard we recommend is going to have many switch options to suit preference, it’s going to be tenkeyless for optimal hand placement, and it’s going to have great build quality.
We know there are a ton of keyboard options, for the purpose of this post we’re trying to serve a wide audience, which means the keyboard needs to be widely available to as many people as possible.
We love Ducky, Pok3r and happy hackers just as much as you do but we can’t recommend those for a wide audience.
We believe the Cooler Master Key Pro S is the first keyboard you should look at when looking for the best gaming keyboard for you.
What we liked
- Available in every conceivable layout, keycap and switch option
- Solid build quality
- Coolermaster history of quality
- Reputable Cherry MX switches
- Standard function row for keycap customizability
What we didn’t like
- Software isn’t the most polished
- No dedicated media keys
- No packed included wrist rest
For its price, you get super solid switch options, great build quality, a standard bottom row for customizability and all the core features you want in a gaming keyboard, including RGB. We also like that the keyboard comes with multiple size options to suit whatever preference. Coolermaster has been making rock solid mechanical keyboards for a long time now and we feel confident in Coolermaster’s consistency.
There are a lot of great alternatives to the Coolermaster if you’re looking for something different.
There are a lot of great alternatives to the Coolermaster, if you don’t fancy the MasterKeys then the Corsair K65 RGB Lux is a great tenkeyless alternative. The Corsair K65 comes with Cherry MX reds with RGB backlight, has a great aluminum frame and dedicated media keys.
The Logitech G Pro gaming keyboard is also an interesting option, featuring their very own Romer-G key switches with center column RGB lighting and dedicated media keys in a tenkeyless form factor.
Table of Contents
Why Mechanical Keyboards?
Mechanical keyboards are significantly more expensive than your typical pack in keyboard, is it worth the price premium, in our opinion, most definitely.
Mechanical keyboards are more durable than your traditional rubber dome keyboard while providing a significantly better gaming experience. Most people who do transition to mechanical keyboards find it difficult to go back.
On top of the performance benefits, they’re a lot more fun to own, which a ton of customization options to suit your specific needs and style.
What to consider in a gaming keyboard
Here’s everything you need to look out for in a gaming keyboard.
A keyboard with little flex or creaking when twisted is usually the best first sign of a high quality keyboard. There are a couple of factors that play into build quality; housing material, backplate, key caps and stabilizers.
Keyboard frames and housings are typically made with plastic or aluminum, there are some custom keyboards that can come in wood but those don’t come in a mass produced keyboard.
Both plastic and aluminum keyboards can provide the required stability a heavy use keyboard requires, but it comes down to the details.
Plastic frames need to be stable but also be a material that doesn’t rub, warp or attract fingerprints like crazy. Aluminum frames need to be machined properly with no rough edges and again provide great stability. Luckily, there are great options for any material type.
There are a constantly growing number of switch types. Switches can vary on actuation force, tactile bump, rated number of presses, noise and stem type. There isn’t a recommendation to be made here, this is entirely up to your preference. As much as we can describe the switches, you’re better off trying them for yourself, so either go to a store and try them out or WASD produces a 6-key tester just for this purpose.
Here’s a video of how the Cherry MX switches sound compared to each other.
One last factor to consider for switches is whether they’re plate mounted or PCB mounted. Plate mounted switches are mounted to a sheet of steel in the keyboard resulting in a sturdier keyboard and more consistent typing feel.
PCB mounted switches are usually a little bouncier, the keyboard will flex a little more when typing. The advantage of PCB mounted switches is they’re easier to de-solder to customize the internals, if you aren’t a hardcore mechanical keyboard customizer you won’t care about this part.
Cherry MX Blue
The MX Blue switch most resembles an old school IBM keyboard. Coming in at 50 grams of actuation force and with a tactile bump on the actuation point, the blue switches are more designed for typing than gaming. They’re still great for gaming though, it depends on whether you have heavy fingers when gaming and want to avoid misclicks if you have a bit of a wild style when gaming.
Cherry MX Brown
MX Brown switches when are a happy medium switch with less actuation force, at 45 grams, required than the blue switch and a lighter tactile bump. This means it’s a little easier for quick key presses but still provides a slight click response that’s quieter than blues. We find them better for gaming and it’s what we use as daily drivers.
Cherry MX Black
Cherry MX Black switches are medium/heavy switches, they require 60 grams of actuation force and do not have a tactile bump, it’s a linear switch. This switch is for gamers who prefer to rest their hands on the keyboard or have a stronger keyboarding style.
Cherry MX Red
Cherry MX Reds are pretty much lighter MX Blacks, they require 45 grams of force for actuation and are linear, with no tactile bump. These keys are great for gamers who play games that require a lot of fast repetitive key presses or just find the heavier keys too fatiguing.
Cherry MX Green
MX Greens are gamers with Hulk fingers that find blue switches too puny and light. Coming in at 80 grams of required actuation force, these tactile key switches are meant for gamers with a specific preference. These keys are likely suited better for pure typists who prefer a near typewriter level of resistance
MX Clears have the same actuation point as MX Browns at 45 grams of force but add the tactile bump at the top of the key press, this tactile bump has a force a 65 gram actuation force. This combination provides a unique key press experience that has a lot of initial friction on the keys. It’s typically not used for gaming and more geared for typists, but it’s definitely a switch you need to try before buying.
Cherry MX Speed Silver
MX Speed switches are a fairly new switch invented by Cherry, it has the same actuation force as Reds and Browns at 45 grams, but have a shorter travel distance to bottom at 1.2mm compared to the regular 2mm. What the short travel distance does it provide a much faster keystroke specifically for gaming. Like the MX Red it is a linear switch with no tactile bump.
Cherry Clones: Gateron and Kailh
There are an array of Cherry MX clone manufacturers out there that produce keyboard switches that use the same colour scheme as Cherry MX.
Gateron is the largest and most prolific, they produce switches with the same colour scheme as Cherry: ex, Gateron Blues perform similarly to Cherry MX Blues. Their performance isn’t exactly the same, there are minor difference in material and feel even though the shape and design are similar. Reddit user BOTY123 did a comparison on reddit.
Kailh switches are the other popular Cherry MX alternative but they perform more identically to MX Cherry switches. There have been some reports that Kailh feel slightly grittier, but most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference if they were blindfolded.
One thing to consider besides performance for these alternative switches is durability, Cherry MX has proven to be durable over the years, the verdict is out of Gateron and Kailh only because they’ve only been in the wild for a few years.
Razer keyboards previously used Cherry MX switches before building their own switch. The Razer Green switch is a tactile switch with an actuation force of 50 grams. The major difference between MX blues and Razer Greens is the reset distance, the distance the key must be unpressed to be ready for the next press. The Razer Greens reset for a new key press at lower distance meaning double taps and actions happen more quickly on Razer Greens. The lower reset point is similar in philosophy to the MX Speed Silvers, but with MX Blue characteristics. Tom’s Hardware did a very comprehensive review on Razer Greens.
Razer Orange switches are roughly an equivalent to the Cherry MX Browns, lighter and quieter, but still tactile. They have an actuation force of 45 grams with the same reduced required travel distance to activate the switch. The Razer Orange switch has nearly the same reset and actuation point, meaning you barely have to lift your finger to re-press that key, good for button spamming!
The last of the Razer switches, the Razer Yellow is the equivalent to the Cherry MX Red or MX Silver; linear switch with no tactile bump, 45 grams of actuation force, a shorter than normal actuation point at 1.2mm and a 0mm reset point. This switch is for gamers who need super fast key presses and will sacrifice typing accuracy or potential misclicks to get that speed.
Romer-G is Logitech’s own proprietary switch, which they use in many of their keyboards alongside Cherry MX. Romer-G’s are manufactured by Omron, maker of most of the switches in mice, and best resemble a Cherry MX Brown in terms of feel. The key difference with Romer-G switches is the design of the stem, Romer-G switches don’t use the common [ + ] cross pattern and instead features a light column in the middle of the switch to provide evenly lit RGB, the trade off is that you cannot use custom keycaps with any Romer-G switches. Lastly, Logitech boasts that Romer-G switches are designed to last 70 million presses, 20 million more than Cherry MX switches.
Topre switches are sort of like a high-end rubber dome keyboard, the same key feel as a traditional rubber dome keyboard without the mushiness and poor build quality of a generic keyboard. Topre’s compare most similarly to a Cherry MX Red switch with its 45 gram actuation force and smoother linear press. They can be good for gaming and great for people who love the feel of a rubber dome but want more quality. Be warned though, Topre switches come at a price premium on top of Cherry MX switches.
Alps and Matias
Alps and it’s clone type Matias switches are probably the rarest key switch type. Coming in both tactile in linear form, Alps switches are typically heavier than Cherry MX switches. They provide a very satisfying typing experience with a multi stage tactile kerchunk versus the one click wonders of Cherry MX switches. With that in mind, alps and matias switches aren’t really made for gaming.
There are a few more switch types out there, but for our purposes, these are the switches that can be purchased today on modern keyboards. If you’re looking for buckling spring and others then you likely don’t need this part of the guide anyway!
The build quality of keycaps plays an underrated role in the enjoyment of a keyboard. Most keycaps are made from two types of plastic, ABS or PBT and the construction of the keycaps can determine how fast the lettering wears away, how shiny, and how slippery the keycaps start feeling after longer use. Here are some terms to look out for when evaluating keycaps.
ABS Plastic vs PBT Plastic
ABS is the most common key cap plastic, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene keycaps are the baseline keycap and do a reasonable job in maintaining their initial feel. PBT, short for polybutylene terephthalate, is a harder more durable material for keycaps and is in general more resilient than ABS. In general, you want to get PBT keycaps if you can afford them and if you have the option for them over ABS.
Lasered or pad printed
The cheapest ways to add legends to your keycaps, these keycaps either have an ink printed or burned into the keycap to produce a label.
Doubleshot keycaps have different plastic injected into the entire keycap to produce the label. With this method, the label can’t wear off and will last the entire life of the keycap. Doubleshot keycaps also create much sharper looking labels compared to pad printing.
Dye Sublimated keycaps have ink heat treated into the plastic of the keycap. Compared to pad printed keycaps they’re much more durable. You’ll only find dye sublimated keycaps on lighter keys because dye sublimation only works with a darker ink and a lighter plastic, no white labels with this method.
There are many options for aftermarket keycaps if you’re so inclined, check out Pimp my keyboard if you’re interested in customizing the colours and material of your keycaps. In terms of our preference, we definitely love our PBT doubleshot keycaps, but just having PBT keycaps alone is a fairly big difference in feel compared to straight ABS keys.
This is a specifically gaming driven pick, so if you need your keyboard to also crush excel sheets then for sure get a numpad keyboard, for the rest of us, a tenkeyless keyboard allows your hands to be closer together when gaming, providing a better ergonomic set up and better performance.
Here are the size options available to you.
Full Size: Your traditional keyboard size, 104 keys with the numpad. Get this if you use your numpad for gaming or you also do a lot of number crunching outside of gaming.
Tenkeyless: ‘Less’ the numpad, which most games don’t use. 94 keys that include the arrow keys and function row.
60%: The smallest keyboard layout with 61 keys, this keyboard removed the arrow keys and function keys and only has the primary keys.
Software and Profiles
Most keyboards come packed with good software. The software is responsible for saving lighting profiles, macros and shortcuts. Pay attention to the software if you have specific preferences, from what we’ve seen there aren’t any bad software packed with keyboards, just varying levels of functionality.
Some keyboards don’t some packed in with software and have onboard memory to store specific settings.
This is up to your preference and makes no difference in terms of keyboard performance. RGB lit keyboards have the same switch and key cap options as regular keyboards, they just cost a bit more.
Wireless mechanical keyboards are rare and not recommended for a gaming setup. Matias and Filco make wireless mechanical keyboards using Bluetooth connectivity. Some users have reported some connection problems with Bluetooth and Windows 10.
Macro and Media keys
If you’re an MMO gamer or just want extra keys for controlling music, keep a look out for extra macro and media keys. A good amount of keyboards do have these keys including the Corsair K90 but many popular gaming keyboards don’t have them, so keep that in mind when shopping around.
Like macro keys, not all keyboards have an extra USB pass through for you to connect a mouse or whatever you want to the keyboard. Look out for this feature if it’s important to you.
Polling rate, key roll-over, and ghosting
This is generally a non-factor in modern keyboards, all current keyboards are responsive and poll usually at 1000 Hz. Polling rate, as defined in our best gaming mouse post, is how often your keyboard reports to the computer in a second.
Most keyboards come with 6 key rollover, which means your keyboard will track up to 6 simultaneous key presses at once, which doesn’t happen often. Most keyboards now also come with n-key rollover over USB meaning it’ll track an unlimited number of key presses at one time. Just keep in mind that some computer bioses don’t play well with an n-key rollover keyboard, how keyboards have gotten around that is to have a toggle between 6-key and n-key rollover.
Care and Maintenance Tips
Standard keyboard maintenance applies, make sure you regularly flip the keyboard and get rid of any hair, skin and dust out, it helps to have compressed air to help clear out your keyboard. To keep your keycaps in good shape, make sure to wipe your caps with a microfibre cloth and maybe some rubbing alcohol for any stickier situations.
If you have white key caps, some grit and grime might start staying on the keycaps, in that case a gentle bristle brush might be required to clean dirtier surfaces.
Here’s a great post on imgur from Ripster on cleaning keyboards.
The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S is our pick because it has size and key options for all preferences with solid build quality, standard keycaps for customization, decent software and of course, RGB lighting. It’s one of the first keyboards you should look at if you’re looking to get into mechanical keyboards.
Familiar fantastic build quality
Cooler Master has been a known quantity in terms of build quality, starting from their rock solid Quickfire Rapid line, Coolermaster has had a reputation of building quality keyboards with quality parts, and the Master Keys Pro line is no different.
A big pro is that the Master Keys Pro keyboards use the well known and reliable Cherry MX switches. Cherry MX switches have been the standard in mechanical keyboards for a long time, due to their performance and reliability over time. The MasterKeys Pro keyboard is available in blue, brown or red Cherry MX variants, with 3 different sizes. You’ll likely find a fit with one of their offerings.
The Razer Blackwidow keyboards are now using their own Razer branded switches, which have some interesting reliability and performance promises, but with the new-ness of these switches combined with some of Razer’s issues with quality control, we have to hold off on fully recommending the Blackwidow keyboards, but they’re definitely intriguing.
Similarly, Logitech is starting to use their own proprietary Romer-G switches in their keyboard lines. Again, we’re not 100% sure on the reliability of these switches just yet, and Romer-G switches cannot use custom keycaps due to their custom stem type.
Corsair keyboards are fairly limited with switch options, they have opted to stick with only Cherry speed and red options, which are advertised as gaming switches. This is great if you’re looking for only those switches, but considering that a majority of people are using brown switches, having a tactile offering for our recommendation was necessary.
While some of its competitors come with an aluminum frame, the Masterkeys Pro line is using rock solid plastic with no visible flex or creaking when tested. If you’re looking for an aluminum frame then the Razer Blackwidow line and the Corsair K65, K70 and K95 are going to be your choice.
Loads of customization
With the standard Cherry MX stem and stabilizers, along with standard bottom row keys and layout, the MasterKeys Pro is going to be compatible with essentially all aftermarket keycaps.
While the standard ABS keycaps are passable, this allows the MasterKeys to be infinitely customizable. Cooler Master makes this easy for us by including a keycap puller with the keyboard. Another benefit is when the standard keys get too slick or shiny, you have the ability to replace the keys, it’s almost like getting a brand new keyboard.
Of course, the keyboard comes with a good RGB implementation that allows for several lighting patterns out of the box. The RGB brightness and shine are good, with its white steel backplate it floods the keyboard with colour, it’s better than most other keyboards in this price range but not the absolute top-tier.
The software is okay, it does the job in that it allows for custom lighting profiles as well as the ability to download user created lighting profiles from their maker hub.
The keyboard can store up to 4 profiles on its onboard memory at a time, which means if you move to different computers, your keyboard will still use your saved colour profiles. You don’t even have to use the software, the MasterKeys Pro comes with a bunch of onboard setting features, here’s a video from Cooler Master outlining the onboard options:
The MasterKeys Pro comes with all the standard performance standards of modern gaming keyboards with a 1000Hz polling rate, N-key rollover and anti-ghosting.
With steel plate mounted switches, the MasterKeys Pro press and click consistently with no give when typing.
Flaws but not deal breakers
The MasterKeys Pro is a bit of a purist keyboard, it’s missing a few things that some gamers might prefer.
The macro functionality is limited to only the onboard setting, Coolermaster’s software doesn’t help in programming macros at all. On top of that, the macros are fairly simple with no delay functionality. You’re better suited looking for a Logitech, Razer or Corsair option if you’re a heavy macro user.
The Coolermaster doesn’t have dedicated media keys, relegating the media keys to a function key press. Luckily, if you care about media keys many of the other gaming keyboards have them. Similarly, there aren’t any dedicated macro keys, not surprising since Coolermaster is going for a slim, clean design.
The MasterKeys Pro doesn’t come with an included wrist rest, a bit disappointing at this price point, both the Corsair K65 RGB Lux and Razer Blackwidow X Chroma come with an included wrist rest.
If you prefer a wrist wrest then another model is likely for you, or you can buy an aftermarket one like this Grifiti Fat Wrist Pad.
Lastly, the keyboard does not feature a USB pass-through.
Who else likes our pick
PCAuthority gave the Coolermaster MasterKeys Pro a 5/5 stars calling it well made, with high quality materials and would have no hesitation recommending it to anyone
Tweaktown gave the Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L/S a 99% calling it the most controllable, feature rich keyboard on the market, and does not take up half of your desk like others will.
Bjorn3d gives the keyboard a 9 out of 10: Overall, the MasterKeys Pro S White is a definite ideal choice for someone who is wanting a mechanical keyboard; a classic design, bright white LED backlight, and Cherry MX keys.
Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S RGB has an 89/100 metascore on Techspot
Best Gaming Keyboard for MMOs
The Corsair K95 Platinum is the best keyboard you can get for MMOs. With 6 dedicated macro keys, super customizable macro programming, great build quality and switch options, the K95 Platinum is a clear winner here.
Corsair’s CUE software allows for detailed macros with delays and multi-step mapped to any key on your keyboard.
Best RGB Gaming Keyboard
If you really care about having the best lighting experience in a keyboard then the Logitech G Pro Keyboard is for you, they specifically created a new type of switch with RGB lighting in mind. With its Romer-G switches the Logitech G Pro produces a neat, label-only, RGB lighting effect. On-top of the lighting performance, Logitech’s software has an incredible 300 game specific profiles for lighting up certain hotkeys. See the RGB lighting in action here.
On-top of the great RGB lighting, the Logitech Pro still has great switches for gaming and a great form factor.
Best Budget Gaming Keyboard
If you don’t care about RGB, then this is a no brainer. The Cooler Master Key Pro S PBT ships without LEDS and replaces the shine through ABS key caps with a higher quality PBT keycap.
This model also comes with a variety of Cherry MX switches.
If you have no preference towards RGB then the PBT version of Cooler Master is hands down the best keyboard for you, it’s really obvious Cooler Master listens to their customers.
The funkiest new mechanical keyboard goes to the Asus ROG Claymore, which has a detachable mechanical numpad, you can put the numpad to the left or the right or go tenkeyless without it altogether.
As of April, Logitech, Corsair and Razer have just recently refreshed their gaming keyboard line ups with their own switches and featuring RGB prominently.
There are a couple of new switch types to be released soon. Cherry has been working on switches that offer the same feel as their current colours but with more silent variants. There are some companies working on producing their own switch types like the Halo True and Halo Clear.
Last price on Amazon: $62 wired | $80 wireless
|Switch||MX Cherry Red, Brown or Blue|
|Keycaps||Pad printed ABS|
|Layout||Standard full, TKL and hybrid medium|
|Response Rate||1000 Hz|
|Key Rollover?||6 key with n key auto|