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Gaming mechanical keyboards: How to choose and are they really worth it?

Precision and speed are everything when it comes to gaming. That is why the best gaming mechanical keyboards enhance play via responsive keystrokes.
Corsair K100 RGB mechanical keyboard | Best gaming mechanical keyboard overall
corsair-k100-rgb-mechanical-keyboard
Corsair K100 RGB mechanical keyboard
Best gaming mechanical keyboard overall
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Razer Pro Type Ultra | Best gaming mechanical keyboard for work and play
razer-pro-type-ultra
Razer Pro Type Ultra
Best gaming mechanical keyboard for work and play
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Steelseries Apex Pro | Best gaming mechanical keyboard for customization
steelseries-apex-pro
Steelseries Apex Pro
Best gaming mechanical keyboard for customization
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Logitech G413 | Best budget gaming mechanical keyboard
logitech-g413
Logitech G413
Best budget gaming mechanical keyboard
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HyperX Alloy Origins 65 | Best compact mechanical gaming keyboard
A HyperX Alloy Origins 65 keyboard on a table in a room lit with blue and green RGB lighting
HyperX Alloy Origins 65
Best compact mechanical gaming keyboard
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Gaming mechanical keyboards are known for being more precise, long-wearing, and may be more comfortable to use over long periods as they require less pressure from your fingers to spring. When it comes to gaming, precision and speed are everything -- so it's no wonder many gamers opt to go mechanical if they can. 

The main difference between typical keyboards and mechanical setups -- the latter of which has been around for decades -- is that mechanical keyboards use individual switches and metal springs imbued in each key, rather than rubber domes which, when pressed, complete a circuit. 

Below, ZDNET has compiled our top mechanical keyboard picks for gamers in 2023, designed to suit hobbyists, professionals, and a range of budgets. 

Also: Level up with deep discounts on gaming laptops from MSI, Lenovo, and Asus

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Rapid performance
  • RGB lighting
Cons
  • Expensive
More Details

Features: Optical keys

This stunning mechanical keyboard, Corsair's K100, is a cut above the rest in design and functionality. Corsair has focused on refining the keyboard's response times with optical-mechanical keys and Axon technology, which the firm says offers up to 8x the performance compared to other gaming keyboards.

If you're a fan of RGB lighting, you'll enjoy the 44 zones Corsair has included. The keyboard also sports an iCUE control wheel, macro keys, media controls, and a palm rest. You will need to install Elgato streaming software.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Clean, classic design
  • Large and comfortable wrist support
Cons
  • LED backlight isn't RGB
More Details

Features: A design with productivity, work from home in mind

The Razer Pro Type Ultra is a mechanical keyboard developed for both gaming and work purposes. The keyboard doesn't feature that satisfying 'click' that some gamers would want. Instead, the vendor has implemented stabilizers and 'Yellow' mechanical switches to reduce sound. The fuss-free design might appeal more to professionals than to hobbyist gamers. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • RGB lighting
  • Customizable key sensitivity
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Not great for smaller desks
More Details

Features: Adjustable switches

The Steelseries Apex Pro has been on the market for several years but still stands out as a solid mechanical keyboard option for gamers. This product features a full-sized keyboard, an ample wrist rest, and mechanical switches that can be adjusted for sensitivity, an unusual addition. Furthermore, the keyboard is wrapped in an aluminum frame. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Resistant to wear and tear
Cons
  • No RGB lighting
More Details

Features: A basic, but sturdy, entry-level design 

The Logitech G413 is an excellent entry-level mechanical keyboard to consider. The G413 is reminiscent of traditional keyboards in both key layout and frame, featuring an aluminum top case, PBT keycaps, and tactile switches.

Features:Compact design with USB connection

This incredibly compact mechanical keyboard from HyperX is perfect for anyone who has a desk on the smaller side. By focusing on the main typing area of the keyboard, HyperX was able to design a super compact keyboard that feels as great as a full-size model. It also features RGB lighting so you can show off your personal style or sync with other HyperX peripherals. And with a USB connection, you won't have to worry about a battery dying in the middle of a game or your PC dropping a Bluetooth connection during a critical moment.

What is the best gaming mechanical keyboard?

Our top choice for the best gaming mechanical keyboard is the Corsair K100 RGB. This keyboard's optical switches and rapid responsiveness keep it a forerunner and will especially appeal to gamers with a little more to spend. The RGB lighting and aluminum design are a stylish touch.

Mechanical keyboard

Optimized for gaming?

Customizable lighting/keys?

Price

Corsair K100

Yes

Yes

$205

Razer Pro Type Ultra 

No

No

$130

SteelSeries Ape Pro

Yes

Yes

$139

Logitech G413

No

No

$70

HyperX Alloy Origins 65

Yes

Yes

$100

Which is the right gaming mechanical keyboard for you?

There are plenty of gaming mechanical keyboards on the market and when you choose your next one, you should consider the desk or space you have available, whether or not customizing keys is important to you, and how much you are willing to spend. 

Choose this mechanical keyboard...

If you want...

Corsair K100

The best performance possible 

Razer Pro Type Ultra

To combine work and play

SteelSeries Apex Pro

To customise per-key sensitivity 

Logitech G413

A budget-friendly option

HyperX Alloy Origins 65

A very compact, ten-keyless mechanical gaming keyboard

How did we choose these gaming mechanical keyboards?

There is a huge variety of gaming mechanical keyboards on the market today, spurred on in no small way by gaming enthusiasts and professionals who prefer them to more typical, rubber-based keyboard options. 

When we made our selection, we included the major, well-known peripheral manufacturers in the space, as well as products suitable for a range of budgets. 

Is a gaming mechanical keyboard really worth it?

Using a keyboard is, of course, down to subjective experience and personal preference. However, if you like a kit with a more stable, quality feel, it might be worth the investment. 

It should also be noted that properly-cared mechanical keyboards can last far longer than their membrane counterparts. 

Are gaming mechanical keyboards really better for gaming?

If you are an enthusiastic gamer, the consensus is that gaming mechanical keyboards can allow you to respond faster and more accurately -- which can make or break a speed run or tournament. When you need to use multiple keys, and quickly, rubber-based boards may be inaccurate or sluggish in comparison. 

Moreover, with proper care, they'll last longer. Therefore, you'll receive enhanced game play and better durability than traditional keyboards. 

Is it harder to type on a gaming mechanical keyboard?

Whether you're trying out a different keyboard format or are learning to touch type, using a gaming mechanical keyboard can be a learning curve. In itself, your accuracy and speed are based on your typing skills rather than the kit you use, and so -- at least, at the beginning -- it might be harder to type in the beginning. 

However, if you enjoy the audible "click" of most mechanical keyboards and the feel of the individual springs, it might, at the least, be more enjoyable.

Are there any alternative mechanical keyboards worth considering?

While deciding on the best products on the market, we focused on usability, versatility, and options suitable for individuals new to mechanical keyboards as well as those experienced in using these types of keyboards for gaming. 

However, there are also other mechanical keyboard options worth considering:

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