Computer gaming keyboards just keep getting better and better as technology advances. In today’s post I want to talk a bit about what makes a computer gaming keyboard so great and focus on some models that are under 100 USD.
I mentioned in a previous post how gaming mice aren’t just for gamers, and the same is absolutely true for gaming keyboards. They’re built with gamers in mind, but anyone can benefit from the high quality engineering that goes into today’s gaming keyboard.
There are so many varieties of gaming keyboard to choose from these days that finding the right one can be daunting. One thing is for sure, gaming keyboards are not “cheap”, but there are marginally more affordable models available out there.
To make it a bit easier to understand what is all available I’ll go through the four top-brands below; first Razer, followed by Logitech, Corsair, and finishing up with Steelseries (last, but certainly not least).
Before we get to the brands, however, we should quickly talk about Anti-Ghosting and Key Rollover
Let’s dive in.
What is Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting?
A couple of features you’ll see when looking up the specs of gaming keyboards are “Key Rollover” and “Anti-Ghosting”. Gamers are often pressing multiple keys at once, and some standard keyboards can’t handle that very well, resulting in key strokes being lost (known as “ghosting”).
Anti-ghosting aims to prevent this, and you’ll see gaming keyboards have a feature such as “anti-ghosting up to 10 keys” which just means that you can press up to 10 keys at the same time and have them all register as expected.
Key Rollover (also sometimes called “NKRO”) is very similar, but is a bit more technical. This means that the keyboard has the ability to scan each keystroke individually (as opposed to having the PC doing it) which results in every button press being noted.
You’ll see Key Rollover listed as something like “10-key rollover”, and sometimes listed with the anti-ghosting feature.
So let’s get into the brands that are out there.
Razer Really Rocks.
Alliteration. It’s fun. Razer does really rock though, and is probably my favorite brand, though I still love Corsair and Logitech is great too. Okay, okay, Steelseries makes really good peripherals too and I know plenty of people that swear by them.
If you don’t know it by now, Razer’s slogan is “For Gamers. By Gamers.” and you can really tell they know what they’re doing.
Focusing on their gaming keyboards, there are several models available currently as of this writing in 2018. Here’s the list:
- Huntsman Elite
- BlackWidow Elite
- BlackWidow X Chroma
- BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2
- BlackWidow X Tournament Edition Chroma
- BlackWidow Ultimate
- BlackWidow X Ultimate
- BlackWidow X Tournament Edition
- Ornata Chroma
- Cynosa Chroma
- Cynosa Chroma Pro
As you can see there are so many options to choose from at Razer, which can make it fairly intimidating to find the right one for you.
First off, anything “Chroma” just means that you can completely customize the light-up color scheme, and for keyboards specifically this means individual buttons and/or under lighting (if available). Razer covers the entire spectrum of the rainbow with their colors, whereas other brands stick with red, green, and blue (“RGB”).
Next, if you know your price range then that will help you narrow down much further. Under 100 USD is the Cynosa, Cynosa Pro, BlackWidow X Tournament Edition, BlackWidow Tournament Edition, and the non-Chroma version of the Ornata.
There is also a Razer DeathStalker, but is shown as out of stock on Razer’s store, though you may still be able to find it on Amazon or elsewhere.
Everything else is at least $100 or more. Let’s focus on what is under $100, and in particular, I am going to skip over the two BlackWidow models and the non-Chroma Ornata I mentioned above and focus specifically on the Cynosa and Cynosa Pro.
Razer Cynosa is the Essential Model and is Under $100.
If you just need a gaming keyboard that gets the job done that you’ll be extremely happy with, then you want the Cynosa or Cynosa Pro ($59.99 AND $79.99 respectively). The only difference between the two is that the Pro has an under light, which is pretty cool.
The Cynosas have soft cushioned “gaming-grade” keys, whereas all the other Razer keyboards are one form of mechanical key or another. Mechanical keys tend to be a bit louder, but have a really nice “feel” to them that is hard to describe in words.
If you’ve never tried a mechanical keyboard then it’s worth a trip to your local Best Buy to see if they have any on display to try it for yourself.
With 10-key rollover and anti-ghosting along with spill resistance, this has everything you need to game effectively in style.
Razer, in a Nutshell
The newest model, the Huntsman and Huntsman Elite are pretty sweet, but highly expensive, as are the various iterations of the Black Widow model. They have so many options that it’s worth taking a peek at each.
Every other model costs at least 99.99 USD.
Logitech Lacerates Losers.
Whew! I need to rest my fingers after typing about Razer, and yes, that was alliteration…again.
Let’s talk about Logitech. Logitech is pretty decent. I can’t say it is where I would put my money, but I have had a couple of Logitech gaming keyboards in the past and was quite happy with them. Here’s their current line up as of this writing in late 2018:
- G512 Carbon
Something about Logitech’s naming theme being numbers just messes with me. It find it harder to understand than Razer’s spider theme (snakes for mice), but a name is a name and to each their own.
Let’s start with what’s under 100 USD, and I don’t consider 99.99 under 100 like a salesman would. 🙂
Logitech G213 for Starters
The G213 is labeled as Logitech’s best-seller on their store site. It’s also their cheapest, so perhaps there’s a correlation there? This keyboard has all the basics that are needed on a modern gaming keyboard.
The button colors are customizable, it claims to be spill-resistant, comes with an integrated palm-rest, and has built-in media controls. All in all this keyboard gets the job done nicely, however at 69.99 USD, I would prefer the Razer Cynosa Pro and save myself 10 bucks (sorry Logitech).
This keyboard does not have mechanical keys but is said to have a tactile feedback similar to mechanical. There are no specs regarding anti-ghosting or key rollover, so that is a bit of an issue to me. I’d recommend avoiding this model.
Logitech G413 Creeps Closer to $100 at $89.99
The G413 is a mechanical keyboard that has a nice brushed aluminum shell with a nice red back lighting (there are a few variations with different back light colors) and 26-key rollover.
You can replace the standard gaming keys, such as W, A, S, and D to name a few, with a “gaming key cap”, which has raised edges for your finger to sit nicely between.
There’s a few other nice, gaming specific features that a more hardcore gamer might find nice, such as programmable macros among others, so head over to the Logitech G Store if you want the full list of specifications.
Everything Else Above $100
Logitech’s keyboards are well-made. You won’t be disappointed if you go with them. Do a little research to determine what features you actually need (or want) before jumping in.
Logitech has their focus is a few different areas aside from gaming peripherals, so my opinion is that you’ll be happier with Razer, or perhaps Corsair or Steelseries, but they are absolutely worth looking into when shopping around.
Corsair Crushes Competition.
Okay, so I wanted to keep the alliteration thing going. Don’t let the title mislead you, I’m still a bit of a Razer fanboy and would not recommend Corsair over Razer, but Corsair still has their merits.
Like Logitech, Corsair’s focus is in a few different places, whereas Razer is all gaming peripherals. Regardless or that, Corsair knows how to make a quality product, so don’t count them out.
That said, I have a gripe with Corsair’s keyboards, in particular how they list them on their store. They’re even more cluttered that Razer. It’s actually a bit tricky to tell how some of the repetitive models are different, and quite frankly, I just lost interest while trying to research them.
I want to focus on what is under $100, but the few that are under $100 just make me want to tell you to shift your focus back to Razer or over to Steelseries. Please, by all means, take a look at Corsair’s store, but then keep the Razer Cynosa in the back of your mind. The Cynosa Crushes Corsair. Alliteration again, for the win!
Steelseries Slaughters Sissies.
You can’t stop the Alliteration attack. It’s infinitely influential. Steelseries is a highly popular brand in the gaming peripheral world and they just so happen to keep keyboard shopping refreshingly simplistic. Steelseries, like Razer, focuses solely on peripherals.
Actually, Razer is trying to branch out a bit so Steelseries is a bit more focused that Razer these days.
Here’s their list of available keyboards as of this writing in late 2018:
- Apex M750
- Apex M750 TKL
- Apex 150
- Apex M500
- Apex M400
As usual, I will focus on keyboards under 100 USD, of which Steelseries has two, the Apex 150 and the Apex M400.
Steelseries Apex 150 is Only $49.99
The Apex 150 has everything one would need to effectively and competitively game in style, including 24-key rollover with anti-ghosting, programmable keys and macros, and spill resistance.
The price comes in $10 under the Razer Cynosa, and $20 under the Logitech G213 yet has very comparable features to both, including RGB capability, and more key rollover.
It’s definitely worth considering. I still like Razer’s Cynosa just a bit better, but that is purely subjective as this is totally a viable keyboard with great specs.
Steelseries Apex M400 Comes in at $79.99
The Apex M400 is a mechanical keyboard with a blue LED back lighting which is, according to Steelseries’ website, “built like a tank”.
For the price, in my opinion, this keyboard isn’t worth it. It does have 24 key anti-ghosting, but is only blue back-lit. No RGB.
It feels like a model from a couple of years ago and although still completely viable, there are other models at this price point that have more fun features (i.e. Razer’s Cynosa Pro for the same price).
Gaming Keyboard Information Overload!
I’ve covered a ton of information above. Way more than I originally set out to, yet way less than I could ultimately provide if I kept going.
Gaming keyboards are essential for PC gamers, but you’re going to have to fork over some serious cash for some of the higher end models. If you spend a lot of time at your PC gaming, it is worth it.
Not only do they “feel” better than a standard keyboard, but they tend to look better as well. Razer’s under glow feature, for example, is really nice, as is their “Chroma” feature in general, providing more color options that typical “RGB”.
Colors are purely cosmetic, obviously. Other gaming-specific features on the higher-end keyboards can be a bit overkill for the average gamer. The Razer Cynosa Pro has a nice balance of everything one would need, and want, in a gaming keyboard and meets my price-to-quality balance standards.
All brands have a comparable keyboard, but unless you’re a pro gamer, you’re likely to be very happy with the Razer Cynosa Pro at $79.99.