Harry Domanski, Joel Burgess and Dan Gardiner get their fingers into 2017’s top gaming keyboards to see what new features click, and what’s just colourful fancy.
While per-key RGB keyboard backlighting is the hot new trend on gaming laptops in 2017, the multicoloured backlighting system is basically now a staple amongst dedicated high-end PC keyboards this year. The upshot of this ubiquity is that the software from various vendors is sophisticated enough to allow fully colour-coded key arrangements and lighting profile synchronisation across multiple peripherals.
While there is one membrane keyboard in the roundup, it’s clear that the market has radically shifted away from this cheaper (and quieter) interface tech. As always, Cherry switches underpin the vast majority of mechanical keyboards available, although Razer and SteelSeries are determined to build their own switches from the ground up.
Also divided is the landscape between vendors that make you settle for the mechanical key type it’s decided on for a particular keyboard model and those that’ll let you swap in your choice of switches. Occasionally, a key style will line up with the specific niche that a vendor is spruiking, but generally, vendors try to give you your choice of loud actuation feedback, a subtle bump or the consistent resistance found in the respective Blue, Brown or Red mechanical key switches, on whatever keyboard they can.
Logitech has broken the mould with a wireless mechanical keyboard (G613, p48), but as much as we hate the girthy data pipes connecting your keyboard to your PC (especially the double and sometimes triple cabled keyboards with USB passthrough and audio inputs), the lack of backlighting is a big hinderance that makes it seem like there isn’t a particularly bright future for wireless gaming keyboards. That said, around the $150 sweet spot, there’s a number of excellent contenders that’ll give you the responsiveness and comfort of a professional gaming keyboard, with a few perks like RGB lighting and macro key configurations, thrown in.