Whether you are an experienced veteran gamer or just getting into gaming, having a quality gaming keyboard not only makes your PC look better—it can be beneficial to your gaming as well. Gaming keyboards are created to last longer than standard keyboards, ergonomically designed to stand up to long gaming sessions, and have features that can give you an advantage while you play.
Despite all the added benefits, finding the best keyboard for gaming doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, one of the top mechanical keyboards under $100 is all you need to make the most of your games. Here are a few things you need to know about choosing good gaming keyboards that give you the looks and functionality you want without breaking the bank:
How to Choose a Gaming Keyboard
When you are choosing the best keyboard under $100, there are quite a few things you need to consider beyond just how they look. Here are some of the features you need to look for when you buy:
- Anti-Ghosting Key Rollover
It sounds like a lot, but this is one of the most important features of a gaming keyboard. If you press down on multiple keys at the same time, your rollover is how many are registered. With a standard keyboard, you typically only get 1- or 2-key rollover. That means if you are holding one key, such as W to walk, other keys might not be registered at the same time such as trying to strafe or use an item at the same time.
Gaming keyboards typically have 6 (or more) key rollover, so you don’t run into this issue (commonly referred to as ghosting). Some keyboards feature N-Key rollover which means it will always register every keystroke, regardless of how many other keys you’re holding.
- Build Quality
If you are a heavy gamer, your keyboard needs to stand up to more than just ordinary office type use. Most PC games require quick and repetitive usage, so your keyboard needs to be made to last. When looking at build quality, you want to find a keyboard that doesn’t flex or bend when put under stress. Top gaming keyboards under $100 will either feature a very high durable plastic or, in some cases, metal as the backplate. These keep your keyboard safe no matter how frantic you get.
- Switch Types
For every key you press on a keyboard, a physical switch is pressed to send the keystroke from the hardware to the game you are playing. There are typically two types of keyboards you can purchase: mechanical (which we will talk about later) and membrane. The basics between these devices are durability, looks, and sound. Which one is better depends on personal preference and what kind of gamer you are.
What Is a Mechanical Keyboard?
Under an ordinary keyboard is a piece of rubber that presses down on the keyboard circuit to register a keystroke. A mechanical keyboard, on the other hand, doesn’t use a rubber dome and instead have a physical switch based on their characteristics: red, brown, blue, and black.
Mechanical keyboards last a lot longer than other types of keyboards. However, because they don’t use rubber switches, even the best mechanical keyboard will likely be louder than its membrane counterparts. A membrane keyboard will typically last about 1 million keystrokes. A mechanical gaming keyboard, however, can last 50 million (or more) keystrokes. Even though mechanical keyboards are typically more expensive, they last a lot longer which keeps prices down in the long run.
Since there are different key switches for the top mechanical keyboards under $100, you can also customize your keyboard to suit your exact playstyle and needs. Blue key switches provide tactile feedback, red switches are quieter but have faster keypresses, and brown is somewhere in the middle.
How to Test Keyboards
Gaming keyboards are designed to be used for hours at a time, so it’s important you find one that not only has the features you want but feels right as well. While you may not be able to stop in a brick-and-mortar store to test out every keyboard you want, there are a few tests you can do at home.
If you have your eyes set on a gaming keyboard and aren’t sure which switches to get, there are inexpensive switch testers. A switch tester is a small rectangular board with multiple (often 9) different switches on them as well as a test keycap. Simply put the test keycap on the switches and press down a few times. This will help you know the type of mechanical keyboard switch feels and sounds right to you. That way you get the best mechanical gaming keyboard under $100 that fits your preferences.
Once you have a keyboard you like, you will also want to make sure everything is set up correctly. You can test keyboard tests to see the latency between when you press a key and how long it takes the computer to register it. Make sure you have all of the drivers installed and run a thorough check on any added features such as macros and key bindings as well.
Things to Consider
When you are buying a new keyboard, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind that all top 10 gaming keyboards should have.
- Key Rollover – Always make sure your keyboard has at least 6-key rollover.
- Build Quality – Choose a keyboard that has a durable plastic or metal backing.
- Switch Type – For durability, choose a mechanical keyboard; for quiet, choose membrane.
- Macros – Many gaming keyboards allow you to program one keystroke to do multiple things. If that’s your preferred way to play, choose a keyboard that supports macros.
- Looks – Don’t forget about how the keyboard will actually look. If you want a keyboard with lights of a certain color, make sure the keyboard you choose supports customizing the RGBs.
With looking for the best keyboard for gaming, always try to find a balance between the features you want and the price. If you want a long-lasting keyboard that provides a lot of value, find one that has at least 6-key rollover, a guarantee for 10 million keystrokes, and is made with a metal or high-durability ABS plastic. Macro keys and customization software may not be necessary for your playstyle, so don’t spend money where you don’t need to.