Best Gaming Keyboards Under $100
Due to such great feedback regarding gaming pads, I have been asked by many readers regarding what type of gaming keyboard I use. I figure I will use this opportunity to review a few different ones for under $100 (not including tax).
Now a solid gaming keyboard can make all the difference in terms of macro execution, movement, customizability, and response.
Now you can go out and buy a $200 super gaming keyboard, but lets be honest a better graphics card is a better buy for $200. So what is out there that can handle World of Warcraft? Actually there are 4 in particular that are pretty good that won’t break your budget either. Please note all the MSRP numbers on these keyboards come direct from the company sites. Browsing on Newegg you can find the prices reduced, some even by as much as $20 off.
Lets get to the reviews.
- Multi-colour back lighting with Tru Vu illumination through keys (mix shades from Red through Amber to Green) and adjustable brightness
- Touch-sensitive, backlit dashboard control panel
- WASD, cursor, ‘Cyborg’ and NumPad keys can be lit independently from the rest of keyboard to highlight commonly used gaming keys
- Cyborg Mode – instantly disable the Windows keys and configure the colour and brightness of your gaming keys at the touch of a button
- Set and forget – persistent key illumination settings ensure colours remain even after a system reboot
- 12 programmable ‘Cyborg’ keys
- Hard wearing, metal-plated key caps in key gaming areas
- Pass-through USB, audio and microphone sockets
- Enhanced multiple key presses in gaming areas for complex in-game commands
- Adjustable wrist rest and keyboard rake angle (front and back)
- Gold-plated connectors for USB and Audio
The metal WASD buttons, which will help with that extra wear and tear you put on movement (assuming you do not use a gamerpad for movement). These keys also have a separate light region, which means you can light them up a different color than the rest of the keyboard, nothing that is a necessity but a nice to have fun feature indeed. Also the “Cyborg Mode” disables the windows key, which is great for anyone who went to hit alt, but instead hit the windows key and was popped out of game and was staring at their desktop in the middle of a raid. 2 great features though are the USB 2.0 port on the back and the audio jacks, nice to not have to run something to your computer and just use the keyboard instead.
The software included is quite cumbersome, its not intuitive like the Logitech’s Set Point suite. And programming in those macros is a pain as you have to fumble through it a bit. The cyborg (macro) keys are a nice feature but they don’t necessarily feel like normal keys and you get that cheap feeling form them.
Razer the company known for gaming peripherals has as its flagship the Tarantula. This is a sleek black board that could be mistaken for almost any keyboard if it weren’t for some nice gaming features and the glowing Razer symbol at the bottom.
- Anti-ghosting capability for up to 10 keys
- 32KB Razer Synapse™ on-board memory
- On-The-Fly Sensitivity™ profile switching
- 10 programmable gaming hotkeys
- 1000Hz Ultrapolling™ / 1ms response time
- Hyperesponse™ gaming keytop with fully interchangeable keys
- Headphone-out and microphone-in jacks
- Media center keys
- Two USB ports
- Gold-plated USB connector
- Razer Battledock™ for add-on accessories
- Approximate size: 522mm (length) x 220mm (width) x 33mm (height)
Convenient USB ports on the back for small power requirement devices (see cons for the reverse side of this). You have 10 programmable macro keys (5 on each side), which may not seem like a lot but on the keyboard is a button that lets you switch profiles which lets you set different macros to each profile thus making more macros available to you at any given moment. Did I mention you can have 100 different profiles, well you can. What is really cool are that you get 10 “gaming keys”, that you can change out any other key on the keyboard, basically making the keyboard your own personal Frankenstein (only better looking). The software is also pretty decent better than the Cyborg, not sure its better than Logitech’s SetPoint, but it does the job. You can store 5 profiles onto the keyboard’s on-board memory and take the keyboard with you anywhere you go and use those profiles, that’s a pretty slick feature.
The Tarantula uses 2 USB ports to run, thats right 2, which seems a bit excessive. USB ports are only 1.1. Macro recordings are limited to only 8 key presses.
This keyboard by Steel Series essentially combines the advanced controls of a game pad into the keyboard. With the built in gamer pad with a WASD button setup and buttons floating all round you have a complete package in one keyboard.
- SteelSeries Z Engine enables programmability of all keys
- Pre-defined profiles for more than 150 games
- 3 color illumination options: blue, purple and red
- Internal hub with 2 USB ports
- Anti-ghosting capability: Up to 7 simultaneous keystrokes
- Special gaming key area
- Rubberized movement keys for enhanced tactile feedback
This keyboard provides you with 2 USB 2.0 ports on the back. Backlit lighting options of 3 different colors. The built in gamer pad area will no doubt save you money. The included software interface for customizing the Merc is well put together and intuitive. Overall the keyboard is built solidly.
Once more if you are a lefty, this keyboard was not made for you unfortunately unless you game like a righty. Seems like a lot of specialty buttons were designed with FPS games instead of MMOs. If you already have a gamer pad this keyboard provides duplicate functionality.
4. Logitech G15
The latest Logitech G15 has made a lot of changes since the first, it has a sleeker design for one. Also the LCD screen is no longer flip top, and they have removed a row of the “G-keys”. All that makes this latest generation G15 look a lot more polished than its predecessor.
- High-visibility GamePanel™ LCD: Displays game stats and other important system information.
- Illuminated characters: Choose from three levels of brightness. Locate keys easily in both bright and low-light conditions.
- Six programmable G-keys: Perform single keystrokes or complex macros with six fully programmable G-keys. Create macros on the fly, without having to pause the action.
- Intelligent cable management: Keep mouse, headset, and other cords out of the way by routing them through channels on the underside of the keyboard.
- Instant media access: Use the convenient one-touch controls for volume and media playback.
6 G-Keys, all programmable, with 3 profiles per game making 18 total macros available per game. Amber backlighting on all keys. 2 USB ports on the back. In game the LCD screen defaults to showing your stats, so without opening your character screen you can see what different buffs do to your stats like Strength, Agility, etc. Also the programmers at Blizzard have fully supported this keyboard from the get go, so even when entering battlegrounds you are presented with Battleground information like kills, deaths, etc. right on the LCD. Also an open API allows mod developers to make LCD mods for the keyboard which can be found at g15mods.com. Also has a gaming mode button so you do not accidentally hit the Windows key and flop out of game.
No customization on the backlighting for the keys. USB ports on the back are only USB 1.1 and not 2.0. Having to switch profiles if you want more than 6 macros at any given time.
So in the end I can sit here and tell you which keyboard you should buy, but the fact is every gamer is different and has different needs. So look over these options find the right one for you. For me I picked up the Logitech, because I loved the LCD support from Blizzard, and with my n52te gamer pad I didn’t need to have that many macro keys anymore. But for those who haven’t gotten a gamer pad, the Merc Stealth may be your best bet. Those who are in love with the look and sci-fi nature of a touch screen dashboard may enjoy the Cyborg. Then there are the die hard Razer fans who may love that Tarantula board. Just pick the one that’s right for you, but remember there are great options for under $100, and check out Newegg.com for better deals on these boards than the MSRP.