Gaming keyboards contain customizable keys that can be mapped to perform game-specific commands, such as shoot, jump, reload or tilt. In addition, many feature programmable number pads and LCD screens that display in-game details. Most gaming keyboards also contain multicolored lighting (great for night owls) and a unique key layout designed to work in tandem with a regular QWERTY keyboard for increased control.
The Logitech G19 (*Est. $155) has been around for a while, but continues to be the leading gaming keyboard among reviewers. Daniel Lavery of GamingTech.org says "it's still one of the best -- if not the best -- gaming keyboard on the market, hands down." At Amazon.com, more than 120 users give the keyboard an average of 4 out of 5 stars, praising everything from its key action to its selection of color choices for its backlighting.
But the main G19 feature is the swiveling 320-by-240-pixel color LCD screen that displays dedicated information for more than 60 popular games, including "World of Warcraft" and "Call of Duty." This same screen can also display game stats, photos, RSS feeds, a clock and video (including YouTube). DigitalTrends.com praises the G19 for its 12 programmable G-keys, customizable backlighting and integrated USB ports, although editors ding the keyboard's mushy key feel and high sticker price.
At Gizmodo.com, Matt Buchanan likes the keyboard's built-in, "full-blown LCD monitor," despite its "good, but not exceptional" resolution. Critics also like the G19's 36 possible macros, broken into three sets of 12, along with the media controls and heavy spin wheel to control audio volume. ExtremeTech.com's Jeremy Atkinson loves the color LCD and programmable keys, but says that while the G19 "kicks butt," its high price tag is a significant drawback.
One more-affordable option that rates highly with critics is the Thermaltake Tt eSports Challenger Pro Gaming Keyboard (*Est. $60) , A Top 10 for 2010 pick by ComputerShopper.com (which also lists it in their current top 10 keyboards and marks it as being Good for Gaming, the Challenger Pro offers customizable profiles and 10 macro keys, along with adjustable red backlighting.
LegitReviews.com praises the features, giving it an Innovation Award, and says the Challenger Pro is an "excellent keyboard providing any gamer with exactly what they need to compete at a professional level." Editors there do wish for numbers rather than colors on the profile indicator and say that the tiny fan intended to cool sweaty fingers is anemic.
Reviewers also like the feature packed Logitech G510 (*Est. $95) . Editors at HardwareHeaven.com rate the G510 a 10 out of 10 and give it both a gold seal and performance award for its "excellent functionality," while Anthony Garland of EverythingUSB.com hails what he considers the "reincarnation of the original G15." The G510 gaming keyboard carries over 18 programmable keys and also brings back the G15's dedicated media controls. But Logitech replaces dual USB ports with integrated audio and microphone jacks and makes the GamePanel LCD stationary instead of adjustable, two modifications that leave Shawn Knight at TechSport.com disappointed. He also finds the backlighting too subdued and the wrist rest bulky.
For a larger budget, the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate (*Est. $130) receives several positive reviews. The BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard, with its mechanical key switches, receives an Editors' Choice for gamers at PCMag.com; a BenchmarkReviews.com Gold Tachometer award; high praise from TomsHardware.com in a comparative review of mechanical-switch keyboards; and an Editor's Choice from TweakTown.com. This gaming keyboard features blue backlighting, a matte finish to prevent fingerprints and customizable keys.