Best keyboard 2017: the best clacky-keyed peripherals money can buy

Whether you're looking to upgrade your existing keyboard or re-energise your gaming setup, these are the boards for you

These days practically everyone has a PC in their home, so that means practically everyone has a keyboard to their name as well. Thing is, a lot of us have had the same peripheral for years - perhaps you're still using the one that was packed in with the original PC bundle you bought or the one that's simply always been in front of your monitor.

Thing is, there's an entire market of keyboards out there to choose from and, just like every other piece of tech in your humble abode, you should make sure you've got the right model keeping you in control of your tower.

Membrane keyboards are the old school kind - the ones your old Dell or HP PC was packaged up with - so there's a good chance it's the one you're probably used to using. Thing is, membrane keyboards notoriously don't last that long, leading to many a missed keystroke and one very smashed up peripheral.

Thankfully, keyboards have evolved and that higher form of existence is the humble mechanical version. The big difference are the switches - the slots that each key on a keyboard fits into when pressed. A mechanical version is there to recreate the clacky feedback of using a typewriter, conjuring up a far more substantial amount of feedback. 

As such, they've become incredibly popular with PC users and have become the go-to design for anyone looking to have a proper, reliable PC setup at home. So, we've decided to put together an up-to-date buying guide for ten of the best mechanical keyboards on the market in 2017.

Most of the models we've selected are either gaming focused or ideally suited to PC gaming - however, this doesn't mean they can't be used by non-gamers or those with a more career-focused use in mind. Whether you're a writer or you're running your business from home, we have just the mechanical keyboard for you.

Lots of the keyboards in this guide feature different kinds of mechanical switches, with each one offering a different kind of feedback. Some use White Alps or Black Alps - these are the most common switches, with the White Alps being the more popular of the two due to their pronounced tactility.

Most, however, use a form of switch known as a Cherry MX. These are broken up into colours - black, red, brown, blue and clear - with each one offering a distinctly different feel. Much of this comes down to preference, but certain types suit certain tasks more than others.

These keys are particular popular with gamers due to the ability to choose between clicky/non-clicky and linear/non-linear variants. Most keyboards enable you to swap switches if you're not enjoying the ones you're using so don't feel like you're stuck with one model once you invest in it.

The Cherry MX black is the switch of choice for gamers who play online in the likes of League of Legends and Dota 2. The black variant is 'linear', meaning the keystroke does give you as much of clack, reducing the amount of feedback as you're smashing the keys in a heated moment. So don't be afraid to try out a few before you buy - there's almost certainly a switch type out there that's just for you.

Top 10 mechanical keyboards 2017

Cougar 700K

+ Handy macro and multimedia keys

+ USB pass-through

- Orange backlight can't be customised

One of the cheaper boards in this guide, the 700K from Cougar offers plenty of features for its sub-£100 price tag. For a start, you're getting that popular Cherry MX set of mechanical switches, which comes in the red variant that requires less of a press than the black versions.

It's also got a handful of multimedia and macro keys enabling you to customise links to certain apps or actions in-game. The 700K also has a 1MS response time (making it ideal for twitch-style games) and includes USB and audio pass-through built in. It's not the most attractive of boards on our list, but it's pretty.

Logitech G810

+ Smart media keys

+ Simple, yet responsive design

- Lack of Cherry MX isn't for everyone

Another board with a respectable price tag attached, the G810 is Logitech's attempt to create a powerful gaming keyboard that strips away all the LCD and LED bells and whistles in favour of a peripheral that's all about superior control.

Interestingly, the G810 doesn't feature the much-loved, often used Cherry MX switches - instead it uses Logitech's own Romer Gs, which are a little shorter than their popular counterparts and provide a linear feel that's just as responsive with less of a press.

It's not the kind of board that leads in the way in any particular area - think of it more as a solid all-rounder that offers an impressive alternative for an affordable price.

Corsair Strafe

+ Choice of Cherry MX types

+ USB pass-through

- No media keys or macros

Coming in red, brown and silent variants of the ever-popular Cherry MX switch, the Strafe from Corsair remains one of the firm's most impressive offerings. Once a rather expensive outlay, the original Strafe is now a far more affordable £80, offering a robust steel core that reduces flexing and retains a distinctly premium feel.

While it doesn't boast the top-level features of its K series big brother (you won't any RGB lighting or media keys here), but for anyone looking for a cracking all-round keyboard with USB path-through and a price tag that won't make you spit your coffee all over the screen, the Corsair Strafe is a great choice.

Das Keyboard Division Zero X40

+ Robust and rigid design

+ Alpha-Zulus work just as well as Cherry MX

- Side-set macro keys

The X40 is one of those rare beasts that comes boasting a serious selection of premium features alongside a price tag that's more than agreeable. For a start it comes with its own take on the beloved mechanical switch - the Alpha-Zulu - which work and feel just like a Cherry MX.

Then there's the five programmable macro keys (with some, rather bizarrely, positioned on the side of the device), that all important USB pass-through and a handy gaming mode that disables certain keys to avoid unnecessary in-game mistakes. It even comes with a set of interchangeable aluminium panels that create a solid backbone of a keyboard.

Cherry MX Board 6.0

+ Ideal for typing and gaming

+ Incredibly sturdy design

- Closeness of keys isn't for everyone

Cherry's very own flagship mechanical keyboard aims to combine the features of a gaming device with the lower clearance of a normal peripheral. The end result is a great hybrid keyboard that ticks both boxes without too much compromise on features.

The keys are positioned closer than most mechanical keyboards, making it ideal for typing, and its own Gold Crosspoint precision module makes it perfect for gaming at a variety of levels. The 6.0 is also great for reducing ghosting and ensuring every keystroke is recognised instantaneously.

The added boon of a strong aluminium top case makes this keyboard feel like it could withstand a nuclear holocaust, while offering a look that's both modern and satisfyingly retro all in one package.

Roccat Ryos MK Pro

+ Two 32-bit ARM Cortex processors

+ Four switch styles

- Wrist-rest can't be removed

Roccat's first attempt at a mechanical keyboard for the gaming crowd is an impressive feat, combining the customisation options of a gaming peripheral with the comfort of a typing device. Each key is individually backlit (for added ambiance), with the inclusion of N-key for anti-ghosting.

With two 32-bit ARM Cortex processors built in, the MK Pro has more than enough individual processing power to support a lot of customisation options. Those eight macro keys are spread out across the whole keyboard too, so there's plenty of choice with this keyboard.

The MK Pro even comes with a soft wrist-rest - however, this can't be removed making it slightly awkward to use for prolonged gaming sessions (at least until you're used to it). Still, this remains a great premium mechanical keyboard.

SteelSeries Apex M800

+ Incredibly fast, low travel switches

+ Impressive RGB lighting options

- Construction feels a little flimsy

The new M800 model from the esteemed minds at SteelSeries is one of the fastest mechanical keyboards you can buy (thanks mainly to its QS1 keyswitch featuring 1.5mm key travel and 45cN actuation force). SteelSeries has built this peripheral with pro gaming in mind and it shows - that low travel makes for ultra accurate response times with minimal fuss.

For the price, we found the build of the Apex M800 to be a little flimsy compared to other models in the same category, but with RGB lighting (including eight brightness levels and 16.8 million colour options for your keys) and six programmable macro keys it works like the premium device its price tag suggests.

Topre Realforce RGB

+ Super-responsive Topre switches

+ Impressive backlighting

- Very expensive

When it comes to the highest tier of premium mechanical keyboards, the Topre Realforce RGB sits right there at top with its powerful RGB lighting, incredibly responsive bespoke keys and more. It's a beast of a peripheral, and one that comes with only a few niggling issues.

The switches in the Realforce RGB do support Cherry MX if you really want to swap them out, but the Topre variant that comes with the Realforce RGB is so powerful and ready for customisation (you can actually adjust the actuation from 1.5mm to 3mm) you'd be mad not to use it.

Annoyingly, considering the price, you don't get a keycap puller or a comfy wrist-rest (so that's an extra outlay if you need them), but with all that customisation we can almost forgive their absences.

Razer BlackWidow X Chroma

+ Impressive durable build

+ Improved cable routing

- Razer switches aren't as robust as Cherry MX

Razer has been in the gaming peripheral business for a long time, so we've come to expect an esteemed level of quality from the green-tinged American manufacturer. Thankfully, the BlackWidow X Chroma keeps that tradition alive with a mechanical metal construction that's so sturdy it's practically military.

Alongside some sumptuous RGB lighting (with 16.8 million customisable colour options, naturally), the BlackWidow X Chroma offers serious durability with a whopping 80 million keystrokes of use promised by the good folks at Razer.

Built with Razer's own mechanical switches, the Blackwidow X Chroma delivers an accurate response with an additional 10 key rollover for high anti-ghosting. You also get your standard programmable macro and multimedia buttons - it's just a shame it's so light on the features elsewhere.

Corsair K95 RGB Platinum

+ Superior build quality

+ Sleek, narrow design

+ Supports different gaming profiles

- A tad expensive

While the Strafe offers a decent mechanical keyboard for first-time adopters, the K95 RGB Platinum represents the pinnacle of Corsair's range and is the ideal peripheral to upgrade to when you're ready to take your gaming credentials pro.

For a start there's the solid, sturdy aluminum casing that ensures this expensive addition to your home PC setup remains fully functioning for years to come. Then there's the 8MB of memory built in, enabling you to not just program keys, but store gaming profiles so you flit between them on the fly.

The Platinum is a lot thinner than previous models, which does see the macro key count drop from 18 to six, but we much prefer the sleeker, narrower design so the macro reduction doesn't feel like too much of a compromise. Still, with Cherry speed switches as standard, a ultra-comfy wrist-rest and 16.8 million backlight colour options, the Platinum is an undisputed mechanical must-have.