It will depend entirely on what key styles you like, what features you want, and what your budget it.
If you’re going to also be typing a lot on it, i would NOT get Linear keys (MX Reds and similar). Youll strain your hands quite a bit more because youll constantly bottom out the keys.
Get a tactile switch of some sort (MX Blue, MX Brown, or similar/knockoff).
Normally i’d say “go to your local Best Buy/Fry’s/Microcenter and try out the different switch types”, but … no bueno right now due to corona.
You can order a key tester (basically a little board with all the key switch types on it) to try them all out, but with shipping times inflated due to the virus, you’d be adding a week to your acquisition.
Personally, i recommend MX Browns (or equivalent) for a mixed-use scenario. They are slightly stiffer than Blues, still have a tactile bump (which lets you feel when the key actuates, so you dont have to bottom it out), but dont have the CLICK that the Blues do.
If you’re looking for something affordable but decent (not TEH BESTEST, but quite good), i can recommend the Cooler Master CK 550 (
You can get it with Outemu Browns, Blues, or Reds (knockoffs of the Cherry keys of the same names, and pretty good ones).
I have the smaller 10-keyless version - the CK 530 - with Outemu Browns and its quite good (typing this on it). I got it because it didn’t require software to manage the RGB (you can manage it fully with the keyboard itself) since most manufacturers dont have software for MacOS and i use this board on my daily driver Mac. I bought my wife the full size CK 550 for use with her daily driver Mac for the same reason, and she got it with Blues. She likes it quite a bit. The RGB control is actually pretty good considering it doesn’t use software. You can store 4 profiles and switch between them on the fly, and you can set each individual key to different colors or different behaviours, but its somewhat tedious since you have to do it all manually with key presses. Its easy to set the entire board to one color, though, or highlight the AWSD patch (there’s a setting for that), or to use one of the 12 or 13 built in affects (pulsing, strobing, rainbow puke, etc).
On PCs you can use CoolerMaster’s software as well, but being able to adjust it without is quite nice.
on my gaming PC, i have the now-unavailable ASUS ROG Claymore, which was a modular board (the Numpad is detachable from the TKL board and can actually be mounted on either side) which i bought because it integrates with AURA, so i can set it to match what my PC is doing. It has Cherry MX Browns. I’d recommend it, but… its expensive AF right now because its out of production. It also came in Blues and Reds.
I’ve also used Razer’s boards extensively and they seem to last just fine (as long as you avoid the ones between about late 2015 and mid 2017, so as long as you aren’t buying used you should be OK - they had a bad run of production when they switched OEMs). My original 2012 Black Widow Ultimate’s both still work (my wife uses them on her work computers, one at home and one at her office) even after having been doused with water on more than one occasion (my wife cant remember not to leave glasses of water near the keyboard and she’s a clutz + cats).
I had two versions of the Razer Black Widow Tournament Edition (the non-RGB one and the RGB one) and both held up great and are still being used - i used them on my Mac here before selling them on because i was tired of Razer’s garbage Mac software support. My wife also had a Vanilla Black Widow (2014) for some time. It’s in the closet and is used when working on other computers.
Corsair also makes (well, sells, they are produced by a few different OEMs) decent Keyboards, and their keyboard software is by far and away the best. None of the other brands have the depth of options that the Corsairs do - and if they made a TKL board with Browns i’d ditch my ASUS board (despite it being quite good) in a heartbeat, but all of their TKLs are Reds.
The Corsair software, you can program to have things like Pac Man chasing ghosts across the keyboard; someone did KITT from Knight Rider, lightning storms, all sorts of stuff, and you could layer colors, so it would be one color when un-pressed and a different color when pressed, or give off waves that would ripple colors (but go back to normal)…
I haven’t run into another board whose software lets you do layering and multiple simultaneous affects like the Corsair software does. And you can just download profiles other people have made, too. Its super intuitive. The boards are pricy, though, but the quality (at least in build quality) is pretty solid. I had their TKL board for a while (my wife now uses it on her gaming rig) with Reds and i just couldn’t deal with the linear keys.
And thats just the easy ones. There are other brands if you want to go higher quality (Ducky has some very high quality boards; they tend to use Cherry switches, or even higher end switches, but the price is to match (and they get binned shipments, so there is more consistency across all the keys than is typical), and there are even build-your-own kits where you can socket in whatever type of key switches you want (the guys who really get into this will even use different switches for different keys based on how hard you’re likely to hit a given key - they really go nuts for this stuff).
Simple, affordable, good quality, and RGB-able without Software:
Cooler Master CK 530/550 series. (Usually 70$ or less)
- they also have the MK 730/750 series, which is slightly nicer (uses genuine Cherry Switches and has an LED light bar around the bottom of the frame and comes with a detachable wrist rest) and cost commensurately more.
Slightly More expensive, more RGB tricks, but requires Synapse (their software):
Razer’s Black Widow series of keyboards. Uses their own brand of Cherry knockoffs (“Razer” Green, Yellow, Orange, which are basically Blues, Browns, and Reds).
- They also have the “Huntsman” which uses mechanical-optical hyrbid switches. Instead of having an actual physical switch mechanism, it has a light beam, that, when interrupted, triggers the switch. Ive found them to be as good as MX Blues or Browns, personally, but im not sure i’d pay what theyre asking.
Even More Expensive but with Great Software Control:
Corsair’s Keyboards. They have a wide variety and different options. Software control cant be beat for the RGB lighting. Expensive. Switch availability isn’t universal among all their boards (some come with many switch options, from Blues to Clears to the MX Silent, which Corsair has an exclusive deal with Cherry on, but others only come in one or two switch types (Usually just Reds and Speeds, which are like Reds that take even LESS pressure).
Someone else will have to chime in on Logitech’s boards. I hear some of them are decent, and some total garbage, but ive never had any personal experience with them. (Other than trying them out in-store, and i HATE that Romer-G switch that they developed. It feels like im typing on a mushy long-travel membrane board).
And someone who is a BIT more of a keyboard nerd than me would have to chime in with what is better than the “mainstream” mid-high end stuff (like Ducky or other high-end enthusiast brands).
If you just want a reliable keyboard that works, though, you cant go wrong with the CK 530/550. RGB, doesnt need software, nice metal decks, decent key choices, and wont break the bank (I only paid 55$ for my CK 530, and my wifes CK 550 was only ~70).
Looks like ASUS finally got the replacement for the Claymore out the door:
So, if you have a computer that uses AURA, you might want to consider it, if you care about integrating it with your case/rig lighting.