SA gaming keyboard price roundup: backlighting on the cheap

Backlighting is so useful for late-night gaming, but does such a feature necessarily command a high price? Our roundup suggests otherwise.

July 4, 2013
Gaming keyboard hardware header

In this article we’ll be looking at a roundup of locally available keyboards that have backlighting suitable for late-night gaming.

Some gaming experiences are best done in the dark. Horror games, engrossing platformers and first-person shooters are all much easier to enjoy when you’re playing by yourself with the headphones on and most of the lights off. But occasionally you need to see your keyboard to figure out where the melee button button is, or to type a message to a friend (and not everyone has had touch-typing training). It’s times like these that a keyboard with good backlighting can make all the difference.

In the table below we go through a roundup of several keyboards that are not only cheap, but also feature some great backlighting. Mechanical switch and plastic membrane keyboards will be considered and preference will be given to keyboards with backlighting that actually works. The lowest prices for the keyboards are highlighted in Bold. Our budget will be maxed out at R1,000.

Backlit Keyboards
Rebel Tech Wootware Ikonix Sybaritic Takealot
Genius Imperator  398  387  429
Gigabyte Avivia K8100  639  676  696
Steelseries Apex RAW  805  905  853  999
Cooler Master Quickfire Pro Brown  837  888  845
Logitech G110  888  897  939  1021

Genius Imperator (± R404)

Genius Imperator gaming keyboard

Genius Imperator gaming keyboard

The Genius Imperator is part of the company’s turn-around in their design process. Genius now makes some very nice-looking products for the low-end and budget markets and in some respects even bests the bigger brands that charge far more for certain features.

The Imperator is membrane-based and won’t have a lot of quality or any tactile feel to the keys, but it does what it’s supposed to do – deliver a gaming-centric backlit keyboard for not a whole lot of money. Its stuck to the colour Blue, but offers eight intensity levels and even some macro key functionality.

Gigabyte Avivia K8100 (± R670)

Gigabyte Avivia K8100 gaming keyboard

Gigabyte Avivia K8100 gaming keyboard

This keyboard started off the low-end backlighting craze and is one of the more comfortable membrane-based offerings out there, owing to the large wrist-rest. Like the Imperator, it offers a fully backlit US keyboard layout for a very cheap price.

The wedge design is a little old these days and reminds one of an Alienware desktop. The orange backlighting might not be to everyone’s taste either, but it does offer anti-ghosting for up to ten keys and is nothing if not sturdy. Gigabyte has also released two other versions of the K8100, notably one decked out in bright red or yellow and two further updates offered either blue or red backlighting.

Steelseries Apex RAW (± R890)

Steelseries Apex RAW gaming keyboard

Steelseries Apex RAW gaming keyboard

The Apex RAW looks very different and that’s down to the strange spacebar key – it’s wedge-shaped instead of being a thin bar. It has a matte finish, white backlighting and curved keys that are customised to fit better to the fingers that will be hitting them.

Like the other keyboards here it has a nice built-in wrist rest and also features media controls and macro buttons. Finding functionality like this on keyboards this cheap is quite a surprise, but it is also a sign of how the times are changing and more people are using these products for working in the office. The Apex RAW is  good choice and is the second-last membrane keyboard I would choose thanks the the company’s no-frills design.

Cooler Master Quickfire Pro with Brown switches (± R857)

Cooler Master Quickfire Pro gaming keyboard

Cooler Master Quickfire Pro gaming keyboard

I’m recommending the Quickfire Pro here because I actually own one. After about a month of deliberation I finally have my own mechanical keyboard and its great. Unlike the others here it only has partial backlighting in a lovely red over 27 keys that are the ones used mose for gaming.

Its solidly built, reasonably quiet, has a nice feel to the keys and it is completely driver-less. This keyboard will work on Windows, OS X and Linux machines without a hitch, which is something one can’t usually say about any other keyboard. It lacks macro functionality and it isn’t particularly pretty, but the fact that there are zero frills is actually its best attribute. The USB cable is also detacheable, making storage easy and avoiding any damage to the ports while carrying it to LANs.

Logitech G110 (± R936)

Logitech G110 gaming keyboard

Logitech G110 gaming keyboard

Logitech is the granddaddy of the gaming keyboard market, being at the top with its membrane offerings for a very long time. Although hits like the G15 and the new G19 have made it a favourite with fans, its the cheaper variants that offer almost the same package that are the ones most snapped up.

The G110 is the successor to the G11 and offers customisable backlighting, a detacheable palm rest, media controls, macro keys and on-the-fly-recording. There’s even ports for your headphone and microphone as well as a USB 2.0 port and a number of other nifty little features that Logitech added on. As a previous owner of a G11 keyboard, I can’t recommend this enough to people who aren’t sure which one to get.

More Hardware news:

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Tags: Avivia K8100, Cooler master, customisable backlighting, gaming keyboard, Genius, Genius Imperator, Gigabyte, headline, logitech, Logitech G110, mechanical keyboard, Quickfire Pro, roundup, SteelSeries, Steelseries Apex RAW

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