Mechanical Keyboard Buying Guide

A mechanical keyboard is a keyboard built with high quality, typically spring activated, key switches.


While some of the first widely sold keyboards such as IBM’s Model M in the 1980’s utilized mechanical switches, the 1990’s brought on a wave of inexpensive rubber dome keyboards that flooded the keyboard market. Rubber dome keyboards represent over 90% of keyboards in use today and provide an inexpensive but dissatisfying feel and typing experience.


Mechanical keyboards raise the bar in every way. A mechanical keyboard’s switches, framing, functionality, type print methods, key construction, PCB board, LED lighting (sharpness, brightness, adjustability), and a slew of other features are far superior compared to traditional rubber dome keyboards. Most of these improvements boil down to one thing - feel. Mechanical keyboards simply feel better than rubber dome keyboards.



How to choose your first mechanical keyboard?


Switches


Linear switches are switches that simply go up and down with no gimmicks. When you press a linear switch, you’ll feel it depress smoothly until it’s all the way down. This is the vanilla of mechanical switches: it is very good and very enjoyable but it is also very simple. If you see a switch called a “red” or a “black,” it is almost certainly a linear switch. Blacks are typically the stiffer of the two.


Clicky switches are the other end of the spectrum. Clicky switches have two parts inside of them that smack against each other as you press them down, which results in a satisfying sensation for your fingers as well as a clicky noise that you may enjoy but that other people in the room will almost certainly hate. If you see a switch called a “blue” or a “green,” it is almost certainly a clicky switch, and greens tend to be the stiffer of the two.


Tactile switches are something of a fusion of these two options. Tactile switches have “bump” on the way down, a small physical sensation that is reminiscent of a click, but much more subtle and, perhaps more importantly, entirely inaudible. Tactile switches are a little rarer than linear or clicky switches, but are very popular among enthusiasts for this best-of-both worlds-quality. They’re also, by far, my favorite. If you see a switch called a “brown” or a “clear,” it is almost certainly a tactile switch, and clears are generally the stiffer of the two.



Sizes


Full-size keyboards have all the keys you could ever want: a full suite of letters and numbers (obviously) but also arrow keys, a row of F1-F12 function keys above the numbers and a dedicated numpad. This is your safest bet, with a few minor downsides. Bigger mechanical keyboards are generally more expensive, and they have a larger footprint on your desk.


Tenkeyless boards are a full-size keyboard, but without the numpad. Simple! After all, you can just pick up a numpad separately if you really miss it.


60 percent keyboards dispense with the numpad, but also function keys and, most notably, arrow keys. In lieu of dedicated keys for these functions, 60 percent boards make use of a feature called layering. Just like you would hold shift to access the “layer” of keys where symbols like @ and * live on a normal keyboard, 60 percent keyboards use an additional “function layer” to give you temporary access to the keys it is missing. Some slightly larger keyboards known as 65 or 68 percent keyboards, find a way to cram in those arrow keys somewhere by getting creative with the size of certain keys.


 

Keyboards by Budget


Under $50


Compact Office Keyboard

Havit KB487L Mechanical Keyboard is a perfect entry level mechanical keyboard who is looking for a quiet option. It built with Red Switches and it is easier to click and well meet the needs of office environmental typing. Downside is no backlit feature available for this model. But it features ten keys in such a compact design.



Tenkeyless Keyboard (60% Compact)

Redragon K552-RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a great gaming entry mechanical keyboard. It built with 87 keys with custom switches (Cherry Blue equivalent) for longevity with greater durability and responsiveness offering clicky medium resistance audible loud click sound crisp precise tactile feedback for typing and gaming. This keyboard features 18 different RGB lighting modes, 9 different colors, 5 backlight brightness levels, breathing speed. Precision engineered keycaps offering crystal clear uniform backlighting. All Anti-Ghosting 87 keys are conflict free n-Key Rollover for ultimate gaming performance.

Also available in white version.



Full-Size Keyboard

FIODIO F-2068 Mechanical Keyboard is a great option for daily users. This keyboard designed with blue switches, which provides crisp key clicks and pleasant paragraph feeling. The colorful rainbow Backlit can bring you into a great gaming keyboard atmosphere. There are permanent lighting and automatic breathing lighting modes for your options. You can also adjust the brightness of the backlight according to your preference. 104-key rollover with anti-ghosting design ensures the most accuracy of your commands in any use case scenario, and will never miss a single key-press or confuse your commands under any conditions. Tested over 10, 000, 000 keystrokes, the keyboard is extremely durable to ensure longer service life with Splash Resistant Design.


 


Under $100


Compact Modern Design

Keychron K2 is one of most famous mechanical keyboard for general users who is looking for a modern design. They offer 3 different switches (Blue, Brown, Red) for your taste, and you may connect up to 3 devices via Bluetooth 5.1. It also has wired mode with USB Type-C connection.

K2 is a 75% layout (84-key) RGB backlight compact keyboard that retains shortcut and arrow keys. The bottom frame design makes the K2 more comfortable to type even without a palm rest.

With a unique Mac layout, K2 gaming keyboard has all necessary Mac function keys, while compatible with Windows. Extra keycaps for both Windows and Mac operating system are included. K2 can last up to 72 hours typing, or up to 7 days normal use (count 8hrs per day) with a 4,000 mAh big battery, which is one of the biggest in mechanical keyboard. N-key rollover (NKRO) on wired mode or 6KRO on wireless mode.

Charming RGB backlight with elegant keycap legends helps to type in dime environment, you can also choose static color backlight mode. Durable Gateron mechanical switch with 50 million keystroke lifespan, providing unrivaled tactile responsiveness on the brown switch.



Gaming Compact 60%


ANNE PRO 2 is a 60% size Bluetooth RGB mechanical keyboard. It’s smart and saves the space of the desk. Although there are only 61 keys, it can be used like a standard 104 -key keyboard by the key combination. It features wired (USB Type-C) and wireless (Bluetooth 4.0) option and built with Gateron Brown Switch. Also it is known for very well built quality with double shot PBT keycaps, and full keys are programmable with True RGB Backlit. It has over 4,000 reviews from Amazon.



Typewriter Style

ROYAL KLUDGE RKS108 is built with mechanical blue switch for ultimate gaming performance. The mechanical keys offer medium resistance, audible click sound & tactile feedback. Vintage steampunk round keycaps looks like a classical typewriter, brings you comfortable typing feeling & stable clicking touch. The ergonomic ABS palm rest provides firm support that alleviates pressure on your wrist from gaming at an elevated angle. This RGB illuminated keyboard has up to 168 LED backlit modes and 7 color sidelight. This keyboard supports both single color mode and RGB color mode. You can also adjust the backlit brightness and speed, and you can create 1 customized backlight as you like as well. The keyboard panel was made of top-grade aluminum alloy material, with matte-finish texture, sturdy and robust enough to protect it from scratch. 108 keys full size keyboard, and all keys non-conflict. Every keystroke is registered during intense gameplay and fast typing, no matter how many other keys are pressed at the same time. Let you enjoy high-grade games with fast response.



Classical Design

Durgod Taurus K320 TKL is a tenkeyless 80% keyboard with simple and elegant compact design to save more space. It designed with a sturdy case with adjustable feet so you can prop the keyboard up at an angle to relieve your wrists. This keyboard features 100% anti-ghosting, N-key rollover, and windows key disabled in game mode for a perfect gaming and typing keyboard. It is also available in classic white model and full size model as well.


 


Under $200


Gaming Master Piece

SteelSeries Apex 7 is built for a lifetime of durability and stability with Aircraft Grade Aluminum Alloy. OLED Smart Display is an integrated command center for adjusting settings and tracking on the fly info straight from your game, Spotify, Discord, and more. Also unmatched customization with 16.8 million colors per key with RGB Illumination. The Premium Magnetic Wrist Rest provides full palm support and comfortable, ergonomic feel as well. And further more, this keyboard has almost 10,000 reviews with 4.8 out of 5 on Amazon!



Low Profile Keyboard

Logitech G815 low profile mechanical switches offers the speed, accuracy and performance of a mechanical switch at half the height. The GL clicky switch features a distinctive sound and tactile feedback. Comes in 3 options: GL tactile, GL linear or GL clicky.




Unique Style


IQUNIX A80 is one of most unique style mechanical keyboard in the market.

A 80% layout (83-key) RGB backlight compact Bluetooth mechanical keyboard is built with PBT keycaps for more durability and comfort. With an emphasis on ergonomics, stepped structure provides better typing experience. The newly designed F zone key position is distributed high and low, with foot support to ensure that the wrist is at a comfortable angle. The changeable RGB dynamic light effect system creates the Ambilight in front of you, and you can freely adjust the light effect. A80 Supports 2.4G wireless/Bluetooth 5.0/USB Type-C wired three connection modes and connects with up to 3 devices (smartphone, laptop and iPad connection) via Bluetooth and switch among them easily.

Hot-Swappable PCB design made to easily swap out the mechanical switches and custom your own keyboards depending upon your preference. N-Key Rollover with Swift Response Prevent both key ghosting and key jamming. And the rechargeable 4000 mAh battery runs up to 200 days via Bluetooth connection and 60 days via 2.4GHz connection with backlit off and 5 hours of using per day.


 


High End


Premium Customizable

Drop is making premium customizable mechanical keyboards. Currently Drop has three main models; ALT, CTRL, and SHIFT.


ALT: A 65% COMPACT LAYOUT. The ALT mechanical keyboard is a smaller take on Drop's CTRL model It features 67 keys instead of 87 Absent of function keys it wastes no space—but it still has a full set of arrows and numerals.

CTRL: Drop's flagship model, the CTRL combines quality construction with feature-loaded functionality. A versatile tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard designed with input from actual users, it raises the bar for mechanical keyboards.

SHIFT: Designed in the compact 1800 layout, it’s still significantly shorter than a traditional full-size keyboard, which frees up desk space for other gear while still including a number pad.


All Drop models made with hefty aluminum frame with premium materials. They are equipped with Cherry MX switches and hot-swappable switch sockets, which allow you to swap switches in seconds—no soldering required. Also they are illuminated with fully customizable RGB backlighting and under-lighting. Set your millions of LEDs to a single color or light them up with custom rainbow wave patterns.



Gaming Keyboard

Corsair K100 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is one of best gaming mechanical keyboard. This keyboard designed by a durable aluminum frame, dynamic per-key RGB backlighting, and a 44-zone three-sided LightEdge. Powered by Corsair AXON Hyper-Processing Technology, enabling Corsair’s most advanced gaming keyboard experience by delivering up to 4x faster throughput with native 4,000Hz hyper-polling and 4,000Hz key scanning, while simultaneously driving up to 20-lay