Selecting a mechanical keyboard in 2023 may seem daunting, especially when unfamiliar jargon leaves you feeling lost. But don’t worry – our mission is to simplify the process, helping you choose the ideal mechanical keyboard to suit your needs and budget.
Mechanical keyboards, deeply rooted in the history of typewriters, have come a long way since their inception. As you explore this fascinating world, take a moment to learn the basics by discovering what is a mechanical keyboard and dive into the myriad benefits of a mechanical keyboard. As you progress through this Mechanical Keyboard Buying Guide, you’ll soon be an expert, confidently making the right choice for your typing experience.
How Much Should You Spend on a Mechanical Keyboard?
When considering a mechanical keyboard on a budget, you can find entry-level options around $50. At this price, you will experience the mechanical feel, but they may lack additional features or use cheaper materials. However, it can still be a decent choice if your budget is tight.
For those looking for more features and better quality, mid-range mechanical keyboards cost between $70 and $100 and are recommended for most people. They offer a balance of solid performance, features, and value for money.
For enthusiasts with extra cash to spend, it’s possible to find high-end keyboards at $150 or more. These luxurious options often come with customizable designs and a multitude of extra features.
For further guidance, you can explore the following recommendations based on price:
Best Mechanical Keyboards Under $50:
- Redragon K552: The Redragon K552 is a budget-friendly mechanical keyboard that features a compact design and customizable RGB lighting. It also has a variety of switch options and a durable build quality.
- E-Element Z-88: The E-Element Z-88 is another budget-friendly option that features a compact design and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable RGB lighting and a durable build quality.
- Velocifire TKL02: The Velocifire TKL02 is a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard that features a variety of switch options and a durable build quality. It also has a sleek design and a detachable USB cable.
Best Mechanical Keyboards Under $100:
- Ducky One 2 Mini: The Ducky One 2 Mini is a compact mechanical keyboard that features a sleek design and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable RGB lighting and a durable build quality.
- Anne Pro 2: The Anne Pro 2 is another compact option that features a wireless connection option and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable RGB lighting and a sleek design.
- Tecware Phantom Elite: The Tecware Phantom Elite is a budget-friendly mechanical keyboard that features a variety of switch options and customizable RGB lighting. It also has a durable build quality and a detachable USB-C cable.
Best Mechanical Keyboards Under $150:
- Keychron K6: The Keychron K6 is a wireless mechanical keyboard that features a compact design and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable RGB lighting and a durable build quality.
- Drop ALT: The Drop ALT is a compact mechanical keyboard that features a sleek aluminum frame and customizable RGB lighting. It also has a variety of switch options and a built-in USB hub.
- Varmilo VA87M: The Varmilo VA87M is a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard that features a durable build quality and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable keycaps and a minimalist design.
Best Mechanical Keyboards Under $200:
- Leopold FC750R: The Leopold FC750R is a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard that features a durable build quality and a variety of switch options. It also has a minimalist design and a detachable USB cable.
- Vortexgear Pok3r: The Vortexgear Pok3r is a compact mechanical keyboard that features a minimalist design and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable RGB lighting and a detachable USB-C cable.
- Ducky One 2 RGB TKL: The Ducky One 2 RGB TKL is a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard that features a sleek design and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable RGB lighting and a durable build quality.
Best Mechanical Keyboards $200+:
- Drop CTRL: The Drop CTRL is a compact mechanical keyboard that features a sturdy aluminum frame and customizable RGB lighting. It also has a variety of switch options, a built-in USB hub, and media controls.
- Varmilo VA108M: The Varmilo VA108M is a full-size mechanical keyboard that features a durable build quality and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable keycaps and a minimalist design.
- Keychron K8: The Keychron K8 is a wireless mechanical keyboard that features a compact design and a variety of switch options. It also has customizable RGB lighting, a built-in USB hub, and media controls.
When it comes to buying a mechanical keyboard, there are plenty of options available at different price points. Whether you’re on a tight budget or looking for high-end features, there is a mechanical keyboard out there for you. By considering factors like switch type, keyboard size, and additional features like RGB lighting and media controls, you can find the perfect mechanical keyboard to enhance your typing experience.
Now that you have an idea of how much you should allocate for your mechanical keyboard, let’s proceed to the next part of the article.
What Should You Look For In A Mechanical Keyboard?
Comparing High-End and Budget Features
When searching for a mechanical keyboard, consider the quality differences between premium and budget options. High-end keyboards tend to have a combination of plastic and aluminum builds, PBT keycaps, Cherry MX switches, RGB lighting, robust software, customizability, and detachable power cables. On the other hand, budget keyboards are generally all-plastic, with ABS keycaps, Outemu switches, limited to no lighting or software, and non-detachable cables. Keep in mind that well-known brands may charge more for their products but offer better support and more trust.
Essential Features for Gamers
If you’re a gaming enthusiast, consider the following features when selecting a mechanical keyboard:
- Wired connection: A wired connection ensures faster response time during gameplay.
- N-Key rollover: This feature enables multiple key presses to register simultaneously.
- Fast polling rate (1000+): A higher polling rate improves response time (aim for 1000 Hz).
- Linear optical switches: These switches offer faster actuation and are ideal for gaming.
- Advanced software/firmware: Software customization lets you configure key placements, assign macros, and adjust RGB lighting.
- RGB lighting: Add some visual flair to your gaming setup with customizable RGB lighting.
General Office and Typing Features
For typing and office work, prioritize keyboards that prioritize comfort and durability:
- Tactile switches: These switches provide a satisfying tactile bump, reducing errors and bottoming out.
- PBT keycaps: Durable and textured keycaps offer a more pleasant typing experience.
- Lubricated stabilizers: These reduce noise and improve stability on larger keys.
- Clear, easy-to-read legends: Legible key legends enhance typing efficiency.
- Adjustable typing angles: Keyboards with multiple typing angles cater to individual preferences for a more ergonomic experience.
Features for Programmers
Programmers should look for keyboards that combine a great typing experience with powerful customization options, such as key remapping and macros. Some high-quality keyboards not made in China, like Leopold, Filco, WASD, Unicomp, and Vortexgear Pok3r, can be found here.
Finding the Perfect Switch for Your Needs
Mechanical switches fall into three main categories:
- Linear switches are smooth, providing no bumpiness during a keystroke, and are relatively quiet. Common linear switches include red and black.
- Clicky switches offer a loud click sound and a strong bump with each press. Examples of common clicky switches are blue and green switches.
- Tactile switches have a noticeable bump but do not make a clicking noise. Brown and clear switches are typical tactile switches.
Your choice in switches will depend on personal preferences and intended use. If you’re a gamer, red or black linear switches are ideal. They allow for rapid key presses in intense gameplay situations. For non-gaming activities, tactile brown or blue switches are recommended. The noticeable bump of tactile switches can aid in typing accuracy.
Comparing Switch Manufacturers
Switch manufacturers, such as Cherry MX, Gateron, and Outemu, produce different switch types with varying levels of quality.
Cherry MX is known for its high-quality switches, which undergo rigorous testing and can last over 100 million keystrokes. However, they tend to be more expensive.
If you’re on a budget, Gateron switches are a great choice. They offer a smooth feel and are more affordable, but their lifespan may be shorter than Cherry MX switches.
For those seeking the most budget-friendly option, Outemu switches are found on keyboards under $50. However, these switches may have inconsistent feel and lower durability.
Optical vs. Mechanical Switches
Gamers might want to weigh the benefits of optical switches over mechanical ones. Optical switches activate when a beam of light is detected by a sensor during a keypress, while mechanical switches work when two metal plates touch.
Mechanical switches have a slight “debounce delay” due to the time it takes for the metal plates to touch. This delay, usually 5-10 ms, can make mechanical switches slower than optical switches. If you value faster response times for gaming, optical keyboards might be a worthy investment.
For everyday use, mechanical switches will suffice, as the difference in speed isn’t significant for general tasks.
Keyboard Size Matters
Choosing the perfect keyboard goes beyond the usual sizes you find in stores. It’s essential to reflect on the keys you actually use and avoid wasting space on keys you don’t need. A popular option for many is the tenkeyless keyboard, which omits the number pad, making it more compact.
The 65% keyboard size could also be a great pick for you. It retains important keys like letters and numbers but removes extra features like the function row, navigation cluster, and number pad. This layout offers a sleek and ergonomic design, perfect for both gaming and typing.
Various other keyboard sizes and layouts are available, catering to individual preferences and usage requirements. By exploring different options, you can find the ideal balance between ergonomics, functionality, and size. For more information and examples of these different keyboard sizes, consider checking out this comprehensive guide.
Wireless vs Wired
When considering a mechanical keyboard for your setup, one of the crucial aspects to consider is whether to opt for a wired or wireless keyboard. Both have their merits, and in this section, we’ll provide you with some key factors to help you make an informed decision.
Wired keyboards provide the following advantages:
- No input lag: With a direct connection to your computer, you’ll experience immediate response times, essential for gaming or other high-demand tasks.
- No interference: Wired connections aren’t susceptible to wireless interference, which can sometimes cause signal drops.
- No battery life concerns: You don’t need to worry about replacing batteries or recharging with a wired keyboard.
However, wireless keyboards offer their own set of benefits:
- Clutter-free setup: Say goodbye to tangled cords and improve the appearance of your workspace.
- Flexibility: Without cables, you’re free to move your keyboard around for greater comfort when typing or gaming.
- Easy connectivity: Most wireless keyboards use Bluetooth or a USB dongle for simple plug-and-play connections.
Keep these factors in mind while searching for the perfect mechanical keyboard for your needs. Remember, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons to find the best option tailored to your workflow and preferences.
When you’re searching for a mechanical keyboard, there are several brands to consider that offer high-quality products. Each brand has its unique features and style, tailored to different preferences and needs. Let’s briefly go through some of the top brands in the market:
Keychron: Known for their sleek designs, wireless compatibility, and Mac-friendly layouts.
Glorious (GMMK): Offers customizable keyboards with hot-swappable switches, allowing you to easily modify your keyboard setup.
Leopold: Renowned for their build quality, elegant design, and sound-dampening features.
Corsair: Popular for gaming keyboards with advanced features like RGB lighting, macro keys, and dedicated media controls.
Razer: Focusing on gaming peripherals, their keyboards offer responsive switches, customizable lighting, and various key layouts.
Ducky: This brand has a strong focus on design and customization, offering customizable keycaps and a range of switch options.
Das Keyboard: Known for its minimalist design and high-quality typing experience, suitable for professionals and programmers.
Epomaker: Offers a variety of compact keyboards with attractive designs and an emphasis on ergonomics.
WASD: Specializing in custom keycaps and distinctive color options, allowing you to personalize your keyboard to match your style.
Filco: Delivers keyboards with excellent durability and build quality, perfect for both office use and gaming.
Varmilo: Known for their distinctive keycap designs and high-quality PBT keycaps, as well as a variety of switch options.
Happy Hacking: Offers professional, compact keyboards with a specialized layout designed specifically for programmers and typists.
By exploring these brands, you’re sure to find a mechanical keyboard that suits your preferences, style, and needs. Remember to consider factors like key switches, layouts, and features before making your final decision. Good luck and enjoy your new mechanical keyboard!