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The 5 best mechanical keyboards for 2024

In which we obsess over switch types, mounting styles, keycap profiles, stabs and rotary knobs.

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

A keyboard is one of the few pieces of technology you may use for hours every day. Why not make it something that brings you joy? Sure, the people who gush over these things can be intense, but the upgraded comfort, durability and customizability that comes with a good mechanical keyboard is a real thing. If you’re looking to make the switch (ahem), we tested a couple dozen mechanical keyboards over the past few months and rounded up our favorites below. We’ve also broken down what to look for when shopping for one.

Quick Overview

The first thing to decide with any keyboard is what size and layout you want. Full-size layouts have all the keys you’d ever need — a number pad, a full function row, arrow keys, etc. — but they also have the largest physical footprint. A 96-percent or “1800” keyboard is similar, but crunches the navigation cluster (Page Up, Home, etc.), numpad and arrow keys closer together to save space. Tenkeyless (TKL) or 80-percent keyboards omit the number pad entirely; they're often considered the best blend of size and functionality. 75-percent keyboards keep almost all of the buttons of a TKL model but further reduce any “dead” space between them — think of them like the TKL versions of a 96 percent layout.

It gets more and more minimal from there. The smallest popular layout is the 60 percent keyboard, which removes the arrow keys, function row, numpad and navigation cluster. This kind of design can be particularly useful for gaming, as it opens up a ton of desk space to swing your mouse around. It typically relies on shortcuts to make up for its missing keys, but it comes with a learning curve as a result.

Even more compact options exist beyond that. These can be adorable, but they usually involve removing the number row, which is a step too far for most people. There are all sorts of ergonomic keyboards that utilize different shapes to improve your wrist and arm comfort as well, but we have a separate guide for those.

No component has more of an impact on how a mechanical keyboard feels and sounds than the switches beneath its keycaps. The market for these tiny mechanisms is vast and complex but, to keep it simple, you can separate them into three types: linear, tactile and clicky. Which you prefer ultimately comes down to personal preference, so we encourage you to go to a store, try out a friend’s keyboard and test switches out to determine what you like best.

Linear switches feel smooth and consistent all the way down. Many PC gamers prefer them because they’re often light and fast to actuate, so they can register inputs quickly. They tend to be quieter than other switch types as well, but some may find them too sensitive.

Tactile switches create a noticeable “bump” partway through a press. They generally aren’t as fast as their linear counterparts, but many (including yours truly) enjoy the tangible sense of feedback they provide with each keystroke. This bit of resistance can make it a little easier to avoid typos, too. Many tactile switches are neither outright quiet nor disruptively loud.

Clicky switches are, well, clicky. They work similarly to tactile switches but use an extra mechanism that makes a sharp click sound when pressed. The exact design of that mechanism can differ depending on the switch. Some people love the audible feedback of clicky switches. The people who work or live with them? Probably not so much.

A close-up shot of a pair of exposed, white and teal mechanical keyboard switches.
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

Remember: These are general buckets. Within them lies an enormous variety of switches with differing actuation points, weights, springs, bump sensations and more. One linear, tactile, or clicky switch can feel and sound noticeably different than another.

There are more dramatic variations as well. Low-profile switches, for one, can be linear, tactile or clicky but aren’t as tall and have a shorter travel distance. They allow for flatter and more compact designs, with keys that are fast to press but also easy to bottom out.

Optical and Hall effect switches rely on different mechanisms entirely. Instead of a physical contact point, the former uses a beam of infrared light to register keystrokes, while the latter uses tiny magnets. Both commonly have a linear feel. They can also enable a few gaming-friendly features: You could set custom actuation points and make any key more or less sensitive, map multiple actions to one keystroke or even use an “analog mode” that emulates gamepad controls. These are niche tricks, but they can make a difference for competitive-minded players. Boards that use these “analog” switches are frequently more expensive and less customizable than traditional mechanical options, though.

It doesn’t stop at switch types: Manufacturers (and you!) can make several other tweaks to shape how a mechanical keyboard feels and sounds. Some have layers of different foam inside their case to tamp down noise, for instance. Some have switches that are lubricated out of the box to provide a smoother feel and more muted sound. A few others put plastic, rubber or foam “films” between the upper and bottom housing of a switch to keep it from wobbling and further tune its acoustics. Or they stick a layer of tape on their printed circuit board (PCB) to absorb higher-pitched sounds. We think most people will find that some well-applied foam and lubing makes things feel nicer, though this is another matter that comes down to taste.

Keycaps play a huge role in defining a keyboard’s character. First off, they should look nice! There’s a huge market for third-party keycaps in all different styles, from the playful to the professional to the proudly impractical. The majority of mechanical keyboards make it easy to swap in new keycaps, so it’s usually not a huge deal if you ever get bored with your device's stock set.

Most keycaps are made from one of two types of plastic: ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) or PBT (polybutylene terephthalate). Keycaps using the latter tend to be higher-quality. They're often thicker, more durable, deeper-sounding and less prone to developing a shiny or greasy finish over time. Still, premium ABS keycaps do exist, so this is another case where what’s “best” partly comes down to personal taste. You may prefer an ABS keycap that feels smooth over a PBT model with a rougher texture.

Keycap sets are available in several different shapes and sizes. Some are totally uniform; many others are distinctly sculpted to meet your fingers in (ostensibly) more natural positions. Which is most comfortable is something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. You can check out to see what the most popular keycap profiles look like.

A handful of detached keyboard keycaps rest on a brown wooden table, organized in a way that spells out the words
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

Keyboard makers have several different methods of printing the letters and symbols (aka “legends”) that go on a set of keycaps. The two most common are known as double-shot and dye-sublimation. Double-shot caps are typically more durable but cost more to produce — they’re made by molding one color of plastic for the keycap around a second color of plastic for the legend. “Dye-sub” caps, in contrast, use heat to stain in the legends but are decently durable in their own right.

For keyboards with RGB backlighting, it's best if the legends to be “shine-through,” so those color effects are visible through the keycaps. We don’t think it’s the end of the world if they aren’t — as you’ll see below — but the RGB won’t be as fun otherwise.

Stabilizers (or “stabs”) are little components that go under large keys like the space bar or backspace to keep them from rattling or wobbling when pressed. These come in different types as well. Many a decent keyboard has been hindered by subpar stabilizers, so it’s worth checking your bigger keys first to ensure they aren’t distractingly shaky or uneven.

A keyboard’s mounting style determines how its PCB and plate — i.e., a common (but not universal) layer that holds the keycaps in place above the PCB — are secured within its case. This, too, comes in varying styles and can have a significant effect on how the board feels and sounds. It’s also something that’s best explained visually, so we’ll point you to this excellent infographic from Thomas Baart instead of running through every possible configuration here. It’s hard to say one mounting style is always better than the others, but many enthusiast boards these days use some sort of gasket mount, which puts a gasket material on either side to separate the plate from the main case. Done well, this can make typing feel softer and bouncier than it would on a more traditional, tray-mounted design.

Regardless of what’s going on under the hood, a good keyboard shouldn’t feel cheap on the outside, either. Its case shouldn’t flex under pressure or feel hollow as you’re clacking away. Higher-end models often have cases made from metal or sturdier plastic — the former may feel more premium but it’s typically heavier and pricier.

We focused on pre-built models here, but that doesn’t mean customization isn’t important. Experimenting with different switches and keycaps is half the fun of this hobby, after all. For this guide, we prioritized keyboards that are “hot-swappable,” which means they let you easily remove and replace switches without having to desolder anything. Permanently attached switches may be more stable, but fixing a broken hot-swappable switch should be relatively painless — and more affordable to boot.

We also valued keyboards that are easy to program and customize through software, whether it’s a manufacturer-specific app or popular open-source programs like VIA. Not everyone will go through the trouble to set macros, customize backlighting or remap keys, but it’s better to have the option if your mindset changes down the road.

It’s a plus if a keyboard works across multiple operating systems, particularly Windows and macOS, just in case you ever switch allegiances. If the device comes with OS-specific keycaps you can pop on to make the experience less clunky, that’s even better.

Wireless connectivity isn’t essential with a device that mostly sits on your desk, but it’s always nice to cut down on cables. Though wireless keyboards still cost more than wired ones, today you can get something great for less than $100. If you do go wireless, look for a model that can connect over Bluetooth and a USB wireless dongle. The former is convenient for travel, while the latter can provide a more stable connection. For wired keyboards, you want a detachable USB cable so you don’t have to replace your entire device if the cord ever frays or breaks.

The G.Skill KM250 RGB gaming keyboard rests on a light brown wooden table.
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

Good backlighting will make any keyboard easier to use in the dark. We gave bonus points to keyboards with fully programmable RGB lights, as they can be particularly fun to mess with, but they're not essential. As noted above, the strength of your backlight will be neutered if your keycaps’ legends aren’t transparent.

Some mechanical keyboards come configured with a rotary knob, which typically controls volume by default but can be customized to control other inputs as well. This is more of a fun bonus than anything else, but we found it hard to give up on devices without one.

To be clear, there isn’t one “best” mechanical keyboard for everyone. Yes, some are likely to be better for most people than others; that’s what we set out to find with this guide. But ultimately, this is one of those categories that’ll largely depend on your personal tastes.

It’s also worth reiterating that we only considered pre-built models for this guide. We still valued keyboards that are configurable with different switches, keycaps and other design tweaks upfront and easy to customize after purchase. However, we recognize that many people just want to pay for a nice thing and enjoy it, without having to do homework on how they can make it better. If you want to get hardcore later on and start building your own custom keyboards, we have a whole separate guide for that.

With that said, we started our research by reading a ton of reviews from both professionals and everyday users, trawling enthusiast forums along the way. This helped us whittle down the devices that had a shot of being a top pick and were readily available from reputable brands. From there, we used each keyboard as our daily driver for a few days, typing up thousands of words, playing PC games and paying attention to the key aspects noted above. We fully charged each wireless model and monitored its battery drain to ensure it lined up with their advertised rating. We also ensured any companion software worked as intended.

It’s worth keeping in mind that new mechanical keyboards are coming out all the time. It's very difficult to get to everything, but we'll continue to monitor the market and update this guide as noteworthy boards arrive.

Connectivity: 2.4GHz wireless, Bluetooth, USB-C | Size(s): 65 percent (standard or Alice layout), 75 percent (standard or Alice), 80 percent (tested), 96 percent (standard or southpaw), 100 percent | Switches: Gateron Jupiter Brown (tested), Red, Banana | Hot-Swappable: Yes | Material: Aluminum | Keycap material: Double-shot PBT | Backlight: RGB (south-facing) | Software: VIA

The Keychron Q Max is the kind of keyboard that makes you think “damn, this is a nice keyboard.” Its quality is immediately apparent: Its full aluminum case is cool to the touch and incredibly sturdy, without a hint of flex. Its PBT-coated keycaps are crisp and curved in a way that gently hugs your fingertips. There’s a tactile volume knob built in. The Gateron Jupiter Brown switches in our test unit are neither too fast nor too stiff, with a delightfully bouncy feel aided by a double gasket structure inside the board. Combined with several layers of internal foam, they make a poppy, marbly sound that’s just lovely. It’s the kind of thing people would go out of their way to look up on YouTube.

The Q Max has nearly all the features we’d want out of a high-end mechanical keyboard. It connects reliably over a USB-C cable, a wireless dongle or Bluetooth; with the latter, it can pair with three devices at once. It’s compatible with both Windows and macOS, with special keys for both platforms in the box. Its switch sockets are hot-swappable, so you’re free to sub in new keys down the line. Besides the Jupiter Browns, prebuilt models with linear Jupiter Red and more heavily tactile Jupiter Banana switches are also available, and all of them come pre-lubed.

The device is fully programmable with the open-source QMK and VIA software, which is available through a browser and makes it simple enough to remap keys, assign macros and create distinct profiles. (You have to upload a keymap file from Keychron’s site to get VIA to recognize the device, annoyingly, but that’s a quick fix.) It also just looks nice: The fonts are clean, while the mixed keycap colors are stylish but not ostentatious.

We tested the tenkeyless model, the Q3 Max, but the lineup includes several other layouts and sizes. None of them come particularly cheap, however. Our review unit costs $214 for the “fully assembled” model with a rotary knob, and the rest are about the same.

There are other potential hangups. The default keycaps are very tall, which may be off-putting to some and isn’t ideal for fast-paced gaming. They aren’t shine-through, either, so while there is RGB backlighting, the effect is muted. The full-metal case means these things are heavy — the Q3 Max tips the scales at four and a half pounds. They’re all on the thicker side, too, and there’s no flip-out feet on the back for height adjustments. The heft goes a long way toward making the Q Max feel premium, but it also means they aren’t exactly travel-friendly. We also noticed a slight rattle when hitting the ends of the space bar; it’s far from severe, but any nitpicks are worth noting at this price.

Still, those shouldn’t be deal breakers. This is far from the only guide to recommend Keychron's keyboards, but they’re popular for a reason: At their best, they’re reliable, well-built and strong value for money. The Q Max is their best, delivering premium features, extensive customizability and a fantastic typing feel right out of the box. The one universal downside with all Keychron keyboards is their short warranty, which only lasts 12 months.

  • Superb typing feel and sound
  • Premium aluminum case
  • Crisp PBT keycaps
  • Hot-swappable
  • Reliable wireless performance
  • Tons of layout options
  • Knob!
  • A bit pricey
  • Keycaps aren't shine-through and may be too tall for some
  • Heavy
  • Slight rattling with some stabilizers
$189+ at Keychron

Connectivity: 2.4GHz wireless, Bluetooth, USB-C | Size(s): 65 percent, 75 percent (standard or Alice layout), 80 percent (tested), 96 percent, 100 percent | Switches: Gateron Jupiter Brown (tested), Red, Banana | Hot-Swappable: Yes | Material: Plastic | Keycap material: Double-shot PBT | Backlight: RGB (south-facing) | Software: VIA

If our top pick sounds appealing but just too expensive, take a look at the Keychron V Max. It’s another line of wireless keyboards with similar features as the Q Max series: Bluetooth and 2.4GHz wireless connectivity, QMK and VIA support, Windows and macOS functionality, smooth and relatively high-profile PBT keycaps, a firm volume knob and the same set of pre-lubed, hot-swappable Gateron Jupiter switches. It, too, uses a gasket mount and multiple layers of sound-deadening foam, though it’s not quite as extensive as its higher-end sibling in either regard. Still, the Jupiter Brown switches in our review unit are springy, soft and pleasing to the ear, with a gentle pop to each press. Like the Q Max lineup, the V Max series is available in a range of size options, from the 65 percent V2 Max to the full-size V6 Max. Each is built to be torn apart and customized as needed.

There are perks that aren’t available on the Q Max, too. The V Max comes with two wireless dongles, one USB-A and one USB-C, and there are storage compartments for each built in. A pair of flip-out feet, meanwhile, let you set the device at different incline angles.

All of this is available for a little under $100. The catch is that the case is entirely plastic. It’s much lighter than the Q Max’s aluminum and it doesn’t really flex, but it doesn’t feel nearly as premium. The stabilizers, while not bad, are clearly worse out of the box as well: Smacking the backspace or enter keys produces a faint but audible rattle, while the space bar is louder and more hollow-sounding than everything else. If you’re really detail-obsessed, you’ll also notice some of the legends on the larger keys are slightly uneven. And the keycaps still aren’t shine-through, so the RGB backlighting doesn’t come through clearly.

If you want to save a little more cash, the standard Keychron V Series is also worth considering. Those are wired-only and use a more traditional tray-mounted design, but they’re still comfortable and often available for $10 to $20 less. For most people who want to stay below triple digits, though, the V Max is a better buy.

  • Strong value
  • Typing feels and sounds great
  • Hot-swappable switches
  • USB-C and USB-A wireless receivers
  • Knob (again)!
  • Plastic
  • Some rattle with larger keys
  • Keycaps neuter RGB backlight
$74+ at Keychron

Connectivity: USB-C | Size(s): 80 percent | Switches: Keychron Brown (tested), Red | Hot-Swappable: No | Material: Plastic | Keycap material: Double-shot ABS | Backlight: Red (north-facing) | Software: VIA

If you want to spend as little money as possible for a decent mechanical keyboard, get the Keychron C3 Pro. It provides a superb typing experience for less than $40, with features we don’t often see at that price, including pre-lubed switches, a gasket-mounted deck and multiple layers of internal foam. The tactile Keychron Brown switches in our test unit feel full and satisfying, while the gaskets keep bottoming out from being uncomfortably stiff. There’s a pleasant clack to each keystroke: not quiet, but not overly loud, with next to none of the pinging or aggressive rattling that plagues so many cheap keyboards. If you prefer a lighter and faster feel, you can order the C3 Pro with linear Keychron Red switches as well. It also supports QMK and VIA; you have to do a little setup to get the latter to work, but most sub-$40 keyboards don’t offer this kind of flexibility all.

Like all budget keyboards, the C3 Pro makes compromises. It’s not wireless, for one, and its detachable USB-C cable feels a little cheap. Its double-shot ABS keycaps feel slicker than the PBT material used by our top picks and will likely degrade faster as years pass. Its switches aren’t hot-swappable, either. While it doesn’t come off as flimsy, it’s still made of plastic, so you’ll want to avoid accidental knicks and bangs. Its keycaps are shine-through, but the backlight is only available in red, which looks funky in the dark. It’s also only available in a tenkeyless shape, though that should be agreeable enough for most people who can live without a number pad. And while the design is a bit plain, a set of red enter, space and escape keys lend it a smidge of flair.

  • Inexpensive
  • Tremendous typing experience for the money
  • Programmable with software
  • Shine-through keycaps
  • ABS keycaps are a bit slick
  • Red backlight only
  • Wired only
  • Not hot-swappable
$37 at Amazon

Connectivity: 2.4GHz wireless, Bluetooth, USB-C | Size(s): 60 percent, 75 percent (tested), 96 percent | Switches: NuPhy Aloe, Cowberry, Wisteria, Moss; Gateron Low-Profile Red 2.0, Brown 2.0, Blue 2.0 | Hot-Swappable: Yes | Material: Aluminum and plastic | Keycap material: Double-shot PBT | Backlight: RGB (south-facing) | Software: VIA

A low-profile mechanical keyboard mixes the flatter, more compact shape of a laptop keyboard with the deeper, more tactile feel of mechanical switches. If that’s what you’re after, check out the NuPhy Air V2 series. We tested the Air75 V2, a 75 percent model that starts at $120 (or $140 on Amazon), but smaller and larger options are also available. Each is impressively slim, light and travel-friendly for its size. Their PBT keycaps are smooth and spacious, and because the keys are so low to the surface, you don’t need to bend your wrists as much to reach them. This kind of design can feel cramped at first, but it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of, and the space it saves helps make up for any typos it causes early on.

You can buy the Air V2 with a wide range of tactile, clicky and linear switch options, all of which are factory-lubed and hot-swappable. Our test unit has the linear NuPhy Daisy switches, which are sufficiently light, fast and not scratchy. Their lower height means they’re quicker to bottom out than our other picks, which can cause some fatigue over time. But they still have a far more luxurious sense of travel and give than any membrane keyboard.

Despite the thin frame, there are a couple layers of foam inside the keyboard as well. We still wouldn’t call the Air75 V2 quiet, but its clean, clacky tone isn’t distractingly noisy. Silicone pads under the space bar keep that key from sounding too hollow. In general, the stock stabilizers are excellent, so large keys don’t suffer from any annoying rattling.

Like our top picks, the Air V2 can connect over a wireless dongle, Bluetooth or a detachable USB-C cable. We experienced a few connection hiccups while using some wireless mice back when the keyboard was first released, but post-launch firmware updates appear to have straightened those out. It’s another device that’s customizable with QMK and VIA, and it works across Windows and macOS. Unfortunately, it also wastes its RGB backlighting by using keycaps that aren’t translucent by default. NuPhy does let you configure the device with a shine-through keycap set, but that costs another $19.

One potential issue is battery life: NuPhy rates it at up to 220 hours with backlighting off but says it can drop anywhere between 35 and 57 hours with everything on. But since it’s easy to hook up a cable and the default keycaps neuter the RGB anyway, this shouldn’t be a big deal for most people who aren’t frequent travelers.

Maybe the best thing about the Air V2 is just how cute it is. Its rounded keycaps, trim side lights and accented enter key and space bar give it a playful air. Those side lights are a slick way to display caps lock and battery status, while the case as a whole is made from a chilly aluminum that only flexes if you push down hard. The back is plastic, but it has a stylish transparent finish and two adjustable feet. It may look a little out of place in a typical office, but hey, more tech could stand to have a bit of fun.

  • Slim, sturdy and attractive design
  • Pleasant typing experience
  • Spacious, high-quality keycaps
  • Configurable with several switch options
  • Low-profile design can lead to typos and fatigue, especially for first-timers
  • Stock keycaps aren't shine-through
$140 at Amazon

Connectivity: USB-C | Size(s): 60 percent | Switches: Gateron Lekker Linear60 | Hot-Swappable: Yes | Material: Plastic | Keycap material: Double-shot PBT | Backlight: RGB (north or south-facing) | Software: Wootility

Let’s be clear: Any keyboard can be a gaming keyboard. Buying a thing that claims to be “for gamers” won’t magically stop you from getting destroyed in Call of Duty. But if you’re looking to buy a mechanical keyboard specifically for competitive video games, consider the Wooting 60HE+. It pairs a sturdy build with a handful of features that can genuinely help you play better, albeit in subtle ways. We've previously recommended an older version of this device, the 60HE, in our gaming keyboard guide; the 60HE+ is a very minor revision that adds support for screw-in stabilizers but is otherwise identical.

The big thing that separates the 60HE+ from traditional gaming keyboards is its analog Gateron Lekker switches, which use magnetic Hall effect sensors and can respond to varying levels of pressure. With these, you can adjust each key’s actuation point — i.e., the travel distance at which it registers — anywhere between 0.1mm and 4mm. With a fast-paced shooter like Counter-Strike 2 or Valorant, you could set the actuation of your WASD keys low and make them more sensitive to quick-twitch movements. Then when you’re done, you could switch to a higher actuation and give each keystroke a deeper and more deliberate feel.

Another feature called “rapid trigger” removes the need for the switches to pass back through a fixed reset point, so you can repeat keypresses faster. This helps in moments where even the tiniest delay can draw the line between success and failure — say, hitting a rapid succession of notes in a rhythm game, or strafing back and forth during a shootout in an online FPS. Beyond that, you can tie multiple actions to one key based on how far it’s pressed. For instance, you could lightly press Ctrl to crouch, hold it to go prone, then release to quickly stand up. There’s also an “analog mode” that effectively turns the 60HE+ into a joystick-less Xbox controller. Because the keys are pressure-sensitive, this can work surprisingly well for racing games or flight sims when you don’t have a gamepad handy.

Do you need these tricks to enjoy a game? Absolutely not. But if you take your play somewhat seriously, they truly can make a difference. If you know what you’re doing, you can move just that little bit more fluidly and simplify complex strings of commands. It helps that Wooting’s web-based software makes setting up these customizations a breeze. 

The 60HE+ isn’t the only analog model with these advanced gaming features, but it stands out for being a good keyboard in its own right. Its pre-lubed, linear-style switches are smooth to press, while its PBT keycaps are pleasingly textured. A couple layers of internal foam prevent keypresses from pinging or sounding distractingly loud. The compact case is robust, and larger keys like the space bar feel stable. The per-key RGB backlighting is vivid, tidy and easily customizable as well.

You shouldn’t buy the 60HE+ over our top picks if gaming isn't your primary concern, though. It’s wired-only and it lacks adjustable feet to raise its height. While it’s not outright loud, it sounds more chattery and uneven than something like the Keychron Q Max. It's also a $175 keyboard that's mostly made of plastic. Though it’s technically hot-swappable, it can only accept certain Hall effect switch types. Some people will always find this model’s 60 percent to be too small, what with its lack of dedicated arrow and function keys. And we’d be remiss not to mention the extremely gamer carrying strap included the box, which is emblazoned with the phrase “TAKE CONTROL.” It’s a bit much!

That said, we prefer smaller keyboards for gaming, as they leave more room for you to flail your mouse hand around your desk. If you do need a bigger board, the Wooting Two HE is a full-size model with similar functionality, while the upcoming Wooting 80HE will have a unique 80 percent layout when it becomes available in mid-2024. Perhaps the biggest issue with each Wooting keyboard is availability: Each model is only purchasable through the company’s website and often comes with shipping delays.

  • Analog switches are fast and deeply versatile for gaming
  • Easy-to-use software
  • Sturdily built
  • Comfortable for typing
  • Clean RGB lighting
  • Wired-only
  • 60 percent design isn't for everyone
  • Only available to buy in batches
  • Doesn't sound quite as nice as top picks
$175 at Wooting
A quintet of mechanical keyboards rest on a brown wooden outdoor table, with one beige model flanked two separate keyboards above it, and two other models below it.
Just a few of the other mechanical keyboards we tested for this guide. Clockwise from top left: the SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL Wireless, the G.Skill KM250 RGB, the Lofree Block, the NZXT Function 2 and the Lofree Flow. (Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget)

The wireless Lofree Block feels great and has a fun retro aesthetic that looks like it belongs next to an old Mac. Its keys are wonderfully smooth to the touch and create a nice thocky tone. At $169, it’s a good middle ground between the Keychron Q Max and V Max series if you dig the look. However, it doesn’t have any software for programming macros, it only has a white backlight and it only comes in a full-size layout. Are those huge issues? No. But there are fine margins separating these things once you get to a certain point.

It’s a similar story with the Lofree Flow, a low-profile model. Its full-POM switches are softer and noticeably quieter than the NuPhy Air V2, and its thin aluminum case looks and feels high-quality. It can only work wirelessly using Bluetooth, though, and we noticed a couple of connection hiccups in testing. There’s still no software, either, plus its backlight is fairly weak. It also costs $40 or so more than the Air75 V2. Still, it’s a great alternative.

The low-profile Keychron K Max series has all the requisite features and costs less than the NuPhy Air75 V2 and Lofree Flow. If you don’t like the Air V2’s style and want a cheaper low-profile model, it’s worth a look. That said, the keycaps on NuPhy’s board feel a bit higher-quality, and the tactile Gateron switches in our K Max unit sound thinner.

The full-size NZXT Function 2 and tenkeyless NZXT Function 2 MiniTKL are perfectly solid gaming keyboards with fast optical switches, durable PBT keycaps, tasteful RGB lighting, sound-dampening foam and aluminum top plates. They support a fair amount of customization through NZXT’s CAM app, including the ability to swap between two different universal actuation settings. The stabilizers on larger keys exhibit some rattle, though, and the Wooting 60HE+’s magnetic switches are far more versatile for not too much extra cash.

The Razer Huntsman V2 TKL gaming keyboard + wrist rest sits on a light brown wooden table.
The Razer Huntsman V2 TKL. (Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget)

With its fun speckled color scheme, gasket-mounted design and multiple foam layers, the MelGeek Modern97 is a solid value at $139. The linear, pre-lubed Kailh Box Plastic switches in our unit are smooth and enjoyably clacky, while the larger keys are neither hollow nor overly loud. All of the switches are hot-swappable, and the whole thing works over USB-C, Bluetooth or a 2.4GHz dongle. Alas, its ABS keycaps start to feel slicker and greasier with extended use. This model also has a 90 percent layout, which saves a little extra desk space compared to a 96 percent board but can lead to more accidental presses around the arrow keys.

The Razer Huntsman V2 TKL is a quality gaming keyboard with light optical switches, crisp shine-through keycaps, a sturdy frame and an impressively muffled sound thanks to some internal foam. (If you buy the model with Razer’s linear optical switches, that is; another variant with clicky switches isn’t nearly as quiet.) It’s often available in the $100 range, and at that price it’s a solid pick. It’s neither wireless nor hot-swappable, though, and its keys wobble more than those on the Keychron V Max.

The analog Razer Huntsman V3 Pro is a decent alternative to the Wooting 60HE+ if the latter’s shipping delays become too great. It’s available in a 60 percent, TKL or full-size layout, and it offers a similar set of gaming features, including an adjustable actuation range and a rapid trigger setting for repeating keystrokes faster. But its optical switches are noisier and more hollow-feeling than Wooting’s Hall effect setup, so it’s not as pleasant for typing.

We recommend the SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL Wireless in our guide to the best gaming keyboards, and it remains a good choice if you want the granular customizability of the Wooting 60HE+ in a wireless design. It also comes with a wrist rest, unlike Wooting’s models. Its magnetic switches are somewhat harsher-sounding, however, and its space bar is louder. SteelSeries’ companion software is clunkier to navigate as well. We haven’t tested the 60 percent Apex Pro Mini Wireless, but it should perform similarly.

The $50 G.Skill KM250 is the top budget pick in our gaming keyboard guide, and it’s still a better buy than the Keychron C3 Pro is gaming is your chief concern. Compared to Keychron’s board, it adds hot-swappable switches, full RGB backlighting, PBT keycaps and a rotary knob in a smaller 65 percent layout. That said, the C3 Pro’s fuller sound and springier keystrokes make it superior for typing, and its tenkeyless design should be more comfortable for a wider swath of people. It’s typically available for $10 to $15 less, too.

The ASUS ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless gaming keyboard rests on a light brown wooden table.
The ASUS ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless (Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget)

The Logitech G Pro X TKL and 60 percent Logitech G Pro X 60 are well-built but far too expensive for gaming keyboards that lack hot-swappable switches and the analog functionality of competitors like the Wooting 60HE+.

The ASUS ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless is a wireless 96 percent keyboard that’s marketed toward gamers but should feel great to anyone. The pre-lubed, linear ROG NX Snow switches in our test unit are smooth and quiet, while the PBT keycaps feel stable and high-quality. The keycaps let the RGB backlight shine through cleanly, plus there’s a clever multi-function key that puts various lighting and media controls in one place. ASUS’ Armoury Crate software is sloppy, though, and the board’s overall look may be too gamer-y for some. At $180, it’s not cheap either. The Keychron Q5 Max costs $40 more but gets you a more premium (if heavier) all-aluminum chassis; here, the housing is plastic.

The ASUS ROG Azoth is like a 75 percent version of the Strix Scope II 96 Wireless with a few more enthusiast touches. Its gasket-mounted design gives keystrokes a slightly softer landing, it has a programmable OLED display and it even includes a switch lubing kit in the box. Like the Strix, its hardware is very clearly high-grade. But its software is much more aggravating and, with a list price of $250, it's a worse value than the Keychron Q Max.

The Corsair K70 RGB TKL isn’t bad in a vacuum, but it lacks wireless functionality and fully hot-swappable switches. It’s on the noisy side, too, and Corsair’s iCue software is rough.

The Logitech G Pro X 60 wireless gaming keyboard in black sits on a wooden tabletop with light blue RGB backlighting displayed through its keycaps.
The Logitech G Pro X 60. (Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget)

The full-size Corsair K70 Max is another high-end gaming keyboard with magnetic Hall effect sensors and Wooting-style features, but trying to program those settings through Corsair’s iCue app gave us headaches. The 60HE+ also feels better for typing, with less rattling on large keys like the space bar. Wooting’s HE keyboards support a slightly wider actuation range on top of that, plus they cost $30 to $55 less depending on size.

The Razer Huntsman Mini is a fine value if you want a no-frills 60 percent keyboard for less than $100, but it’s another wired-only model that isn’t truly hot-swappable.

The Logitech G915 TKL is a wireless low-profile model with a metal frame and handy media controls. The GL Tactile switches in our test unit are comfortable and not particularly noisy. But the thin ABS keycaps feel way too cheap for something that costs $230, the keys themselves are a little too wobbly and the switches aren't hot-swappable.