Mechanical keyboards are a staple for PC gamers, but even outside of the gaming world, these clickety-clackety keyboards have become loved not only for their tactile typing but also for their sturdy build and customization options.
However, parsing out how different switches can affect the user’s typing experience can be confusing. Cherry MX Red switches are a popular option because they're decently sensitive with a 2.0mm actuation point and have that traditional "typing" sound that isn't too overwhelming. On the other hand, Cherry MX Blue switches offer more tactile feedback but will wake your neighbors in the middle of the night. To make matters more confusing, not every keyboard manufacturer uses the same switches.
So let us help you navigate these different choices to find a mechanical keyboard that's just right for you.
What are the best mechanical keyboards?
The cream of the crop of mechanical keyboards at the moment is the Corsair K100 RGB. With the new Optical-Mechanical switches employing light technology to register keystrokes, this top-of-the-line keyboard is more reactive than ever. Add the iCue Control wheel into the mix and a world of functionality opens before you. If the OPX switches seem intimidating to you, but you're still looking for a keyboard packed with all the technology, Razer's BlackWidow V3 offers a built-in control panel as well, but the Razer Green and Yellow switches may help you feel a bit more in control of your typing. Plus, you can upgrade to the BlackWidow V3 Pro for a wireless typing experience.
Full mechanical keyboards do tend to take up a lot of space, so if your workspace is cramped, don't worry because 60% form factor keyboards are becoming more popular. The HyperX Alloy Origins 60 brings all the pizzazz of a full keyboard without the bulk. The keys that seem to be lacking are all available with just a touch of the function key.
Part of the appeal of mechanical keyboards is their premium designs, though not everyone can afford the premium costs. While mechanical switches themselves tend to be pricey because of the sheer amount of parts that go into them, the Corsair K60 RGB Pro found a workaround with the Cherry Viola switches. These cut the part count in half, leading to a much more affordable mechanical keyboard without ruining the appeal of a full-price keyboard.
If you're searching for a keyboard with all the bells and whistles, look no further because Corsair pulled all the stops for its K100 RGB mechanical gaming keyboard. This is the first Corsair keyboard that features OPX switches and the iCue Control Wheel. Meaning, not only do you get the blazing-fast input with just a 1-mm actuation distance, but you also gain easy access to lighting customization and macro recording mode with just the touch of a button!
While it may take some getting used to, ultimately, the Corsair K100 RGB mechanical gaming keyboard offers a smooth typing and gaming experience. The price is a bit steep at $229, so unless you're a gamer dedicated to top-of-the-line products, you may want to check out some of the more affordable options.
See our full Corsair K100 RGB mechanical gaming keyboard review
If you hate cable management and have $229 to spare, the Razer BlackWidow V3 Pro offers freedom from cords as well as a premium typing experience. Razer offers the option of Razer Green switches — with an actuation distance of 1.9mm, a 0.4mm reset point, and sharp staccato noises — or Razer Yellow switches with an actuation distance of 1.2mm, a 0mm reset point, and a more mellow sound — for the same price.
The connection options are flexible as well, providing a Bluetooth, 2.4GHz HyperSpeed dongle, and corded options for any situation. Just keep in mind that Bluetooth connectivity has the tendency to lag from time to time. Thanks to the Hybrid onboard storage, you can create up to 5 different profiles of different lighting and macro options and cycle through them at the touch of a button.
But the price point isn't for everyone, and unfortunately, the battery life tends to be a bit disappointing. If you're not up for coordinating a charging schedule for your keyboard, the BlackWidow Pro does come in a completely wired option for nearly $100 less.
See our full Razer BlackWidow V3 Pro review
Rather than spending big money on a keyboard with all the features, or spending less money and giving up those features, why not check out the Corsair K70 TKL mechanical keyboard? At $139, it's not cheap, but it certainly packs the same punch as some of these $200+ keyboards. With classic Cherry MX Red switches, you need just 45-grams of force to hit the 2-mm actuation point, meaning you get an incredibly responsive keyboard with a good amount of that satisfying clicky sound too.
Not to mention with 8MB of onboard storage you can store up to 50 different profiles with custom macros and 20 different RGB lighting effect profiles. Plus, if you have the tendency to get easily distracted by flashing lights, the Corsair K70 RGB TKL features a "tournament mode" switch on the back that automatically swaps to static backlighting and disables macros.
See our full Corsair K70 RGB TKL review
The HyperX Alloy Origins 60 is a perfect mechanical keyboard for those who are looking to upgrade their gear without cramping their space. While you may not get a full keyboard for the price of $99, you get an all-around attractive device that will fit easily on any desk. Aside from the number pad, all the keys that aren't present on the keyboard are assigned shortcuts, which are printed on the edge of the standard keycaps for easy identification.
It also offers an incredibly comfortable typing experience. With a 1.88mm actuation distance and little audio feedback on each keystroke, this is the perfect mechanical keyboard for use in public places. Though it's disappointing that the HyperX Alloy Origins 60 can only store three different macro and lighting profiles onboard, the attractive design and competitive price really make this a compelling buying option.
See our full HyperX Alloy Origins 60 review
The Razer BlackWidow V3 is still a really solid option, even without the wireless option. At $139, it isn't something that will break the bank, nor do you lose out on much of the functionality of the BlackWidow V3 Pro. Razer still offers the choice between the clicky Green switches or the muted Yellow switches for no additional cost, though the onboard storage is limited with only five macro profiles.
See our full Razer BlackWidow V3 review
At just $89, the Corsair K60 RGB Pro almost seems too good to be true. But there's a secret to this budget-friendly mechanical keyboard: the new Cherry Viola switches. These switches were made in mind for the budget-conscious shopper, with fewer parts and affordable materials. They provide an incredibly smooth typing experience, with an actuation distance of just 2mm, though they lack that audible click some people look for in a mechanical keyboard.
While you can still create custom macros with this device, the lack of onboard storage means that if you need different macros for different programs and situations, you have to go into the included software to change them. And while Corsair also had to cut out media control keys for this affordable device, the overall typing experience is nothing to turn your nose up at!
See our full Corsair K60 RGB Pro review
If you're looking to do some gaming while on the go, the Corsair K65 RGB Mini offers a lightweight, simple design but is still packed tight with features. Aside from the satisfying response of the Cherry MX Red switches, this device features 8MB of onboard storage for up to 50 macro profiles and 20 lighting layers available at just the touch of a button.
With a detachable cord and being just a touch longer than your average notebook, the Corsair K65 RGB Mini fits easily into any bag, and just as easily onto any tablespace. And while the 60% form factor may take a little getting used to, being able to whip this out to work or game away from home is really worth the little bit of effort.
See our full Corsair K65 RGB Mini review
What to look for in a mechanical keyboard
- Switches: The mechanism that separates mechanical keyboards from membrane keyboards. Instead of a single plastic layer spanning the keyboard, each key is fitted with an individual switch. There are a few different kinds of switches that offer different typing experiences. Linear switches, such as Cherry MX Reds, are most similar to regular keyboards, with no audible bump or click while typing. Tactile switches, such as Razer Greens, have a slight resistance when the actuation distance is reached, giving a soft click to let you know your key press has been registered. More recently Optical-mechanical switches have been released, using beams of light rather than mechanical springs to register a keypress at lightning speed.
- Actuation Distance: This is the distance a key must travel to register the input of a keypress.
- Operating Force: Simply put, operating force is the amount of pressure needed to depress a key enough to get to its actuation point.
- Onboard Memory: A good amount of mechanical keyboards have a small amount of storage built into the device. This allows the user to create custom macros or lighting profiles and easily switch between them for any situation.