Which are the best mechanical keyboards on the market? That was the question I tried to answer in our feature on whether mechanical keyboards are good for gaming, and how they became popular in the first place. I ended that piece with three keyboard recommendations, but the response to the article made it clear that you wanted to see more recommendations for different use-cases than we considered - particularly full-fat gaming keyboards with features like macro and media keys, programmable RGB lighting and game-state integration or quieter models that can be used in a busy office.
We've updated this article as of July 2019 after testing more than a dozen new keyboards, adding new options for fancy (and quiet!) electro-capacitive keyboards, modular keyboards offering deep customisation and high-end premium keyboards with unique features and eye-catching designs. Whether you're looking for the ultimate gaming keyboard, a surprisingly solid budget offering or just something to code on, we've got you covered. Let's take a look at the ten best mechanical keyboards on the market, all tried and tested by Digital Foundry.
Note: The pictures of each keyboard show either a UK or US layout, but I've linked to the appropriate regional layout wherever possible - so don't worry if you see a keyboard with a different-sized Enter key than what you're used to!
Best gaming keyboard
When it comes to mechanical keyboards, few can match Corsair's high-end models for features. This full-fat K70 MK2 keyboard has super-programmable RGB backlighting that can reflect in-game stats and be synced with the rest of your PC's components - of course! - as well as dedicated volume and media controls, a USB port and a wrist rest. The actual typing experience hasn't been forgotten either, with a wide range of switches - including rare low-actuation MX Speed and quiet MX Silent options. The keyboard is well-built too, with an aluminium chassis and PBT keycaps that should provide excellent longevity. Of course, everything comes at a cost - and for the K70 MK2, that includes a substantial footprint and a premium price tag. Still, if you believe that perfection comes when there's nothing left to add rather than nothing left to take away, the Corsair K70 MK2 is well worth a look.
Best quiet mechanical keyboard
The Fnatic Streak is a fully-featured mechanical keyboard available with silent switches. This board includes many extra features too, such as a comfortable wrist rest, full RGB backlighting, a programmable layout and a dedicated volume knob. It gets bonus points for customisability, with a choice of full-size and tenkeyless versions. It also comes with a standard layout which makes finding replacement keycaps a cinch, unlike other popular keyboards from Razer and Corsair. However, it also lacks those keyboards' complex yet powerful software, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on where your priorities lie.
In the UK, another strong option is the Fnatic Rush Pro Gaming Silent. It drops the RGB backlighting and a few other features but costs just £80.
Best overall mechanical gaming keyboard
This new keyboard from German firm Roccat sets itself apart with its novel Titan switches and skinny keycaps, which provide good tactile feedback for typing yet a shortened travel time that suits gaming. The floating-key design and brushed aluminium top plate also provide a uniquely stylish look. In terms of features, you get a handy volume knob and mute key in the upper right, RGB backlighting and extensive programmability through the Roccat Swarm software. If you're after something a little different - and genuinely outstanding - the Vulcan is a logical choice.
The top-of-the-line model in Europe is the Vulcan 120, which comes with a magnetically-attached palm rest but is otherwise identical to the cheaper Vulcan 100 model. In the US, the Vulcan 120 isn't offered, so I have linked to the Vulcan 100 instead. There's also the Vulcan 80, which loses the RGB backlighting and media controls.
If you prefer your mechanical keyboards to be full-size, number pad and all, then the Viper V770 is definitely worth a look. It has all of the features you could ask for, including dedicated keys for macros, backlighting and media controls, plus a volume roller. This is a pretty large keyboard, especially with the attached RGB wrist rest, but it's well built and doesn't exhibit much flex. The mechanical switches used here are made by the well-respected Kailh, with options for Brown (tactile) and Red (soft linear), both of which are well-suited for gaming. The only real weakness comes with the software, which isn't as intuitive nor as powerful as offerings from Razer and Corsair. If you can live with that, your reward is a premium mechanical keyboard at an unprecedentedly low price.
Best mechanical keyboard for coding or typing: WASD Code - from £140 UK/$150 USA
Californian company WASD sell some of the most colourful keyboards in the business, even letting users upload their own custom designs to be printed onto the keycaps. Their CODE keyboard, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, designed to blend into a business environment while still offering a pitch-perfect typing experience. Beneath the sober design, you'll find one of five different MX switches, including rarer MX Green, MX Clear and Zealios, plus the choice of pre-installed o-rings to make the keyboard as silent as possible. The switches are plate-mounted to ensure a solid feel and long-lasting durability, while white LED backlighting makes it easy to use in darker environments. This keyboard isn't cheap, but it should offer a pleasant typing experience for decades to come.
Shipping a WASD keyboard to Europe can be costly, so a similar keyboard like the Filco Majestouch-2 or a Cooler-Master Masterkeys could be a good alternative. Full disclosure: I worked for Filco distributor The Keyboard Company before joining Eurogamer.
This is one of the most popular budget mechanical keyboards available, thanks to its low price, good range of regional layouts and optional red backlighting. The keyboard uses Kailh-made switches similar to Cherry MX Blues, which provide an excellent tactile feel and a loud click. There are few advanced features here; this is just a simple keyboard that delivers a great typing and gaming experience for the money.
Best premium mechanical gaming keyboard: Kono Kira - $220 USA
Creating a custom keyboard with a unique layout, rare switches and high-quality keycaps is one of the most satisfying things you can do as a mechanical keyboard enthusiast. However, the hours of sourcing parts, soldering and troubleshooting may not be your idea of a fun time; can't you just skip to the end result? One way to do that is to pick up a premium, customisable keyboard, and one of the best we've tested is the stunning Kono Kira.
This keyboard comes with a condensed 99-key layout, incorporating a numpad and function keys in a smaller footprint than most full-size keyboards. From this basis, you can choose between a plastic or metal frame in silver or black and one of nine mechanical switches (including rare options from Input Club and NovelKeys). Whichever you choose, you get premium PBT keycaps in a blend of white and dark grey (plus Escape, Enter and arrow keys in four different colours) and RGB lighting that shines around the keycaps and through the translucent chassis. You also get a lot of customisation possibilities down the road. You can change out the keycaps and switches with simple hand tools, while the the board's open-source firmware can be programmed using a (admittedly clunky) graphical configurator to add new functions or rebind any key on the keyboard.
While the Kira is an expensive proposition, its build quality, eye-catching appearance and deep customisation justify its cost.
The Wooting One and Two are something special: the first analogue mechanical keyboards. That's an interesting prospect for gaming, as their pressure-sensitive keys allow you to steer into corners or creep around a level with the same fine-grained control you only normally only get with a wheel or controller. You can adjust the actuation point of the keyboard in software too, making a trade-off between speed and control that normally demands switching to an entirely different keyboard with different mechanical switches inside. All of this requires some setup and tweaking, but the result is something special. The One and Two are also solid keyboards even if you use it entirely digitally, with a clean 'floating keys' design, programmable RGB backlighting and a choice of full-size or compact layouts. The use of a tiny infrared beam also means that key presses should be registered abnormally fast, which may have a tiny effect on your in-game prowess - but I think this keyboard's analogue controls are the more interesting feature to discuss.
Wooting is also developing new Lekker switches that improve on the concept by trading optical sensors for Hall Effect magnetic sensors. With these, it will be possible to measure actuation across the entire 4mm travel of the switch, rather than just from 1.5mm to 3.6mm. There's also a matching Wooting Two Lekker board coming later this year - pictured above! - if there's enough interest. Other companies are exploring Hall Effect sensors too, such as Input Club with their crowd-funded Keystone board.
Electro-capacitive keyboards combine the soft feel and quiet typing sounds of membrane keyboards with the longevity and tactility of mechanical switches. That makes this type of keyboard great for working in shared spaces, without sacrificing on key feel or durability. However, these switches are expensive to produce, with most full-size keyboards costing in excess of $200/£200,about twice that of a typical mechanical keyboard. That's slowly starting to change, as more companies are experimenting with these switch types at lower price points.
Two worthy examples are the Niz Micro 84 and Niz Atom 66, two compact keyboards available at relatively low prices, with more premium models sporting RGB lighting and/or Bluetooth connectivity. Ultimately these additions are unnecessary, as the typing experience provided by the electro-capacitive switches and premium PBT keycaps is the most important feature here. The compact layouts includes all of the functions you could ask for within easy reach, including a virtual mouse, num pad and media keys, and the keyboard comes with Mac and Win keycaps.
Full disclosure: I worked for Plum distributor The Keyboard Company before joining Eurogamer.
While the Kono Kira boasts deep customisation, this premium keyboard's high price takes it out of contention for most people. A more affordable alternative is the Glorious GMMK. The pre-assembled model is quite unremarkable, with the usual minimalistic metal frame and RGB backlighting you can find on many boards, but Glorious also offer a barebones kit which is much more interesting. This kit is available in three sizes (100%, 80% and 60%), and it allows you to choose your own switches and keycaps - either from Glorious' own options or from the hundreds of compatible options available online. Glorious offer 14 switch types from their store from Gateron and Kailh, plus keycap sets in three colours.
We opted for a tenkeyless (80%) layout with aura keycaps and unusual Speed Bronze switches, which combine a shortened travel with a light actuation force and clicky report. The end result is a keyboard that doesn't cost any more than a more mainstream option, yet offers a dramatically different typing experience - and that's without even looking at other vendors to find even more unusual switches and keycaps. If you want a deeply personal keyboard adapted to your tastes, this is a great way to go about it. It's also a good starter keyboard, as the hot-swappable switches give you the flexibility to make big changes down the road.
With that, our recommendations come to an end. Of course, even if we chose 20 keyboards we'd still not scratch the surface of the many options available - so if we didn't cover your favourite keyboard, it's nothing personal. If you think we've missed a good option though, feel free to get in touch with me @wsjudd.
I hope you've found this article useful, and I look forward to the feedback. If you haven't read it before, I'd also encourage you to check out our feature on how - and why - mechanical keyboards become popular in the first place.