Best mechanical keyboard 2020: 12 great gaming and typing options

Digital Foundry's expert picks for quiet, compact and full-fat gaming keyboards with all the trimmings.

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 January 2020 after testing more than four dozen new keyboards, adding new options for wireless and low profile models, 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: Corsair K95 Platinum XT

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When it comes to mechanical keyboards, few can match Corsair's high-end models for pure depth of features. This full-fat K95 Platinum XT keyboard has super-programmable RGB backlighting and edge lighting that can reflect in-game stats, plus dedicated macro, volume and media controls, a USB port and a plush wrist rest. The actual typing experience hasn't been forgotten either, with a wide range of switches - including hard-to-find MX Speed options alongside more usual Cherry switches. 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 K95 Platinum XT, 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 Platinum XT is well worth a look. If you're willing to sacrifice some RGB edge lighting and the dedicated macro row, the Corsair K70 MK.2 also comes highly recommended and offers far better value for money.

Best quiet mechanical keyboard: Fnatic Streak Pro

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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.

Best overall mechanical gaming keyboard: Roccat Vulcan

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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.

There are several Vulcan models available. The Vulcan 120 is the model we reviewed, which comes with a magnetically-attached palm rest but is otherwise identical to the cheaper Vulcan 100 model. There's also the Vulcan 80, which loses the RGB backlighting and media controls. The Vulcan 121 and 122 are later releases, offering a black anodised aluminium top plate and a white paint job, respectively.

Best minimalist gaming keyboard: HyperX Alloy Origins

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The HyperX Alloy Origins is the best-built and most cleanly designed mechanical keyboard for gaming we've tested. Despite offering a full layout, the Alloy Origins has a minimal footprint, with no extra keys for macros, media controls and the like; these functions are handled by a Fn layer. The aluminium used on the top and bottom makes the keyboard extremely resistant to deck flex; it feels as well-built as an old IBM Model M but in a much more compact form factor. USB-C is also included, although the recessed port means most standard USB-C cables don't fit, and the RGB lighting can be controlled on the keyboard or in software.

Apart from its design, the Origins includes HyperX's own linear red switches. In our testing, these worked largely the same as standard Cherry Reds, offering soft linear actuation that was ideal for tapping keys quickly in fast-paced games. The switches use standard Cherry MX stems and the layout is entirely standard, so you can install custom keycap sets if you like. Altogether, this is a great gaming keyboard with a nice clean aesthetic, so if you like the look this is a strong choice for the money. If you prefer a more compact layout without the number pad, check out the Alloy Origins Core.

Best value mechanical gaming keyboard: Fnatic Rush

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If you prefer your mechanical keyboards to be full-size, number pad and all, then the Fnatic Rush is a great shout. It comes with genuine Cherry MX switches, a rarity at this price point, while offering a full US or UK layout and all of the standard gaming keyboard features you'd expect - USB passthrough for your mouse or headset, media controls, a game mode that locks the Windows key and optional red backlighting for each key. It feels incredibly well built too, which often isn't the case with the less expensive mechanical keyboards. Plus, this is CS:GO legend Flusha's keyboard of choice - pretty cool.

Best mechanical keyboard for coding or typing: WASD Code V3

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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.

Redragon K551 and K552

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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 wireless keyboard: Logitech G915

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The G915 Lightspeed is the fusion of two growing trends from the very companies that promulgated them: dependable, low-latency wireless connectivity from Logitech and low-profile, laptop-like mechanical switches from Kailh. The combination is an impressive one, allowing the construction of an ultra-thin keyboard for gaming and typing that feels great to use and looks super clean on your desk. There are three low profile switch types offered here right off the bat - clicky, tactile and linear - so you can opt for the amount of tactile and audible feedback that makes sense to you.

The Lightspeed wireless connection worked well in our testing, providing the same wired feel as Logitech's G Pro Wireless gaming mouse and reasonable battery life of around 30 hours with backlighting at max brightness. Bluetooth is also available, which adds more latency but allows the keyboard to work with devices like phones and tablets; it's possible to switch between Bluetooth and Lightspeed connections with a press of a button.

Elsewhere, Logitech has paid an impressive amount of attention to detail. The aluminium alloy body of the G915 feels robust despite its thin design, with softly rounded corners and a satisfyingly wide volume roller in the upper right corner. The full-format design also includes macro keys on the left side, media controls beneath the volume roller and various profile settings along the top. RGB backlighting is included beneath each key, which of course can be set to a single colour, turned down or disabled entirely if you prefer.

The Logitech G815 is a wired equivalent offered with USB passthrough at a lower price.

Best premium mechanical gaming keyboard: Kono Kira

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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.

Best optical mechanical keyboard: Wooting One

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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.

Best modular keyboard: Glorious GMMK

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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.

Mainstream alternative: Logitech G Pro X

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If you like the sound of choosing your own switches but fancy something a little more mainstream, Logitech's G Pro X keyboard is another strong choice. This compact option provides a very satisfying gaming and typing experience with clicky (Blue), tactile (Brown) or linear (Red) options out of the box, and it includes standards like RGB lighting, a game mode and a detachable Micro USB cable.

Where the Pro X sets itself apart from Logitech's original Pro keyboard is that each switch is easily removable using a tool, so you can swap out damaged switches or customise each key with a different feel using 50-switch packs available from Logitech for $50/£43. For example, fans of first person shooters might prefer to have soft linear WASD keys to make movement and double-taps easier, while leaving other keys firmer to make them harder to press accidentally.

There's nothing new about a keyboard with hot swappable switches - mechanical keyboard enthusiasts have been able to find options online from Chinese and Japanese brands for years - but this is the first option from a big Western brand and it deserves recognition. Expect to see these boards in the hands of professional gamers - and the fans that idolise them - very soon. Hopefully, we'll see a greater variety of switch options in future, as this would greatly deepen the customisation possible here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Ultimate Hacking Keyboard

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The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is a split-design ergonomic keyboard, similar to the Ergodox but with a much smaller footprint and the ability to use it both joined up (for portability) and split apart (for ergonomics and having a mug of tea in the middle). If you're already used to a 60 per cent keyboard for your work, then this split layout should be ergonomically superior while including some useful functions not found on standard compact keyboards like built-in mouse controls, two extra keys below the space bar and easily accessible arrow keys.

Based on my testing, the chief advantages of the UHK over the Ergodox are two-fold: the closer-to-standard layout is easier to learn and the keyboard is more easily programmable, thanks to an excellent UHK Agent software. It is trivial to change layouts on the fly, with the small LED display in the upper left of the keyboard reminding you which layout is active. Windows, Mac and Linux are all well supported, with preset layouts for Qwerty, Colemak and Dvorak.

A wide range of case colours, mechanical switches, key legends and accessories are also available - including click-into-place add-ons like thumb keys, touchpad, trackpoint or trackball. A palm rest is also available, adding more options for tenting, tilting and otherwise positioning the keyboard in an ergonomically optimal way. Sadly, key backlighting is not offered currently, something that is possible with the Ergodox Glow. Regardless, the UHK is a well-designed ergonomic keyboard worth considering for anyone that relies on a keyboard for work.

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.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

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About the author

Will Judd

Will Judd

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2.

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