Mechanical keyboards are an essential part of a computer setup for many users, and custom mechanical keyboards offer a level of customization and personalization that can enhance the typing and gaming experience. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the best custom mechanical keyboards currently available on the market, as well as the factors you should consider when choosing one.
What are Custom Mechanical Keyboards?
A custom mechanical keyboard is a keyboard that has been built using individual, modular components. This allows users to select each and every component that goes into their keyboard, from the switches to the keycaps, the PCB, and even the case itself.
This level of customization provides users with the opportunity to create a keyboard that is tailored specifically to their needs and preferences. Whether you want a keyboard with a unique layout, specific switch type, or custom keycaps, a custom mechanical keyboard provides you with the flexibility to create a keyboard that is truly your own.
Benefits of Custom Mechanical Keyboards
There are many benefits to using a custom mechanical keyboard over a standard keyboard. Some of the most notable benefits include:
- Improved Typing Experience: Custom mechanical keyboards are designed to provide a more satisfying typing experience than standard keyboards. With high-quality switches, a durable design, and customizable options, you can create a keyboard that feels comfortable and responsive to type on.
- Increased Productivity: Custom mechanical keyboards can improve your productivity by allowing you to type more quickly and accurately. This is especially true for users who spend a lot of time typing, such as gamers, office workers, and programmers.
- Personalized Key Layout: Custom mechanical keyboards allow users to rearrange the key layout to their preferences, improving the typing experience and reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
- Customizable Backlighting: Many custom mechanical keyboards offer backlighting options, allowing users to customize the look and feel of their keyboard.
- Better Responsiveness: Custom mechanical keyboards are designed to offer a faster, more responsive typing experience, reducing the need for users to hit keys multiple times to get a response.
- Improved Gaming Performance: Gamers often prefer custom mechanical keyboards for the tactile feedback and improved accuracy they offer, allowing them to react more quickly and effectively in-game.
- Enhanced Aesthetics: Custom mechanical keyboards offer a unique look and feel that can enhance the aesthetics of a workspace or gaming setup.
- High-Quality Build: Custom mechanical keyboards are built using high-quality materials, making them more durable and long-lasting compared to standard keyboards.
- Customization: The biggest benefit of custom mechanical keyboards is the level of customization they offer. With a wide range of options for switches, keycaps, and other components, you can create a keyboard that is perfectly tailored to your needs and preferences.
- Durability: Custom mechanical keyboards are built to last, with high-quality components and a sturdy construction that is designed to withstand heavy use.
Types of Custom Mechanical Keyboards
There are many different types of custom mechanical keyboards, each offering its own unique set of features and benefits. Some of the most popular types of custom mechanical keyboards include:
- Full Custom Keyboards: Full custom keyboards are the ultimate in customization, allowing users to design their keyboard from the ground up. This includes choosing the layout, key switches, keycaps, firmware, and even the case itself. Full custom keyboards offer unparalleled flexibility and control, allowing users to create the perfect keyboard for their needs and preferences.
- DIY Keyboards: These keyboards allow users to build their own custom keyboard from parts and components. The user can choose the switches, keycaps, and PCB, and assemble the keyboard according to their specifications.
- Modular Keyboards: These keyboards consist of individual keys and components that can be easily replaced or modified. This allows users to customize the layout and functionality of their keyboard.
- Kit Keyboards: Kit keyboards are a great option for those who want a more hands-on approach to customizing their keyboard. Kit keyboards come in pieces, allowing users to assemble the keyboard themselves. This not only provides a level of customization, but it also gives users a deeper understanding of how their keyboard works.
- Semi-Custom Keyboards: These are pre-built keyboards that can be customized with different keycaps, switches, and lighting options.
- Keycap Customization: Keycap customization is a simple yet effective way to personalize your keyboard. By changing the keycaps, users can change the look and feel of their keyboard, making it truly unique. Keycap customization can be done on any type of mechanical keyboard, including full custom and kit keyboards.
Considerations when Choosing a Custom Mechanical Keyboard
- Layout: The layout of the keyboard is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a custom mechanical keyboard. You can choose between full-sized, TKL (tenkeyless), or even 60% layout.
- Key switches: The type of key switches used in the keyboard is also important to consider. Some popular options include Cherry MX, Kailh, and Razer.
- Keycap Material: Keycap material can vary from ABS plastic to PBT plastic, with PBT being a higher-quality, more durable material.
- Lighting: Custom mechanical keyboards offer a range of lighting options, including backlit and RGB. Choose one that suits your preferences.
- Software: Some custom mechanical keyboards come with software that allows you to customize the lighting and macros. Consider if this is important to you and if the software is compatible with your operating system.
- Build Quality: Consider the build quality of the keyboard to ensure that it will last. A well-constructed keyboard should have a sturdy frame and high-quality key switches.
- Price: Custom mechanical keyboards can vary greatly in price. Decide on your budget and choose a keyboard that offers the features and quality you want at a price you can afford.
- Brand Reputation: Choose a brand that has a good reputation and has been around for a while. This will ensure that you receive a high-quality keyboard and that customer service is available if you have any issues.
Best Custom Mechanical Keyboards
|Best Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Award||Price|
|Keychron Q3||Best Overall Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|Keychron Q1||The Favorites 75% Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|Keychron Q2||Best Compact Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|GMMK PRO||Best 75% Barebones Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|KBD75 V3.1||Best Aesthetic Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|Drop CTRL Barebones||Best Build Quality Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|Keydous NJ80-AP Wireless||Best Wireless Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|MelGeek Mojo68||Another Aesthetic and Compact Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|Epomaker Theory TH80||Best Budget Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
|Royal Kludge H81||Best Cheap Custom Mechanical Keyboards||Check Price|
The Keychron Q3 is a compact, wired mechanical keyboard that offers a lot of customization options for its users. The keyboard is equipped with QMK or VIA support, which allows for programmable macros, custom lighting effects, and key remapping. This makes it an ideal choice for gamers and professionals who demand the most control over their keyboard.
The Keychron Q3 features an aluminum frame that is both durable and lightweight. The keyboard has a minimalist design, with a simple and elegant look that would blend in well with any desktop setup. The build quality of the keyboard is excellent, with no creaks or flexing of the frame.
The keyboard uses Gateron Red mechanical switches, which offer a linear and smooth typing experience. The switches are tactile, but not as pronounced as Cherry MX Browns, which makes them a great choice for typing and gaming. The keycaps are made of ABS plastic, which is durable and resistant to wear and tear.
One of the standout features of the Keychron Q3 is its customizable lighting. The keyboard supports RGB lighting and has several lighting modes, including rainbow, breathing, and wave. The lighting can be customized using the VIA software, which is simple to use and intuitive. The keyboard also has a dedicated media control key, which makes it easy to control audio and video playback without having to switch to your mouse.
The Keychron Q3 is a wired keyboard, which means that it does not have any connectivity issues. This also means that there is no need to worry about battery life, as the keyboard will work as long as it is connected to a power source. The keyboard has a 1.8m USB-C cable, which provides plenty of length to reach your computer or laptop.
In conclusion, the Keychron Q3 is a versatile and well-designed keyboard that offers a lot of customization options for its users. The keyboard is ideal for gaming and typing, and its compact design makes it an excellent choice for those who have limited desk space. The RGB lighting, customizable macros, and media control keys make this keyboard an excellent choice for anyone who demands control and versatility from their keyboard.
The Keychron Q1 QMK/VIA Wired Custom Mechanical Keyboard is a versatile and stylish keyboard that is designed to cater to the needs of both gamers and typists. The keyboard comes with Gateron Red linear switches, which provide a smooth and quiet typing experience, making it ideal for use in the office or at home.
The Q1 has a compact and slim design, making it easy to carry around in a laptop bag or backpack. Despite its small size, it still provides a full-sized keyboard experience with all the essential keys, including the number pad, navigation keys, and function keys. The keyboard also has customizable RGB lighting, which can be controlled using the software provided by Keychron.
The keyboard comes with a wired USB-C connection, which provides a reliable and fast connection to your computer. It is also compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems, making it a versatile choice for users of different platforms.
The Keychron Q1 is customizable using the QMK firmware and VIA software, allowing users to remap keys, set macros, and program different lighting effects. This makes it an ideal choice for gamers and users who need a highly customizable keyboard.
In conclusion, the Keychron Q1 QMK/VIA Wired Custom Mechanical Keyboard is an excellent choice for users who need a compact and customizable keyboard that is suitable for both typing and gaming. The keyboard’s high-quality build, customizable lighting, and versatile connection options make it a standout choice for anyone looking for a new keyboard.
The Keychron Q2 Wired Custom Mechanical Keyboard is a highly versatile keyboard designed for both work and play. The keyboard features a sleek and compact design that takes up minimal desk space, making it perfect for those who are short on space.
The keyboard features customizable RGB backlighting, which allows you to choose from a range of colors to match your setup. The keyboard also has a hotkey function, allowing you to quickly access media controls and other frequently used shortcuts.
The keyboard uses a durable and long-lasting mechanical switch that provides a smooth and responsive typing experience. The switch also provides a satisfying audible click, which can be adjusted to your preferences.
One of the standout features of the Keychron Q2 Wired Custom Mechanical Keyboard is its compatibility with both Windows and MacOS. This makes it an ideal choice for those who frequently switch between computers or have a dual-boot setup.
The keyboard also features a USB-C port, making it easy to connect to your computer and charge other devices. The keyboard also comes with a detachable USB-C cable, making it easy to store and transport.
In conclusion, the Keychron Q2 Wired Custom Mechanical Keyboard is an excellent choice for those who are looking for a versatile, customizable, and compact keyboard. The keyboard offers a smooth and responsive typing experience and is ideal for both work and play.
The GMMK PRO Modular Mechanical Keyboard is a high-quality keyboard that is designed for the professional gaming market. It is built with a modular design that allows users to customize and upgrade their keyboard as they see fit. The keyboard features a durable aluminum casing, with a textured surface that provides a comfortable grip and a sleek look.
One of the standout features of the GMMK PRO is its modular design. The keyboard’s keys are interchangeable, allowing users to swap out the keys for different shapes and sizes. This feature is especially useful for gamers who may prefer certain keys for specific actions in a game. The keyboard also has a hot-swappable PCB, which means that users can switch out the key switches without the need for soldering.
The GMMK PRO also has an ergonomic design, with a built-in wrist rest that provides comfort during extended gaming sessions. The keyboard also has a detachable USB cable, making it easier to transport and store.
Overall, the GMMK PRO Modular Mechanical Keyboard is a top-of-the-line keyboard that provides users with a high level of customization and versatility. The build quality is excellent, and the features are well-designed, making this keyboard a great option for serious gamers and professionals.
The KBD75 V3.1 is a custom mechanical keyboard that offers a unique blend of versatility and customization options. The keyboard is built with high-quality materials, including a sturdy aluminum frame and a sleek and elegant design. The keys are equipped with Cherry MX switches, which offer a smooth and responsive typing experience. The keyboard also features customizable RGB lighting, which can be programmed to display a variety of colors and effects.
One of the standout features of the KBD75 V3.1 is its versatility. The keyboard is designed with multiple layers, allowing users to create custom macros and remap keys to their liking. This makes it an ideal choice for gamers and professionals who need a keyboard that can be tailored to their specific needs. The keyboard also comes with a detachable USB cable, which makes it easy to take on the go or to store when not in use.
In terms of build quality, the KBD75 V3.1 is top-notch. The aluminum frame is sturdy and provides a solid foundation for the keyboard. The keycaps are made of high-quality plastic and are durable enough to withstand heavy use. The RGB lighting is bright and vibrant, making it an attractive choice for users who want to add a touch of style to their setup.
In conclusion, the KBD75 V3.1 is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality custom mechanical keyboard. The keyboard is built to last, and its customizable features make it a versatile and practical choice for both work and play. The RGB lighting and sleek design make it an attractive addition to any setup, and its high-quality Cherry MX switches make typing and gaming a smooth and responsive experience.
Drop CTRL Barebones
The Drop CTRL Barebone Custom Mechanical Keyboard is a high-quality and customizable keyboard that has been designed for users who are looking for a comfortable and efficient typing experience. The keyboard has been constructed using high-quality materials and features a solid aluminum frame that provides a sturdy and durable base for the keys.
One of the standout features of this keyboard is the customizable layout. Users have the ability to swap out keys with ease, allowing for a completely custom layout that is tailored to their needs. Additionally, the keyboard features Cherry MX mechanical switches that offer a satisfying and tactile typing experience.
Another notable feature of the Drop CTRL Barebone Custom Mechanical Keyboard is its compact design. The keyboard has been designed with a tenkeyless layout, which eliminates the numeric keypad and saves desk space. This makes it an excellent option for users who are working with limited desk space.
Overall, the Drop CTRL Barebone Custom Mechanical Keyboard is a high-quality and customizable keyboard that is built to provide a comfortable and efficient typing experience. Its compact design and customizable layout make it an excellent option for users who are looking for a keyboard that is both functional and stylish.
Keydous NJ80-AP Wireless
The Keydous NJ80-AP Wireless Custom Mechanical Keyboard is a high-end keyboard that is designed to meet the needs of gamers, designers, and anyone looking for a top-notch typing experience. The keyboard has an aluminum body that is both durable and stylish, and its wireless design eliminates the need for cords and cables.
The keys are mechanical, which gives users a tactile feel and the ability to type more accurately. The keyboard is customizable, allowing users to program each key with their preferred functions and macros. The backlit keys make typing in low light conditions easier and adds an extra touch of style to the keyboard. The battery life on the NJ80-AP is excellent, with up to three months of use possible on a single charge. Overall, the Keydous NJ80-AP is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a top-quality wireless mechanical keyboard.
The MelGeek Mojo68 is a custom mechanical keyboard that is designed for gamers, typists, and anyone who wants a high-quality keyboard for their daily use. This keyboard is built with a 68% layout, meaning it is compact and can save a lot of desk space. The Mojo68 features Cherry MX RGB Red switches, which are known for their quick response time and low actuation force, making them perfect for gamers who require fast and precise inputs.
The Mojo68 also features customizable RGB lighting, with 16.8 million colors to choose from, giving users the ability to set their preferred lighting effects and colors. The keyboard comes with a software that allows users to create their own macros, as well as change the lighting and key assignments.
One of the standout features of the Mojo68 is its build quality. The keyboard is constructed with a metal frame that gives it a solid and durable feel, and it is also fitted with double-shot ABS keycaps that are resistant to wear and tear.
Overall, the MelGeek Mojo68 is an excellent custom mechanical keyboard that offers a great typing experience, fast and accurate response time, and a wealth of customization options. The build quality is top-notch, and the RGB lighting adds an extra layer of customization to the keyboard. The price point is also reasonable compared to other custom mechanical keyboards in its class.
Epomaker Theory TH80
The Epomaker Theory TH80 is a custom mechanical keyboard designed for gamers and typing enthusiasts alike. This keyboard offers a sleek, minimalist design, with a solid aluminum case and a choice of Cherry MX, Gateron, or Kailh switches.
One of the standout features of the Theory TH80 is its customizable RGB lighting. Users can choose from a variety of color options, and can also create custom light patterns for added personalization.
The keyboard itself is well-built and sturdy, with a comfortable typing experience. The Cherry MX switches are known for their tactile feedback and accuracy, making them a popular choice for gamers and typists alike. The Gateron and Kailh switches offer a similar experience, with a slightly different feel and response time.
Another noteworthy feature of the Theory TH80 is its fully programmable layout. Users can remap keys, create macros, and customize the lighting to their exact specifications. This level of customization makes the keyboard ideal for gamers and power users who require a keyboard that is tailored to their specific needs.
In terms of connectivity, the Theory TH80 offers both wired and wireless options. The wired connection uses a USB Type-C port, while the wireless connection utilizes Bluetooth 5.0. Both options offer stable and fast connectivity, with no lag or delay.
In conclusion, the Epomaker Theory TH80 is a high-quality custom mechanical keyboard that offers a lot of customization options for users. Its solid construction, customizable RGB lighting, and programmable layout make it a great choice for gamers and typists alike. With both wired and wireless connectivity options, this keyboard is a versatile and flexible option for anyone looking for a high-performance mechanical keyboard.
Royal Kludge H81
The Royal Kludge H81 is a budget-friendly custom mechanical keyboard that offers a great typing experience for its price. It has a compact layout, making it perfect for users who have limited desk space.
One of the standout features of the H81 is its customizable RGB lighting. Users can choose from a wide range of color options and lighting effects, and they can even program the lighting to respond to key presses. The lighting system is well-implemented, and it adds an extra level of fun to the typing experience.
The H81 is built with Gateron Red switches, which are known for their smooth and linear feel. These switches are favored by typists and gamers alike, and they provide a good balance between speed and comfort. Additionally, the H81 is compatible with other switch types, so users can swap out the switches if they prefer a different feel.
One thing to note about the H81 is that it does not come with dedicated media keys. This may be a deal breaker for some users, but it is understandable given the budget-friendly price point of the keyboard.
Overall, the Royal Kludge H81 is a great option for those who are looking for a custom mechanical keyboard that offers a solid typing experience at a budget-friendly price. The RGB lighting, compatibility with different switch types, and compact layout make it a versatile option for both typists and gamers.
Are custom mechanical keyboards worth the investment?
However, the value of custom mechanical keyboards is subjective and depends on several factors, including individual preferences, the intended use of the keyboard, and the budget.
Some people believe that custom mechanical keyboards are worth the investment because they offer a superior typing experience compared to traditional keyboards. They offer better keystroke accuracy, feedback, and responsiveness, making them ideal for gamers and typists who demand precision and speed.
Additionally, custom mechanical keyboards come with various customization options, such as programmable macros, backlighting, and a wide range of switch types. This allows users to personalize their keyboard according to their specific needs and preferences.
However, custom mechanical keyboards can be more expensive than traditional keyboards, and they may not be suitable for everyone. If you are not a heavy user or don’t require advanced features, you might not notice a significant improvement in your typing experience, and therefore, the investment may not be worth it.
In conclusion, the worthiness of investing in a custom mechanical keyboard depends on your personal needs and preferences. If you are looking for a premium typing experience and are willing to spend more money, a custom mechanical keyboard may be a good investment for you.
What is the difference between custom and pre-built mechanical keyboards?
Custom mechanical keyboards refer to keyboards that are built by individual users or small companies. They are usually designed to cater to specific user needs and preferences, such as specific key layout, switch type, case design, and backlighting options. Custom mechanical keyboards often provide more options and flexibility in terms of customization compared to pre-built keyboards.
Pre-built mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, are keyboards that are manufactured and sold by larger companies. They come with standard key layouts and switches and may offer limited customization options such as backlighting options or different switch types. They are often more accessible and less expensive than custom mechanical keyboards, but they may not provide the level of customization and personalization that custom mechanical keyboards offer.
In summary, custom mechanical keyboards are built to suit specific needs and preferences while pre-built mechanical keyboards offer more accessibility and convenience at a lower price point but with less customization options.
What are the best switches for custom mechanical keyboards?
- Cherry MX Brown – a tactile switch with a soft actuation force, ideal for typing and gaming.
- Cherry MX Red – a linear switch with a light actuation force, popular among gamers.
- Cherry MX Blue – a tactile and audible switch, good for typing and gaming.
- Gateron Red – a cheaper alternative to the Cherry MX Red, with a similar feel and actuation force.
- Kailh Speed Silver – a linear switch with a low actuation force and quick response time, good for gaming.
- Razer Green – a tactile and audible switch with a higher actuation force, ideal for typing and gaming.
- Logitech Romer-G – a tactile switch with a low actuation force and quick response time, good for gaming.
It’s important to note that the best switch for you will depend on your personal preferences, typing style, and use case.
What is the best material for custom keycaps?
The most popular materials for custom keycaps are:
- ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) – This is a lightweight and affordable plastic that is commonly used for mass-produced keycaps. ABS is durable and resistant to fading, but it can develop a glossy finish over time with use.
- PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) – This is a more durable and premium plastic that is often favored by mechanical keyboard enthusiasts. PBT keycaps are more resistant to wear and tear, and they retain their texture and color over time.
- Resin – This is a popular material for custom keycaps due to its unique look and feel. Resin keycaps are often hand-made and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Resin keycaps are also resistant to fading, but they can be brittle and prone to cracking.
- Metal – Metal keycaps are a popular option for custom keycaps because of their durability and high-end look. Metal keycaps are typically made from aluminum or zinc, and they are often anodized for color. Metal keycaps can be expensive, but they are worth it for the quality and durability.
Ultimately, the best material for custom keycaps depends on the user’s personal preferences, needs, and budget.
What are the best PCBs for custom mechanical keyboards?
Some of the most popular PCBs for custom mechanical keyboards are:
- GH60: An affordable and popular option for custom keyboards. It is compatible with multiple firmware options and supports both ANSI and ISO layouts.
- DZ60: A compact PCB that supports 60% and TKL layouts. It is a good choice for those looking for a smaller keyboard.
- JD45: A popular option for those building a custom 45% keyboard. It supports ANSI and ISO layouts and has a small form factor.
These are just a few of the many options available. The best PCB for a custom mechanical keyboard will depend on individual preferences and requirements.
What is the average lifespan of a custom mechanical keyboard?
According to some sources, the average lifespan of a custom mechanical keyboard is around 5 to 10 years with proper care and usage. However, it largely depends on the brand, model, and usage. Some high-quality keyboards can last longer than 10 years, while others may only last a few years.
Can custom mechanical keyboards be used for gaming?
Yes, custom mechanical keyboards can be used for gaming. In fact, many gamers prefer custom mechanical keyboards for their fast and responsive keystroke, customizable backlighting, and durable construction. Some custom mechanical keyboards even have dedicated multimedia keys and programmable macros, making them ideal for gaming use.
Can custom mechanical keyboards be used for office work?
However, custom mechanical keyboards can be used for office work. It depends on the preferences of the user and the requirements of the specific job. Custom mechanical keyboards often offer a more tactile and responsive typing experience, which can improve typing speed and accuracy. However, some mechanical keyboards can be louder than traditional office keyboards and might not be suitable for use in a shared office environment. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide if a custom mechanical keyboard is the best choice for their office work.
Are custom mechanical keyboards compatible with all operating systems?
In general, custom mechanical keyboards are compatible with all operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and Chrome OS. However, some features may vary depending on the operating system. For example, the media keys may not work on Linux, and the software for programming macros may not be available for macOS. It is important to check the compatibility of the keyboard with the operating system before purchasing.
How much should I expect to spend on a custom mechanical keyboard?
As of 2022, a custom mechanical keyboard can cost anywhere from $100 to $400 or more, depending on the features, materials, and design. More advanced models with additional features such as RGB lighting, programmable keys, and higher-end switches can cost over $500. Additionally, buying keycaps and other accessories separately can add to the cost.