Last Updated on December 4, 2023
Are you in the market for a new mechanical keyboard but feeling overwhelmed by the countless options available? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Choose the perfect mechanical keyboard can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not familiar with the various features and price ranges. But fear not! In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of selecting the ideal mechanical keyboard that fits your needs, preferences, and budget.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Mechanical Keyboard
Before diving into the different price ranges and recommendations, let’s first discuss the key factors you should consider when choosing a mechanical keyboard. By understanding these factors, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision.
1. Switch Type
One of the most critical aspects of a mechanical keyboard is the switch type. The switch determines how the key feels and sounds when pressed. There are three main categories of switches: linear, clicky, and tactile.
- Linear switches are prized for their smooth keystrokes and absence of an audible click. If you prefer a quieter typing experience, switches like Cherry MX Reds or Gateron Yellows might be your cup of tea.
- Clicky switches provide both tactile feedback and an audible click with each press. If you enjoy the satisfying sound of each keystroke, switches like Cherry MX Blues or Razer Greens could be your go-to choice.
- Tactile switches offer a middle ground, combining the satisfying bump of a clicky switch with the muted sound of a linear switch. If you’re after a balance between feedback and quietness, options like Cherry MX Browns or Zealios might suit you well.
It’s important to choose a switch type that suits your typing style and preferences. If possible, try out different switches before making a purchase to ensure you find the one that feels just right for you.
The switch is the heart of any mechanical keyboard, determining the tactile and auditory experience of each keystroke. Broadly categorized into linear, clicky, and tactile switches, each type has its distinctive characteristics. Understanding the nuances of these switch types is crucial. To delve deeper into this topic, refer to our detailed switch guide here.
2. Price Range
Mechanical keyboards come in various price ranges, and your budget will play a significant role in determining your options. We will explore three price categories: budget, mid-range, and high-end. Each category offers different features and build qualities, so it’s crucial to find the right balance between your budget and desired functionality.
3. Build Quality and Materials
The build quality of a mechanical keyboard can vary significantly depending on the price range and brand. Higher-end keyboards often feature premium materials like aluminum top plates, which offer durability and a more substantial feel. Pay attention to the overall construction, as a well-built keyboard will provide a more satisfying typing experience and last longer.
4. Additional Features
Consider what additional features are important to you. Do you need a wireless keyboard with Bluetooth capabilities? Would you like a hot-swappable keyboard that allows you to change switches without soldering? Think about your specific requirements and preferences to ensure you choose a keyboard that meets your needs.
5. Keyboard Size
Mechanical keyboards come in various sizes, ranging from full-size to compact 40% keyboards. The size you choose depends on your workspace and personal preferences. Full-size keyboards include a number pad, while compact options like TKL (Tenkeyless) and 60% keyboards eliminate the number pad and function keys to save space. Consider how much desk space you have and whether you need the additional keys before deciding on a size.
- Full-Size Keyboards: Numpad Included: A full-size keyboard offers all the keys you’re familiar with, including the numpad. If you require extensive numeric input, this layout is for you.
- Tenkeyless (TKL) Keyboards: Numpad Excluded: For those seeking a balance between functionality and space-saving, the TKL layout removes the numpad while retaining the main keyboard area.
- 60% Keyboards: Compact and Versatile: The 60% layout is for minimalist enthusiasts. With no function keys, numpad, or dedicated arrow keys, it maximizes space efficiency while maintaining essential functions.
- Unique Layouts: Beyond the Basics: If you’re feeling adventurous, explore unique layouts like the 65% and 75% keyboards. These sizes retain arrow keys and offer additional functionality, catering to both productivity and aesthetics.
6. Customization Options
Once you’ve chosen the perfect keyboard, the journey doesn’t end there. The world of mechanical keyboards invites you to customize and modify to your heart’s content, elevating your typing experience to unprecedented heights.
- Keycap Customization: Custom keycaps allow you to express your individuality while enhancing tactile feel and aesthetics. Dive into a sea of color, texture, and profile options.
- Stabilizer Mods: Modifying stabilizers through lubing and clipping can significantly reduce noise and improve keypress consistency, leading to a more refined typing experience.
- Switch Lubing: Lubricating your switches can transform your typing experience, providing smoother and quieter keystrokes. For newcomers, hot-swappable keyboards are a boon, allowing easy switch experimentation without soldering.
- Acoustic Enhancements: If sound is a concern, adding foam to your keyboard’s case can reduce echo and create a more muffled sound profile, perfect for shared workspaces.
- The Allure of Custom Keyboards: For the ultimate keyboard enthusiasts, the realm of custom keyboards beckons. While a more advanced pursuit, building a keyboard from scratch allows unparalleled customization, from switches to case materials.
If you’re interested in customizing your keyboard, look for options that allow you to change keycaps, switches, and even the case. Customization offers a unique and personalized experience. However, keep in mind that venturing into the custom keyboard space can be more expensive and time-consuming.
Now that we’ve covered the essential factors to consider let’s explore the different price ranges and recommendations for mechanical keyboards.
Budget Range ($50 and Below)
If you’re on a tight budget, the budget range offers a variety of affordable options. While these keyboards may not have all the premium features of higher-end models, they can still provide a decent typing experience.
Most keyboards in this price range are from lesser-known companies and may not offer the same build quality as more expensive options. The switches tend to be inconsistent and may not feel as stable or satisfying as higher-quality switches. However, there are a few hidden gems worth considering.
Some recommendations in this budget category include:
- Redragon K552: This compact keyboard features durable construction and offers a decent typing experience for its price. It’s a great budget option for gamers and casual typists alike.
- Royal Kludge RK61: With its compact design and Bluetooth connectivity, the RK61 is a popular choice for those seeking a portable mechanical keyboard. It offers a range of switch options and customizable backlighting.
- Royal Kludge RK68: If you’re willing to spend a little more, the RK68 is a great choice. This compact keyboard provides a premium typing experience, along with Bluetooth connectivity and hot-swappable switches.
While the budget range may have some limitations, these keyboards can still be an excellent starting point for those new to mechanical keyboards or on a tight budget.
Mid-Range ($70 to $120)
For most people, the mid-range price range offers the best balance between quality and affordability. You can expect higher build quality, premium materials, and a wider range of features in this category.
In the mid-range, you’ll find keyboards with renowned switches like Cherry MX, known for their consistency and reliability. These keyboards often come with special features such as wireless connectivity, hot-swappability, and durable construction.
Some top recommendations in this price range include:
- Ducky One 2 Mini: This compact keyboard has gained a cult following for its build quality, customizable RGB lighting, and programmable macros. It’s a favorite among gaming enthusiasts and offers a range of Cherry MX switches.
- Keychron K6 Hot-Swappable Edition: The K6 is a versatile and compact keyboard that offers Bluetooth connectivity, hot-swappable switches, and a variety of switch options. It’s a great choice for those who value portability and customization.
- NK65 Entry Edition: If you’re looking for a bare-bones kit to start your custom keyboard journey, the NK65 Entry Edition is an excellent option. While it doesn’t come with switches or keycaps, it provides a solid foundation for creating your dream keyboard.
The mid-range price range offers a wide selection of high-quality keyboards that cater to various needs and preferences. Whether you’re a gamer, programmer, or casual typist, you’re likely to find a keyboard that suits your requirements in this category.
High-End ($120 and Above)
If budget is not a concern and you’re after the best of the best, the high-end price range offers premium keyboards with top-notch features and build quality. These keyboards often feature all-aluminum construction, high-quality keycaps, and a variety of switch options beyond the standard Cherry MX.
In the high-end category, you’ll find flagship keyboards from well-known gaming brands like Logitech, SteelSeries, and Corsair. While these keyboards cater to gamers, they may not be the best choice if you prioritize typing comfort and sound.
Some notable high-end options include:
- Logitech G915 TKL: This wireless keyboard offers a sleek and minimalist design, low-profile switches, and customizable RGB lighting. It’s perfect for gamers who value aesthetics and wireless convenience.
- ASUS Optical Keyboard: ASUS’s optical keyboard lineup provides ultra-fast response times and customizable lighting effects. These keyboards are designed for gamers looking for a competitive edge.
- Custom Keyboards: For those looking for the ultimate customization experience, building a custom keyboard from scratch is the way to go. While this option requires more time, effort, and money, it allows you to create a keyboard tailored to your exact preferences.
It’s important to note that high price doesn’t always equate to higher quality. Consider your specific needs and preferences before investing in a high-end keyboard.
Considering Custom Keyboards
For enthusiasts who crave the utmost in personalization and customization, custom keyboards offer an unparalleled avenue of exploration. Building a custom keyboard from scratch allows you to tailor every aspect of the typing experience to your preferences. While this path requires a more significant investment of time, effort, and resources, the rewards are well worth it for those seeking the pinnacle of mechanical keyboard perfection.
1. Sourcing Components
Building a custom keyboard involves procuring individual components, including a PCB (Printed Circuit Board), switches, keycaps, stabilizers, and a case. This allows you to create a keyboard that perfectly suits your needs and preferences.
2. Soldering and Assembly
Assembling a custom keyboard often involves soldering switches onto the PCB. Soldering requires a degree of skill and precision, making it an appealing option for those with a DIY mindset.
3. Hot-Swappable Custom Keyboards
For those who prefer to bypass soldering, hot-swappable custom keyboards offer a convenient alternative. Hot-swappable keyboards allow you to change switches without soldering, enabling experimentation with different switches to fine-tune your typing experience.
4. Professional Build Services
For those intrigued by the idea of a custom keyboard but daunted by the prospect of assembly, professional build services offer a solution. These services allow you to collaborate with experts who can build a custom keyboard according to your specifications.
The Importance of Trying Before Buying
While reading reviews and recommendations can be helpful, there’s no substitute for trying out a keyboard for yourself. The best way to determine if a keyboard is right for you is to test it firsthand. If possible, visit a local electronics store or attend a keyboard meetup to try out different switches and keyboard sizes. This hands-on experience will give you a better understanding of what feels comfortable and satisfying to you.
If trying out keyboards in person is not an option, consider purchasing a switch tester. A switch tester allows you to test individual switches to get a sense of their feel and sound. While not as accurate as typing on a full keyboard, a switch tester can still provide valuable insights before making a purchase.
Conclusion: How to Choose the Perfect Mechanical Keyboard
Choosing the perfect mechanical keyboard doesn’t have to be a difficult process. By considering factors such as switch type, price range, build quality, additional features, keyboard size, and customization options, you can narrow down your options and make a well-informed decision. Whether you’re on a tight budget or willing to splurge on a high-end keyboard, there’s a mechanical keyboard out there that’s perfect for you. Remember to try before you buy, and happy typing!
Kizaru is a fan, collector, and has a huge addiction to mechanical keyboards. Kizaru has a collection of dozens of mechanical keyboards that come in different sizes and use different switches. He also frequently contributes to various forums that discuss keyboards such as Reddit and GeekHack.