If you’re a computer user of, shall we say, “a certain age,” you remember a time when a room-filling cacophony of clicking was synonymous with typing as words appeared…uh, on a sheet of paper. Typewriters were, in a sense, the original mechanical keyboards, and generations of 20th-century office workers and aspiring novelists honed their typing chops on them.
Generally, mechanical keyboards are quite versatile, depending on what your preferences are. How they’re made differs from other types of keyboards, such as ones with rubber dome and scissor switches.
If you spend most of your day typing or coding, a mechanical keyboard is a worthwhile upgrade over a cheaper, less comfortable keyboard. After spending months testing 19 of the most promising options, we found the top 10 best mechanical keyboards of 2020.
Who this is for
Mechanical keyboards, called such because they have individual mechanical switches under each key, are more enjoyable to type on, more durable, and more customizable than the typical membrane, butterfly, or scissor-switch keyboards that come with laptops or desktops. If you spend all day typing, it can be satisfying to customize the size, switches, keycaps, and layout to your exact needs.
Any keyboard can work for any task—there’s not really any such thing as a special keyboard for typing, say, or a programming keyboard, or a gaming keyboard. That said, some features are more useful than others for certain tasks, and our picks in this guide are aimed at people who primarily type or code, but there’s no reason you couldn’t play games on them, too.
10 Best Mechanical Keyboards of 2021:
|Razer BlackWidow Elite||9.16 x 17.65 x 1.67 in||3.69 lbs|
|Corsair K95 Platinum XT||18.3 x 6.7 x 1.4 in||2.89 lbs|
|Logitech G915||15.2 x 5.9 x 0.9 in||5.3 ounces|
|Filco Majestouch Convertible 2||14.13 x 5.39 x 1.52 in||2.20 lbs|
|Razer Huntsman Elite||9.22 x 17.64 x 1.42 in||3.76 lbs|
Razer, fairly or not, has in the past been characterized as a manufacturer that focuses more on shiny lights and gimmicks — but that’s simply not the case with the Razer BlackWidow Elite. Okay, yes, it does have a lot of shiny lights and gimmicks, but it is still an excellent, functional keyboard, especially for gaming.
Its RGB “Chroma” backlighting is impossible to ignore, and it does look absolutely gorgeous — but it’s just not about looking pretty. You have a range of key switch options, that while proprietary (rather than genuine Cherry MX) are excellent performers. The included wrist rest is simple but supremely comfortable, and it has USB and 3.5mm headphone pass-throughs. Add to that dedicated media controls, and you have a very enticing prospect indeed.
It is arguable that there isn’t much innovation here, and the included software isn’t exactly elegant — but overall this is a brilliant keyboard for both gaming and typing, so it covers nearly every base you need in a modern mechanical keyboard.
Add to that the fact you can pick one up for an eye-watering price, we’re making the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate our Editor’s Pick for the best mechanical keyboard.
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.
The Logitech G915 is an easy way to blow $250, and it’s worth it. Once your fingers get used to the pillowy feel of the G915’s low-profile keys and Tactile switches, you’ll convince yourself—just as I have—that it’s a perfect keyboard.
The G915 is ultra-thin and though it’s just as big in dimensions as any full-size mechanical keyboard, it feels like it takes up less real estate. It’s wireless, and you can connect to it with the included wireless USB dongle or Bluetooth, depending on the task.
I had no latency issues playing my usual round of Elder Scrolls Online, or even while furiously typing out this story. Non-power users might not be too enthused about the extra column for macro keys, but they’re slightly less displacing than on the Corsair K95. Battery life is pretty good, too. Logitech claims up to 12 days of battery life on a charge. I didn’t have that much time to put the claim to the test, but I drained a mere 8% of battery life while intermittently using the keyboard for a week and a half.
Filco’s Majestouch range is one of the stalwarts of the mechanical keyboard in the market. Filco offers simple, high-quality keyboards long before the recent trend for mechanical gaming keyboards took off. No-nonsense and built like tanks, they tend to have fairly unflashy designs and relatively basic feature sets. The Convertible 2, then, is a little different.
Okay, so a first glance at the design of this keyboard shows it’s not all that different, as the familiar chunky, all-black styling is as present as ever. However, this tenkeyless (TKL) keyboard has a trick up its sleeve, which is the ability to convert from a simple wired configuration into a Bluetooth-connected mode.
Open up the battery compartment on the back, pop in the two supplied AA batteries and you can set up the keyboard to connect to up to four Bluetooth devices. Setup is decidedly clunkier than the likes of the Logitech K780, but it works well enough. Once it’s paired, you can plug in your USB connection again and carry on with permanent power while connected to all your devices. For some reason, the keyboard requires the batteries to initially set up the Bluetooth connection.
The Razer Huntsman Elite is an impressive mechanical keyboard that features Razer’s proprietary opto-mechanical switches. Whereas traditional mechanical switches register a keypress when two metal parts touch each other, opto-mechanical switches have an optical light sensor that sends an electrical impulse as soon as it registers the stem descending. As a result, the Razer Huntsman Elite provides unprecedented responsiveness and durability (up to 100 million keystrokes).
In addition to its innovative switches, the keyboard features several other technological innovations that put it into a league of its own. Located in the top-right corner is a multi-functional digital dial that lets you easily control everything from media playback to volume to brightness. You can fully customize it through Razor’s Synapse 3 software, which is also used to modify the 4-side underglow and 38 RGB customization zones.
To ensure that you won’t have to reconfigure the keyboard every time you unplug it from your computer or reinstall your operating system, Razer equipped the Huntsman Elite with onboard memory capable of storing up to 5 profiles. Included with the keyboard is a comfortable magnetic wrist rest that also features customizable RGB lights.
Another outstanding bargain, the G.SKILL KM360 manages to pack in enough premium features to keep things interesting, and even has genuine Cherry MX Red switches! Linus Tech Tips actually called the G.SKILL KM360 “The LAST Keyboard You’ll Ever Need for $50”, which is high praise indeed.
It’s a pretty minimalist look with the full white color, so it differs from the Redragon in that it doesn’t scream “GAMING”. It also has an aluminum backplate to help with rigidity.
Those Red switches do cost more than their Chinese counterparts though, so there were a few compromises to put this G.SKILL KM360 all together. It’s quite light at 685g, which you might not like if you want a keyboard that’s guaranteed not to budge on your desk. It also doesn’t have any dedicated media keys which might be a deal-breaker for some.
All in all though you get a heck of a good keyboard with the peace of mind of genuine Cherry MX Red switches — not bad for the price at all.
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.
The Alloy Origins is available with HyperX’s own short-throw mechanical switches, which come in Red (soft linear) or Aqua (soft tactile, most akin to a Cherry MX Brown). Both switches have a relatively low actuation force of 45 grams, so it all comes down to whether you prefer the extra tactile feedback of the Aqua switch or the smooth linear action of the Red.
For my money, the Aqua is a more well-rounded choice that accommodates both typing and gaming, but it all comes down to personal preference and both switches feel great under the finger. One important point is that these switches also use standard Cherry MX stems and and a standard 104/105-key layout, so you can install custom keycap sets if you’d prefer a different look.
All things considered, 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.
The Logitech K840 is more of a typing keyboard than a mechanical gaming keyboard, as it’s primarily designed for quiet office use. Logitech’s Romer-G key switches are quiet, but still have an actuation point so you know when you’ve ‘clicked’. Some may find they are a bit to light, however, which may lead to unintended keystrokes.
It has some strong build components, like an aluminum top plate, but the lettering on the keys is printed on, so they will almost certainly fade over time. Additionally, for a keyboard designed for office use, it doesn’t come with wrist support, which is odd. Not so odd is the lack of backlighting, as, after all, you don’t often work in a pitch-black office.
All in all though, if you are looking for quiet typing, and you’re light with your fingers, the Logitech K840 is a very solid choice. It may not be exciting, but it gets the job done!
The Apex Pro uses proprietary Omnipoint switches, which rely on magnetic sensors rather than springs to adjust the actuation point (or how hard you have to press a key before it’s recognized). By default, the OmniPoint switches feel similar to MX Cherry Reds.
If you don’t like that, you can use the SteelSeries Engine app to adjust the actuation point—anywhere between 0.4 mm and 3.6 mm, represented by a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 requiring the most extended press. I pegged it as a total gimmick at first, but I felt the relative difference in sensitivity between adjustments, and now I’m a believer. I didn’t experience the kind of “finger exhaustion” I get from more resistant switches. But if you’re the type who finds satisfaction from an audible keypress, you won’t find that in the Apex Pro.
I’m not a hardcore gamer (though I’ve logged more than 600 hours in Skyrim), so I couldn’t take full advantage of the aforementioned gaming-specific features. But what I like about the Apex Pro is that it doesn’t make those abilities the marquee. Navigational keys like Page Up and Page Down are programmable as macros for every game you play, or you can leave them be.
Microsoft’s Ergonomic Keyboard design has been around for decades, and has long proven itself as a comfortable option for people spending long periods of time typing. Now in its umpteenth iteration, it still offers the same core shape as previous versions but brings its design and features up to date.
For those unfamiliar with the range, the idea is simple: by raising up and flaring out the central portion of the keyboard, it better fits the angle and position of your hands when placed on your desk. The large padded wrist rest is integral to the shape too, adding genuine support and padding for the heel of your hand, unlike the token wrist rests you often see supplied with keyboards.
That’s the principle, and thankfully the design works in practice too – as 20-odd years of the same design being produced will attest. In fact, it’s quite amazing just how instantly more comfortable this keyboard feels than any keyboard with a standard shape.
Your arms and hands sit at a pleasant neutral angle, and all the keys fall comfortably within reach, so you don’t have to adjust your hand position all the time to reach them – hand size notwithstanding.
At the Heart of Mechanical: The Key Switch
First and foremost, the thing that defines a mechanical keyboard is the key switch it uses. Most budget keyboards today use dome-switch technology, which registers a keypress when you type and push down a silicone dome and connect two circuit-board traces. (This technology is also sometimes referred to as “membrane switch” or “rubber dome,” with minor variations in the essential design.)
Though this style is easy and inexpensive to manufacture, pressing the keys requires a relatively large amount of force, which can result in a heavy, mushy feel to the fingers and a lack of either tactile or auditory feedback when you type.
Plus, after a fairly “short” time (five million keystrokes, give or take), the domes can lose their springiness and either work less well or stop working altogether. So you’ll probably have to replace the keyboard at least once or twice over the life of the computer that you use it with.
How we picked and tested
We tested each keyboard by using it for at least one day of work, which involves lots and lots (and lots) of typing. We explored each keyboard’s customization options and paid attention to the quality of the cases and keycaps. As we narrowed down the contenders, we used the finalists for several more days of constant typing.
- Size: We recommend tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards—which lack a number pad but have all the other keys—because smaller keyboards allow you to place your mouse closer to your body, which reduces strain on your shoulders, neck, and back.
- Switch options: We cover all the different switch varieties in depth in our intro guide to mechanical keyboards, but here’s the TL;DR. Mechanical switches come in three main varieties: linear, tactile, and clicky. Linear switches feel smooth when you press them, from top to bottom.
- Build quality: Cheap keyboards with plastic cases and backplates feel and sound hollow when you type, and they can flex when you press too hard on them. A keyboard made of metal or thicker plastic is sturdier and won’t do that.
- Keycaps: Many keyboards come with keycaps made from ABS, a lightweight type of plastic that’s prone to wear and can become smooth and shiny with heavy use.
- Removable cable: A removable USB cable is preferable to a built-in one, because if the cable breaks it’s easier to replace just the cable rather than the whole keyboard.
And just like that, we’ve gone through the 10 best mechanical keyboards available to suit all budgets. If you’re like us you might be surprised at the great value that can be had right now, so you can get a lot of keyboard for your money.
If we really had to pick a winner out of this great bunch though, it would have to be the Razer Blackwidow Elite. It has just about everything you could ask for in a mechanical keyboard (yes, including the dazzling RGB lights), all for a reasonably mid ranged price.