The 8 best mechanical keyboards of 2021 for gaming and fast typing

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Mechanical keyboards offer tactile and auditory feedback that can reduce typos for fast typists.
  • Many gamers also appreciate the speed of mechanical keyboards.
  • The best mechanical keyboards come from brands like Das, Razer, Logitech, SteelSeries, and more.

Mechanical keyboards create both tactile and auditory feedback, delivering more accuracy for typing and more speed for gaming. The best mechanical keyboards deliver a mix of speed and accuracy in a comfortable set-up that doesn’t feel too loud.

Mechanical keyboards use a physical switch under each key rather than a membrane or rubber dome. Besides offering a satisfying “clicky” feel, mechanical keyboards are more accurate for fast typists. Tom Gilmore is the technology education coordinator at Free Geek, an electronic recycling and refurbishing nonprofit. People who type fewer than 150 words per minute won’t see much of an improvement by ditching the membrane keyboard, he said, but fast typists will gain more accuracy. “The robust construction of each switch also lends itself to being much more durable in terms of the number of times that a key can be pressed before it wears out,” he said.

The feel of the switch is a matter of personal preference. That’s why mechanical switches come in different variations. Besides the amount of pressure required to push each switch, the different types of keys will also have a different feel and noise to them.

As a writer, I regularly type for several hours a day. To find the best mechanical keyboard, I consulted experts, fellow Insider writers, and dozens of professional reviews on the top-ranked options. We’re currently testing many mechanical keyboards to narrow down our list.

Here are the best mechanical keyboards you can buy:

The best mechanical keyboard overall

dask keyboard mac

With designs for Mac and Windows, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional is a comfortable, all-around performer.

With a classic layout, a sturdy build, and a click that isn’t overly loud, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional is an excellent yet versatile mechanical keyboard. The Das Keyboard 4 comes in a PC or a Mac version, so keys like command and Windows will be properly labeled for your system. It’s a full-size, 104-key layout with a numeric pad, with the addition of a nice-sized volume dial and a few media keys.

The version with Cherry MX Brown keys offers that mechanical feedback without annoying anyone that happens to be nearby. 

The full-size keyboard is constructed from plastic, but it’s a thicker, sturdier build than some aluminum models we’ve tested. It doesn’t have colorful backlighting, but the sleek black design will easily fit into any office. The keyboard also connects with a chunky USB cord. But for the mix of comfortable typing, system-specific layouts, and build quality, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional stands out.

Insider reviewer Antonio Villas-Boas calls the keyboard the perfect alternative for those who don’t like Apple’s thin keyboards. It’s a comfortable typing experience, and the Das earns the slot for the best mechanical keyboard in Insider’s guide to the best keyboards.

The best wireless mechanical keyboard

Best mechanical keyboard Razer Pro Type Wireless

The Razer Pro Type Wireless is designed for office users — not gamers — who want cordless freedom.

Razer’s gaming keyboards are highly ranked, but the company’s new mechanical keyboard geared toward the office is getting high praise, too. The Razer Pro Type Wireless loses the colorful backlighting and black keys for a clean, white keyboard with white backlighting.

Using Razer Orange keys, the keyboard uses a quieter key that doesn’t require much force. That makes the keyboard much more office friendly than one designed for gaming, though it’s not as quiet as a membrane, non-mechanical keyboard. The keys are also fully reprogrammable, so you can customize them with shortcuts that best fit your workflow.

Most mechanical keyboards are still corded, but the Razer Pro Type Wireless uses a dongle-free Bluetooth or a wireless connection that requires a USB dongle. That keeps your desk space less cluttered. The Bluetooth connection works with up to four devices, including smartphones and tablets. 

But this mechanical keyboard is power hungry, according to Forbes. If you use the lights and the Bluetooth, the battery is rated to 12 hours, so this is a keyboard you’ll want to plug in at the end of every day. Alternately, you can get up to 84 hours with the lighting off or 78 hours with no lights connecting via Wi-Fi. You can use the keyboard while charging, if necessary. Some users also didn’t like the automatic sleep mode made for saving battery, which can create a delay after pausing.

The best budget mechanical keyboard

best keyboard Drop ENTR

The Drop ENTR is ideal for users new to mechanical keyboards and those on a budget.

Mechanical keyboards usually cost over $100. The Drop ENTR, from a company known for its customizable keyboards, sells for $90 without sacrificing the must-haves. Drop says that the keyboard is designed for newbies, so you don’t have to be a mechanical keyboard expert to get started with a tactile typing experience.

The keyboard is available with a tactile switch called Halo Trues or a linear switch without that bumpy feedback. N-key rollover helps the keyboard keep up with any typing speed. The ENTR is a tenkeyless keyboard, which means it has everything except for that secondary number pad that usually sits on the right. If you don’t need the extra numbers, the smaller keyboard can be more comfortable for centering in the right position on your desk. It also allows you to comfortably reach your mouse. It uses a USB-C wired connection, so there’s no need to charge or worry about batteries.

While it’s a budget-friendly keyboard, PC Magazine notes that the build is good for the price. The keyboard is made from both metal and plastic.

The Drop ENTR lacks the customization of some of the pricier models. It doesn’t have any extra buttons, like media controls, and it’s labeled for use with a PC. It can be used with a Mac, but the layout of some of the extra keys are different.

The best quiet mechanical keyboard

best keyboard logitech g513

The Logitech G513 is ideal for those looking for a mechanical keyboard to use in a shared office space and for gamers who don’t want to annoy their roommates.

The Logitech G513 is a slightly older model, but it delivers some flagship-like features without the price. Insider writer Matthew Smith says that the keyboard has a good, chunky tactile feel for the price point. It’s a full-sized keyboard with a number pad, though it lacks extras like play and volume buttons.

Using Logitech’s own Romer-G Tactile or Romer-G Linear switches, the keys have a bit of a different feel than the Cherry MX options. Membrane-based keyboards will still be the quietest option, but PCMag notes that these keys are quieter than a lot of other mechanical keyboards while still retaining the feel. The keys are also quick enough for gamers to consider this keyboard.

Customization options include both the function keys and adjusting the colorful RGB lighting down to individual keys. The keyboard includes a USB pass-through port, but you don’t gain an extra spot to plug in peripherals because the keyboard needs two USB ports to power that “extra” port.

The best mechanical keyboard for typing

Varmilo VA87M 2

The Varmilo VA87M is great for frequent typists who want both comfort and style.

You don’t need to choose between standard black or white to get a comfortable keyboard. The Varmilo VA87M is a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard. That means there’s no extra number pad on the right. It’s easily customizable by switch type, color, and even layout, making it easy to find one that suits your needs, including options that are tailored to Mac.

With its custom switches, the Varmilo VA87M allows you to choose whether you want a lightweight, quiet push; a firm, clicky feel; or something in between. The keyboard’s caps use dye-sub printing to get a variety of colors and styles. That makes it easy to color-code frequently used keys or to get a keyboard that doesn’t look like every other one out there.

The VA87M has a few customizable controls, though it lacks the every-key customizing of some of the pricier models. For roughly $130, it has a mid-range price, but it does lack macros and lighting. Business Insider writer Simon Hill said the keyboard is “easy and effortless to type on.” He also noted that the construction will last for years, though some gaming features are missing.

The best mechanical keyboard for gaming

Best Keyboard Razer Huntsman Elite

The Razer Huntsman Elite is made for serious gamers who need the most speed.

Razer added an optical sensor to each switch on the Huntsman series. Similar to the light sensor on a mouse, it registers when you press that mechanical switch. You get the feel of a mechanical keyboard but at a much faster speed with the Razer Huntsman Elite

Available in linear or clicky switches, the keyboard uses switches designed by Razer rather than a third-party key, like Cherry MX. Razer says the switch has a shorter actuation distance than other similar switches. That means you don’t need to press the keys hard or far. Though it’s a gaming keyboard, it’s also great for general typing, according to TechRadar.

Besides the speed and comfortable typing, the Huntsman Elite offers a full set of keys, including extra controls for media and a custom dial. It has custom macros and custom lighting and can save five user profiles, more if you plug in more memory. The keyboard is constructed with an aluminum top plate. It’s pricey, but you can get those fast switches in models with a smaller design and fewer features, such as the Huntsman Mini.

The best adjustable mechanical keyboard for gaming

best keyboard steelseries apex 7 TKL

The SteelSeries Apex Pro allows you to customize the sensitivity of individual keys, so you can make it fit your preferences.

Mechanical keyboards make it possible to find a key that works best with the way that you type, but the SteelSeries Apex Pro takes that one step further. The keyboard uses linear switches that have adjustable actuation points. That means you can change how hard you need to push each key before it registers, between 0.4mm and 3.6mm. If you tend to always accidentally bump a key, for example, you can turn the actuation way up. The keys you need to press the fastest, on the other hand, can be reduced to just a slight press.

After trying out the Apex Pro late last year, Insider’s Simon Hill said it “might just be the best gaming keyboard there is.” Besides the ability to customize the sensitivity of each key, the keyboard also integrates a small LCD screen and a clickable roller, along with the usual keys that you find on a full-size keyboard.

The Apex Pro is made from aluminum alloy. The USB connection has two ports. You’ll need both if you want to use the USB pass-through port that’s on the keyboard itself. It also includes a magnetic wrist rest, but we’ve tried models with more cushioning. Hill notes that the keycaps can develop grease build-up, while the keyboard surface tends to attract dust. But for gamers who want both a light, easy press and a firmer, harder key, the SteelSeries Apex Pro is hard to beat. 

The best 60% compact mechanical keyboard

best keyboards hyperx alloy origins

Gamers on the go will appreciate the small size but great experience with the HyperX Alloy Origins 60.

A full-sized keyboard doesn’t easily tuck into a laptop bag. The HyperX Alloy Origins 60 is a compact, 60% keyboard that still delivers the feel and durability of a high-end mechanical keyboard. Despite the smaller size, it still builds in RGB lighting, which the white swirls on the space key tend to pick up, too.

A 60% keyboard does away with the numpad like a tenkeyless but goes one step further and removes the arrow, function, and command keys to the right of the Enter key on a typical keyboard. These keyboards make up for those missing keys via shortcuts, so you’ll need to press two keys to hit an arrow key, for example.

We liked the feel of the HyperX Alloy Origins 60 while conducting tests for the best keyboards overall. While the 60% design isn’t for everyone, the smaller profile may be worth considering for gaming away from home or finding that perfect perched keyboard position

How to choose a mechanical keyboard

Key type plays a big role in the overall feel of the keyboard in your hands. Mechanical keys come in three main types, Free Geek’s Tom Gilmore explains:

  • Linear switches are a simple switch type. When you press a key, a circuit is completed, which is what gets that signal to the computer.
  • Tactile switches add a bump to a linear switch. This creates tactile feedback so you can physically feel that the key has been fully pressed.
  • Clicky switches are tactile switches but with auditory feedback as well. As the name suggests, you get a louder click with this switch type.

There’s more than just the basic switch type. Different types of switches will also vary depending on the amount of pressure that you need to use them. This creates variety even among, say, two tactile switches. Pressure sensitivity is measured in grams (g) or centinewtons (cN). “A lighter key (say 45 cN) will be easier to press than a heavier key (60 cN), which can be beneficial for writers or others who type a lot,” Gilmore said. “The lower pressure allows for a faster keypress and less finger fatigue —yes, that is a real thing — for a more efficient workday. A heavier key, however, gives a lot more feedback to the typist and can make people feel more connected to their computer and the work that they are doing.”

Many companies use Cherry switches. Cherry MX has several colors with different feels. The MX Red is quiet without feeling any physical feedback, MX Brown is quiet but tactile, and MX Blue has both physical and auditory feedback. Some companies design their own switches. Some people will prefer one type of switch over another. If you have no idea what type of switch you want, a switch sample costs around $20 and lets you test the sound and feel of different types. 

Outside of the keys, consider features like size and connectivity, and extras like a built-in wrist pad. “A built-in wrist pad keeps your wrist in a neutral position, not flexed or extended,” said Kevin Weaver, a clinical assistant professor of physical therapy at New York University.

What we are currently testing

  • Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT: With smooth typing and some gaming-focused macros, the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT receives some good praise from the gaming community. It lacks the custom pressure keys and optical-mechanical design of the other $200 gaming keyboards on this list, however.
  • Razer Huntsman Mini: This keyboard is the Huntsman Elite but in a 60% size. Our first impressions of this option are good, though the build quality doesn’t quite seem to match up with the list price. Read our full Razer Huntsman Mini review.
  • SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL: The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL is similar to the Apex Pro, but it uses standard mechanical switches and not customizable switches. It comes in the smaller tenkeyless design. If you don’t want the customization or numpad, you can save $70 and still get a great gaming keyboard.
  • Leopold FC900R: Recommended by Wirecutter, the Leopold FC900R has a lot of customization options for a full-sized keyboard. Reviewers also note the keyboard’s sturdy build.
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best mouse pads of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A good mouse pad has a smooth surface for your mouse that ensures precise tracking of your movements.
  • Some mouse pads protect your desk, while some boast extras like RGB lighting and wireless charging.
  • The slick and durable Corsair MM 350 Pro is the best mouse pad we tested.

Mouse pads provide a smooth, uniform surface for your mouse to move properly and precisely. They’re also multipurpose, protecting your desktop and your mouse and picking up lint and dust that would otherwise attach to your mouse. They’re simple to clean, too, ensuring your workspace is up to par. Mouse pads come in different colors and materials. You can choose between a silky smooth layer that enables fast movements, or a rougher textured surface that enables greater precision. Gamers, in particular, will have personal preferences depending on the games they play and their play style, but anyone can reduce the risk of a slip or tracking error with a good mouse pad.

Some of the latest mouse pads even come with RGB lighting so you can match one with your keyboard, mouse, and rig lighting. Others offer wireless charging, which can be very handy if you have a mouse that supports it. 

I’ve tested several mouse pads, employing them for work and gaming to see what benefits they offer. I also included my son in the testing process, subjecting each mouse pad to the ultimate test of durability (that is, an 11-year-old gamer’s bedroom). 

Here are the best mouse pads of 2021

The best mouse pad overall

Corsair mouse pad

The Corsair MM350 Pro features a slick, durable surface with a non-skid base, making it our favorite mouse pad. 

Pros: Smooth surface balances speed and precision, large option to cover desktop, thick padding adds comfort, stitched edges to prevent fraying

Cons: None to speak of 

Measurements: 36.6 x 15.7 inches; 4mm thick

The Corsair MM350 Pro is a quality mouse pad, spacious enough to accommodate your mouse and keyboard, as well as protect your desktop. I also found its padded comfort helped to reduce the noise of mechanical keys clacking, as it absorbs the impact of your key presses.

The top of the pad is a micro-weave surface, and the cloth Corsair uses is silky smooth and dense. This makes it great for fast, frenetic action that requires sweeping movements. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to sacrifice much accuracy to deliver on the speed, so it’s good for precise gameplay and everyday work alike. The smooth top layer is also spill-proof and by far the easiest to wipe clean of any mouse pad I tested.  

The bottom is covered in an anti-skid rubber base that ensures the pad never slips. Its tight stitching around the edges (where cloth mouse pads usually start to fray after a while), ensures it’s designed to last. The smooth top layer is also spillproof and by far the easiest to wipe clean of any mouse pad I tested.  

You can also get the same quality design in a smaller and cheaper package by opting for the MM300 Pro, which is more of a standard medium-sized mouse pad.

The best budget mouse pad

Razer mouse pad

The Razer Gigantus V2 has everything you need in a cloth mouse pad at around $10: a textured surface, padded comfort, and a non-slip underside.

Pros: Balanced surface for speed and precision, comfortable padding, comes in multiple sizes

Cons: No stitching to protect edges, green sides might not suit everyone

Measurements: 14.17 x 10.83 inches; 3mm thick

You can’t get much for $10 nowadays, but it is enough to snag you Razer’s Gigantus V2 mouse pad. It’s a bit larger than similarly priced competitors and comfortable to rest your wrist on.

Crafted from a textured microweave, the top layer is quite smooth to the touch and offers a good mix of speed and precision. It’s a bit smoother than the Glorious PC Gaming Race mouse pad, but not as silky as Corsair’s MM350 Pro. There’s a bright green anti-slip layer on the bottom, which shows through around the sides and in the subtle Razer logo tag. 

Unfortunately, this mouse pad lacks stitching around the edges, so there’s a risk it will fray and degrade slightly over time. On the plus side, the top layer is easy to wipe clean and feels long-lasting. My son has been using the large Razer Gigantus V2 for around three months now and it’s holding up well; after a wipe with a damp cloth, it still looks as good as new.

If the medium is too small for you, there are larger sizes to ensure you never run out of space. The biggest 3XL option is 47.24 x 21.65, but it costs five times the price.

The best oversized mouse pad

Glorious PC slide

The widespread Glorious PC Gaming Race 3XL Extended mouse pad will coat your entire desktop in mouse-friendly padding.

Pros: Largest mouse pad available, comes in multiple sizes, stitched edges to prevent fraying, machine washable

Cons: Open fabric absorbs spills and dirt

Measurements: 48 x 24; 3mm thick

If you want something big, then the largest mouse pad from Glorious PC Gaming Race has you and likely your entire desktop covered. It certainly boosts comfort, too, with its plush padded top layer. This cloth mouse pad strikes a fairly good balance between precision and speed, but leans more toward precision. It feels quite rough, compared to the Corsair MM350 Pro, but there’s a non-slip rubber base that prevents it from sliding, especially important here as more objects will be layered atop the oversized pad. 

Neat stitching around the edges helps to reduce the risk of fraying, and it is machine washable. This is vital, as the top surface is plain black and very absorbent. I found that it picked up stains and dust quite quickly as well.

The best hard mouse pad

Logitech mouse pad

If you want a mouse pad that will stay in place and deliver perfect precision,  the Logitech G440 hard mouse pad delivers.

Pros: Slick surface for speed with fine control, durable hard plastic coating, suits mice with high DPI settings

Cons: Not so comfortable to use, only one size

Measurements: 13.38 x 11 inches; 3mm thick

This compact mouse pad proves you don’t need a lot of space, especially if you ramp up your mouse sensitivity via the dots-per-inch (DPI) settings. This hard surface, with a mouse set to a high DPI, means very slight and quick movements register accurately and you can maneuver your mouse extremely quickly. 

With a polypropylene top layer, a polystyrene core, and a rubber base for added grip, the Logitech G440 provides a rigid, easy-to-clean surface with just a little give. It has a consistent surface and never slipped around while testing. A simple white G at the bottom right corner is all that breaks up the black surface, but the bottom layer is blue, which gives a subtle pop of color around the base of the pad. 

The best mouse pad with lighting

Roccat pad slide

The Roccat Sense AIMO provides a frame of glowing light around the mouse pad, an affordable option for RGB fans.

Pros: Bright programmable RGB lighting, textured surface for precision, comfortable padding, comes in two sizes

Cons: Relatively expensive compared to other mouse pads (but affordable for RGB mouse pads), must plug in, noticeable power control module at the top left

Measurements: 14.65 x 13.39 inches

I was a little skeptical about light-up mouse pads, but the Roccat Sense AIMO has won me over.

It comes in two sizes, but we tested the smaller one and realized its flexible cloth feels like others we tested, but with a twist. The big difference is that it plugs via an included Micro USB to USB-A cable and has a frame that runs around the outside (beneath the stitching), lighting up in a rainbow of colors.

This bright RGB light has two programmable zones, which you can tinker with via Roccat’s Swarm software, or you can leave it to the default behavior of cycling through the colors. It will also react to some of the devices and apps you use if you download the Sense AIMO module and leave it on the intelligent lighting setting. There are other effects available, and, if you have accompanying Roccat gear, you can sync it up with your mouse and keyboard.

Beyond the lighting, this is a cloth mouse pad that has quite a pronounced textured finish, though I found it much more comfortable than other rougher mouse pads to rest my hand on. Accuracy and speed are sufficient, though it leans towards precision. There’s also a rubberized non-slip back to prevent any slippage.

You will need a spare USB port to plug this into and it means you have another cable on your desk, which is a definite downside for me. The module the cable plugs into is also quite large, with a brightness control button on it which can be configured via the software. If you use a wired mouse this module is a potential snag point.

The best wireless-charging mouse pad

Corsair MM100

The Corsair MM1000 mouse pad will suit you well if you want a dual-purpose pick for your desk, ideal for clicking and charging. 

Pros: Charges any Qi wireless charging device, pass-through USB 3.0 port, relatively affordable

Cons: Can’t charge mouse in use, no soft surface option

Measurements: 14.17 x 10.23 inches; 6mm thick

If you’re looking for a multipurpose mouse pad that can also charge your devices, the MM1000 from Corsair is the one we recommend.  Aside from wireless charging, it adds some thoughtful extras and nails the basics of a good hard mouse pad, but there are limitations here. 

Finished in a hard textured surface that offers low friction for speedy maneuvers, the Corsair MM1000 has a large power module at the top left which needs to be plugged into a USB port. 

The wireless charging zone is a specific area at the top right and can charge any device that supports Qi wireless charging, setting it apart from competitors. With the Corsair MM1000, you simply rest your mouse on the charging spot, though you can’t boost your battery while you’re using it. 

Turning the chunky power module into a positive, Corsair has added a USB 3.0 pass-through port. Corsair also supplies USB to Micro USB, Type C, and Lightning connectors, so you can charge other devices on the charging spot.

While it is quite pricey, it doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as the competition, though you could pair one of the best wireless chargers with our budget mouse pad pick and save yourself quite a bit of money. 

What else we considered

What else we considered

SteelSeries Qck: A former top pick, this basic cloth mouse pad does the basics right, offering padded comfort with a micro-weave cloth surface and an anti-skid rubber bottom. It’s an affordable no-frills mouse pad that delivers. Starting from just $10, it’s also very affordable and another option aside from our budget pick, the Razer Gigantus V2.

Corsair MM600: This hard mouse pad has an unusual dual-sided design with one side designed for speed and the other for precision, though it’s not as affordable as some of our other picks. AmazonBasics Gel Computer Mouse Pad: While a budget option, it’s extremely small and there’s some doubt about whether wrist rests offer any benefit. If you set up your desk, chair, and position ergonomically, you shouldn’t need a wrist rest on your mouse pad at all.

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