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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.
People who type fewer than 150 words per minute won’t see much of an improvement by ditching the membrane keyboard, says Tom Gilmore, the technology education coordinator at Free Geek, an electronic recycling and refurbishing nonprofit. 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 adds.
The feel of the switch is a matter of preference, so mechanical switches come in different variations. Besides the amount of pressure required to push each switch, the different types of keys also have a different feel and noise to them.
As a writer, I regularly type for several hours a day. The wrong keyboard can quickly introduce more typos and cause wrist and shoulder strain. To find the best mechanical keyboard, I consulted experts, fellow Insider writers, and dozens of professional reviews on the top-ranked options. I then tested nine of the top-ranked mechanical keyboards, spending several hours typing on each one. Learn more about how Insider Reviews tests and researches tech products.
Here are the best mechanical keyboards you can buy:
Best mechanical keyboard overall: Logitech G915 TKL, $174.64 on Amazon
The Logitech G915 TKL features many tools and tricks that are rare in mechanical keyboards, and it’s easily usable for both office typing and PC gaming.
Best cheap mechanical keyboard: HyperX Alloy Origins 60, $79.99 on Amazon
The HyperX Alloy Origins may be a gaming keyboard, but it is a small, $100 keyboard with a design and build quality that suggests a much steeper price.
Best mechanical keyboard for gaming: Razer Huntsman Elite, $129.99 on Amazon
The Razer Huntsman Elite is designed for hardcore gamers who need the most speed as well as the most fine-tune control.
Best full-size mechanical keyboard: Logitech G513, $129.99 on Best Buy
The Logitech G513 is a premium, fast, and reliable mechanical keyboard that’s well priced for most people.
Best tenkeyless mechanical keyboard: SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL, $114.99 at Walmart
The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL features quality materials, is comfy to type on, and it’s generally approachable in price in terms of full-size.
Best quiet mechanical keyboard: Das Keyboard 4 Professional, $169.00 on Amazon
With designs for Mac and Windows, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional is a comfortable, all-around performer.
The Logitech G915 TKL includes several features that are difficult to find on mechanical keyboards, plus it’s versatile enough to work for office use or gaming.
Pros: Wireless connectivity, long battery life, great low profile keys, excellent build quality, fast response
Cons: Pricey, some users may prefer taller keys, no included wrist rest
Mechanical keyboards are power-hungry, which makes the wireless connectivity so common in membrane keyboards difficult to find. The Logitech G915 TKL Lightspeed wireless mechanical keyboard, however, has enough battery to last through a full workweek of typing. While that makes it the best wireless mechanical keyboard that I tested, the other features, like low profile keys and a durable build, make it my favorite overall keyboard of those I tested.
The low-profile keys on the G915 feel more like a cross between the smooth keys of my Macbook and the clicky feedback of a mechanical keyboard. The keys aren’t the traditional big and chunky kind, sitting at about half the typical height. Despite the size, there’s a definite click and tactile feedback to them. While some users may prefer the larger keys, I liked the smooth, yet tactile feeling of using this keyboard. I also prefer the Tenkeyless design, which keeps hands more centered, rather than hunched to one side of the keyboard.
There are two ways to connect the keyboard. Logitech says that it’s Lightspeed Wireless technology allows for a response in 1 millisecond. I don’t notice any lag while typing, and while some gamers may still prefer the speed of a physical connection, that’s fast enough for the keyboard to cross over from the office to gaming. The Lightspeed wireless requires a USB dongle, but Bluetooth connectivity is also available (just not at 1 millisecond) so you can use the keyboard without taking up any USB ports or on compatible mobile devices.
The G915 TKL is well-built. The top plate is a beautiful brushed metal, while the bottom has two different kickstands of varied heights The keyboard also houses a nice metal scroll wheel for volume, media keys, buttons to switch between Bluetooth and wireless connection. The backlighting, which can be customized with software, can be turned off with a quick key at the top. Lights at the top indicate when the battery is getting low and when caps lock is activated.
While the Logitech G915 TKL is a great keyboard, it’s one of the pricier options. Users that want a mechanical keyboard because they like taller keys will also want to choose another option on this list.
The HyperX Alloy Origins is a compact, $100 keyboard with a build quality that feels like it costs much more.
Pros: Sturdy aluminum body, great clicky feel, arrow shortcuts are still easy to use, fast response for gaming
Cons: Some users will miss those arrow and number keys, lacks a wrist rest
Mechanical keyboards tend to be much pricier than their membrane siblings. But if you don’t mind giving up some number and arrow keys, you can get a great mechanical keyboard for $100. The HyperX Alloy Origins 60 doesn’t feel cheap, with an aluminum body that easily bests some of the pricier full-sized keyboards. If you are looking for an affordable mechanical keyboard, look closely at the HyperX Alloy Origins 60.
Despite the lower price, it still builds in RGB lighting, which can be customized using software. Designed for gamers who want to maximize desk space, the HyperX Alloy Origins also feels very responsive with its USB connection. It’s also more portable, both because of the 60 percent size and the USB-C cord being removable to slip more easily into a computer bag.
A 60% keyboard does away with the numberpad 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. This keyboard makes up for those missing keys via shortcuts. For example, you need to press the Fn key and the ? key for the up arrow. These shortcuts are labeled and still easy to press with one hand.
I like the overall feel, durability, and compact size of the HyperX Alloy Origins. It’s impressive for a $100 keyboard. While the 60% design isn’t for everyone, the smaller profile may be worth considering for maximizing desk space, centering the keyboard for better ergonomics, or simply getting that lower price point.
The Razer Huntsman Elite is made for serious gamers who need the most speed.
Pros: Fast response, comfortable wrist rest, great clicky feel, media controls
Razer added an optical sensor to each switch on the Huntsman series, replacing the traditional mechanical switches. You get the feel of a mechanical keyboard but at a much faster speed with the Razer Huntsman Elite. But, besides the speed, it also has a super-comfortable wrist rest, media controls, and a great overall feel.
Available with linear or clicky switches, the keyboard uses switches designed by Razer rather than third-party switches, 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 far. Though it’s a gaming keyboard, it’s also great for general typing. The plush wrist rest makes this keyboard comfortable for a long day of writing.
The Huntsman Elite offers a full set of keys, including extra controls for media and a custom dial. It allows gamers to create custom macros quickly and easily switch between modes. The Elite has custom backlighting and can save five user profiles — plus more can be saved in cloud storage. The keyboard is constructed with an aluminum top plate, giving it a more durable feel. It’s pricey, but you can instead get those fast switches in models with a smaller design and fewer features, such as the Huntsman Mini.
The Logitech G513 is a well-built, responsive mechanical keyboard that’s reasonably priced.
The Logitech G513 is a slightly older model, but it delivers some flagship-like features without the price. The keyboard has a good, chunky tactile feel for the price. I tested the version with Blue switches, which have a great click to them. The G513 is a full-sized keyboard with a number pad, though it lacks extras like media playback controls.
Using Logitech’s own tactile, clicky, or linear switches , the keys have a bit of a different feel than the common Cherry MX options. I like the feel and click of the GX Blue switches. But, if you are looking for a quieter mechanical keyboard, try this keyboard with the quieter GX Brown switch option. While it’s not a top-of-the-line model, the keys are also quick enough for gamers to consider this keyboard.
Customization options include both the function keys and per-key RGB lighting. 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 enable that “extra” port.
The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL is well-built, comfortable, and affordable.
Pros: Affordable, compact, built-in OLED display, responsive
Cons: USB cord isn’t long enough for ports on opposite sides of a laptop
The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL sits at a happy medium between price and features. Retailing for about $130, it still includes a durable build, great clicky keys, and even a built-in OLED screen. It’s a good option for those looking for the smaller TKL size but at a more affordable price then the wireless Logitech G915 TKL.
I tested this keyboard with the red switches. The keys have a great feel to them. There’s both tactile feedback and an auditory click that allows me to type quickly with relatively few mistakes. I didn’t care for the space key, which was significantly louder and firmer than the rest of the keys.
Considered a gaming keyboard, it’s also quite responsive and customizable. There’s a mini display at the top that can be used to show settings and profiles. The screen settings, as well as the colored backlighting, can be customized with software. Besides the screen, this small keyboard doesn’t go overboard on extras. There’s a handy little volume wheel and a button to select options on that mini screen.
The Apex 7 TKL still leaves room for a USB pass through. However, you’ll need to plug in the keyboard to two USB outlets, so the pass through allows you to just gain one of them back. Unfortunately, the split portion of the USB cord isn’t long enough to use with my MacBook Pro, which places the second USB port on the opposite side. You’ll want a device that has two USB ports on the same side in order to be able to use all the features and plug in both USB ports.
With designs for Mac and Windows, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional is a comfortable, all-around performer.
Pros: Quieter switches, classic layout, media buttons, two USB pass through ports
Cons: More plasticky build, no backlighting
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 and 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. This keyboard is one of the quietest mechanical keyboards that I tested. However, there is still a small click — if you want something super quiet, membrane keyboards are still going to lead the way.
The full-sized keyboard will take up more room on your desk. But my favorite feature is that it only takes up one USB port yet offers two USB pass-through ports on the body of the keyboard itself. If you want a keyboard that actually gives you one more USB than you already have (rather than simply replacing the one that it’s occupying), the Das Keyboard 4 Professional is a good option.
While it feels great and is quiet, the build is a bit more plastic than some of the other options that I tried. It doesn’t have any sort of backlighting, and the small white letters are a little harder to see than the colorful backlit ones. But for the mix of comfortable typing, system-specific layouts, and build quality, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional stands out.
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 quieter without feeling any physical feedback, MX Brown is quieter 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 as well as 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.
Tenkeyless, or TKL: A tenkeyless, often abbreviated TKL, is a keyboard that doesn’t have the extra numeric pad at the side. While these keyboards do not have the extra set of numbers, they keep the user’s hands more centered, which can be more comfortable for users that don’t regularly use the number keys.
60 Percent Keyboard: A 60 percent keyboard eliminates both the extra set of number keys and the arrow keys and the nine keys above them, which includes things like a page up, home, and delete button. Instead, shortcuts are used to replace those keys. For example, pressing a Fn button with another key works as arrow keys. 60 percent keyboards also use the row of numbers to double as the F keys.
Macros: Macros are saved key combinations. Macros are user-designed, but some keyboards have faster, easier ways to customize. Macros are great features for users who regularly use certain keyboard shortcuts or combinations.
USB Pass-through: A USB pass-through is an extra USB port on the keyboard. You can use this port to plug in things like USB drives and external hard drives, similar to the USB slot on the computer itself.
Wireless keyboard: A wireless keyboard is connected to a computer wirelessly using a USB dongle. While there are no wires on your desk this way (unless you are charging) it does still take up a USB port.
Bluetooth keyboard: A Bluetooth keyboard connects using the device’s Bluetooth. Unlike wireless, this means that you don’t need to occupy a USB slot and you can connect to devices without any USB ports at all, such as tablets.
Linear switch: When a linear switch is pressed, it completes a circuit to send a signal to the computer. This is a type of mechanical key.
Tactile switch: When a tactile switch is pressed, a circuit is completed just like with a linear switch, but there’s also a tactile bump. This gives the user physical feedback that the key was fully pressed.
Clicky Switch: A mechanical clicky switch is just like a tactile switch, except there’s added noise. This gives the user both physical and auditory feedback indicating that the key was fully pressed.
Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT: With smooth typing and some gaming-focused extras, 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 as good as our top pick. The split USB cord also isn’t long enough — it needs a device with two USB ports next to each other. Read our full Razer Huntsman Mini review.
SteelSeries Apex Pro: The SteelSeries Apex Pro has customizable switches that allow gamers to set up profiles for whether they want a firmer, more accurate push, or a lighter, faster push. I preferred the more plush wrist rest of the Razer Huntsman, however, and the USB split wasn’t long enough to reach ports on opposite sides of my MacBook.