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Best mechanical keyboard 2021: 14 picks for gaming, typing and coding

Which are the best mechanical keyboards on the market? That was the question I tried to answer in our feature on whether mechanical keyboards are good for gaming, and how they became popular in the first place. I ended that piece with three keyboard recommendations, but the response to the article made it clear that you wanted to see more recommendations for different use-cases than we considered – particularly full-fat gaming keyboards with features like macro and media keys, programmable RGB lighting and game-state integration or quieter models that can be used in a busy office.

We’ve updated this article as of summer 2021 after testing more than three dozen new keyboards, adding new options for wireless and low profile models, modular keyboards offering deep customisation and high-end premium keyboards with unique features and eye-catching designs. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate gaming keyboard, a surprisingly solid budget offering or just something to code on, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at the ten best mechanical keyboards on the market, all tried and tested by Digital Foundry.

Note: The pictures of each keyboard show either a UK or US layout, but I’ve linked to the appropriate regional layout wherever possible – so don’t worry if you see a keyboard with a different-sized Enter key than what you’re used to!

Click the links below to jump right into the category you’re most interested in. We’ve chosen keyboards for programming, gaming, building yourself and much more, so take a look. If you’re not sure, scroll on to browse our full selection of recommendations!

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Table of contents

Welcome to the latest Digital Foundry Direct Weekly with John Linneman, Rich Leadbetter and Alex Battaglia.

Best full-size gaming keyboard: Corsair K95 Platinum XT


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.

Best compact mechanical keyboard: Fnatic Streak 65


The Fnatic Streak 65 is our new favourite compact keyboard, offering all of the functionality you need for competitive games in a small, convenient form factor that gives you plenty of space for your mouse and superior ergonomics. The keyboard uses Fnatic’s own silent, linear and low profile ‘speed’ mechanical switches, allowing extremely rapid key presses and making double-taps easier. The layout is slightly wider than the 60 percent size Razer Huntsman Mini below, but adds dedicated arrow keys and four programmable keys – I think most people will benefit from these inclusions. As well as not taking up much desk space, a 22mm height and 420g weight means that this keyboard will fit in a bag or even the front pocket of a hoodie easily. The compact dimensions and aluminium frame contribute to a very sturdy feel too.

Beyond the form factor, Fnatic have done well to nail the details here as well. The stabilisers on larger keys are pre-lubed for silent and easy operation, the USB-C port is offset to the left to ensure the cable doesn’t interfere with your mouse and the legends on each keycap are inscribed with a legible font that feels more grown-up than those on most gaming keyboards. The switch housings are even transparent and two extra LEDs are embedded beneath the space bar to ensure that the customisable RGB lighting is evenly distributed throughout the board. I particularly liked the inclusion of a ‘competition mode’, which sets to the lighting to dim orange and locks the Windows key.

The only downsides I’ve discovered while testing the Streak 65 have concerned the ‘Fnatic OP’ software, which is still in active development. The app crashed a few times while changing lighting modes, didn’t permit a single colour to be set and didn’t offer an option to change the four numbered macro keys to act as their listed secondary functions (Insert, Delete, Page Up, Page Down). (There’s a Function lock key combo, but this also changes the arrow keys to control the music – not ideal for text editing.)

None of these are dealbreakers, but considered together they represent the only minor forthcomings I have about recommending this narrow keyboard to a wide audience. Altogether, this new tiny Streak is every bit as easy to love as its bigger brothers and certainly among the best gaming keyboards on the market.

Best 60% mechanical keyboard: Razer Huntsman Mini


The 60 percent size is a favourite of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, but one that saw remarkably little attention from major gaming brands before 2020. Now, we’ve found enough great examples to dedicate a whole article to the best 60 percent keyboards, but for now let’s focus on one: the Razer Huntsman Mini.

Like other 60 percent boards, there’s no f-key row, no num-pad, no nav cluster and no arrow keys. That results in a beautifully clean keyboard that takes up minimal desk space, while still allowing access to the excised functions via a Function layer. As 60 percent is an aesthetic as much as a practical choice, it’s nice to see Razer offer both black and white colour options for the keyboard’s chassis and keycaps – and a completely standard layout that allows for custom keycap sets to be installed. Similarly, it’s great to see a removable USB-C cable, allowing fans to install custom-made cables to further customise their board.

Of course, the Huntsman Mini doesn’t get a spot on our list just for looking nice. It also feels great to use, with Razer’s individually-stabilised optical switches delivering consistent feedback with minimal key wobble. We tested a unit with soft linear red switches with a 1mm actuation distance and 40g actuation force, but clicky purple switches with a 1.5mm actuation distance and 45g actuation force are also offered. The keycaps themselves are also unusually high quality, made from PBT with shine-through legends, so they feel great and won’t succumb to the shiny patches that can afflict lower-quality ABS keycaps.

As well as these unique switches, the Huntsman Mini also sets itself apart with its Synapse software, which allows you to set intricate custom lighting modes – something impossible on keyboards that can only switch between a few preset effects. You can also synchronise your lighting with other RGB-encrusted Razer peripherals or supported Razer Chroma games, which is a nice bonus.

Best wireless keyboard: Logitech G915 TKL


The G915 TKL is the fusion of two growing trends from the very companies that promulgated them: dependable, low-latency wireless connectivity from Logitech and low-profile, laptop-like mechanical switches from Kailh. The combination is an impressive one, allowing the construction of an ultra-thin keyboard for gaming and typing that feels great to use and looks super clean on your desk – especially in this new compact form factor. There are three low profile switch types offered here right off the bat – clicky, tactile and linear – so you can opt for the amount of tactile and audible feedback that makes sense to you.

The Lightspeed wireless connection worked perfectly in our testing, providing the same wired feel as Logitech’s G Pro Wireless gaming mouse. Battery life was also strong, at around 40 hours with backlighting at max brightness – ten more hours than the full-size G915. (If you turn down the backlight, the G915 TKL manages over a thousand hours!) Bluetooth is also available, which adds more latency but allows the keyboard to work with devices like phones and tablets; it’s possible to switch between Bluetooth and Lightspeed connections with a press of a button which makes it a convenient companion for a smartphone, iPad or laptop without a full-size USB port.

Elsewhere, Logitech has paid an impressive amount of attention to detail. The aluminium alloy body of the G915 TKL feels incredibly robust despite its thin design, with softly rounded corners and a comfortable “zero friction” volume roller in the upper right corner. The tenkeyless design means that there’s no dedicated macro keys or number pad, as we saw on the full-size G915, but there are still media controls beneath the volume roller and various profile settings along the top. RGB backlighting is included beneath each key, which of course can be set to a single colour, turned down or disabled entirely if you prefer.

Full-height alternative: Razer BlackWidow V3 Pro


If you prefer the feel of full-height mechanical switches, the Razer BlackWidow V3 Pro is your best bet. It sports a gorgeous full-size layout, a wrist rest, a convenient volume wheel and media keys, a long-lasting battery and your choice of 2.4GHz wireless and Bluetooth support. Razer’s software is more advanced than Logitech’s, so this might be a better choice if you want to set intricate or game-specific RGB lighting effects. Both clicky/tactile (Razer Green) and linear/silent (Razer Yellow) switch options are available; we used the clicky version in our testing and had a lovely time typing and gaming at maximum volume.

Best minimalist gaming keyboard: HyperX Alloy Origins


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.

Best value mechanical gaming keyboard: Xtrfy K4 TKL


The Xtrfy K4 TKL is one of the best mechanical keyboards on the market when it comes to gaming, and given its feature set and build quality it’s surprisingly affordable at less than £100. We like its high quality Kailh Red plate-mounted switches for fast-paced FPS games like Counter-Strike and Valorant, which provide a soft and linear feel ideal for quick taps or double-taps. They’re quite comfortable for typing too, with a good amount of feedback despite not having a tactile bump or click like Brown or Blue switches.

The bright RGB backlighting looks great too, especially as you can control all of the effects on the keyboard with no software required. As well as backlighting controls, you can also adjust the volume, access media controls or launch common programs using the Function (Fn) layer.

Xtrfy’s attention to detail is also impressive. For example, rather than using expensive but trendy PBT keycaps that would raise the price, the Swedish company has found a middle ground with thicker-than-normal ABS keycaps that provide more durability and a nicer feel than standard ABS caps. Each stabiliser is oiled to reduce noise, and combined with foam padding in the bottom of the chassis, the K4 TKL is actually reasonably quiet for a mechanical keyboard. The key legends are also neat and tidy, with even the secondary functions clearly visible. These small details are often ignored, so it’s great to see them taken care of here.

There are three colour schemes available for the K4 TKL: black, white and “retro”. We tested the latter, and the off-white, grey and red keycaps provide a unique look that we really dig. If you’re after a well-made keyboard for gaming that doesn’t cost the earth, then the Xtrfy K4 TKL comes highly recommended. A full-size model, simply titled the Xtrfy K4, is also available.

Best mechanical keyboard for coding or typing: WASD Code V3


Californian company WASD sell some of the most colourful keyboards in the business, even letting users upload their own custom designs to be printed onto the keycaps. Their CODE keyboard, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, designed to blend into a business environment while still offering a pitch-perfect typing experience. Beneath the sober design, you’ll find one of five different MX switches, including rarer MX Green, MX Clear and Zealios, plus the choice of pre-installed o-rings to make the keyboard as silent as possible. The switches are plate-mounted to ensure a solid feel and long-lasting durability, while white LED backlighting makes it easy to use in darker environments. This keyboard isn’t cheap, but it should offer a pleasant typing experience for decades to come.

Shipping a WASD keyboard to Europe can be costly, so a similar keyboard like the Filco Majestouch-2 or a Cooler-Master Masterkeys could be a good alternative. Full disclosure: I worked for Filco distributor The Keyboard Company before joining Eurogamer.

Best clicky mechanical gaming keyboard: Aukey KM-G12 and G17


The Aukey KM-G12 offers a modern metallic design with beautifully crisp and clicky MX Blue switches. Given the very affordable price, I’m very impressed with the little touches here – the font choice for the key legends, the brightness and effect options for the RGB backlighting and the additional LED strips around the bottom of the keyboard. Though this is a full-size board, it still manages to have a reasonably small footprint thanks to its “floating key” bezel-free design. If you don’t need advanced software like that offered by Corsair or Razer, then this attractively-priced keyboard makes a lot of sense.

Alternatively, if you have a lot of desk space and want extra features, the Aukey KM-G17 is also worth considering. It too comes with clicky Blue switches, but has a much larger footprint thanks to its integrated palm rest, extra macro keys above the F-key row and a chunky volume knob in the upper right corner. Unfortunately, the volume wheel on our unit requires a lot of force to spin; you’ll need to dedicate your whole hand to adjusting the volume rather than a single finger as you would with smoother-rolling designs from the likes of SteelSeries, Logitech or Razer. We’ll follow up with Aukey and update this section if the issue can be resolved.

Best cheap mechanical keyboard: Redragon K551 and K552


The Redragon K551/552 are some of the most popular budget mechanical keyboards available, thanks to their low price, good range of regional layouts and optional red backlighting. The keyboard uses Kailh-made switches similar to Cherry MX Blues, which provide an excellent tactile feel and a loud click. There are few advanced features here; this is just a simple keyboard that delivers a great typing and gaming experience for the money.

Best compact keyboard: Keychron K2


The best compact keyboard I’ve tested is the Keychron K2. Originally on Kickstarter, this 84-key mechanical keyboard comes with a choice with Brown, Blue or Red switches and – unusually – both macOS and Windows keycaps in the box. This keyboard has an 80 percent layout, so it misses out the numpad but still has arrow keys on the bottom right, F keys at the top of the keyboard and a single column of navigational keys on the right side. That provides considerable space savings compared to a standard or tenkeyless design, while still keeping the most important keys within easy reach. As you’d hope for such a portable keyboard, the K2 supports both Bluetooth and USB-C connections, so it can be used in both wired and wireless modes with a range of devices.

The Keychron K2 performed excellently in my testing, with a satisfying feel from the Brown Gateron switches, while the aluminium frame looks great and ensures this keyboard can survive quite a bit. This model also comes with full RGB backlighting, including a number of different effects. Given this keyboard’s long feature list and great build quality, it’s a surprise to find that it’s also among the most affordable keyboards in its category. The deluxe model with an aluminium frame and RGB costs $89 plus shipping. Swap the metal frame for plastic to save $10, and chop another tenner off the price by opting for white backlighting instead of RGB.

Best retro mechanical keyboard: Durgod Fusion


Okay, okay, so this isn’t really a retro keyboard. Instead, it’s a modern keyboard with a retro aesthetic, with colourways and design language that evoke memories of the 80s. The Durgod Fusion is a compact keyboard – a 65 percent, if you want to be specific – with both wired (USB-C) and wireless functionality, accessible via a chunky switch in the upper right. A built-in battery provides up to 40 days of use, thanks to the lack of LEDs on the keyboard, and you have the choice of standard Bluetooth 5 or lower-latency 2.4GHz wireless via a USB dongle hidden under the Durgod logo. That makes it a good choice for a wide range of mobiles, tablets and computers. I did have some issues connecting via the wireless dongle in my testing, but that was solved by a firmware update to the keyboard and shouldn’t affect retail units.

The keycaps are made from durable double-shot PBT, while the switches beneath come in seven different flavours of Cherry MX from clicky Blues and tactile Browns to quiet Silent Reds. The typing experience is generally excellent and the compact layout makes sense – although it may require some mental effort if you’re used to a larger keyboard with F keys or a numpad. The build quality is impressive too, given the reasonable price, but the small frame means that the keyboard is still portable if you want to put it in a backpack or simply carry it into another room.

The Fusion is currently available via IndieGoGo with orders shipping in October 2020, with regular retail availability expected thereafter. There are three colours available – the orange you see above, a red that hearkens back to the NES and a neat blue-and-yellow style.

Best optical mechanical keyboard: Wooting One


The Wooting One and Two are something special: the first analogue mechanical keyboards. That’s an interesting prospect for gaming, as their pressure-sensitive keys allow you to steer into corners or creep around a level with the same fine-grained control you only normally only get with a wheel or controller. You can adjust the actuation point of the keyboard in software too, making a trade-off between speed and control that normally demands switching to an entirely different keyboard with different mechanical switches inside. All of this requires some setup and tweaking, but the result is something special. The One and Two are also solid keyboards even if you use it entirely digitally, with a clean ‘floating keys’ design, programmable RGB backlighting and a choice of full-size or compact layouts. The use of a tiny infrared beam also means that key presses should be registered abnormally fast, which may have a tiny effect on your in-game prowess – but I think this keyboard’s analogue controls are the more interesting feature to discuss.

Wooting is also developing new Lekker switches that improve on the concept by trading optical sensors for Hall Effect magnetic sensors. With these, it will be possible to measure actuation across the entire 4mm travel of the switch, rather than just from 1.5mm to 3.6mm. There’s also a matching Wooting Two Lekker board coming later – pictured above! – if there’s enough interest. Other companies are exploring Hall Effect sensors too, such as Input Club with their crowd-funded Keystone board.

Best modular keyboard: Glorious GMMK


While the Kono Kira boasts deep customisation, this premium keyboard’s high price takes it out of contention for most people. A more affordable alternative is the Glorious GMMK. The pre-assembled model is quite unremarkable, with the usual minimalistic metal frame and RGB backlighting you can find on many boards, but Glorious also offer a barebones kit which is much more interesting. This kit is available in three sizes (100%, 80% and 60%), and it allows you to choose your own switches and keycaps – either from Glorious’ own options or from the hundreds of compatible options available online. Glorious offer 14 switch types from their store from Gateron and Kailh, plus keycap sets in three colours.

We opted for a tenkeyless (80%) layout with aura keycaps and unusual Speed Bronze switches, which combine a shortened travel with a light actuation force and clicky report. The end result is a keyboard that doesn’t cost any more than a more mainstream option, yet offers a dramatically different typing experience – and that’s without even looking at other vendors to find even more unusual switches and keycaps. If you want a deeply personal keyboard adapted to your tastes, this is a great way to go about it. It’s also a good starter keyboard, as the hot-swappable switches give you the flexibility to make big changes down the road.

Mainstream alternative: Logitech G Pro X


If you like the sound of choosing your own switches but fancy something a little more mainstream, the Logitech G Pro X keyboard is another strong choice. This compact option provides a very satisfying gaming and typing experience with clicky (Blue), tactile (Brown) or linear (Red) options out of the box, and it includes standards like RGB lighting, a game mode and a detachable Micro USB cable.

Where the Pro X sets itself apart from Logitech’s original Pro keyboard is that each switch is easily removable using a tool, so you can swap out damaged switches or customise each key with a different feel using 50-switch packs available from Logitech for $50/£43. For example, fans of first person shooters might prefer to have soft linear WASD keys to make movement and double-taps easier, while leaving other keys firmer to make them harder to press accidentally.

There’s nothing new about a keyboard with hot swappable switches – mechanical keyboard enthusiasts have been able to find options online from Chinese and Japanese brands for years – but this is the first option from a big Western brand and it deserves recognition. Expect to see these boards in the hands of professional gamers – and the fans that idolise them – very soon. Hopefully, we’ll see a greater variety of switch options in future, as this would greatly deepen the customisation possible here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Ultimate Hacking Keyboard


The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard is a split-design ergonomic keyboard, similar to the Ergodox but with a much smaller footprint and the ability to use it both joined up (for portability) and split apart (for ergonomics and having a mug of tea in the middle). If you’re already used to a 60 percent keyboard for your work, then this split layout should be ergonomically superior while including some useful functions not found on standard compact keyboards like built-in mouse controls, two extra keys below the space bar and easily accessible arrow keys.

Based on my testing, the chief advantages of the UHK over the Ergodox are two-fold: the closer-to-standard layout is easier to learn and the keyboard is more easily programmable, thanks to an excellent UHK Agent software. It is trivial to change layouts on the fly, with the small LED display in the upper left of the keyboard reminding you which layout is active. Windows, Mac and Linux are all well supported, with preset layouts for Qwerty, Colemak and Dvorak.

A wide range of case colours, mechanical switches, key legends and accessories are also available – including click-into-place add-ons like thumb keys, touchpad, trackpoint or trackball. A palm rest is also available, adding more options for tenting, tilting and otherwise positioning the keyboard in an ergonomically optimal way. Sadly, key backlighting is not offered currently, something that is possible with the Ergodox Glow. Regardless, the UHK is a well-designed ergonomic keyboard worth considering for anyone that relies on a keyboard for work.

With that, our recommendations come to an end. Of course, even if we chose 20 keyboards we’d still not scratch the surface of the many options available – so if we didn’t cover your favourite keyboard, it’s nothing personal. If you think we’ve missed a good option though, feel free to get in touch with me @wsjudd.

I hope you’ve found this article useful, and I look forward to the feedback. If you haven’t read it before, I’d also encourage you to check out our feature on how – and why – mechanical keyboards become popular in the first place.

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