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.
The range of mechanical keyboard options continues to expand, making this a good time to take stock of the new arrivals. Apart from the quiet switched keyboards we alluded to earlier, we’ve also seen the arrival of optical-mechanical keyboards that should offer faster response times and even full analogue sensing on certain models. A wide range of other new switches have appeared in the past few years as well, including short-throw Speed switches and boutique options like Zealios which meet the demands of users who know exactly what they want.
Of course, for this article we don’t want to go too far into the weeds. Instead, we’ll keep our recommendations reasonably broad and merely note these more advanced options where they exist. So sit back, get comfy and take a look at our favourite mechanical keyboards for 2018!
Best quiet mechanical keyboard
Fnatic Rush Pro Gaming Silent – 80 UK
Using Cherry’s MX Silent Red switches, the Rush Pro Gaming Silent offers quieter operation than other mechanical keyboards. That can make a big difference if you’re working in a quiet office, trying to game when your family’s sleeping or you want your teammates to hear you easily in online games. The Rush Pro Silent also impresses for other reasons: it has good macros and full reprogrammability, an optional wrist rest and a sobre aesthetic that lets you focus on the game. However, the Rush Pro Silent might not be a good choice if you’re planning to install your own custom keycaps, as the keyboard uses a non-standard bottom row that is a pain to find replacement keycaps for – a problem also suffered by the Corsair K70 MK2 above.
If you’d like to roll your own quiet keyboard, you can also pick up rubber o-rings to place onto each keycap to dampen the sound of the downstroke and provide a softer landing. These o-rings are cheaply available and easily removable, so they’re worth trying if you’ve already found a great mechanical keyboard but you just want to make it a bit quieter.
Best mechanical gaming keyboard
Fnatic Streak Pro – 120 UK
The Fnatic Streak is a fully-featured mechanical keyboard for gaming that includes many of the extra features that some users like, such as a detachable faux-leather wrist rest, full RGB backlighting, a programmable layout and a dedicated volume knob. It gets bonus points for customisability, with a choice of MX Red or MX Brown switches plus full-size and tenkeyless versions. It also comes with a standard layout which makes finding replacement keycaps a cinch, unlike other popular keyboards from Razer and Corsair. However, it also lacks those keyboards’ complex yet powerful software, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on where your priorities lie. In my mind, the Streak Pro is a strong all-around choice with few weaknesses, but there are still a few other keyboards worth considering, especially if you’re working to a budget or you’re after something a bit different.
Best value mechanical gaming keyboard: CM MasterKeys Pro S – 95 UK/$95 USA
The MasterKeys Pro S comes in an ergonomic tenkeyless layout with RGB backlighting. The board comes with a choice of tactile MX Brown or linear MX Red switches in most regions and is well-built with a clean, minimal design. Other gaming-centric features, like macro recording, are also present, although there are no dedicated keys for this functionality. You can also get cheaper variants with white LED backlighting or more durable PBT keycaps. Whichever you go for, you’re left with a strong mechanical keyboard that nails the essentials and doesn’t include many extraneous features that add complexity or drive up the price – awesome.
Best mechanical keyboard for coding or typing: WASD Code – from 140 UK/$150 USA
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 cheap mechanical gaming keyboard: Qisan Magicforce – 30 UK/$40 USA
This budget keyboard has become a popular choice for newcomers trying out a mechanical keyboard for the first time. The 30 price point is achieved through a compact 68-key layout, which omits dedicated F keys and a number pad, but retains the arrow keys. Combined with the MX Brown switches, you get a great typing feel thanks to the tactile feedback, without the loud click of MX Blue switches which might annoy your deskmates. The keyboard doesn’t come with any backlighting, but the standard (if compact) layout does allow for custom keycaps to be installed easily if white isn’t your peripheral colour of choice. Overall, an excellent keyboard that makes sensible sacrifices to achieve its bargain basement price.
Best optical mechanical keyboard: Wooting One – 130 UK/$140 USA
The Wooting One is something special: the first analogue mechanical keyboard. That’s an interesting prospect for gaming, as its 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 tradeoff 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 is also a solid keyboard even if you use it entirely digitally, with a clean ‘floating keys’ design, programmable RGB backlighting and a compact tenkeyless layout. The use of a tiny infrared beam also means that keypresses 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.
Eurogamer’s own Jamie Wallace has already waxed lyrical about his time with the Wooting One, so take a look at his article for more information! It’s also worth bearing in mind that a full-size Wooting Two will be coming soon if you’d prefer a full-size analogue keyboard.
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! 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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