The Best Mechanical Keyboards | Buyers Guide
The age of membrane keyboards is over; the time of the mechanical keyboard has come. That's from Lord of The Rings if you didn't know. Well, I might have paraphrased a little. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, mechanical keyboards are now considered as the go-to option for budding gamers looking for the absolute best in build quality and gaming performance. Membrane keyboards simply do not offer the same responsiveness or life expectancy as the increasingly popular mechanical keyboard technology.
That being said though, it's not just better durability and key switches that these keyboards offer, there's a huge list of features and benefits that are unique to mechanical keyboards.
Up until recently, keyboard manufacturers were more than happy to slap a few cherry MX switches on some generic base and call it a day. Thanks to advancements in technology, however, this is no longer the case. Keyboard manufacturers now have to take a whole plethora of areas into consideration when designing a new board; especially if they want to be noticed in an already extremely competitive market place.
We're going to discuss everything you need to consider when looking to purchase a mechanical keyboard a little further down the article. But for now, let's take an initial look at some of the contenders for the best mechanical keyboard.
The Best Mechanical Keyboards
Corsair K70 MK.2 Low Profile
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ASUS ROG Strix Flare
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ROCCAT Vulcan 121
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Razer Huntsman Elite
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BenQ Zowie Celeritas II
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Things To Consider Before Buying A Mechanical Keyboard
Whether you're buying a new mouse, a new monitor, or one of the latest CPUs, knowing what to look for is a vital part of the purchasing process. The same applies when buying a new keyboard, even more so when it's a mechanical one because of the price tag that comes with it.
In this section, we're going to give you a brief rundown of the most important aspects of a keyboard and why you should consider them before buying:
Firstly, we need to understand the different form factors and which one best suits your needs. Are you looking for a full-sized keyboard with all the standard keys, or something smaller and more refined like a TKL keyboard (TenKeyLess)?
A full-sized keyboard is just that; it's a keyboard that features all the generic keys, letters, 'F' buttons, and the number pad to the right of the arrow keys. Full-sized keyboards aren't just letters and numbers though. They also have room to accommodate dedicated media keys such as volume controls, play/pause/skip controls as well.
Manufacturers didn't just stop at TKL boards though, a whole range of form factors have been developed over the years, giving consumers a plethora of different options to choose form. Sizes can start from anywhere as small as 40% right up to 100%. TKL boards offer computer enthusiasts all the versatility of a generic, full-sized board, at 80% of the size. Saying that, you do lose the pesky number pad.
For the hardcore 'WASD' gamers out there, you can go even smaller if you wish. Both 40% and 60% keyboards are available in their masses. These keyboards usually accommodate only the most essential keys such as letters and the primary function keys.
Switches, for me, might be the main aspect of a mechanical keyboard and the one thing you need to consider most when looking to purchase one. Understanding the difference between each key switch can affect the price of the board, the longevity, and most importantly, your in-game performance.
Choosing the switches most suitable for your needs comes down to a few simple questions. How loud would you like the key clicks to be? How much resistance would you like the switch to have? How responsive do you want the switch to be? If you can answer these simple questions, you can start to decipher which switch is going to be best suited to you. Notoriously, Cherry MX red switches are most widely used within the gaming sector. This is due to their high responsiveness and low actuation point. Each switch has a specific set of pros and cons, so don't worry if you aren't looking for these two traits.
We're going to touch upon the main switches further down the article and go into greater detail of what they offer.
Most people choose mechanical switches for the tactile feel they have and the "clicky" sound they produce. The Cherry MX Blue switches, for example, offer a very clicky, tactile feel which can be quite loud when in use. Other switches in the range offer a much quieter click actuation and require more pressure. There is a tonne of different actuation styles, and one is sure to suit your specific requirements, so don't worry!
The Best Gaming Keyboards In 2019 Breakdown
Corsair K70 MK.2 Low Profile
- Excellent aesthetic design
- Fully mechanical, low profile switches
- Customizable RGB lighting
- CUE software allows almost endless customization
- Fantastic build quality
- Fairly high on the price spectrum
Corsair's K70 MK.2 keyboard is, for lack of a better description, a new and improved, low profile, iteration of its predecessor. It comes equipped with all the same crowd-pleasing features that the K70 brought to the table, only in a sleeker, more refined package. The Cherry MX speed switches have been paired with a new low profile keycap to give users the ultimate typing, gaming, button-bashing experience.
Let's not forget the K70 MK.2, it's still one of our favorite keyboards to date. That being said, the K70 MK.2 Low Profile, or the K70 LP as I'll call it from now on, has somehow managed to blow the original out of the water completely. The low profile keyboard has been a slow burner over the years; however, recently we've seen its popularity grow exponentially, especially within the gaming communities. Many esport players have started to steer away from the chunkier, original profile boards as they don't offer the same level of in-game performance.
The K70 LP comes to shelves with, not only the best features of the K70 but also comes equipped with newer Cherry MX speed switches which are said to offer a 35% lower profile whilst delivering the same level of performance and precision.
Going from a normal keyboard to this low profile iteration is like going from a desktop to a laptop, it really does make a difference. However, I will say it's not for everyone. Switches and profile aside though, the K70 LP has a brushed aluminum plate underneath the keys which adds a lot of style to the already aesthetically pleasing design. The surface is almost reflective, giving it a nice, luxurious feel to it. I can't really knock the design or the build quality because they are both of the highest standards. That's no surprise with Corsair products though; they pride themselves on quality.
Unlike other boards on this list, and more importantly the K95 Platinum, the k70 LP comes with a USB passthrough for your mouse, headset, and any other peripheral you decide to use whilst gaming. The board comes with a handy, detachable, wrist rest, which is designed with ergonomics and comfort in mind.
Overall, the K70 Mk.2 Low Profile keyboard is one of the best boards you can get right now, and it comes at a price that we feel offers excellent value for money. It's our number one pick on this list and for a good reason!
ASUS ROG Strix Flare
- Choose between a number of different switch types
- Volume bar is superb
- Extremely nice design with cool RGB
- Showcases good value for money
- Feels a bit bulky
- No metal used
ASUS' Rog Strix brand is very similar to Razer's when it comes to RGB; more is definitely more. The Flare, as you probably guessed, offers all the RGB you could want and more. This thing is one light away from being a full-blown underground rave. Not only do all the keys have their own little RGB lighting zone, but the outside of the board has RGB as well. Furthermore, ASUS has equipped the Flare with a little clear plastic plate which slots in above the number pad. It's branded with the ROG (Republic of Gamers) logo and is illuminated as you'd expect. I thought this would be a little gimmicky, but it's actually quite cool. It's also interchangeable.
RGB aside, the Flare comes packed with features that include some clever functional design attributes that I haven't seen before. Aesthetics is an area ROG Strix has always excelled in, and the Flare certainly carries on the trend. The backplate is high-grade plastic that's been finished with a brushed aluminum effect which works perfectly with the vibrant RGB that dances to your customizable tune.
Another great trait of the ASUS ROG brand is their eye for versatility. The Flare is a keyboard that caters to literally every type of user. It does this by giving consumers the option to choose which switches they would like, prior to their purchase. This means no matter how you want your keyboard to feel, ASUS will have a switch that matches your needs.
ASUS always have their consumer base in mind, and that's certainly the case here. The dedicated media keys are something that set this board apart from its competition. The volume bar, which is extremely pleasing to look at and use, has been placed on the left-hand side of the board. This means gamers can alter the volume in-game without taking their hand off the mouse. The board, as you'd expect from ASUS products, has been made with the highest build quality in mind. You get a detachable wrist rest with this board which definitely helps support your hand and wrist over long gaming sessions.
All-in-all, I really enjoyed using the ASUS ROG STRIX Flare, it was certainly one of the best boards on this list and one of the most affordable as well.
ROCCAT Vulcan 120 Aimo
- SwitchTitan Switch (looks like Cherry MX switch)
- BacklightRGB Lighting
- Wrist RestMagnetic Wrist Rest
- Other FeaturesDedicated Volume Wheel, Media, and Macro Keys
- ROCCAT's super responsive Titan switches
- Extremely vibrant RGB lighting
- Good build materials
- Anti-ghosting functionality
- No USB passthrough
- Hard plastic wrist rest
ROCCAT has boldly decided to take a stab at developing their own low-profile Titan switches for the Vulcan 120 AIMO. The technology for the switch is fairly standard and makes use of traditional electronic triggers. However, ROCCAT assures us that the newly implemented Titan switches offer a 20% faster debounce response, perfect for gamers wanting to be as reactive as possible.
The design of the Vulcan is both unusual and appealing at the same time. The style of the keys is something I haven't seen in higher-end products before. The design of the keycaps is much smaller than your generic caps meaning the switches are always on display. The keys have a 1.8mm actuation point and have been designed with extra stability, great for reduced key wobble.
One of the biggest aspects this keyboard has to offer is the AIMO RGB lighting. Thanks to the newly designed low profile key switches, more RGB can be displayed at any one time, meaning the light emitted from this board is much higher than others on this list. Even though the keyboard looks cool in a dark setting, it can be a little too much for some tastes.
ROCCAT provides one of the cheaper options on this list, but a fine one at that. If you're looking for a low profile keyboard which showcases good value and has a tonne of RGB, look no further.
Razer Huntsman Elite
- SizeRazer Opto-Mechanical Switch
- BacklightRazer Chroma™ Backlighting with Underglow
- SwitchRazer Opto-Mechanical Switch
- Wrist restBuilt in
- On-the-fly volume and media keys
- Chroma RGB light
- Durable build
- Extremely pleasing on the eye
- Wrist Rest with its own RGB
- Very expensive
- Does not have a USB port
At the heart of Razer's Huntsman Elite, and possibly the biggest selling point of this keyboard, are Razer's optomechanical key switches. What separates the Opto switches from your ordinary mechanical switches is the actuation technology. Standard mechanical key switches make use of contact metal to register each key actuation. The optomechanical switches, on the other hand, use a similar technology to that of your mouse sensor. Actuation points are registered when a beam of light is broken by the descent of the chosen keycap. This means there is virtually zero actuation delay and durability is boosted from 50 million clicks to an impressive 100 million. Good luck getting through those anytime soon. Oh, and the actuation point has been perfectly aligned to register when you hear the click of the keycap.
It's not just the optomechanical switches which make this board so impressive though. Firstly, let's look at the design. I have to say; this thing looks really stylish. Historically, Razer has been known for their aesthetically pleasing products, just take their impressive mouse lineup as a prime example. The Huntsman Elite has been ergonomically designed for reduced wrist strain, improved in-game performance, and comfort. It does all three in abundance whilst looking sleek and stylish thanks to the matte aluminum plate it is topped with.
Don't worry; we didn't forget about the RGB. Razer is notorious for having elaborate and sometimes excessive amounts of RGB. The same applies here. Each key can be custom designed to have its own unique color and effect. The RGB doesn't just stop at keycaps though; it continues around the entirety of the board even including the wrist rest.
The Huntsman Elite comes equipped with some dedicated media keys and a swish volume wheel that feels tactile and robust. There are no extra gaming keys but don't worry, using Razer Synapse software allows users to customize pretty much any key on the board.
Ultimately, we think the Razer Huntsman Elite is one of the best keyboards money can buy, be aware though, you're going to have to part with the best part of $200 to add this board to your current inventory.
BenQ Zowie Celeritas II
- High quality build materials
- Stylish design
- Superb, highly responsive key switches
- Limited Features
BenQ are massively popular within the competitive esports industry, and it's easy to see why. Their products are slowly becoming some of the most used thanks to their usability, gaming performance, and competitive pricing. The Celeratis II is undoubtedly one of their finest offerings and one that is hugely popular with esports professionals and hobbyists alike.
From a design point of view, the Celeratis II is simple yet elegant. It looked superb right out of the box and could easily pass for an office keyboard if you plan on using this from work. The switches BenQ have used are Flaretech optical switches, not too dissimilar to the Razer branded optomechanical switches. They both use the same optical technology which registers your key clicks via the breaking of light, rather than your traditional switches that make use of touching metal plates.
Responsiveness is extremely high, as you'd imagine from optical switches, and actuation is pleasing to the touch. Unfortunately, this is the only keyboard on the list that does not come with RGB. However, the keys can be backlit with a red light, which is very Zowie.
Ultimately, the BenQ Zowie Celeritas II was built and designed for competitive esports players. It loses the fancy lights and features and concentrates on in-game performance and durability. A really impressive board which is suitable for any gamer wanting to try and get the edge over their competition.
Choosing The Best Mechanical Keyboard
Now that you've had a look at our best mechanical keyboards, we're going to explain exactly how we came to selecting the boards we chose and exactly how to select the right one for you.
The first thing we took into consideration was the budget. The price of the keyboard, or any hardware offering for that matter, is undoubtedly one of the major factors in your decision-making process. The difference between a top-level mechanical keyboard and a budget one can be over $100, so being aware of this from the start is vital.
Each of the keyboards we recommend has a specific type of user and budget in mind. Take the ROCCAT Vulcan 120 AIMO, it sits at the lower end of the price spectrum but offers excellent value for money over similarly priced products. If you're looking to splash out a little more and get the best of the best, we have the Razer Huntsman Elite.
Membrane vs Mechanical Keys
The difference between membrane and mechanical keyboards is hugely significant. However, you wouldn't know this by looking at them. Gamers lean towards mechanical style keyboards for several different reasons, but ultimately, it's because they offer far superior durability and higher responsiveness.
Mechanical switches are often louder than other styles of keyboards for the simple fact that the key switches are much more tactile and well made. There are several superb mechanical switch options available, and many that offer there own unique pros and cons.
The following is a list of the main switches available, for more details you can check out our Cherry MX Switches guide over at Gaming Verdict.
Cherry MX Switches
The most popular and best-known switches we see incorporated in today's keyboards come to the table from a company called Cherry Industrial. The Cherry MX switch which they are most known for is the most popular type of switch used in mechanical keyboards today.
There are a number of different Cherry MX switches which range from Blue to Brown and pretty much everything in between.
Let's take a look at what each switch has to offer:
Cherry MX Blue
The Blue switch is a close approximation of the buckling-spring switch, only with a new-style mechanism that is both tactile and clicky. The great thing about the Cherry MX Blue switches is how audible they are. They remind me of the '90s. You can clearly hear each individual keystroke.
Even though these switches are ideal for typists, they're not the friendliest in terms of noise output. For example, I used to use the Redragon K552, which uses switches similar to Cherry Blues. Anyway, long story short. The board is no longer in use, thanks to a work colleague. True story.
That being said, they have great responsiveness and a loaded spring-back response after each click. They aren't the best for gaming as they require a higher actuation pressure.
Cherry MX Red
The Cherry MX Reds are one of the most popular switches used in today's gaming keyboards because of how responsive they are. They also have a much lower actuation force meaning they can be utilized faster and for longer. These traits make the Cherry Reds a popular choice with gamers. However, the same can not be said for typists. The low actuation pressure means mistakes are made much more frequently.
Cherry MX Black
The Cherry Blacks have the highest actuation force in the Cherry family (60cN), making them fairly unpopular with the gamers out there. However, typists love this style of switch because they offer the most accurate key clicks. Where the Cherry MX Black's fall down in speed and reactivity, they make up for in precision.
Cherry MX Brown
The Brown variety is one that offers lesser actuation force than others in this list, again making them more suited towards gamers looking to get the edge over there FPS competition. They are extremely clicky, similar to the Cherry MX Blues but have a lesser total travel distance. This means reaction speeds increase dramatically.
Cherry MX Speed Silver
These are comparable to the Cherry Mx Reds in terms of actuation. Unlike any of the other switches on this list though, the Cherry MX Speed Silvers offers a much shorter actuation point of 1.2mm. The total travel distance is also much shorter too, offering 3.4mm over the more frequently used 4mm in other Cherry switches.
Other Features: Macros, Keycaps, etc.
Getting down to less important features of a mechanical keyboard, we find ourselves considering macros and keycaps. Most of the higher-end keyboards have both macros and decent keycaps. However, when discussing a mechanical keyboard, you need to remember that $100 isn't necessarily the higher-end.
Multi-media keys are pretty essential in today's keyboards as are decent keycaps. They offer an easy way to alter your in-game settings, which is extremely useful in certain situations. The keycaps are also designed with better ergonomics in mind, meaning your hand is more securely positioned.
Macros can be bound to in-game commands, especially useful for MMO players who need to input complex commands as quickly as possible. Overall, they aren't the number one priority when buying a 'board, but are certainly something to consider none the less.
So, there you have it, the best mechanical keyboards currently available this 2019.
Mechanical keyboards really are suited for hardcore gamers. Super robust, extremely responsive, ergonomically designed for extended usage, and aesthetically pleasing. If you're looking to get the edge over your competition, then this guide has everything you need to know when it comes to mechanical keyboards.
Let us know what you thought of the list. Was there a keyboard we missed that would be better suited? Leave us a comment in the comments section below, and you never know, we might put it in our best of guide.