best mechanical keyboard lead

Mechanical keyboards — in which every key uses an individual physical switch to send information to your computer, rather than activating a contact on a membrane as in a modern laptop keyboard — have been growing in popularity as gamers, developers, writers and a growing number of enthusiasts have pushed back on the thinner-is-better aesthetic of modern computer design, looking to the past for a typing experience that’s bigger, louder and easier on the fingers.

We spent the last year of workdays typing, navigating and otherwise putting 50 (yes, it’s too many) popular and not-so-popular mechanical keyboards through their paces (we also wrote this very article using the relevant products under review). We found a whole bunch of great models, so regardless of your typing style, we’ve picked out the best mechanical keyboard for you.

A note: Manufacturers offer keyboards in a wide variety of layouts (which we’ll get into below), but where multiple layouts were available we focused on 75% keyboards — the layout you’re familiar with from laptop computers.

Best mechanical keyboard overall

The Keychron Q1 — quiet, stable and simple to customize and configure — has long been our recommendation, and the new Q1 Pro adds Bluetooth connectivity, making it not just the best built and most comfortable to type on out of all the keyboards we've tested, but even more convenient.

Best wireless mechanical keyboard
With most of the luxurious feel of the Q-series at a more affordable price, plus Bluetooth for wireless connectivity, the Keychron K8 Pro is a great introduction to mechanical keyboards — and may be all the keyboard you ever need.
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Best low-profile mechanical keyboard overall
If you prefer a low-profile model, the comfortable, feature-packed, wireless Keychron K3 Version 2 is a vast improvement in feel over membrane keyboards and fits into any desktop setup.
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A more luxurious low-profile mechanical keyboard
With comfortable, high-quality keycaps and well-thought-out features, the NuPhy Air 75 is a great choice for the design-minded typist looking for a low-profile mechanical keyboard.
Best full-size mechanical keyboard
The Akko 3098 has a comfortable 96% layout that packs the performance of a full-sized keyboard into the footprint of a tenkeyless model. With comfortable keycaps, wireless connectivity and hotswappability for easy maintenance and customization, it's a great value.
Best full-size low-profile keyboard
With a full complement of keys in a minimalist frame that doesn’t take up too much room on your desk, easy-to-use software and cross-platform compatibility, the Cooler Master SK653 is a big improvement over low-profile membrane keyboards.
Best compact 60% mechanical keyboard
The diminutive Anne Pro 2 may have a minimalist layout, but intuitive shortcuts to navigation keys and important functions mean you won’t miss having a bulky keyboard on your desk. Wireless connectivity, long battery life and simple-to-use software make it a complete productivity package.
Best splurge full-size keyboard for connoisseurs
The Realforce R2 gives you the legendary pillowy feel of Topre switches in a full-size layout for an incredibly luxurious typing experience that you can fine-tune to your preferences.
Best splurge wireless mechanical keyboard
Long a favorite of programmers, the HHKB layout is pared to the essentials, but offers the incredible typing feel of Topre switches and the fastest-pairing, most stable Bluetooth connection of any keyboard we tested.
Best all-around keyboard for gamers
Most gamers don’t swap out keyboards when it's time to get to work, and the SteelSeries Apex Pro — our favorite gaming keyboard — is also perfect for typing, courtesy of its unique adjustable Hall effect switches.
Best portable mechanical keyboard
Designed to perch atop your laptop’s keyboard, the Epomaker NT68 feels gimmicky at first, but is actually a pleasure to use as intended. A Smart Cover-like case that doubles as a tablet or phone stand lets you work anywhere with any device.
Best ergonomic split mechanical keyboard
Rather than simply splitting a traditional keyboard layout in half, ZSA has recognized that an ergonomic keyboard needs to be a blank slate, and the Moonlander provides an unrivaled amount of software and hardware customizability. The learning curve is steep, but if you can’t get what you want out of traditional keyboards, you’ll want to give it a try.

Best mechanical keyboard overall: Keychron Q1 Pro

$199 at Keychron

The Keychron Q1 mechanical keyboard

Keychrons’s Q-series keyboards are so comfortable and quiet to type on, so easy to configure to taste and so solidly built that unless you’re an enthusiast who is after something specific from a custom build, we really don’t see any reason to spend more on a mechanical keyboard. In fact, after trying more than 50 keyboards, the 75%-layout Q1 was the one we kept returning to — it was simply the most pleasant to use in every respect.

The Q1 Pro, the latest iteration on the Keychron Q-series platform, ups the ante on the already great Q1 — our longstanding top recommendation for mechanical keyboards — keeping the sturdy build, quality switches and keycaps and QMK customizability, sacrificing nothing, and making the whole thing wireless. It’s an unbeatable combination.

As with its predecessors, the Keychron Q1 Pro is built around a weighty anodized aluminum housing, along with a gasket-mounted switch plate (neoprene pads isolate the plate from the housing itself; in this Q1 Pro’s case the plate itself is plastic rather than metal as in the earlier model) and smooth, noiseless screw-in stabilizers make the Q-series keyboards not just luxurious-feeling and sure to stay put on your desk but also significantly quieter than any other Cherry MX-compatible mechanical keyboard we tried. And like the prior Q1, the keyboard is so well damped that you won’t annoy your family and colleagues even if you prefer clicky switches.

Around the back of the Keychron Q1 Pro you'll find a new plastic window; under this cutout in the massive aluminum shell is the new Bluetooth antenna.

You’ll notice a few minor changes from the rest of the Q-series. Most evident is the addition of a wireless/wired switch on the rear panel), plus you’ll find a little plastic window in the rear of the case (that’s where the BT antenna is). Making massive aluminum cases like this wireless has been a challenge for manufacturers, and a little plastic here and there adds transparency.

Battery life is solid — Keychron claims 300 hours without backlighting, 90 with the LEDs on. We got a full week of workdays with the backlighting turned down low, which is competitive with most of the quality keyboards we tested, and means in practical use you’re unlikely to run into problems. They Q1 Pro can still work wirelessly if you plug it in, or you can switch over to a wired connection.

It’s an unbeatable combination, and while it isn’t a “budget” keyboard, the newly improved Q1 Pro is certainly the best bang for the buck we’ve seen — and since wireless connectivity is so handy to have, it easily unseats its predecessor to become our favorite keyboard overall. Unless you have specific needs that can only be addressed by ultra-high-end or custom models, It’s hard to see how spending any more would get you a better mechanical keyboard experience. If you really don’t think you’ll ever want to connect wirelessly, you should check out the standard Keychron Q1, of course, but we think having the option is worth it.

The Keychron Q1 Pro adds a wired/wireless switch alongside the physical cross-platform switch, a departure from previous wired-only Q-series keyboards, but one that brings it in line with the rest of the Keychron lineup. The USB-C connector handles wired connections and charging.

While this wasn’t a major factor in our reviewing, if you feel like remapping keys, assigning macros or tweaking the backlighting, you can do so using the open-source QMK configuration software. We did this using the VIA editor, and found it fairly easy to edit and load your own layouts. VIA and QMK are not as straightforward as some of the configuration packages offered by gaming keyboard manufacturers, but it’s nice to have the ability to change things up. Thoughtfully, the latest Q1 firmware even includes an preprogrammed caps-lock illumination, saving you the trouble of having to set it up yourself in QMK/VIA (as we did when testing the original version), making it easier for less technically inclined, more productivity-minded users to get the best experience out of the box.

As with previous Q models, newcomers may find a few things odd (though they’ll be familiar features for keyboard connoisseurs. In keeping with the enthusiast aesthetic, the Q-series doesn’t ship with shine-through illuminated keycaps, so the RGB lighting (which is “south-facing” to allow for the widest compatibility with custom keycaps) is there more as an ambient effect than as an aid to seeing legends in the dark. And the housing doesn’t have adjustable feet, though we have no complaints with the slight angle over several months of use.

The Q1 Pro is the most successful attempt we’ve seen so far at bringing the best of enthusiast mechanical keyboards — hot-swappable switches, easily tunable LED lighting effects, a heavyweight case and all the customizability you might want — to the casual user, at a price that, while not cheap, is very fair for what you’re getting

Best wireless mechanical keyboard: Keychron K8 Pro

From $99 at Keychron

The Keychron K8 Pro mechanical keyboard

While they aren’t quite as luxurious as the Q series, Keychron’s K-series keyboards offer the best balance of typing comfort, useful productivity and convenience features, affordability and wireless connectivity of any mechanical keyboard we tested. They’re also easy to find direct or at mainstream online retailers, making it the most accessible way for the curious to get into mechanical keyboards.

With the K8 Pro, Keychron has brought some of the high-end features introduced with the Q-series semi-custom keyboards — comfortable PBT keycaps, dense damping foam for quieter performance, south-facing RGB lighting for wider keycap customizability and full programmability via the open source QMK firmware and VIA software tool — back to the company’s affordable core offerings. The K-series was already hard to beat for value, and this new configuration makes it not just a great first mechanical keyboard, but maybe the only one you’ll ever actually need. The K8 Pro is simply the best wireless keyboard under $100 we’ve yet found.

We tried various other K-series models, from the basic (white backlighting, plastic case) to the fully spec’d (RGB lighting, aluminum outer housing), and found them all to be a pleasure to type on. The smooth Gateron G Pro switches are smooth and tactile, and the backlit doubleshot ABS keycaps that come with most models rare solid under the fingers, with easy-to-read legends both lit and unlit. (The PBT keycaps on the K8 Pro aren’t shine-through, but they’re much more pleasant to type on and we still preferred them overall.)

Connecting to and switching between Bluetooth hosts (via Bluetooth 5.1, it supports up to three) was quick, and connections (with an iPad, Surface and a MacBook Pro) have been stable over the months we’ve used the keyboard. As with all Keychron boards, you can switch Bluetooth on and off and choose between Mac and Windows modifier key layouts via a pair of hardware switches, so you’re set to work with any device on your desk with a minimum of fuss.

Battery life is in keeping with Keychron’s claims of up to 240 hours. With the backlight off, we got a week out of the K8 in regular use without any falloff in functionality, and got through an entire long workday with the backlight on full blast. The K8 charges via USB-C and you can use it wired as it’s charging. Keychron’s keyboards default to an auto-sleep mode that occasionally led to sluggish Bluetooth reconnections; disabling it gave us better results and didn’t noticeably impact battery life.

There are a couple of minor downsides. The K-series casing is fairly tall, with keycaps standing more than an inch proud of the desktop. Touch typists who float above the keyboard will be fine, but those who like to rest their palms on a surface while typing may want to look into a wrist rest (Keycron sells wooden rests in sizes to match all of their keyboards).

Best low-profile mechanical keyboard overall: Keychron K3 Version 2

From $84 at Keychron or at Amazon

The Keychron K3 v2 low-profile mechanical keyboard

This pint-sized, low-profile model is yet another great, versatile keyboard from Keychron. As is usual with Keychron keyboards, you get pretty much everything you can think of in everyday usability: simple, switchable cross-platform support; your choice of smooth hot-swappable switches; multi-host Bluetooth; backlighting in your choice of white or RGB; and very legible, comfortable shine-through keycaps, all at a very affordable price.

If you’re looking for the long travel of traditional mechanical switches, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for. But if you want a significantly more comfortable typing experience but prefer a keyboard that’s closer in profile to an Apple Magic Keyboard or other chiclet-keyed membrane device, it’s very hard to beat Keychron’s low-profile models at their reasonable price.

The slightly rounded chiclet keycaps (used on all of Keychron’s low-profile models) have a flat profile, but are more comfortable than the flatter models used by Epomaker on the NT68 low-profile or Hexgears on the X-1, and quieter than the low-profile PBT keycaps used on NuPhy’s low-profile models. Since a low-profile keyboard like this is a lot more portable than a traditional mechanical, it’s more likely to be used around other people, thus we looked for quieter models.

You might want to consider a fairly heavy-feeling switch if you plan to use a low-profile keyboard like this. We felt that Red linear switches were just too light, and went on to try a range of low-profile optical switches in our low-profile test units, starting with more traditional Brown and Blue switches, but settling on Banana and Mint (you can order all of these stock with the keyboard from Keychron), which have a smooth feel with a fairly heavy tactile feedback (akin to full-size MX Clears or Halo Trues) which we felt made up for the relatively short travel and gave us a more comfortable feel overall.

A more luxurious low-profile mechanical keyboard: NuPhy Air 75

From $110 at NuPhy or $130 at Amazon

The Nuphy Air low-profile mechanical keyboard

The NuPhy Air 75 is a stylish and feature-packed device, with USB-C, Bluetooth and 2.4GHz dongle-based connectivity, PBT keycaps and a case that doubles as a mobile device stand for use on the go. It’s a compelling package that looks and feels nicer than the Keychron low-profile keyboards. For most people it will not be worth $50 more than the corresponding Keychron K3, but if you want better typing feel from a low-profile model and want something cool for your desk setup, it’s a good choice.

NuPhy’s a fairly new company, though they have demonstrated good customer support and have offered frequent firmware updates streamlining function key performance and extending battery life. Alternate sets of low-profile keycaps are available from the company, which is nice since high-quality low-profile caps are somewhat difficult to come by compared to their full-size siblings.

We didn’t love the stand/case so much, and suggest you just skip it. If you’re looking for something to take on the go with an iPad and want a Smart Cover-like case/stand with it, you will be better served by the Epomaker NT68. The NT68 also worked better perched atop a laptop keyboard in our experience; the NuPhy’s bigger footprint made it more ungainly in that application. The heavy PBT keycaps are also a little loud for café use, in our opinion.

Also, while you’ll pay considerably less for the keyboard itself ordering direct from NuPhy, shipping is likely to be expensive if you’re in the US and prices are roughly equivalent with ordering via a retailer once all is said and done — so if you want one, just order it from whoever has it in stock. You won’t be missing a deal.

Be aware that in a marked contrast from the slick, grown-up styling of the keyboard itself, the box and other packaging materials feature a garter-clad manga-style female mascot, rendered in eye-melting colors, so you might not want to have the box sent to your office.

Best full-size mechanical keyboard: Akko 3098 B/N

From $100 at Epomaker

The Akko 3098 96% mechanical keyboard

The Akko 3098 isn’t strictly a “full size” keyboard. But its 96% layout gives you almost all of the functionality of a larger board without taking up so much precious desktop real estate (its footprint is about the same as a tenkeyless keyboard) and letting you keep your mousing hand closer to your body, which is more comfortable over a long workday. It’s a layout we think most people who need a number pad will really appreciate.

Akko’s slightly exploded layout separates the navigation arrows and numpad with just a sliver of open space that makes a big difference when locating those keys by feel. It’s a noticeable improvement over the 96% layouts used on other Epomaker-distributed models and the Keychron K4 (which we otherwise liked a lot). The supplied keycaps are great, and the board is hot-swappable if you want to experiment with different switches down the line, though the house-brand tactiles are very smooth and pleasant to use.

Plus the Akko 3098 is well-built, comfortable and very sensibly priced, and it has great connectivity options with multi-host Bluetooth and 2.4GHz wireless on board (there’s a 2.4GHz dongle in the box) as well as a USB-C port.

The best full-size low-profile keyboard: Cooler Master SK653

$155 $90 at Amazon

The Cooler Master SK653 low-profile mechanical keyboard

Surprisingly, there aren’t many low-profile 100% keyboards out there that give you a typing experience that’s any better than you’d get from an Apple Magic Keyboard or a Logitech MX, but the Cooler Master SK653 manages to hit all the points we looked for — USB-C connection, cross-platform compatibility, support for multiple Bluetooth hosts and enough programmability to keep most users happy — in a slim package that doesn’t eat up too much of your desk. In our testing, it was pleasant to type on, quick to connect and switch wireless hosts and easy to set up like we wanted.

As you’d expect from a product with a gaming heritage, you get the full programmability of a gaming keyboard in a unit that is sedately styled enough for any office and supports modern wireless/USB-C desktop setups. It’s a little more expensive than some other low-profile mechanicals, but it’s built better and feels better than the competition. It’s also a lot more compact than most 100% keyboards (its footprint isn’t much bigger than an Apple Magic Keyboard’s), leaving you more room on your desk.

The TTC-supplied switches (available in Red, Blue, and Brown varieties with the usual attributes) didn’t feel appreciably different to me than the corresponding low-profile Gaterons — you’ll get what you expect should you order, whether you like clicky, linear or tactile behavior. The low-profile switches are, as usual, not as comfortable to type on as full-sized models, especially if you have a heavy touch. The keyboard itself is a little bit pingy, especially in the full-size 653 layout (the smaller 622 is a tad more solid-feeling)

I got to try this board in Red, Brown, and Blue TTC switch variants, all three of which performed as you’d expect if you’re at all familiar with their Cherry-branded equivalents.

Cooler Master offers MasterPlus, a simple-to-use, very complete configuration tool that gives you fine-grained control over lighting and lets you set up macros, build user profiles and do substantial remapping. It’s one of the most accessible software solutions we encountered, though it is only available on Windows.

Our only hesitation in recommending the SK653 comes from one design decision we found annoying: the charging indicator LED is located on the caps lock key, while the caps lock indicator lamp is located in the usual spot for full-size keyboards, all the way on the other side of the keyboard above the navigation cluster and numpad. If you’re not used to it you may find yourself confused now and again.

Best compact 60% mechanical keyboard: Anne Pro 2

$89 $80 at Amazon

The 60% layout Obinslab Anne Pro 2 mechanical keyboard.

The Anne Pro 2 has long been a favorite of compact-keyboard enthusiasts, and it’s easy to see why — out of all the 60% keyboards we tested, it has the most intuitive function and navigation key shortcuts, making the minimal complement of keys immediately usable without consulting the manual.

Our main gripe with most 60% keyboards is that without dedicated arrow keys, you typically need to hold down a modifier to access the arrows, which obviates any ergonomic benefit of being able to reach all the keys without moving away from the home row (that’s the point of the minimal layouts — maximum efficiency).

On the Anne Pro 2, on the other hand, everything just works. When the “tap” function is enabled, a short press of the right FN, menu and CTRL and right Shift keys turns them into an arrow key cluster (they work as legended with a long press), providing the smoothest workflow of any of the 60% keyboards we tested. And if you get lost, alternate functions are discretely marked on the forward-facing sides of the solid-feeling stock PBT keycaps.

USB-C and Bluetooth (you can connect and switch between up to four host devices) cover connectivity, and the nicely implemented Obinslab configuration software lets you easily enable layouts or bindings for pretty much any platform right out of the box (or access the per-key RGB fireworks if you like that sort of thing). We also appreciated that the caps lock key’s default setting is to turn the whole keyboard red, which should save you from accidental caps-lock enable password entry frustrations.

Our test model shipped with Kalih box browns, which felt solid and tactile, but light enough for sprightly typing. The housing is well-damped for a generic plastic design, the keycaps are doubleshot PBT and the keyboard is far quieter in operation than similar 60% models from Royal Kludge, Skyloong and others. Where some similar 60% keyboards really feel like toys, the Anne Pro 2 really feels like a tool.

Caps lock — often left out or poorly implemented on gaming-oriented mechanical keyboards — is pleasantly well integrated out of the box; depressing the key turns the entire keyboard’s RGB lights an alternate color. You’ll never be mystified by password entry mistakes again.

The supplied Obinskit software is excellent overall, and while in general we didn’t consider customization software as overly important in our ratings, with a 60% keyboard it does make a real difference. Obinskit provides easy access to key mapping and simple programmability of lighting on a per-key basis, letting you load immediately useful presets like a Mac layout or define your own mappings. Switching between layouts is as simple as loading the profile and downloading the update to the Anne Pro 2’s processor. Obinskit and the Anne Pro 2’s firmware were updated several times over the period we spent with the keyboard, adding functionality and stability each time, which bodes well for support.

There are a few downsides. The case is fairly tall, and there aren’t any flip-out feet or attachments for angle adjustment. But that’s par for the course for the case design used on most similar 60% models; we found the angle and key profile comfortable to use, and palm rests are commonly available. The Anne Pro 2 is an older design as mechanical keyboards go, and unlike many more current models, its switches aren’t hot-swappable, so replacements or repair will involve soldering. For most users this won’t be a significant downside, but those who want to experiment should be ready to get their hands dirty.

Best splurge full-size keyboard for connoisseurs: Fujitsu Realforce R2 PFU Limited Edition

$348 $305 at Fujitsu

The full-sized Realforce R2 PFU Limited Edition mechanical keyboard.

If you want the absolute best typing feel available and you’re willing to shell out some serious dough, you need look no further than the Fujitsu Realforce R2 (tested by us in the PFU edition, which features adjustable switch sensitivity). Built around Topre’s much-loved electro-capacitive switches rather than the Cherry MX-style switches employed in most mechanical keyboards available today, the R2 provides unmatched comfort. feel and adjustability in a traditional full-sized keyboard that’s great for serious typists. If you love the feel but don’t need all the keys, the R2 is also available in a tenkeyless layout, with several switch variants, including an RGB-backlit gaming edition.

Topre switches are known for their pillowy tactile feel, much smoother and softer-feeling than the Cherry-style mechanical switches used on most of the keyboards we tested. Since the switches don’t depend on a physical contact, you can adjust their actuation point (the point in the travel of the key where the actuation message is sent). This doesn’t change the physical feel of the keyboard, but it does change the apparent responsiveness enough that you’ll imagine it does. (Not all Realforce Topre boards allow this, but the PFU Limited Edition board we tested does; Niz’s electro-capacitive keyboards also allow you to adjust the actuation point, though the electro-capacitive switches used on Varmilo’s MA-series keyboards do not.)

From the keyboard you can choose three levels of responsiveness to match your typing touch, from 1.5 to 3mm into the key travel, while the Windows-only software tool lets you adjust on a per-key basis. We liked the midrange 2mm setting, which allowed for fast typing while avoiding unintended keystrokes.

However you set it up, the R2 is extremely pleasant to type on; quiet and with the typical pillowy Topre softness. It’s near-silent as well, nearly as quiet as a membrane keyboard so it’s suited for use anywhere. The 45g switches are much smoother that any Cherry MX-style switch we tested, and offer just enough resistance to provide positive feedback (we preferred them to the lighter 35g switches in the Niz electro-capacitive keyboard we had on test).

The PFU is the most refined model of the R2 for typists; there’s also an RGB edition, the R2 RGB for the gaming-inclined, which also allows for fine-tuning of the actuation point, as well as varieties with different switch weights. While there’s no backlight on the PFU Limited Edition, the white/cream colorway means it isn’t too difficult to see things in low light.

Best splurge wireless mechanical keyboard: Fujitsu PFU Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB) Professional Hybrid Type-S

$385 $309 at Fujitsu or $385 at Amazon

The sub-60% layout PFU Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB) Professional Hybrid Type-S

A retro-Apple-inspired design (it’s based on the original Macintosh keyboard layout), the HHKB is a compact keyboard that’s long been a favorite of programmers. We brought in the premium version of the HHKB, the Hybrid (the company’s designation for Bluetooth models), with the Type-S “silent” version of Topre’s electro-capacitive switches.

The HHKB is expensive, but it feels fantastic to type on and it paired faster and provided the most stable multi-host Bluetooth connections of any keyboard we tested. If you want to get a lot done with a lot of devices, it’s worth the price.

The HHKB has a unique, very abbreviated layout. Like the old Mac keyboards, the HHKB is a sub-60% keyboard, dispensing not just with a numpad, FN key row and nav cluster, but tossing the traditional lower right and left corner CTRL keys as well. Caps Lock ends up as an Fn-key alternate for the Tab key, while the traditional Caps Lock key becomes CTRL. It’s a little odd to get used to, but it makes a lot of sense in practice and lets you type without having to move your hands from the home row at all, which is why the layout’s been so long favored by professional developers.

Most importantly, the HHKB is just a joy to type on, matched only by other PFU/Topre models and the Keychron Q series in our experience, and the switches used here are so quiet that the HHKB is nearly as quiet as a membrane switch board. You could easily use this in a quiet office or cafe without bothering anyone — very rare for a mechanical keyboard. Plus, the Type-S has the fastest Bluetooth pairing we saw on any keyboard we tested — each host device saw it as soon as I entered the string o​​f Fn-key commands, and switching was just as quick. And we never saw a Bluetooth dropout over the months we spent with the HHKB.

The Hybrid Type-S is the luxury version of the HHKB, and for the staggeringly expensive price tag you get some lovely touches — the DIP switches on the underside of the petite device (it’s so small that the dual AA batteries are housed in a little appendage that projects out from the rear of the housing) are even protected by a little door. These offer several usable configuration options for the modifier keys, including a Mac-modifier row mode. Wired connectivity is over USB-C, which is great to see from a future-proofing perspective.

We like the clean design of the HHKB already, but if you want a more up-to-date, less industrial look, HHKB now offers an even more minimal powder white finish in the Snow Collection, though these are only available direct from HHKB/Realforce.

All of that aside, the 60% layout may be a little constricting for some — if this were a 65% or even a 75% layout I think it might be the perfect keyboard. But if you’re a fan of the minimal 60% layout and you demand the best performance and typing experience and want an actually dependable wireless keyboard, you can’t do much better than the HHKB.

Best all-around keyboard for gamers: SteelSeries Apex Pro

$200 $153 at Amazon

The SteelSeries Apex Pro mechanical keyboard, shown with its integrated wrist rest.

Our pick for best gaming keyboard is also a great all-around productivity board too, and makes perfect sense if you’re looking for something that does double duty (and frankly, most people aren’t swapping out their keyboards once the workday is done).

The Apex Pro looks unassuming, but its non-contact Hall Effect switches set it apart from almost every other keyboard. Their uniquely smooth feel and fine-tunable response let you change the keyboard’s typing feel on the fly; you can go from hair-trigger sensitivity for gaming to a more fault-tolerant, lower actuation point for typing, and even adjust each switch independently.

SteelSeries’s software allows you to adjust the actuation sensitivity of each switch — the point in the switch’s downward travel where it registers the keystroke — between .4mm and 3.6mm. This doesn’t change the actual typing feel, but does change the apparent feel. High sensitivity registers a keystroke almost as soon as your fingers brush the key, which in my case led to a lot of typing mistakes; low sensitivity mimics a heavier switch. This is similar to the adjustability of some Topre and Niz electro-capacitive switches, but SteelSeries offers more granular control of the actuation point.

The Apex Pro’s aesthetics are low-key enough for daily use at an office desk — there’s plenty of RGB firepower on tap, but no crazy finishes or obvious logos. The permanently attached and very beefy USB-A cable, with an extra USB-A pass-through connector, makes sense for its intended application attached to a high-end tower tucked away under a desk, but may be a bit cumbersome to connect to a laptop with limited USB-A ports — we’d love to see this keyboard revised with a USB-C connection. The legacy connector is really the only downside.

Best portable mechanical keyboard: Epomaker NT68

$105 at Epomaker

The Epomaker NT 68, displaying with its foldable case/stand supporting an iPad.

This full-featured, solidly built aluminum-framed 65% keyboard, available in high- and low-profile versions, is unusual in that it’s meant to be portable. While we were dubious at first, we found that it actually works quite well and makes a pretty nice travel companion if you really demand a mechanical keyboard feel wherever you are. The NT68 is a serious productivity device you can take with you anywhere.

Though it seems gimmicky (and we were dubious at first), the wide placement of the small feet on the NT68 allows you to perch the keyboard atop a laptop’s built-in keyboard, letting you use a mechanical anywhere you like without having to resort to a mouse (it was easy to reach the laptop’s trackpad as usual). If you’re looking to pair it with a mobile device, the NT68’s Smart-Cover-like wraparound case doubles as a tablet stand, which is actually very usable.

There are two versions available, and we much preferred the high-profile model, which was supplied with Epomaker’s own Cherry MX-compatible Chocolate Brown switches. In combination with the heavy DSA-profile keycaps these felt slightly stiffer than most of the Cherry or Gateron Brown keyboards we looked at, making for a very nice typing experience. We didn’t like the flattish keycaps on the low-profile version as much (they don’t feel that different from a laptop keyboard), and it actually isn’t that much slimmer than the high-profile model.

Best ergonomic split mechanical keyboard: ZSA Moonlander

$365 at ZSA

The ZSA Moonland ergonomic split keyboard

The ZSA Moonlander is very different from anything else we tried, even other ergonomic split keyboards. Taking some design cues from ZSA’s previous ergo keyboards and custom and group buy devices, it’s expensive, completely customizable, and can be tweaked physically to suit pretty much any hand position. If you are going to use a split it’s probably a good idea to get one that really offers all of the possibilities the design has to offer, and the Moonlander really delivers. But expect to spend considerable time getting acclimated.

The Moonlander is a lovely piece of industrial design, and the easily adjustable legs and self-positioning wrist supports let us quickly experiment to find a comfortable position. Nothing to add, screw in or click on and off to get the thing into shape: everything is right there, though four threaded ports on the bottom of each half allow for out-of-the-ordinary mounting possibilities like chair arms, and support a range of user-created, 3D-printed support accessories. It’s also much less bulky than competing mainstream ergonomic keyboards — it’s small enough that you can fold it up and tuck it away into a case for taking to the office or traveling.

That said, this thing is definitely not for everybody. ZSA head Erez Zukerman estimates that it’ll take a month or more of training (we’re not talking about all-day sessions; more like 10 or 15 minutes a day) to really get comfortable with the Moonlander, and many keyboard shoppers aren’t looking for that kind of commitment. It took us several weeks to get to the point where we could actually type competently on our sample unit, and admittedly we’re still getting used to it after several months of use. This would be an easier transition for a user who was committed to the keyboard full time, but we had a lot of other units to test!

It is a bit prone to sliding around on a smooth desktop; the thumb pods don’t have rubberized feet so you can move the Moonlander around if you’re heavy-handed. A desk mat helps a lot with this one.

The Moonlander does have a steep learning curve, which is nothing new for those used to highly programmable ortho/ergo devices, but for those unused to this type of device, the Moonlander is so customizable you’ll need to figure out how you want to use it before you can type much of anything. And once you do, you’ll have to invest some time and effort into rebuilding your typing style from scratch to get the most from it.

To their credit, ZSA has made that about as easy as possible. The company’s site includes a very simple-to-use web-based configurator called Oryx and a firmware flashing tool called Wally, along with a full tutorial and training program designed to get you up to speed. Moonlander may be difficult to wrap your mind around at first, but thankfully for new users, the software is better than most of what we saw supplied with traditional keyboards, and certainly ranks among the best QMK configuration options (using it, I found myself wishing i could use it with other keyboards).

So if you need an ergonomic keyboard, are really into optimizing your setup and like to tinker, it is hard to think of something that allows more flexibility.

Why get a mechanical keyboard?

Mechanical keyboards — those chunky, clicky retro throwbacks to the computing days of your — have long been popular with gamers (who appreciate their durability, responsiveness and configurability) and those who learned to type on a typewriter (who like their familiarity). Over the past few years a host of smaller makers have introduced more versatile, fashionable, quieter and just plain friendlier models, making it possible for more people tired of ever-thinner membrane keyboards to enjoy the comfortable typing feel and myriad customization options of mechanical models

Will my coworkers, family, friends and neighbors ostracize or abandon me if I get a mechanical keyboard?

Most mechanical keyboards are going to be noisier than membrane or scissor-switch keyboards, but they vary widely in just how loud they are — and the switches don’t tell the whole story.

That said, clicky switches like the Cherry MX Blue and many similar models are just going to be too loud for the average office environment, and will likely bother people on Zoom calls if you like to take notes during meetings or classes. Linear and tactile switches (Red and Brown and their relatives) are quieter, and non-contact switches like opticals and Topre switches are quieter still, but the overall construction of the keyboard makes a huge difference in the apparent volume.

If you’re looking for the quietest mechanical keyboards, you’ll want to check out “gasket-mounted” models, in which the plate the switches are mounted on is sandwiched between pads made of a vibration- — and thus noise- — absorbing material. Gasket-mounted keyboards like the Keychron Q series or the Glorious GMMK Pro are significantly quieter than any other mechanical keyboards we tested, and are going to make everybody happier if you’re working in an open plan office, at home or in any environment where you might bother others.

And whatever you do, don’t even think about using a buckling spring keyboard like a classic IBM Model M or a Unicomp if you’re not alone or working or living amongst other keyboard enthusiasts (and maybe even then). Anyone else will be looking for an opportunity to toss it out the window, sweet vintage typing feel or no.

How to choose a mechanical keyboard


A group of keyboards, arranged from left to right, displaying various common layouts: full-size, “1800” or 96%, TKL, 75%, 65%, and 60% keyboards

While most people turn to mechanical keyboards because they’re interested in the feel or like the vintage sound, mechanicals are also available in a far wider range of layouts than you can get from membrane keyboards. Whether you want an ultra-minimal layout that drops everything but the absolute necessities or a full-sized workhorse with a number pad and plenty of function keys, odds are there’s a manufacturer out there making what you like.

While we can’t look at every available layout (there are just too many to list, from 40% models without even a number row on up to seven-row behemoths with dozens of assignable function keys), these are a few of the most popular. Common layouts are popularly known by the percentage of a full-size keyboard layout (full-size or “100%” meaning a keyboard with a full QWERTY typewriter layout, function keys, a navigation cluster and a number pad) they cover.

100% (“Full-size”)

This is the standard desktop keyboard layout, with a full complement of function keys, navigation keys and number pad. If you spend any amount of time working with spreadsheets or anything else that requires data entry, this offers all of the keys you can’t live without. As with TKL layouts, a wide range of mechanical keyboards are available in this design since it’s as close to a standard as anything out there.

If you don’t spend much time entering numerical data, you can save yourself a surprisingly large amount of desk space —  and for some, the strain of reaching for your mouse or trackpad — with a compact keyboard.

96% (“1800” or “compact full-size”) layout

You won’t see this as often, but a 96% keyboard (sometimes referred to as an “1800” model after the Cherry G80-1800 terminal model that introduced the concept) squeezes most of a full-size layout into a keyboard not much bigger than a tenkeyless model — basically, it keeps the number pad but drops the navigation cluster save for the arrow keys. You get most of the functionality of a 100% model, but you save a couple of inches in width, which can make a real difference when desk space is at a premium.

Sometimes these keyboards are available with the number pad placed to the left of the QWERTY keys; this is known as a “southpaw” layout.

Tenkeyless (“TKL”)

A tenkeyless, or “TKL” keyboard is just that — it drops the number (or “ten-key”) pad but keeps the standard complement of navigation keys: the arrow keys, Home and End, Page Up and Page Down and the various extended function keys such as Print Screen.

This is a very popular layout, and if you use those extra keys it’s a good bet, especially if you’re a Windows user. Since some standard TKL function keys like scroll lock and print screen typically aren’t used on the Mac, Apple users are probably just as well served by a 75% model, and can save a little desk space in the process.


A 75% keyboard squeezes the navigation cluster and arrow keys closer to the rest of the keys, shaving some inches off of the width of a tenkeyless board while keeping as many keys as possible, including the function row.

This is the format you’ve likely been using on your laptop computer, and we think it’s a sweet spot in keyboard design, giving you most of the navigation and function options average users need in a form factor that’s the same width as the more compact layouts.


The 65% layout is similar to 75%, but removes the physical function row in favor of a function layerinstead of the F1 key, you’d hit Fn+1, and so forth. This is the smallest standard layout that retains physical arrow keys, and usually a few navigation keys such as Page Up and Page Down (the rest are, of course, available in function layers).

Most 65% boards aren’t any narrower than 75% boards, which does save a bit of desktop real estate. This is the smallest physical layout we think most average users should consider; cutting down any further means rethinking your typing style, which gets you into the enthusiast realm.


A 60% keyboard drops the physical function keys, the arrow key cluster, the navigation keys, and the numpad, leaving just the basic QWERTY and numeral keys and modifiers, with the remainder accessible only through one or more function layers. These keyboards usually include software to let you reassign or reprogram keys to send whatever commands you need.

This layout is much beloved by programmers in particular, who spend long hours typing repetitive strings of characters and often prefer keyboards that minimize the need to move away from the home row in order to avoid repetitive stress injuries.

The 60% layout also makes for a very compact keyboard that doesn’t take up much of the desktop, letting you keep your mouse or trackpad very close to the keyboard, further minimizing the need to reach across the desk to get your computing done.

We don’t, however, think it’s worth sacrificing quite so much unless you already know what you want, or you are absolutely sure you value the extra desk space more than the extra function or navigation keys.

How to choose switches

While switches aren’t the whole story, they are the heart of the mechanical keyboard experience. You’ll commonly run across several main families of switches, along with some interesting outliers that have made their way into enthusiast keyboards

Cherry MX and Cherry MX-compatible

The most popular and widely used switch type, these were developed by Cherry, a German supplier of computing components. They’re simple in design — typing presses down on an “X”-shaped stem that brings a set of contacts together, sending a signal. Most keycaps on the market are designed to fit the X-shaped stem of Cherry-style switches.

Within the switch, a spring sits at the bottom of the housing to provide resistance for the stem; additional resistance and clickiness can be added with bars that engage the mechanism or stiffer springs.

MX-compatible switches are packaged in a square plastic housing; this can include a cutaway for LED backlights. The switches connect to a keyboard’s circuit board via a three- or five-pin connector and can be soldered in or simply plugged in (this is known as a “hot-swappable” configuration, and makes repair or experimentation simpler).

Cherry’s patent on this switch design expired in 2014, so nowadays, Cherry MX-compatible switches are available from Cherry, Gateron, Kailh, TTC, Logitech, Razer and several other manufacturers, in a dizzying range of weights, feels and colors from clear on up to purple to suit almost every taste. That said, the most widely available ones break down into three main flavors, so it isn’t too difficult to get your bearings.

A group of mechanical keyboard switches, of the clicky "blue" type.

Clicky switches are designed to offer resistance partway through the keypress; this resistance releases an audible click that roughly resembles a typewriter or teletype machine. This sound (which can be quite loud) is what most people associate with mechanical keyboards, and the click (which you can feel while typing) makes these the most positive to type on. The most common clicky switches are Cherry MX Blues and clones thereof; if a keyboard is advertised as offering Blue switches, they’re almost certainly clicky.

A group of mechanical keyboard switches, of the linear "red" type.

Linear switches don’t vary in feel through their travel as you press them. They’re relatively quiet compared to other switch designs since there’s no click, and since there isn’t a point of increased resistance they have a light touch and quick response. Cherry MX Reds were the most common linear switches, so if you see “red” switches advertised, they are likely to be lightweight linear switches.

A group of mechanical keyboard switches, of the tactile "brown" type.

Tactile switches are a compromise between clicky and linear varieties. These offer increased resistance at a point in the key’s travel, which feels like a “bump,” but they don’t make a loud click as you push past that point. Cherry MX Browns and their clones are the most common tactile switches available.

If you’re looking to get started with your first mechanical keyboard, you’ll likely get something with Cherry MX-style switches.

Optical switches

Optical switches closely resemble Cherry MX switches, use a similar housing design and are usually compatible with the same keycaps, though they have a different pin configuration and require a different PCB, so they aren’t interchangeable with mechanical Cherry-style switches.

While most of the elements are the same a Cherry-style switch, Instead of the stem bringing physical contacts together, an infrared sensor on the PCB records the position of the end of the stem and actuates the switch at a programmed point. Since there is no physical contact, these switches can have a smoother feel and are theoretically more durable.

Optical switches are available in a range of tactile, linear and clicky styles (the clicky versions do use a physical contact to create the signature “click”).

Electro-capacitive switches

Made by Topre and a few competitors, this type of switch is something of a hybrid between Cherry-style mechanicals and the rubber-dome and membrane keyboards in common use on modern keyboards.

Within a Topre switch, a slider presses down on a conical spring encased in a rubber dome. A sensor on the keyboard’s PCB detects the changing capacitance of the spring as it is compressed and triggers at a set point. Because there isn’t a physical contact point, the trigger can be set anywhere in the travel, and many Topre keyboards let the user choose from three or more actuation points, allowing customization of the keyboard’s feel.

Overall, Topre and similar switches have a softer, smoother feel (enthusiasts often describe it as “pillowy”) than Cherry-style switches. The Topre stem is cylindrical, so keycaps designed for MX switches require an adapter to fit in most Topre boards, though the sliders found in Realforce RGB and NIZ electro-capacitive boards are MX-compatible.

Topre-equipped keyboards are on average more expensive than those built with Cherry style switches, but for those who like their softer feel, they’re worth it.

Hall effect switches

Want a switch meant to last forever? Hall effect switches are another type of non-contact switch. Today’s Hall effect switches also closely resemble other mechanical switches, and as in other designs, a keycap depresses a stem into the housing. From there, the process is more similar to what goes on in an optical switch, though in a Hall effect switch a PCB-mounted electromagnetic sensor detects the position of a tiny magnet mounted at the end of the stem. Given all of the specialized hardware involved, they aren’t seen all that often, but several manufacturers (most notably Steel Series) have embraced them in their top-of-the-line keyboards.

Like optical switches, Hall effect switches are very durable. Also, since the sensor is capable of detecting minute changes in electrical current as it reads the position of the magnet, Hall effect switches can even be configured to offer adjustable actuation points or even continuous analog control (similar to the output of a knob or joystick controller), though software would need to support such functions.

Buckling spring switches

This style of switch, rarely seen but beloved by some still, was at the heart of the original IBM PC keyboards, and produces a distinctive clattery mechanical sound that’s prized enough by enthusiasts and various other nostalgic users that they are still manufactured today. In these switches, depressing a key pushes directly on a spring instead of a plastic stem; when the spring is compressed enough it buckles, producing the signature sound and tripping a tiny lever that closes a contact on a membrane, actuating the switch.

Alps switches

Alps switches are a variant of the buckling spring design, using a plastic slider (akin to the stem in a Cherry MX-compatible design) that the keycap depresses to put pressure on the spring. Alps switches were used in the early Apple computer keyboards, as well as in a variety of other terminals. The Alps company no longer manufactures the switches, and  the term is used to refer to switches produced using this design by other manufacturers, notably Matias.

Are mechanical keyboards just for gamers? What about gaming keyboards?

While to the average user keyboards may seem straightforward, there are endless minor differences that have become the launching pad for a varied enthusiast community. Over the last decades, mechanical keyboards have gone from oddities to relatively mainstream, with utilitarian lines and fashion trends emerging all the time.

Since gamers were among the first to re-embrace mechanical keyboards, you’ll find many models on the market designed to appeal at least in part to gaming — thus you’ll see many mechanical keyboards that offer programmable RGB lighting and either onboard macro programmability or customization software or both.

That said, these features are generally not that useful for everyday typists and some of the more gaming-specific models have aesthetics that would look out of place on a work desktop, so for the purposes of this review we put those aside, and lighting and macro programmability didn’t figure heavily into our rankings. While we did look for some configurability options, we considered these particular factors secondary to typing feel and productivity-oriented features.

Also, many mechanical keyboard enthusiasts — especially those who come from a gaming background and are looking for the fastest possible response time — prefer wired keyboards and dismiss wireless since it’s slower (though some 2.4Ghz dongles provide fast-enough connections), but for average users it’s a useful feature. Laptops, tablets and two-in-one devices rarely have enough ports to go around, and in those cases wireless is a real need, so we sought out good wireless options wherever we could.

That said If you’re a gamer and you’re looking for something that covers all your bases, we think it’s hard to beat our recommendation for the best gaming keyboard, the SteelSeries Apex Pro, so you should just go out and get that. It’s a very good keyboard to type on too, with a unique switch design that lets it fill multiple roles on your desktop.

How we tested

A large group of mechanical keyboards of various types and layouts.

We began by perusing professional reviews, the sites of general tech and specialist keyboard retailers, Discord servers, Reddit, YouTube channels and Facebook groups, and came up with a very long list of mechanical keyboard, which in the end we didn’t shorten all that much — we ended up looking at nearly 50 models (including multiple layouts within popular series from major manufacturers), along with bags of switches, keycaps, tools and cables in order to best understand what’s available on the mechanical keyboard market today.

We then put each keyboard to the test by using them for several full workdays (which is why completing this piece took many months), using the keyboards as our main data entry device for our daily diet of writing, editing, email, Slack, spreadsheets and database work, photo and video editing and for any other tasks that came up during a given day.

For wireless keyboards, whether 2.4Ghz or Bluettoth, we assessed basic connectivity with an eye to stability, and for keyboards with the ability to connect to multiple Bluetooth hosts, we assessed the convenience, speed and stability of connection and switching between several hosts. For wired/wireless keyboards, we connected via USB (and via a 2.4Ghz dongle) to a monitor’s KVM ports, switching between a Mac and a PC to assess performance on both platforms, and where possible connecting over Bluetooth to a second Mac, as well as a phone and tablet in an attempt to create a multitasking productivity torture test.

We looked for keyboards that offered multiplatform support and were easy to configure. We looked primarily for intuitive, easy-to-access controls and support for options popular with everyday users, like multi-host Bluetooth support. Since we were looking for models aimed at basic productivity tasks, we looked at extensive macro programmability as more of a nice-to-have option than a necessity, and didn’t rule out keyboards that didn’t offer customization software.

Each section of this review pertaining to a given keyboard, including notes taken in the process of testing, was written on that keyboard.

Other mechanical keyboards we tested

Dark Matter by Monoprice Collider TKL

$100 $60 at Monoprice or From $40 at Amazon

Monoprice’s latest entry into the mechanical keyboard market is the Collider (available in both 100% and TKL layouts), a gaming-first keyboard with sedate, minimal styling that lets it do double duty as an all-around work and play device. If “Monoprice” makes you think “low budget” you’ll be surprised by the solid, high-quality construction, with nice touches like real Cherry MX switches, doubleshot PBT keycaps, a heavy steel switch plate that gives the Collider some real heft and a USB-C connector that accepts the supplied custom-fitted cable for a seamless connection or the cable of your choice.

The Collider feels very good to type on, though at the price there are many models available from brands like Razer, Cooler Master, Logitech, SteelSeries and others with better-developed software configuration tools. Monoprice offers a lineup of companion lightweight wired gaming mice, including the very affordable Hyper-K Ultralight, so they’re clearly serious about the market. It’ll be interesting to see where they end up and how these products develop, though they are likely a wait-and-see at this point.

Das Keyboard MacTigr

$250 $219 at Amazon or Das Keyboard

Das Keyboard has brought it’s Mac-specific keyboard line up to date with the MacTigr. With a (permanantly attached, natch) USB-C cable and an onboard 2-port USB-C hub, the MacTigr takes the place of the old Model 4 Professional for Mac, and is aligned better with Apple’s current offerings than the company’s previous Mac offerings, and offers Mac users a better typing experience than anything from Cupertino in a design that strives for Apple-ness (the aluminum unibody enclosure drops the signature Das Keyboard transport-control bump at the upper right, though it keeps the knob and controls).

The MacTigr uses a full-sized layout, though it ditches the Win-specific navigation cluster (scroll lock and so forth) for the layout used on Apple’s own full-size Magic keyboards, with a second function key and navigation shortcuts in place of lock options you’ll never use. Most purchasers will likely stick with the platform they’re on, but we typically prefer switchable layouts with extra command-row keycaps for maximum flexibility.

Low-profile caps on Cherry’s low-profile MX switches (red on our test unit; clicky and tactile switches aren’t offered at present — it would have been nice to see a choice here, as well as hot-swappability) make for a comfortable typing feel without too much height — you won’t need a wrist rest with this. It’s much in keeping with the Apple aesthetic. It would have been nice to see backlighting here (as on the similar and slightly cheaper 6 Professional for PC users); it seems like an oversight for such a full-featured device.

Das Keyboard 6 Professional

From $199 at Amazon or Das Keyboard

Much as it has done with the MacTigr, Das Keyboard has now brought its older PC designs up to date with the addition of USB-C (and in this case, backlighting), resulting in the 6 Professional. A lot of people like the overbuilt, incredibly sturdy classic Das Keyboard designs, and the 6 Pro preserves Das’s signature transport control bump at the upper right of the substantial housing, with the substantial and easy to grab control knob recessed into the side of the unit where it’s easy to grab from any angle. Transport controls are here as well if you like dedicated buttons for that sort of thing (though there’s also a full array of function keys that address these on most systems, it’s nice to have the option at your fingertips).

While the MacTigr uses low-profile switches and keycaps, the 6 Professional uses full-height Cherry MX switches (only blue and brown are offered here, no red, which seems like an oversight — it’s unclear why particular switch feels should be restricted by platform).

Even given the full travel design, the 6 Pro is very low profile, so you shouldn’t need wrist support. Angle adjustment is available, but via screw-in feet. This isn’t our favorite design, since they don’t let you adjust on the fly easily, and even if you don’t lose them once you’ve unpacked you’re going to have to figure out where you stowed the things away once you need them. And as with the MacTigr and previous Das Keyboard designs, there’s a permanently attached USB cable — updated, as with the MacTigr, to USB-C — but that’s a mixed blessing since while it’s in line with current machines, it now requires an adapter for many older systems or hubs. It would, in our opinion, have been better just to allow users to add a good USB-C cable of their choosing.

Basically, this is a slimmed down, updated version of Das Keyboard’s longstanding design, and is going to be a better choice for most users than the company’s legacy design, especially given the addition of the 2-port USB-C hub.

Das Keyboard 4 Professional

$169 at Amazon

Metadot’s Das Keyboard brand is a stalwart of the productivity-oriented mechanical keyboard world; along with their advanced “smart” lineup, the company offers a broad range of variations on a single, full-size design. It’s a substantial, 100% frame, with a large, hefty aluminum top plate, media controls on most models and very solid construction overall. We tried four: the premium Model 4 Professional, the backlit Prime 13, the budget Model S and the newer X50Q.

The typing experience is very nice, stable and responsive courtesy of the solid build, rigid plate, Cherry MX switches and solid keycaps, and should appeal to typing purists. It’s relatively quiet compared to plastic-cased competitors, and while it’s audible (and stabilizers are a bit rattly out of the box), it’s quiet enough to use in an office unless you’re particularly ham-fisted. A little lubricant on the stabilizers removes some of the rattle, and we noticed no pinging or case noise during our testing. The keycaps are high quality, with a solid feel and a pleasant surface texture.

The Model 4 includes dedicated media keys and a substantial volume knob, located in a little extension above the number pad. In our Mac-layout tester these worked smoothly out of the box with no setup required, and the knob is welcome for quick level changes for Zoom calls, music listening and so forth over the course of the workday. Two USB-A passthrough ports are provided for easy connection of a mouse or other input device.

Angle adjustment is made by way of a removable foot — which in a charming retro move doubles as a 12-inch desk ruler. It’s very cute (though not terribly readable), and definitely usable, plus since it has utility on its own you’re at least less likely to lose it in the back of a drawer than you might with the removable feet included with Drop keyboards, for instance.

There are a few downsides. The Das could stand to be more compact — the housing takes up a lot of room on the desktop, and many current 100% keyboards are considerably slimmer. Das has stuck with a permanently attached USB-A cable, and one of the beefiest we’ve seen on a keyboard. This is a bit of an anachronism at this point, though in fairness, many traditional keyboard makers and gaming keyboard manufacturers, expecting their units to be used with permanent desktop setups, still package keyboards this way. Still, we would have liked to have seen a USB-C connector for futureproofing’s sake given that so many newer machines offer few ports in general and limited or no USB-A connectivity.

All that aside, the Model 4 is a fine keyboard for serious touch typists who plan on sticking with a single desk layout and want a number pad and media controls.

Das Keyboard Model S Professional

$140 $119 at Amazon

The more basic Das Keyboard Model S is marred by a cheaper feeling all-plastic housing with a high-gloss finish top plate, which looks nice if it’s clean, but quickly picks up fingerprints (Das helpfully includes a microfiber polishing cloth in the box). It’s a bit more compact than the Model 4, and uses flip-out feet instead of a removable magnetic foot for angle adjustmen