Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical keyboards -- keyboards with individual switches under each key -- have exploded in popularity recently, and for good reason. This week we're going to take a look at five of the best mechanical keyboards, based on your nominations.

Photos by Robert Freiberger and Blake Patterson

Not familiar with mechanical keyboards? Check out our guide to why they're awesome and how to choose the right model for you/


IBM Model M (and variants)

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Ah, the IBM Model M -- it's the keyboard that started it all, and it has been in production for decades. While it's technically a buckling spring keyboard rather than a mechanical keyboard in the sense that term is usually used, the Model M's toughness and effective design mean it remains popular. If you're using a Model M, enjoy it -- they're tanks, and won't give up on you any time soon. If you want one for yourself, you can still acquire them from Unicomp and other online sources for around $80-$100, depending on the model you choose. If the original Model M is too big for you, consider the IBM 5150.


Das Keyboard Ultimate Model S

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Das Keyboard has been in the mechanical keyboard business for a long time, so its keyboard models are well-designed and highly effective. -- way before the current rise in popularity. For that reason, they've had time to refine their keyboards. The Das Keyboard Ultimate claims to last for more than 50 million keystrokes, incorporates a 2-port USB hub inside, and features full N-key rollover (meaning pressing multiple keys will register correctly). It's available with your choice of Cherry MX Brown (quieter, softer) or MX Blue (louder, clicky) switches. Unusually, the Ultimate is a label-less keyboard, meaning the keys don't have inscriptions on them. So you'll need to be good at touch-typing to use it, because you won't be looking at your fingers. If you want your keys labelled, check out Das Keyboard's other models.


Cooler Master Storm QuickFire

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

The Cooler Master Storm QuickFire family of mechanical keyboards are well-regarded by gamers (our own Whitson Gordon owned one and loved it). The company produces a diverse range of models that are functional, affordable and rock-solid. The range offers incredible flexibility in switch types, backlighting options, full N-Key rollover, auto-disabling of the Windows key while gaming and removable braided USB cables, and more. Those of you who nominated it praised it for being a solid, affordable and flexible entry-level option.


Ducky Shine 2/Shine 3

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Ducky has a reputation for making incredibly high-quality mechanical keyboards that are sturdy and long-lasting without being bricks on your desk. They're beautifully crafted, and targeted towards enthusiasts, keyboard geeks, coders and developers, and writers -- people who live and die by their computers. The Shine 2 and the Shine 3 are available with your colour choice of Cherry MX switches, though you may need to shop around to find one. You get all the great features of a good mechanical: Full N-key rollover, reactive lighting to the ambient light in the room, a beautiful matte finish, and customisable backlighting profiles for individual keys. If you can find one, it's a solid keyboard that will stand the test of time.


Razer BlackWidow Ultimate

Five Best Mechanical Keyboards

Not all the keyboards from gaming manufacturer Razer are mechanical models, but the BlackWidow Ultimate and the BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth both fall into this category. The Ultimate packs Cherry MX Blue switches, while the Ultimate Stealth features the quieter Cherry MX Brown switches. It's a full-sized mechanical keyboard with programmable keys on the side, individual-key LED backlighting with adjustable brightness, media controls on the function keys, a USB port on the side with USB pass-through along its braided cables, and on-the-fly macro recording. Those of you who nominated it praised it for its heft, tactile feel, and build quality.


Honourable mentions this week go to the Rosewill RK-9000, an affordable model available with Cherry MX Blue, Red, Black, or Brown switches that we highlighted in our guide to mechanical keyboards, and the new Another honorable mention this week goes out to the new Logitech G710+ Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming, Logitech's first entry in this space. Finally, for those folks who want the ultimate in customisation, we have to extend a hand to WASD Keyboards (shown in the title photo), who offer a wide variety of other mechanical models that can be customised with whatever switches you prefer.

Have something to say about one of these keyboards? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Let's hear about it in the comments.


Comments

    Out of those I'd say the Ducky keyboards are the best, and the Razer one the worst (of the five). Razer loses a lot of points for using non-standard keycaps, especially the spacebar which connects oddly to the switch. It also has the fewest customisation options and only offers two switches In its place should be the Corsair K70, which is an excellent quality board with backlighting. When I bought mine, it came down to getting the Ducky 2 or waiting for the K70 to release, ended up going for the Ducky 2.

      I agree 100% I ended up going for a Ducky Shine 2 and it is one of the best upgrades for my PC I have purchased.

      Typing on it just feels so much nicer than it was on my old Logitech G15. Its like night and day.

    Gotta say I'm surprised the Microsoft Sidewinder X6 isn't in there...?

      X6 uses rubber dome keys, not mechanical.

        Really...? Feels pretty mechanical to me... If it is rubber underneath, it's the best non mechanical keyboard that feels mechanical I've ever used...! :)

          it's got a great key feel, but it isn't mechanical... and I'd probably take the X4 over the X6 for the n-key rollover.

      I had one, and the first beer I had in 6 months? I spilled all over it.

      the moral. Don't drink in front of your pc (eyes coffee to left of keyboard on table).

      I tried to get a new one but they don't seem to sell them anymore. So I got a black aluminium corsair mechanical with a red back light. It was a bit exy, but it's a lovely board.

    If I weren't a laptop user I'd be so into the Das Keyboard. As a Dvorak typist the writing on the keys pretty much doesn't correlate to the letters that come up on my screen (other than A and M), so looking at the keys is completely moot, and having the QWERTY layout printed on the keys leads to much confusion when someone borrows my computer and can't figure out what's going on.

      Nothing stopping you from plugging in a keyboard to your laptop!

      (That's what I do when I'm at home.)

    Mionix Zibal 60

    http://mionix.net/products/zibal-60/

    So the assumption is- only PC keyboards count? When it comes to keypads, check out the HP Museum and discussions of the HP41CX calculator. Out of production for over 20 years, yet people are STILL using them. One person has even made replacement CPU board based on an FPGA.
    Then there's the WP-34, where a HP calculator is re-programmed and custom labels are put on the keys.
    The number of web sites and companies, catering to those who truly want their own keypad, is... minimal. Even 3D printing has problems with putting multi-colour labels on buttons.

      Even if they were included, the two devices you mentioned aren't mechanical.

        As someone who has worked on damaged "dome" covers over 41C keys, I beg to differ. Anything using moving parts is, technically, mechanical. The only non-mechanical data entry I can think of is touch-sensitive displays and mouse pads.
        I think you mean: they aren't individual keys, capable of being independently replaced.

          I don't think the semantics are important in context. Mechanical keyboards have mechanical switches, as opposed to dome, capacitive or membrane . The terms are long established in the industry.

    Why are all the good quality mechanical keyboards so 'barebones'. Where are the media keys and maybe even a few programmable keys.
    It seems that both extremes are catered for... either the full gaming keyboard with a stupid amount of added features but with crappy unpleasant key mechanics (eg, my MadCatz Strike 5) or the boring and zero feature keyboards above with the best key mechanics possible.
    I want the best of both worlds.

      CM Storm Trigger Has 5 programmable keys, and a "storm" button to turn the Fn keys into media keys, the softwares pretty bleh to use, but once you work it all out its nice.
      Took me a little bit to get used to the Cherry reds after using a horrible doemd keyboard before :P

    Corsair K90. <---- thats a fullstop

    Razer BlackWidow? Seriously? Literal definition of trash, sadly peddled with ultra-marketing and brand recognition.
    So many better products to choose from.

    Das Keyboard silent

    I've got TopRe RealForce 87U and it is an awesome keyboard, for an expensive one.
    Quiet when I'm playing, loud when I'm smashing it. Compact for I don't need no numpads.

    I use a ducky DK9008G2 with black on black ABS keycaps, no backlight, and cherry mx blue switches (I write, touchtype, not game!). Apart from the keys getting rather shiny, it is perfection. There is not even a visible logo on the top of the unit - really understated and top quality.

    Of those choices I would rate Ducky as the worst. I bought one and within a couple of months the lettering was gradually disappearing. Nothing to do with wear, just fading away. Piece of low quality rubbish. And Ducky even refuse to answer any support/rma emails. Nothing. Stay well away from Ducky.

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