The 7 best mechanical keyboards of 2021

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Our choice

Varmilo VA87M

The tenkeyless VA87M offers top-notch build quality and a tasteful, minimalist design. It is available with a wide variety of switches and keys.

Varmilo VA87M Mac

This version of the VA87M has a macOS-specific layout and keys. It is otherwise identical to the standard VA87M.

Dimensions: 14.02 by 5.28 by 1.3 inches Link: Removable mini-USB
Cap material: PBT Backlight: None, white or RGB

The Varmilo VA87M and VA87M Mac are available with a variety of Cherry switches; if you don’t already know what kind of switches you like, we recommend the Cherry MX Brown switches as they offer a satisfying tactile bump without making too much fuss for a shared space. Our pick comes with an easy-to-replace removable Mini-USB cable and a key puller for replacing or cleaning keys. These Varmilo keyboards are not fully programmable, but they do have clearly labeled media keys and you can customize a few functions.

We recommend keyless keyboards, that is, models without an integrated numeric keypad, because they are more ergonomic and because most people do not use a numeric keypad frequently enough to justify the desk space they require. ‘he keeps busy. If you need a numeric keypad, you can get a separate numeric keypad, such as the Leopold FC210TP, which you can move away when not in use.

Finalist

Leopold FC750R

The FC750R has an equally excellent build quality and design, but it doesn’t offer as much switch or key variety as the VA87M, and its media keys aren’t labeled.

Dimensions: 14.25 by 5.51 by 1.3 inches Link: Removable mini-USB
Cap material: PBT Backlight: Nothing

If the Varmilo VA87M is not available during your purchase, we recommend the Leopold FC750R. It has an equally excellent build quality, and its minimalist keyless design is just as compact. It is also available with all the most common types of switches. Leopold offers different sets of tasteful and high quality keys, although it does not offer as much variety as Varmilo and does not have backlight options. Like the VA87M, the FC750R has a detachable Mini-USB cable and works on both Windows and Mac. But the FC750R’s media controls aren’t labeled on the keys (or explained in the manual), so you’ll have to memorize them.

Great too

Leopold FC900R

The Leopold FC900R is almost identical to the FC750R, and we recommend it if you need a full-size keyboard with an integrated numeric keypad.

Dimensions: 17.32 by 5.51 by 1.3 inches Link: Removable mini-USB
Cap material: PBT Backlight: Nothing

If you need an integrated numeric keypad, the Leopold FC900R is the best option. It’s almost identical to our runner-up, the Leopold FC750R, as it offers an equally excellent build quality, it’s available with all of the most popular switch types, and you can choose from a few different PBT key sets. Like the tenkeyless model, this keyboard has a detachable mini-USB cable and works on both Windows and Mac, but like the tenkeyless model, it doesn’t have labels on its media controls. (We don’t recommend the Varmilo VA108M, the full-size version of our top pick, as it has a very different body and not as good as its keyless sibling.)

Budget choice

Keychron C1

The Keychron C1 Keyless is great value for money, with a solid build quality and a satisfying typing experience. Its keycaps seem cheaper and will wear out sooner than our top picks, but you can’t beat the price.

Purchase options

* At the time of publication, the price was 40 $.

Keychron C2

The full-size Keychron C2 is identical to the C1 but has an integrated numeric keypad.

Purchase options

* At the time of publication, the price was $ 54.

Dimensions: C1: 14.06 by 5.12 by 1.5 inches
C2: 17.15 by 5.12 by 1.57 inches
Link: Removable USB-C
Cap material: abs Backlight: White or RGB

If I were to get into mechanical keyboards for the first time today, I would buy the tenkeyless Keychron C1 or full size Keychron C2. Both models offer surprisingly good build quality, offer a pleasant typing experience, and have an attractive minimalist design, all unusual features in this price range. Their lower grade ABS keys are thinner and more fragile to type and are prone to wear out faster than the thicker PBT keys on our top picks, but the keys are easy to replace if desired. Both models are compatible with Windows and Mac, and they come with replacement keys for both operating systems. Another plus: Swapping switches on most mechanical keyboards requires equipment, expertise, and time to desolder all old switches and solder new ones, but if you want to try new types of switches without solder, Keychron will upgrade the standard PCB in the C1 or C2 to a hot swappable version for $ 10. With a hot-swap card, you can simply remove the switches and snap the new ones into place. As of this writing, shipping from the Keychron website starts at $ 20, but even with that extra cost the C1 and C2 keyboards are better than any similarly priced keyboards. (Some models are also available on Amazon with Prime shipping.)

Upgrade Choice

Drop Ctrl

The fully programmable Ctrl offers excellent build quality, hot-swappable switches, and RGB backlighting, but it’s pricey.

Dimensions: 14.5 by 5.5 by 1.4 inches Link: Removable USB-C
Cap material: PBT Backlight: Rgb

If you’re willing to pay more for a prettier keyboard that you can tinker with, get the Drop Ctrl. It’s just as well-made and fun to type as our top picks, it has an attractive design, and it offers hot-swappable switches, customizable RGB backlighting and complete programming. But it’s about a half inch wider than our top picks, so it’s a little less ergonomic. If you like the functionality of Ctrl but want something more compact, consider the Drop Alt instead of. The Ctrl is available with a variety of switch options, and you can easily try out new types of switches if you’re curious.

Unfortunately, uptime is an issue with most major mechanical keyboards. Most are made in Taiwan or China and shipped to the United States in batches for sale through specialty retailers. If our picks aren’t available with the switches or keys you want, you can pre-order at MechanicalKeyboards.com, keep an eye out for this seller incoming shipments page, or set availability alerts on Amazon using a price tracker such as CamelCamelCamel or Keepa. We tested our picks against more readily available options and found these models to be of significantly higher quality and worth looking out for, but if you can’t wait that long, the other great options we have have found during testing may be more readily available. .


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