Hot swappable keyboards can customize your gaming and work experience. They give you the flexibility to design a look and feel that works for your style (and improves your gaming stats). But deciding on the right keyboard isn’t always easy. They come in different sizes, modular designs, multiple Bluetooth connections, and a variety of customization features. Where do you start?
We’ve created a list that balances price, build quality, and features to meet a wide budget range. Our list includes standout brands like Keychron and Drop, as well as more budget-friendly models for those dipping their toes into the swappable water. Keep reading for our list of the best hot swappable keyboards and a quick shopping guide to let you in on the best features.
— Best Overall: Drop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard
— Best Wireless: Keychron K8
— Best 75 Keyboard: RK ROYAL KLUDGE RK84
— Best Budget: EPOMAKER SKYLOONG SK61
How We Picked The Best Hot Swappable Keyboards
We researched a long list of hot-swappable keyboards before coming to our final decisions. The search started with reputable brands like Drop and Keychron. Here, we considered durability, switch options, and customization features that come with the keyboards. We also considered design innovation, like lighting, modular design, and the versatility of macros or N-key rollover. When it came down to it, we couldn’t ignore the nuts and bolts like switch type, layout, and key remapping either. Customer reviews factored into the final decision, but we also consulted experts to find the sweet spot where reviews and expertise meet.
The Best Hot Swappable Keyboards: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Drop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard
Why It Made The Cut: An aluminum frame with a metal base plate gives the main deck of this keyboard incredible durability that’s enhanced with double-shot PBT keycaps.
— Layout: TKL
— Switch: Drop Kalo, Kailh, Cherry MX
— Connection: Wired
— Durable, high-quality build
— Versatile switch options
— USB passthrough
— Excellent typing feel
— Wired connection only
The Drop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard has been around for a while and with good reason. Though it lacks some of the fancier gaming-oriented features, you can’t beat the quality and feel. The metal base plate and aluminum frame give it impressive durability and heft. Double-shot PBT keycaps take that durability (and quality) to another level. Consequently, these keys won’t develop a shine or wear out any time soon.
The Drop CTRL also offers passthrough charging to help you keep your other devices ready to go. Compatibility with some of the top switch manufacturers — Cherry MX, Kailh, and Drop Kalo — leaves you plenty of options from which to choose. The result is a keyboard that feels amazing and will stay with you for years to come. If there’s a downside, it’s that as a wired keyboard, you’re tied to the desk.
Best Wireless: Keychron K8
Why It Made The Cut: This (more) affordable Keychron gives you the quality and look of more expensive models in a versatile wireless/wired version.
— Layout: TKL
— Switch: Gateron G Pro Red, Brown, Blue
— Connection: Wired or Bluetooth
— Easily switches from Mac to Windows compatibility
— Excellent battery life
— Bluetooth 5.1
— Affordable Keychron model
— ABS keycaps
The Keychron K8 boasts an excellent battery life, so you won’t be charging it that often. It’s also one of the more affordable Keychron keyboards, but you will pay an extra $25 or so for the hot-swappable version. The K8 has 5-pin switches, and you get to choose either Gateron Optical Red, Brown, or Blue switches at purchase, which are all excellent options.
This one is also compatible with both Mac and Windows, and you can easily switch between the two using the FN key. It’s ready for Bluetooth 5.1 to connect with many of the latest devices. However, Keychron is able to offer it at a lower price, in part, because of the ABS keycaps, but you can replace those fairly easily down the road.
Best 75 Keyboard: RK ROYAL KLUDGE RK84
Why It Made The Cut: This wired/wireless model gives you N-key rollover and programmable macro keys.
— Layout: 75 percent
— Switch: TTC Brown
— Connection: 2.4 GHz, Bluetooth, wired
— Three connectivity modes
— RGB backlit
— Stores up to three devices
— USB passthrough
— Comes with off-brand switches
The RK ROYAL KLUDGE RK84 is a gaming keyboard that lets you customize switches, keycaps, while enjoying RGB backlighting. It offers three connectivity modes — wireless on the 2.4 GHz band, Bluetooth 5.0, and wired. You can also store up to three devices and switch between connections. RK84 brings a little versatility to the game in that you can take off the top frame and let it float or put it back on to keep it embedded.
A detachable footpad can help you adjust the angle for a better fit to your typing style. Additionally, it has two USB passthrough ports and a USB-C port. Where it falls a little short are the pre-installed switches. They’re an off-brand name, so most people will want to switch those out fairly quickly.
Best Budget: EPOMAKER SKYLOONG SK61
Why It Made The Cut: The EPOMAKER’s compact layout and six switch options make it an excellent, affordable buy.
— Layout: 60 percent
— Switch: Gateron Optical Black, Blue, Yellow, Breen, Brown, Black; Gateron Mechanical Black, Blue, Brown, Red, Yellow
— Connection: Wired
— Customizable macros
— RGB backlit
— Gateron switches
— PBT keycaps
— Software can have issues
— Wired only
The EPOMAKER SKYLOONG SK61 saves a ton of money but still gets you a keyboard loaded with Gateron switches as part of the standard package. You can order it with one of 11 switch types, including both mechanical and optical, to get the feel and sound you want. You also get durable PBT keycaps at an incredibly affordable price. This model is at heart a gaming keyboard, so it has customizable macros and N-key rollover. Gamers will also appreciate RGB backlighting. If you’re a little on the clumsy side, this might be the right keyboard for you, thanks to its splash-resistant rating.
Where this model could do better is the included software, which can be difficult to navigate.
What to Consider Before Buying The Best Hot-Swappable Keyboard
Hot-swappable keyboards aren’t compatible with all switch types. Typically, the keyboard is compatible with either optical switches or mechanical switches. Mechanical switches include switches, such as Gateron, Cherry MX, or Kailh. These mechanical switches give more feedback, creating a tactile feel with the telltale clickety-clack of a traditional keyboard.
Optical switches are quieter and take less effort to press. Their quieter actuation might be a good idea if you use the keyboard in a shared area.
There are a lot more keyboard layouts than you may realize. A full-size keyboard has 104 keys, including a number pad. Number crunchers in spreadsheet users often find that number pad handy. If you’re short on desk space or prefer something a little more compact, there are tenkeyless (TKL), 75 percent, 65 percent, 60 percent, and 40 percent keyboards, too.
The smaller keyboards save desk space and can be just as functional as a full-size model. Many allow you to set control functions and macros to further customize the keyboard so you never miss those missing keys.
Remapping features let you customize the board for different activities. Some models have a fully programmable key set, while others let you program function keys and use macro shortcuts. You’ll have to decide how you’re most likely to use the keyboard to decide which, if any, of these functions you need.
Q. Which gaming keyboards are hot-swappable?
The Keychron K8, MOUNTAIN Everest Max, and RK ROYAL KLUDGE RK84 are all excellent hot-swappable gaming keyboards that made our list.
Q. Can hot-swappable keyboards use any switches?
No, hot-swappable keyboards cannot use any switches. Usually, the keyboards have either mechanical or optical switches. They may also only be compatible with certain brands within that category. Save yourself a headache, and make sure that the keyboard either comes with or is compatible with the more common switch brands, which include Gateron, Kailh, Outemu, Zealios, and Cherry MX.
Q. Are 5-pin switches more stable?
Five-pin switches aren’t inherently more stable. They are typically used on larger keyboards that need extra stability to prevent flexing. The 3-pin switches on smaller keyboards function just as well, but because the keys are closer together, there’s less chance of flexing. Keep in mind that a keyboard with 5-pin switches can accept 3-pin switches. However, a keyboard with 3-pin switches cannot accept 5-pin switches unless you clip the plastic (not metal) posts on the switch’s bottom casing.
Q. Can you solder 3-pin switches?
You can solder 3-pin switches, but it usually requires a plate.
Q. What are the best tactile switches?
Glorious Panda and Holy Panda are two of the best tactile switches, with a unique sound that’s favored among those who love the click of keys.
Final Thoughts on the Best Hot Swappable Keyboards
The best hot swappable keyboard is a matter of personal preference, from the sound to the feel of each key. For the best durability and a satisfying typing experience, the Drop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard is one of the best out there. It’s an older model, but it’s still popular because of the build quality and tactile feel it provides. If you’re on a tighter budget, you can still customize your keyboard with the EPOMAKER SKYLOONG SK61. It comes at a low price, but you get your choice of Gateron switches, and PBT keycaps from the get go.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.