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Best mechanical keyboard 2021: The best keyboards for productivity, creative work and gaming

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Work hard and play hard with mechanical keyboards that are built for business as well as gaming

Speak to any PC gaming enthusiast and they’ll tell you that the best keyboards are mechanical. What they might not tell you, however, is that mechanical keyboards aren’t just best for playing games; the speed, responsiveness and durability of a proper mechanical keyboard also make them excellent for work use.

Whether you’re looking for a superior word-processing experience in the office, or you’re a gamer after the peripheral to give you an edge when you’re busy playing Apex Legends, DOTA2 or World of Warcraft, a modern tile-style keyboard just won’t cut it. You need to get a proper mechanical keyboard in.

Below, you’ll find our selection of the best mechanical keyboards you can buy. If you’re not certain what a mechanical keyboard actually is, feel free to browse our buying guide immediately below.

How to choose the best mechanical keyboard for you

What is a mechanical keyboard?

Two things distinguish the mechanical keyboard from today’s flatter chiclet models. Firstly, a mechanical keyboard has separate keys that actually stand out from the base of the keyboard, with the rows of keys often rising upwards as you move front to back from row to row. Some feel this makes them more comfortable and easier to type on than a modern tile-style keyboard, though others argue that this leaves your wrists under excess strain. 

Most obviously, mechanical keyboards use an old-school mechanical switch under each key to detect when the key has been pressed. This is what gives them that great, positive, clicky feel, where your fingers almost bounce from one key to another. For gamers, this is all the more important, because mechanical keys are often seen as being faster to respond and speedier and more accurate when you’re repetitively pressing the same key. This can make all the difference when you’re a League of Legends or Fortnite Pro – or someone who aspires to be one.

What are keyboard switches?

This is where things get complex. Mechanical keyboards use one of four types of switches, usually named after the colour that Cherry – a major old-school keyboard manufacturer – gave them when it used them in its keyboards. Of course, not all switches these days are actual Cherry switches – a bunch of Far Eastern manufacturers have stepped in to satisfy the growing demand – but they should have similar characteristics. Arguments rage back and forth on gaming forums about whether the copies are as good as the originals, while some manufacturers have stepped away from Cherry’s types, hoping to build their own individual reputation.

Still, your basic switch types are:

MX Black: A heavy switch that takes 60g of force to actuate (press fully) and has a slightly stiff but very precise feel. Not very clicky, but great for games where accuracy is crucial.

MX Blue: A very tactile, clicky switch that needs a little less force than the black. There’s plenty of feedback with this one, but it also gets pretty loud.

MX Brown: A sort of halfway house between the Blue and the Red, with a nice tactile bump when it’s pressed but less force required. It’s quieter than the MX Blue.

MX Red: The lightest and quietest of the four with not so much resistance when you press the key down. Some typists like the lighter feel while others miss the bounce of the MX Blue.

Is there anything else worth looking out for?

There’s always some variation of layouts when it comes to keyboards, but the influence of gaming culture on the mechanical models takes this to a whole new level. You’ll find some with extra macro keys for setting up strings of instructions, while others remove the number keys (known as tenkeyless keyboards), function keys or even navigation keys to cut the size right down. Keep an eye on this if you need specific keys or if, say, a column of number keys on the left side of the keyboard is going to throw your typing out of whack. Other keys, like volume or media playback keys, can be useful, but it’s a question of whether or not you like and use them.

For this list, we’ve tried to avoid keyboards that go crazy for weird designs and over-the-top RGB lighting – head to our page on the best gaming keyboards via the link below if that’s your kind of thing. However, most of us like a backlight even if we’re just working late into the night, so that’s something that might be worth paying extra for.

Finally, keep an eye out for practical features. We’ve seen a few keyboards packing extra USB ports, while ergonomic extras like a wrist rest are definitely a plus. And if you like to split your PC time between work and play, then features like anti-ghosting and full-key rollover, where the keyboard can read all keys being pressed simultaneously if called on, could help you make the most of your skills. 

READ NEXT: The best gaming keyboards

The best mechanical keyboards to buy

1. DREVO Calibur V2: Best budget mechanical keyboard

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

Plenty of small far-eastern manufacturers are now selling cheap mechanical keyboards to cash-strapped PC gamers, but the DREVO Calibur v2 is one of the better and more versatile options. It’s a compact model without a numeric pad, though it still has the usual function and navigation keys, and it sidesteps most of the worst issues affecting budget keyboards, including horrific non-standard layouts, hideous font choices for the lettering and missing UK symbols. It even has a detachable USB Type-C to Type-A cable and customisable RGB backlighting.

The real surprise, though, is that it feels good, with tough ABS keys and a choice of Outemu Red, Brown or Blue switches – or Cherry MX switches if you’re prepared to pay another £17. Paying more will get you slicker software and a more premium feel, but if you’re looking for a well-built, basic compact keyboard with the right clicky, tactile feel, this is as good as it gets for the cash.

Key specs – Type: USB Mechanical Keyboard; Switch type: Outemu Red/Brown/Blue; Special features: RGB backlight, N-key rollover; Connections: USB; Dimensions: 330 x 102 x 38mm; Weight: 625g

2. HyperX Ducky One 2 mini: Best compact mechanical keyboard for gaming

Price: £120 | Buy now from Overclockers

If you're pushed for space on your desk but you still want a durable, responsive keyboard for gaming, the HyperX Ducky One 2 mini mechanical keyboard could be right up your street.

It has full per key RGB lighting, macro recording, HyperX's red linear switches and a 60% form factor that chops off not only the number pad but also the cursor keys, the navigation key cluster and the function keys in its mission to keep size down. These keys are still there on the Ducky One 2 Mini but they require a function key press to activate.

All-in-all, the Ducky One 2 Mini is a brilliantly made keyboard and superb for gaming and typing on. If you're not used to a 60% keyboard it'll take a while to get used to but it's well worth persevering with if you need that extra desk space.

Buy now from Overclockers


3. Logitech G613: Best wireless mechanical keyboard

Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon

There aren’t so many wireless mechanical keyboards out there, but the Logitech G613 leaves you wondering why. Plug in the supplied USB Lightspeed dongle and it only adds 1ms to the report rate – the time taken for a keypress to register on your PC – and even the most hardcore eSports pro wouldn’t consider that an obstacle to winning games.

The layout might not be for everyone, with a bank of programmable macro keys running down the left-hand-side, but there are dedicated media controls on the right along with a Game mode button that can lock unwanted keys. You can also pair it with other devices using Bluetooth, and the G613 will run for up to 18 months from a pair of AA batteries. Logitech rarely messes up on the basics like labelling, and the feel of the Romer-G mechanical switches is spot-on; maybe not as precise and clicky as the Cherry MX Blue, but a little springier and quieter to compensate. If you’re really not bothered about backlighting – there’s none – this is an excellent choice.

Key specs – Type: Wireless Mechanical Keyboard; Switch type: Logitech Romer G; Special features: Lightspeed wireless, G Keys; Connections: Lightspeed USB dongle or Bluetooth; Dimensions: 478 x 216 x 34mm; Weight: 1.46Kg

4. Logitech G Pro: Best compact mechanical keyboard for work

Price: £110 | Buy now from Amazon

Whether you’re short on desk space or you prefer a minimalist look, the Logitech G Pro has you covered. This compact model ditches the usual numeric pad and any extra macro keys, though it still packs in the function keys that some pure gaming keyboards do without. It’s still got a compact desktop footprint, plus extras like a thick, detachable USB cable and a choice of three typing angles depending on which flip-out feet you deploy.

This is a great productivity keyboard, with a lovely fast, crisp and light typing feel – and it’s a little quieter than your typical blue-switch model. It still has plenty to please the gamers, though, with RGB lighting, which you can tailor using Logitech’s G-Hub app, plus a dedicated button to switch it in and out of game mode, where you can set certain keys, like the Windows key, to be disabled. It’s a bit pricey for what you get, but otherwise the perfect compact model for those who work during the day and game late into the night.

Key specs – Type: USB Mechanical Keyboard; Switch type: Logitech GX Blue; Special features: Light-sync RGB, detachable cable, three-step angle adjust; Connections: USB; Dimensions: 360 x 153 x 34mm; Weight: 898g

5. Das Keyboard 4: The best mechanical keyboard for productivity

Price when reviewed: £115 to £180 | Buy now from Overclockers

The Das Keyboard 4 isn’t just one keyboard, but a family of high-end keyboards packing in different features at different price points. However, all of them from the basic Das Keyboard Root to the 4Q share the same ergonomic design and excellent typing feel. The deck is crafted from a thick black metal, which guarantees it won’t shift around on your desk, and if the default typing angle doesn’t work for you, Das Keyboard provides a magnetic stand – which doubles as a ruler – to prop it up at a slightly higher rake. The laser-etched, ABS plastic keys feel extremely solid, while the MX Brown switches give you a great balance between tactile feedback, speedy typing and acceptable noise levels. Whether you’re playing games or working on a lengthy document, it’s hard to fault.

The extras depend upon your model. All get a built-in USB hub, but it’s USB 2.0 on the Root and Pro keyboards and 2.0 on the 4Q. All have a volume dial on the right-hand side along with useful media and sleep keys. Plump for the 4Q, though, and you get full RGB lighting and support for some add-on productivity apps, which translate notifications into flashing keys, so that you can track the weather or spot a new Gmail message from an important contact with a quick glance at the keyboard. Right now, there’s not quite enough app support to make this a must-have – and it requires you to connect the 4Q by two USB cables. But even if you only buy the basic model, you’re getting one of the best productivity keyboards around.

Key specs – Type: USB Mechanical Keyboard; Switch type: Cherry MX Brown; Special features: 2-port USB 2/0 or 3.0 hub; RGB lighting and Q smart keyboard features on 4Q; Connections: USB; Dimensions: 457 x 172 x 20mm; Weight: 1.3Kg

Buy now from Overclockers


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