A hot swap mechanical keyboard is designed to fulfill the needs of users with a liking for custom keyboards.
For users who want to constantly change switches on their keyboards, a hot-swappable keyboard is an ideal option as they don’t require soldering.
What this means is that these keyboards come fitted with special sockets on the circuit board, onto which you can link or unlink switches without the use of a soldering gun.
Best Hot-Swappable Mechanical Keyboards Of 2020
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Factors To Consider In Hot-swap Keyboard
While mechanical keyboards with hot-swappable switches are trending in the mechanical keyboard world, there are a few factors you should consider when looking to buy one. These are:
Layout: The traditional keyboard comes in various layouts. These include; full-size board, a tenkeyless (TKL) board, as well as 60% boards. While these are the most common, there are other layouts you can choose like 65% and 40%.
These layouts are all tailored for use by different preferences, and as such, you should choose a layout you are most comfortable with.
Switch: The second factor after layout should be switch compatibility. Switches help determine how comfortable your typing feels. Most switches in these hot-swap keyboards are compatible with MX switches. The top brands are Cherry, Kailh, Gateron, and Outemu. Topre switches are also great, with many users reporting solid typing when using them.
Build: After deciding on your layout and switch preference, the third, and very important step is to choose the best build. You should ensure the board casing, as well as keycaps, are in perfect shape for long service.
Keycaps come with different fonts and material, with ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PBT (Polybutylene terephthalate) as most common. ABS caps are thinner than PBT caps, making the latter more durable, and often, the better option.
These are the best hot-swappable mechanical keyboards of 2020 you should consider.
Best Overall: Drop Alt 65% Mechanical Keyboard
This hot-swap mechanical keyboard has the best quality you would need, with these amazing features. It has an inbuilt switch plate that allows you to change to your preferred switches.
It is recommended you use the following switches for various functions; Cherry Brown RGB, Cherry Blue RGB, Halo Clear, Halo True, Kaihua Speed Silver, and Kaihua Box White.
Drop Alt (formerly Massdrop Alt) is a 65% keyboard. This means it’s slightly smaller than the TKL keyboard but bigger than 60% keyboard types.
It features an ergonomically crafted CNC-aluminum body build, covering even the switches. This material offers the keyboard durability and is heavy enough giving it the ability to hold on to a surface while you work.
The Drop Alt saves space and time with the absence of function keys because it features a total of 67 keys.
This keyboard comes with dual USB-C connectors on both sides and is fully programmable via Drop QMK firmware configurator which gives you total control of every key. This further enables you to customize your keyboard for different functions like gaming, play, or work.
It is fitted with RGB underlighting, meaning you can set it to a single color or even a rainbow wave pattern. For backlighting, it features shine-through double shot PBT keycaps.
Best Value: Hexgears GK12 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
This hot-swappable keyboard is suitable for PCs, laptops, and MacBooks. It features an aluminum alloy cover and has keycaps made of ABS double injection plastic.
The keyboard features a total of 87 conflict-free keys. It also has anti-slip support as well as a two-stage footstool for a better angle while working.
Hexgears GK12 features a removable panel cover enabling you to easily choose between a floating and standard keyboard. A waterproof, wearproof, and dustproof keyboard, it offers 30+ macro settings.
This mechanical keyboard features 6 single colors Backlit mode, allowing you to adjust brightness, and with the laser carving character, you enjoy a comfortable tactile feeling as well as very clear backlighting.
The keyboard is great for gaming and working, and with the Premium Kailh Box Switch, you get to enjoy up to 70 million times in keystroke life.
Best Build Quality: Glorious Modular Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
This spectacular keyboard has various features that you will find helpful in your search for a great mechanical hot-swap keyboard.
Minimalistic design keyboard, with no branding and a floating keycap design as well as a standard keycap layout, with a total of 104 keys. The keycaps are made from Doubleshot ABS plastic.
The Glorious modular mechanical keyboard has hot-swappable switches and features 16.8 million color RGB backlight, allowing you to change any key of the keyboard to the color of your liking through the GMMK software.
With very easy to change switches, the keyboard comes fitted with the Gateron Browns which offer a quiet typing experience, and it is also compatible with Cherry, Gateron, Zeal, and Kailh switches.
The keyboard is made of a sandblasted aluminum faceplate that ensures longevity. While it comes with a 6ft braided nonremovable USB cable, it is one of the good ones in the market for you.
Best For Gaming: Logitech G PRO X
This keyboard is specifically made for gaming tournaments requiring an easy to use the keyboard. Packed with great features, this keyboard can be purchased from the official Logitech website.
It has a tenkeyless keyboard layout that allows you easier mouse movement. It also has 12 programmable function keys.
The Logitech G Pro X sports an all-black chassis, as well as full RGB lighting. It has a detachable micro USB cable which is great for easier transportation. For an easy and secure connection, the cable has a three-pronged design.
You can adjust the keyboard to your preferred position using rubber feet that keep it in a steady position.
The keyboard comes with three switch variants you can choose from, namely the GX Blue Clicky, GX Red Linear, and GX Brown Tactile. It is also compatible with many MX styles.
Premium Option: Drop CTRL Mechanical Keyboard
The keyboard is a stunning one, from general features to customization options. It is a tenkeyless keyboard constructed with a slick aluminum frame that has an RGB strip beneath it.
The Drop CTRL comes with magnetic feet to keep it steady while in use. It comes fitted with Cherry MX Blue switches and is compatible with Cherry MX Brown, Halo Clear, Halo True, Kaihua Box Silver, and Kaihua Box White switches.
The keycaps are shine-through Doubleshot PBT, known to be durable and long-lasting.
Hot-Swappable Mechanical Keyboards Buying Guide And FAQs
Custom mechanical keyboards are popular not only among gaming enthusiasts, but they are also preferred by typists or quality-oriented users.
However, they are quite expensive and complicated to build. This is where hot-swappable mechanical keyboards come in. Keyboards designed for personalization and ease of switch repairs, which is resulting in longer keyboard lifetime.
If you would like to buy such a keyboard, here are some things to look out for.
What Does Hot-swappable Mean?
In electronics terminology, hot-swap is the replacement of a component or peripheral with a similar device while a computer is running. For example, eSATA, FireWire, and USB are examples of interfaces that are hot-swappable on computers.
In simple words, replacing a device while a computer is powered on is called hot-swapping.
If a keyboard is labeled as hot-swappable it means that the circuit board inside the keyboard has specially designed socket that can be easily pulled out and replace without soldering.
What Are The Benefits Of Hot-swappable Keyboards?
A mechanical keyboard with hot-swappable switches is preferred by typists and quality-oriented computer enthusiasts, mainly for two reasons.
These keyboards make switch repairs easy, even for non-tech people. You can quickly replace those switches and prolong the keyboard’s lifetime. Another benefit is of owning this type of mechanical keyboard is the personalization option it allows.
Hot-Swappable Keyboards: Critical Considerations
Mechanical Keyboard Sizes
If you’re new in the topic, you probably never heard about different layouts for mechanical keyboards. We’re talking about Full, Tenkeyless (TKL), 75%, 60%, or even 40% layouts. Here are things you should know:
Full: A full-size keyboards have 104, 105, or 108 keys depending on ANSI (USA), ISO (EU), or JIS (Japan) layouts. These keyboards have an alphanumeric, navigational cluster and number pad separated, with the F keys running along the top.
Tenkeyless (TKL, 87%, 80%): Tenkeyless or TKL is a compact keyboard layout, similar to the full-size keyboard without the number pad on the right side. This is resulting in 87 or 88 keys. Such mechanical keyboard is about 80% of the width of a full-size keyboard
75%: If you find a keyboard with a 75% label, you are looking at a compact layout, with 70-75% of the width of a full-size one. With the F key row at the top, of course. The difference between 75% and Tenkeyless (TLK) keyboard is in the reduction of the gap between different areas of the keyboard.
65%: 65% keyboards have a mini layout with arrow keys. They are typically about a width of 65% of a full-size keyboard. They come 66-68 keys in total.
60%: The 60% form factor removes anything right of the Enter key, as well as the function row. It is basically a 65% keyboard without arrow keys. This is the most common layout after full-size and TKL.
40%: The 40% form factor removes everything except the letters and the modifiers.
For more information about mechanical keyboard sizes, you should read our detailed guide.
Mechanical switches are the mechanisms underneath each key. They determine the activation of a keystroke. There are three types of mechanical switches: linear, tactile, and clicky. They are defined by their keystroke behavior.
The purpose of your keyboard will decide the switches you need. For gamers, linear switches are a perfect choice. If you need a keyboard more for typing, then tactile and clicky switches are what you should get.
Mechanical keyboards with hot-swappable switches are expensive. The price is typically over $100, so be sure you get a keyboard made of high-quality materials that will last you for a long time. For maximum longevity, go for double-shot keycaps.
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