Top 15 best mechanical keyboard Reviews 2017

The right mechanical keyboards ultimately comes down to the right feel while you’re playing. Membrane switches are familiar but often spongy. Mechanical keyboards offer key switches that are responsive when typing or moving in a game and feel good to push down. That feel is important, because the best mechanical keyboard is the peripheral you’ll spend the most time with at your PC, and it has to feel right.

The best mechanical keyboard market has undergone some major changes. Some companies have made their products increasingly sophisticated, while others are going back to their roots. We’ve also seen the rise of proprietary switches from a few companies. With all this in mind, here are our picks for Top 15 best mechanical keyboard Reviews 2017:

Top 15 Best Mechanical Keyboard Reviews 2017: Help Gamers




Keyswitches: Romer-G

Keycaps: Standard, with laser-etched design on WASD keys

Keyboard size: Tenkeyless U.S. layout with buttons for lighting and Windows button keylock.

Max decibels: 56

Lighting: RGB, programmable, per-key illumination

Cable: Standard

Ports: None

Logitech’s G901 Orion Spark was one of my favorite keyboards when this guide first went up early last year. But I had some reservations, chief among them were the oversized design and how gaudy the big keyboard looked.

Logitech’s G410 Atlas Spectrum seems like a board specifically designed to deal with those concerns. The tenkeyless board strips away the overabundance of logos and branding (you’ll only find a single, small G410 located on the wrist rest) and shrinks the overall size to deliver a compact version of the spectacular Orion Spark.

And you still get a lot of the Spark’s great features, including the programmable RGB backlighting, the Romer-G mechanical switches and the ARX dock for your smartphone.

I was genuinely excited when Logitech announced the new, compact gaming mechanical; it seemed like an answer to all of the reservations I had with the Orion. But then I tried it.

The Atlas Spectrum removes the G-keys that run down the left side of the Orion, as well as the four smaller memory keys that run above the board. As someone who doesn’t usually use macro keys, I thought their absence only added to the sleek design of the board. The Atlas also removes the physical media controls that pack up the right side of the board, and of course, the number pad. Media can still be controlled with seven function buttons tied to the top right seven keys of the board. It means holding in the function key before tapping the right button, but it also slims down the board quite a bit. Where the Orion has an ARX dock that slides out of the board to hold your phone or tablet in place, the Atlas has a smarter, smaller version of the dock. Instead of remaining affixed to the board, it comes out completely, allowing you to set up your smartphone or pad anywhere you’d like while using the free app. This is a great design change for folks like me, who use their keyboard on a pullout tray under their desk. Where the Orion’s ARX dock is blue and stylized to stand out, the Atlas dock is black and almost invisible when not in use.

All of these changes, while removing some substance, increase the style of the board. But there are also changes that seem to just decrease the value, and likely the cost of the board.

One of the things I really like about the Orion is its keycaps. Each keycap is shaped with a slight, open-bottomed rectangular indention, designed to help guide your fingers to a key’s sweet spot. For some reason, the Atlas doesn’t include this feature. While the WASD and arrow keys do still include the laser etching to help them stand out a bit more, the loss of that subtle design touch is evident when typing.

The biggest problem, though, is a real deal breaker for me. The keyboard’s design change somehow introduced a melodic pinging to every letter you type. Examining the board, keys and switches carefully has convinced me the sound happens when the key bounces back after a keystroke. Tapping the underside of the board also produces this annoying, high-pitched ring. For an aficionado of mechanical keyboards, having a board that overlays the bass rumble of a keyboard’s clacking with a jittery ringing is pure hell. It almost makes me understand why some people don’t like mechanical keyboards. It’s also a huge disappointment.

The lighting effects for the board are just as impressive as what you’d find on the Orion The Atlas uses the same program to let you create your own festive, pulsing, sweeping colors.

I am so put out by the ringing of this board that I’m likely to take it apart after writing this review to see if I can fix it, or at least figure out what the designers did to introduce so noticeable a flaw. On the off chance I have a board that is somehow defective, I’ll make sure to update this review. But until then, I simply can’t recommend picking up the Atlas.

Update: After hearing about the issues I was running into with the Atlas Spectrum, Logitech representatives asked if they could send me a second board, because they said they had no reports of those problems.

After spending another few days with the new board, I’m sad to say I still hear the slight ringing. I do want to note, however, that I am a heavy typer. I messed around with the new board and the old board, and I noticed the sound only when I was typing at my normal speed. When I just poked at the board or tapped a single key, it wasn’t there. That said, I’d absolutely check out the board for yourself in person before paying for it, just to make sure you don’t run into the same issue.



Keyswitches: Hybrid capacitive switches with Cherry MX-compatible stems

Keycaps: ABS, grip coated, removable

Keyboard size: tenkeyless

Max decibels: 56

Lighting: None

Cable: braided, removable with Micro to USB 2.0

Ports: None

The NovaTouch TKL sells itself as the “ultimate typing experience.” What differentiates this particular keyboard from others on this list is that it’s not a pure mechanical board. Instead of relying on mechanical switches, the NovaTouch makes use of hybrid capacitive switches (also popularly used by Topre). What that means is that the housing and stem for the keycap sit on top of an electrostatic layer of material, which is held above a steel-plated printed circuit board by a spring. When a button is pressed, the electrostatic layer hits the PCB, which detects the key. Cooler Master says the result is a faster, quieter mechanical keyboard designed to be easier on the fingers. As with Cooler Master’s other board on this list, this one is also a tenkeyless keyboard, meaning it has no number pad on the right side to extend the board’s length.

True to the company’s promise, the NovaTouch TKL is one of the quietest keyboards among the batch we tested. It was only louder than Razer’s Blackwidow Chrome Stealth board. And if you want to make the board even quieter, it comes with a set of O-ring sound dampeners that can be affixed to each key’s stem.

While the board does feel more responsive than the others we tested, it also lacks the tactile bump you find in most traditional mechanical boards. That means you don’t feel when the key hits the activation point; instead, your finger’s first sensation is the solid stop of bottoming out. I can see how some might appreciate how smooth this makes the keystroke, but if you’re used to the tactile bump of a switch, it can feel a little odd.



Onboard memory: 128 KB

Keyswitches: Cherry MX switches, blue or brown. We tried the blue.

Keycaps: ABS, grip coated, removable

Keyboard size: tenkeyless

Max decibels: 57

Lighting: white; all keys, five levels, five modes

Cable: braided, removable with Micro to USB 2.0

Ports: None

Where Cooler Master’s NovaTouch is one of the quieter keyboards we looked at for this comparison, the Quickfire Rapid-i was one of the loudest. That’s not really because of the keyboard design as much as it is because of the particular Cherry MX switch we elected to get with this board. You can buy this board with a blue or brown switch. The louder of the choices is the blue, which has switches known as clicky switches. And boy, does the Quickfire live up to that.

The benefit of the blue switches is that along with the tactile bump common to a Cherry MX switch, you get a distinct, louder click when you hit the actuation point on a key. Unfortunately, the blues also require more force than the browns to press, meaning players won’t typically be as fast using them. I didn’t notice a distinct difference in typing speed or reaction time while using this board, but I certainly noticed the difference in sound. Where the NovaTouch had a solid clack to it, the Quickfire’s clicky blue switches resulted in a constant cacophony of clicking. Broken down, it was the triple sounds of the quick click of the button actuating, the clack of the key bottoming out and the final sharp and less noisy click of the key rebounding. It’s not unpleasant, at least not to the user. In fact, I grew to like the white noise it churned out as I burned through a story, or played a round of Call of Duty.



Keyswitches: Cherry MX switches, brown or blue. We tried brown.

Keycaps: Laser-etched keycap inscriptions

Keyboard size: Standard 104-key U.S. layout with dedicated media controls

Max decibels: 57

Lighting: None

Cable: single 6.5-foot cable

Ports: Two 3.0 USB on back

Das Keyboard has a passionate, loyal following among mechanical keyboard enthusiasts. And there’s a reason for that. The Das Keyboard Professional 4 is a sleek beast of a keyboard. This latest iteration features an anodized aluminum top panel, an underbelly designed to minimize resonance and a footbar that both raises the board by 4 degrees and acts as a magnetic, detachable straightedge. The board even has a fancy laser-engraved aluminium label.

I’m not a big fan of media controls on my keyboards because I think they tend to get in the way and take away from the allure of a piece of accessory designed for one thing and one thing only. That said, the Das Keyboard’s approach to a media hub is both functional and aesthetically alluring. The top right corner of the board includes pause/play, next track, previous track, sleep and mute buttons. But the real attraction is the oversized volume knob, which includes a bezel-cut ring of red aluminium that matches the blood red of the company’s logo. The board also has two USB 3.0 ports worked into the back right edge.

Now onto the thing that most will find most important: How does typing feel on this keyboard? The Das Keyboard Professional 4 can be purchased with either blue or brown Cherry MX switches.



Keyswitches: SteelSeries QS1

Keycaps: Standard with oversized lettering

Keyboard size: Standard 104-key U.S. layout with six macro keys and oversized space key

Max decibels: 51

Lighting: RGB programmable, per-key illumination

Cable: Braided

Ports: Two USB on back of board

SteelSeries’ first mechanical keyboard is an impressive creation that, of all the boards I tested, is the only one to significantly change the way I type and play. Which could be a good thing or bad thing, depending on how easily you adjust to typing.

The Apex M800 is a wide board that includes six programmable macros running down the left side of the board and an oddly shaped space bar that is double the height of a standard and a bit thinner. The back of the board includes two USB plugs, one on each side of where the braided cable exits the M800.

Like all of the best lighting systems for mechanical keyboards, the M800 features mechanical switches with a sizable hole in the center for an LED. In this case, the LED itself is dropped down a bit, reducing even further the bleed of each key’s colors. What that means is that the board can deliver a range of crisp colors to each key, while the board itself (the tiny space between keys) gets very little color splash. The color is extended to a relatively small rectangular logo in the top right corner of the screen and — a neat addition — to the sides of the board which each have swipes of adjustable coloring.

While the software management for the mechanical keyboard is intuitively designed and allows for slick creations in very little time, the board currently doesn’t support the ability to import gamer-created templates. That’s not a deal breaker, but it’s something I hope SteelSeries adds down to the line. Other boards do offer this and the result is a myriad of crazy, useful, intoxicating color waves and macros.

The most noticeable thing that SteelSeries brings to the mechanical keyboards world with the M800 is its own take on the microswitch. Instead of relying on fan-favorite Cherry switches, SteelSeries M800 uses its own QS1, and boy, does it make a difference. The body of the QS1 has a squatter design than typical microswitches, which means the keys feel a bit shorter. The switches also have a surprisingly short actuation point. Combined, that means your fingertips have to travel less up and down, making key presses much faster, once you get used to them. When I first started typing with the M800 I quickly noticed the difference. It was a strange feeling, like someone had cut the keys down to stubby little nubs. But the presses still felt good and the sound, while a bit quieter, was still satisfying. Overtime, I became used to the shorter keys and started to really like them. But then came the squeak.

I got into mechanical keyboards for a number of reasons: They last longer, they remind me of my days on the old 8088 and TRS-80 and I love the thundering sound. That sound can’t be overstated. It’s like white noise when I’m writing and helps soothe me into a place where I can find my voice. Interrupt it with something annoying and I’m bound to spend way, way too much time screwing around with the board to figure it out. (That’s what happened with the G410 Atlus Spectrum.) In this case — about a month into using the board — some of the keys, a lot of keys, started to develop this weird squeaking noise, like the board had to be oiled, or like it was made of tiny little mice screaming out with each punch of a key. The thing was, it wasn’t constant and seemed to move around a bit, so I still can’t figure out where it’s coming from exactly. I suspect it might be coming from the tight fit of the keycap on the switch. If I remove the key from the switch after I find it squeaking, it tends to go away for awhile, only to return later. I can’t say for certain what causes it, but I can certainly say that it’s as annoying as a mysterious drip of water in the middle of the night or the sound of something scurrying around inside your walls. Its drives me nuts.

It’s unfortunate about the squeaking because I was really surprised by every other element of this board. It seemed to vastly improve my reaction time and typing speed and it delivers a fashionable board that can be, on command, lit up like a Christmas tree.



Keyswitches: Logitech’s proprietary Romer-G mechanical switches

Keycaps: Beveled

Keyboard size: Standard 104-key U.S. layout with nine programmable G-keys and three macro mode keys.

Max decibels: 57

Lighting: Fully programmable, per-key backlighting

Cable: single 6-foot cable

Ports: None

Of all the mechanical keyboards I tested, Logitech’s G910 Orion Spark certainly felt the most experimental. This is a  mechanical keyboard that uses Logitech’s own Romer-G switches, includes a dock for a smartphone or tablet, and has over-the-top RGB illumination. The board also comes with two palm rests, a slew of programmable G-keys and separate media controls. Logitech is looking to deliver the Rolls Royce of mechanical gaming mechanicals with this board, but it may be too much for some.

The Orion is absolutely packed with functionality. There are extra keys seemingly everywhere. A row of five macro G-keys runs down the left side of the board. Above that are four diminutive memory keys. Above the function keys are four more G-keys and on the top right of the board is a Gaming Key (which disables the Windows button) as well as an on/off button for the LED lights and play, stop, track back and track forward buttons. Below those, but above the number pad, are a mute button and a cylindrical volume control. At the center of the board’s top edge is an ARX dock, a blue dock that slides out of your board to hold a phone or tablet in place. A glowing ‘G’ logo is located above the left-side G buttons and a G910 logo is built into the wrist pad, which also glows. Finally, the WASD and arrow keys have been laser-etched with a special pattern to improve illumination and make those specific keys easier to find. It is a busy keyboard, and that’s with the lights off.



Keyswitches: Razer’s proprietary silent, mechanical

Keycaps: Standard

Keyboard size: Standard 104-key U.S. layout with five macro buttons

Max decibels: 55

Lighting: Fully programmable, per-key backlighting

Cable: braided

Ports: Microphone, headphone and one USB on right side

As with Logitech’s Orion keyboard, Razer’s Blackwidow Chroma Stealth forgoes Cherry to use the company’s own switch. Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan told me last year that the company decided to use its own switches because it sells so many mechanical keyboards. The Razer switches, which come in a clicky green and silent orange, are designed to have a shorter actuation point than typical switches, making it a faster board. As with the Orion, the Chroma Stealth is a backlit LED board that can be customized. But Razer’s board isn’t as loaded up as Logitech’s.

While you may not get every bell and whistle that comes with the Orion, the Chroma Stealth has a lot going for it. The keyboard includes five programmable macro buttons, function keys that double as gaming buttons, a macro record button and two brightness controls. The keyboard also has a USB pass-through port on the right-hand side as well as plugs for headphones and microphones. What’s most telling about Razer’s mechanical, though, is what it doesn’t have compared to Logitech’s. There’s no massive palm rest, no laser-etched keys, no dock, no oversized logo (though there is one muted Razer logo at the bottom). The result is a mechanical keyboard that packs a lot of gaming options into a design that looks like it’s fit for an office.



Onboard memory: 2 MB of flash memory and two 32-bit ARM Cortex processors.

Keyswitches: Cherry MX switches in blue, black, brown and red. We tried brown.

Keycaps: Standard

Keyboard size: 113 keys, including three thumb keys and five macro keys.

Max decibels: 56

Lighting: programmable, per-key illumination

Cable: braided

Ports: Microphone, headphone and two USB

The big selling point for Roccat’s Ryos MK Pro keyboard is the number of different ways the company sells the board. It is, they say, “eye-watering.” What that means is that Roccat has 15 different language layouts for this particular model, and four different Cherry MX switch types to choose from: blue, black, brown or red. We went with the browns. The Ryos, which has a healthy array of lighting options, also comes armed with two 32-bit ARM processors. One of those handles all of the per-key lighting to ensure lag-free button responses.

The MK Pro is one of those mechanical gaming keyboards that will never pass for anything but. It has an oversized, built-in wrist rest with the logo punched into the center; jacks for microphones and headphones in the top left corner of the board; and two USB ports in the top right. The integrated media hub uses the function keys, which prevents the board from being too over-the-top visually, but it’s still a desk hog.

“The single-color backlighting puts this behind other top tier gaming boards.”

One of the big draws for the Roccat is its backlighting. The MK Pro features individually backlit keys with a slew of customizable lighting modes and the ability to use the board’s own SDK. The result is a plethora of built-in lighting options as well as the ability to do just about anything you can imagine with lighting, like using your entire keyboard as a health gauge or buttons as cooldown indicators. The one thing the lighting can’t do is deliver anything but the color blue. It’s a strange choice to make for a keyboard with so many options and such processing power, but the MK Pro is a single-color keyboard. The board also has my favorite built-in mode, which has the board’s lights randomly twinkling when your computer goes to sleep.

The keyboard’s keycaps are slightly indented and have a smudge-proof surface. The board has five macro buttons along the left side of the board as well as three “thumb” buttons under the spacebar. Typing on the board and its Cherry brown switches felt similar to the Das Keyboard with the same switches, though the keys themselves felt like they had a bit more wiggle than the Das’ did. While the board isn’t as over the top as the Orion, it’s still a big gaming keyboard and may not be a good fit for you if you’re looking for something that can serve two purposes in the office or at home. Its array of features is nice, but the single-color backlighting and lack of physical media controls left it feeling like a mechanical gaming keyboard with a missing bell and whistle or two.



Keyswitches: Hori original mechanical microswitch

Keycaps: Slimline

Keyboard size: 109-key U.S. layout

Max decibels: 55

Lighting: Blue only, programmable, per-key illumination

Cable: Standard

Ports: None

Founded in 1969, Hori has long been known as a company that produces high-end controllers for hardcore gamers. While the company is likely best known for its fighting sticks, over the years Hori has been steadily expanding into other areas. Most recently that expansion brought to the market a new gaming mouse and mechanical keyboard.

The Edge 201 has a fairly straightforward design accented with a beautiful, silver-gray aluminum frame. The frame gives the keyboard a distinct look, but also improves its durability and lightens its overall weight. The black keys seem to float on the surface of the frame because of the stark contrast in colors. It’s a nice effect without being overbearing or gaudy. The board features the standard keyboard design, with a number of added features tied to the function keys across the top of the board. Those keys can be used to record or activate macros, adjust the brightness of the lights or turn them on or off, control the media on your computer, and enter gaming mode. There are no extra ports built into the board. It does come with a removable wrist rest and tiny side kickstands that can be used to slightly increase the pitch of the board.

The board features blue lighting delivered by LEDs placed into the top of the Hori microswitches. Because they’re single-color and relatively basic, the fact that they aren’t centered on each key doesn’t make a huge difference. Free software allows you to add a few custom effects, program the board as a whole or one key at a time, and add the Gaming Mode feature, which won’t work until you’ve installed the software.

Hori’s custom microswitches don’t seem to make any noise when they activate. In fact, even with the keycap removed, I can’t feel the actuation point on the keys. This incredibly light touch makes for smooth typing, but also means that you may tend to stamp down each key as you type. The result, at least for me, means that the noise I hear isn’t the typical chatter of a mechanical, but rather the thud of key meeting aluminum. It feels a lot like a Cherry MX Red switch with just a smidge more resistance and a lot less drop.

The short switches, coupled with the slimline keys, make the Edge 201 the thinnest mechanical keyboard on the market. That means the board feels much more stable as you type, with not a single vibration or wiggle.

This is a solid first entry for Hori, a board that may not offer all of the bells and whistles some gamers have come to expect from their mechanicals, but proves that Hori can deliver the foundations of a mechanical.


Keyswitches: Romer-G

Keycaps: Standard

Keyboard size: 104-key U.S. layout with buttons for lighting, Windows button keylock, media keys and a volume roller bar

Max decibels: 56

Lighting: RGB, programmable, per-key illumination

Cable: Standard

Ports: None

They finally nailed it, at least for me.

Where Logitech’s G910 Orion Spark was too much board for me (especially in the over-the-top branding and shaped wrist rest department) and the G410 Atlas Spectrum was a bit too under-designed for my taste, Logitech’s G810 Orion Spectrum is just right.

The first thing you’re going to notice about the Orion Spectrum is just how normal it looks, especially for a gaming keyboard. Like other more traditional mechanical keyboards (WASD, Das Keyboard, Coolmaster), outwardly the Orion Spectrum has a standard 104-key board and rectangular layout. There’s only one G logo in the top left corner of the board, and the model number is stenciled on the side.

The board doesn’t even have a wrist rest or the ARX smartphone dock found with both of the other boards.

What it does have are the programmable RGB backlighting and the Romer-G mechanical switches. It also retains those well-designed media buttons and the snazzy volume roller bar found on the Spark. While it doesn’t have any of the programmable, stand-alone G-keys that run down the left side of the Spark, it does allow you to customize button macros on the F1 through F12 keys.

As with the smaller Atlas Spectrum, the Orion Spectrum uses standard, smooth keycaps. I asked the Logitech folk about this, because I was a big fan of the Orion Spark’s laser-etched “performance facet keycap” design. It turns out I was in the minority. The facet design gave each keycap a slight indentation, essentially creating a sweet spot for the keys. It was a nice touch and was designed to help reduce mistypes while touch typing. But apparently a lot of people didn’t like them — so many, that you can now buy an entire replacement keycap set for the Spark that gives it the more familiar cylindrical feel. So Logitech decided to go with standard keycaps for the Orion Spectrum.

The good news is that the Orion Spectrum doesn’t carry over the issue I found with the Atlas Spectrum: a strong melodic pinging that I noticed with every letter I typed.

This board also makes use of the fantastic Logitech Gaming Software to control the RGB lighting built into the board’s Romer-G switches. The Orion Spectrum, like the other two RGB Logitech boards, can auto-detect supported games and lets you create your own color layouts, reactive colors and effects. The software can also sync up your board with other supported peripherals like the G502 Proteus Spectrum mouse and G633 Artemis Spectrum. The result is a full set of gaming gear that glows and pulses in sync to whatever color profile you’ve created.

I had hoped that the smaller Atlas Spectrum was going to be the perfect mix of style, lighting and features for me, but it turned out to be a disappointment. Fortunately, the Orion Spectrum turned out to be exactly what I was looking for: a board with an outwardly subtle design that is packed with the sort of features and lighting effects that transforms it whenever I launch a game.It’s my best mechanical keyboard.



Keyswitches: Razer’s proprietary mechanical.

Keycaps: Standard

Keyboard size: tenkeyless

Max decibels: 56

Lighting: programmable, per-key illumination

Cable: detachable, braided

Ports: None

Razer’s relatively recent Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chroma was designed with one very specific thing in mind: portability. To achieve that, the folks at Razer remove the number keypad, programmable Macro keys and the USB and audio pass-through ports found on the right edge of the bigger, non-Tournament editions of the board. The TE still comes with the Razer switches, either in noisy green or silent orange, designed to have a shorter actuation point and resulting in a slightly faster typing speed all these make it best mechanical keyboard.

The Tournament Edition also includes a detachable braided cable and a handy little case for carrying your smaller board to events. It’s a minor thing, but I sort of love it. The Razer board still has backlit LEDs that can be customized to do just about anything. While the standard Blackwidow boards already featured a diminutive palm rest and toned down branding, the TE version has an even smaller palm rest. That is to say, it’s basically non-existent at this point. This is a keyboard not just designed to travel, but also not to take up too much of your desk space.



Keyswitches: Cherry MX Blue, Brown or Red. We tried Red.

Keycaps: Standard

Keyboard size: Staanded 104-key U.S. layout with buttons for lighting, Windows keylock, mute and media keys. Also includes a scrolling bar for volume.

Max decibels: 59

Lighting: programmable, per-key illumination

Cable: Braided

Ports: None

Among the most requested keyboards to include in our mechanical keyboard guide when it first hit, were the ones from Corsair, and no wonder. After checkout out the Corsair K70 RGB board it quickly became my new favorite mechanical among the bunch. For those unfamiliar with the K70, it features a black anodized brushed aluminum body, soft, sleek detachable wrist rest and clean design lines.

While the board manages to pack in plenty of features, it also delivers a board that fits in nicely with a work desk. That means no oversized wrist rest, no gaudy emblems or crazy board design. The jet black board features physical buttons for light dimming, a Windows button lock and even a mute button and physical scrolling bar to control volume. There’s also a stop, play/pause and skip forward and back buttons for media. Everything else on the board looks like a standard layout.

The big change, and bigger selling point for me, is that this new K70 features Cherry MX RGB key switches. That means that every key gets the satisfactory feel of a cherry switch and crazy light-up combos of multi-color LED per-key backlighting. The end result is a board that feels fantastic, keys that offer that delicious Cherry feel and lighting that can do things like turn your board into the Bat signal or a scene from Pac-Man.In the past several years it’s the best mechanical keyboard.



Keyswitches: Cherry MX Brown

Keycaps: Standard

Keyboard size: 104-key U.S. layout

Max decibels: 55

Lighting: White, with seven brightness levels

Cable: Detachable

Ports: None

WASD is known for making high-quality, infinitely customizable mechanical keyboards. When ordering your keyboard, you have the option of changing the color of individual keycaps or even having your keycaps custom-printed. But what people are really looking for when they order a WASD board is solid design.

WASD’s Code board is meant to be the ultimate take on a mechanical keyboard stripped of needless bells, whistles, logos and color, boiled down to its very essence to deliver exactly what you need in an instrument for word creation.

The board even has its own interesting history.

Jeff Atwood, software developer and blogger at Coding Horror, reached out to WASD owner Weyman Kwong about creating what he thought would be a “truly great” mechanical keyboard. The result is the CODE, named after the Charles Petzold book of the same name. Atwood describes it as a clean, simple, beautiful mechanical keyboard.

The CODE keyboard has four Cherry microswitches to choose from, and all of the keyswitches are mounted to a steel backplate. That backplate adds a bit of weight to the board, but gives it a solid, inflexible feel as well. The board also has a dual-layer PCB designed to reinforce the solder joints and maintain that solid feel when typing.

While the CODE doesn’t feature RGB lighting, it does have white LED backlights. The steel backplate is painted white to help strengthen the glow of the lighting, and you can switch between seven levels of intensity, including off.

The board itself is disarmingly unobtrusive. Just a deep black, slightly textured rectangle with three small lights to denote Caps Lock, Scroll Lock and Num Lock. There are no logos, no markings, nothing on the board’s surface to distract from its monolithic design.

Despite the simple design, WASD did manage to pack in some neat features. The back of the board has a row of DIP switches that allow you to switch between QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak and Mac modes, and tweak what the Caps and Scroll Lock keys do, among other things. The board also has media controls built into function commands.

Personally, I like the incongruity of a subtle case aesthetic married to robust, flashy RGB lighting support, but if you aren’t into multicolored lighting, then this is one of the best mechanicals I’ve come across in some time.

The WASD Code has obviously been built with care and designed with an eye toward the sort of minutiae that only a longtime mechanical keyboard user would think or care about. This is a tool for typing, an instrument designed for long use that will surely grow on the user.



Keyswitches: Cherry MX Brown, Blue or Red. We tried Red.

Keycaps: Standard with textured and contoured FPS and MOBA keycap sets

Keyboard size: Staanded 104-key U.S. layout with buttons for lighting amd Windows button keylock.

Max decibels: 59

Lighting: Red only, programmable, per-key illumination

Cable: Standard

Ports: One USB on back of board

As enamored as I am with Corsair’s K70 RGB, I’m not nearly as big a fan of the company’s Strafe board. It’s another best mechanical keyboard.It seems to cut a lot of options out to come in at a lower price point. Gone is that slick, brushed aluminum case. Gone too are the physical media buttons and nifty volume control. There are also only red lights on this model, no RGB LEDs. And the oversized lights used to signify that caps or num lock is selected gives the board an unnecessarily chunky look.

Strafe does have one oddly compelling thing going for it besides the lower price: It includes extra sets of textured keycaps for FPS and MOBA players. True, you could just go out and pick up some new keycaps for very little money, but it’s neat to see them packaged with the board. And I like the design of the textured caps. Shooter players simply pull out the W, A, S and D keys and push in the replacements. MOBA fans get keycaps for the Q, W, E, R, D and F keys. The keycaps are all grey, instead of black, and feature a hard plastic tread design that makes the keys a bit grippier and easier to identify in the dark. The keys are also angled in toward one another, making it feel like they might be a bit more responsive.

As with the K70 RGB board, the Strafe makes use of Corsair’s CUE software to program lighting. You can still program each key independently, but keep in mind you’re stuck with no lighting and red. There is the option to change the intensity of lighting for each key and that’s augmented nicely with the board design, which features a red base under the keys which helps augment the red lighting. CUE automatically recognizes which board you have plugged in and includes a couple of standards for easy set-up. The board includes six lighting effects, mostly a mix of the standards, which means things like a wave, rain, pulse and lighting up as you type. My favorite among the bunch, and the most fitting for the single color, is the visor effect, which gives your board the look of an old-school Battlestar Galactica Cylon.



Keyswitches: Cherry MX Brown

Keycaps: Standard

Keyboard size: Standard 104-key

Max decibels: 57

Lighting: Red LED with four levels of intensity

Cable: Standard

Ports: Two USB

Last year, record-setting esports team Fnatic quietly bought up established PC peripheral maker Func and launched an Indiegogo campaign to roll out its own line of branded keyboards, mice and mats.

The team said in the campaign that it’s not simply rebranding Func’s existing products, though the keyboard is a modified version of what Func sold. The goal, Fnatic said in its campaign, is to create great esports hardware.

What that means for Fnatic is simplicity, comfort and reliability: “It’s exactly what you need to perform and nothing else,” the team said in the Indiegogo pitch.

Earlier this month, Fnatic sent me a Cherry MX Brown version of its Fnatic Gear Rush board. I’ve spent some time playing and writing with it to get a sense of what it has to offer and how it compares to the many other mechanicals out on the market.

Despite the fact that (or maybe because) it is tied so tightly to an esports team, the Gear Rush is a fairly nondescript board by all outward appearances. The board has a smooth black plastic finish with no extra buttons, and the only bit of branding is the Fnatic symbol and the word “Gear” in grey above the number pad.

The board doesn’t have the same heft or stiff feel as the singularly focused WASD board. And its components feel a bit cheaper. That said, the board held up well to the hammering of my typing. I was surprised to find that the detachable wrist pad showed signs of palm wear after only a day’s use.

As with the WASD, the Rush doesn’t have any extra keys. Instead, it uses the function key to assign five macros and multimedia buttons to existing keys. You can also adjust the brightness of the red LED lights with buttons, turn them off completely or turn on a shifting effect.

Like the hardware, the software for the board is pretty stripped down, allowing you to create macros and set up five profiles.

This is a no-frills board, missing the substantive design and components of best mechanical keyboard like the Das Keyboard or the WASD Code, but also not really offering much in the way of interesting add-ons, like RGB lighting or an interesting design.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not bad. It seems like a solid entry-level gaming board, but not something that really has much to differentiate it from the sea of competition. I also struggled to find how Fnatic’s Gear Rush was any different from Func’s KB-460, despite the fact that the Indiegogo campaign says it’s a modified version. From what I can tell, the only change between the KB-460 and the Rush is the branding found in the top right corner and on one keycap.