Mechanical Gaming Keyboard: The Ultimate Guide

Mechanical Gaming Keyboard: The Ultimate Guide

Most gamers know that mechanical keyboards are the best choice for gaming, but it can be difficult to choose the best one. Mechanical keyboards are extremely customizable, but all that extra choice can make the selection process even more overwhelming. In this ultimate guide, I'll explain all the different features of mechanical gaming keyboards and help you choose the right one for your personal gaming needs. 

What Is a Mechanical Gaming Keyboard?

A mechanical gaming keyboard is a type of computer keyboard that uses a separate mechanical switch for each individual key. Gamers love mechanical keyboards for their responsiveness and customization options.

How Do Mechanical Gaming Keyboards Work?

Mechanical gaming keyboards use individual mechanical switches to register each keystroke. 

Mechanical switches provide distinct tactile feedback when you press each key. This creates a better typing experience than the standard membrane design used in laptops and cheap office keyboards.

The extra feedback can also help you respond faster when gaming since you can feel when each keypress is completed. 

What are the Components of Mechanical Keyboards?

Mechanical Switches

Mechanical switches are the distinguishing feature of a mechanical keyboard. Many different switch types are available, each with its own actuation force, travel distance, and tactile feedback. This allows you to customize the feel and responsiveness of your keyboard. 

Cherry's popular MX switches are the original mechanical switch design, but excellent alternatives are now available from Gateron, Kailh, and Outemu. Most switches are rated for up to 50 million keystrokes, but some are rated for up to 100 million. 

Many mechanical keyboards support 'hot-swappable' switches that can be removed and replaced in a few seconds without special tools. This makes it easy to experiment with different switch types and repair damaged switches.


Keycaps are removable plastic caps that sit on top of each switch. Keycaps are available in a variety of styles, including different colors, shape profiles, and legend formats for key labeling. They are made of ABS or PBT plastic, and some keycaps may contain directional guides for shaping RGB lighting effects. 

Keyboard Housing

The keyboard housing is the physical enclosure that shapes the overall layout of the keyboard and contains all the circuitry. They are available in a variety of sizes and designs manufactured from lightweight plastic or rigid metal (typically aluminum). Housings may include customizable RGB lighting, dedicated media controls, wrist rests, and height adjusters. 

Why Do Gamers Prefer Mechanical Keyboards?

Key Feel

Mechanical gaming keyboards provide much better tactile feedback than membrane keyboards. Each successful keypress on a mechanical keyboard feels sharp and clear, allowing you to press keys faster while ensuring proper keystroke registration. 


Gamers love to customize their hardware, and mechanical keyboards provide more customization options than standard keyboards. Custom keycaps and a wide range of switch types allow you to personalize the feel of every key on your keyboard. You can even mix and match keycaps and switch types for specific keys. 


Most games use a specific set of keys more heavily than others. The mechanical switches used in mechanical keyboards can last for up to 50 million keystrokes, and some high-quality switches last for up to 100 million keystrokes. If a switch does become damaged, it is much easier and cheaper to replace the broken switch instead of the entire keyboard. 

What are the Key Features in a Mechanical Keyboard?

Switch Types

There are many different switch types, but the three most popular options are linear, tactile, and clicky switches.

  • Clicky switches have a tactile 'bump' of physical resistance during each keystroke, ending with a loud click sound. This creates a satisfying keypress experience, but the sound annoys some users.
  • Tactile switches have the same tactile bump during each keypress but without the audible click sound. They provide a good balance between keypress feedback and quiet usage. 
  • Linear switches are nearly silent, with no bump or click sound. These are popular for fast-paced games where every millisecond counts. 

Key Rollover

Many games use multi-key combinations for certain actions. On some keyboards, pressing too many keys at the same time will cause unintended input signals or prevent them all from registering properly.

The best mechanical gaming keyboards solve this problem using n-key rollover (NKRO). NKRO allows the keyboard to monitor each individual key switch for a signal, no matter how many keys are pressed at the same time. 

Some keyboards have a limited value for the 'n' in 'n-key rollover,' such as 6-key rollover. This means that the keyboard can track 6 individual keys at the same time, but additional keys will not register. 

Backlighting Options 

Gamers often prefer dark environments to improve their monitor's display quality, but this can make it hard to see individual keys on a keyboard. Most mechanical gaming keyboards include a backlight system that provides dim LED lighting under each key. These backlights are typically RGB LEDs that can be customized to create specific lighting effects. 


Keycaps are plastic caps that plug into the top of each mechanical switch. They are available with different profile shapes and heights. Some keycaps feature guides that direct LED backlighting toward you (south-facing) or away from you (north-facing).

Each keycap is printed with a legend indicating the specific key value so you know which key is being pressed. The most durable keycaps create their legends using double-shot molding, laser etching, or dye sublimation. Printed legends wear off after heavy usage. 

The most common keycap materials are ABS and PBT plastic. ABS is cheaper, but many gamers prefer PBT since it has better wear resistance over time. 

Build Quality 

The housing for a mechanical gaming keyboard is constructed from plastic or metal. Plastic is lighter, cheaper, and more portable, but plastic housings also wear out faster. Metal is heavier and more expensive, but it is also more durable and creates a solid typing surface. 


Mechanical gaming keyboards use wired or wireless connections to transmit information to your computer. Some keyboards allow you to choose between the two options. 

Wired connections have lower input latency and better reliability, but they can limit your choice of keyboard position and create visual clutter in your desk area.

Wireless connections use Bluetooth or 2.4 GHz wireless to connect to your computer, which gives you the freedom to place your keyboard anywhere and keeps your desk area clean. On the downside, wireless connections have a slightly higher input latency, and signal interference can cause the occasional dropped keystroke.

Benefits of Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

Enhanced Gameplay Feedback

The tactile and auditory feedback from each mechanical switch makes it easier to tell when a key has been properly pressed, giving you more accurate in-game control.  

Faster Response Times for Competitive Edge

Some mechanical switches have extremely short actuation distances, reducing the time it takes to register each keypress during tense situations when every millisecond counts.  

N-Key Rollover for Accurate Inputs

N-key rollover (NKRO) ensures that every key you press is registered properly, no matter how many key combos you need to use at once. 

Personalized Gaming Experience

Customizable switches and keycaps let you create a unique typing experience that is personally tailored to your exact preferences. 

Customizable Keys and Macros for Efficiency

Specialized software allows you to program individual keys to trigger complex command sequences, giving you an edge in efficiency and strategy. 

Improved Durability for Intense Gaming Sessions

Mechanical keyboards use tougher materials and high-quality switches rated for up to 100 million keypresses, so you never have to worry about your keyboard breaking during a crucial moment. 

Backlighting for Immersive Gaming

Backlighting helps to improve your key accuracy in dim lighting conditions, and customizable RGB systems let you match your keyboard aesthetic to your room, your other gear, or even what's happening in your game. 

Choosing the Right Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Size and Layout Options

The most important thing to consider when choosing a mechanical keyboard is the basic layout. Full-size keyboards offer the most key functions, but they also take up the most space. 

Many gamers prefer to use a tenkeyless (TKL) layout that removes the number pad to gain more room for mouse movement, but others prefer an even more compact layout, such as a 75% or even 60% layout. 


If you want to experiment with customizing your keyboard, choose a model with hot-swappable switches and customizable RGB lighting. Some gamers don't like the look of RGB lighting, so check if you can also disable the backlighting system when desired. 

Different keycap shapes can greatly impact your typing experience. Some gamers prefer angled keycaps, concave keycaps, or a combination of the two. Most keycap connectors are standardized, so they are easy to remove and replace with alternate styles. 

QMK / VIA support is useful for gamers who want to remap keys to create custom inputs. Some manufacturers provide their own custom key mapping software instead. 


Proper ergonomics are essential for long-term comfort, so choose a mechanical gaming keyboard with height and angle adjustment options. 

Wrist rests may also provide relief during long gaming situations, but some gamers prefer to avoid them. Choosing a keyboard with a detachable wrist rest will give you the best of both worlds. 

Connectivity Options

Wired connections are better for reliability, but wireless connections are more flexible. If your keyboard always stays in the same place and you don't mind wires, a wired keyboard is the best choice. 

Some wireless keyboards allow you to connect to multiple devices, which is useful for power users who often switch between devices. 

Some wired keyboards support USB passthrough, so you can plug portable drives or other devices directly into a USB port on your keyboard, but these keyboards may take up multiple ports on your computer. 

Build Quality and Durability

If you're planning to take your keyboard on the go, choose a model with plastic construction for lighter weight. If you prefer durability and a solid typing surface, then a metal keyboard housing is the better choice. 

It's also a good idea to consider water and dust resistance. Most keyboards are not water resistant at all, so if you frequently eat or drink at your computer, it may be worth choosing a keyboard with a specific IPXX rating. 

4 Best Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

Best Budget Gaming Keyboard

Asus ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless


This 96% keyboard has a compact layout with all the key functionality of a full keyboard in a fraction of the space. It comes bundled with hot-swappable linear and clicky switch sets, RGB lighting, and offers three connectivity options. 

  • 96% form factor with full key layout
  • Hot-swappable switches
  • Linear / clicky switch sets included
  • Full n-key rollover (NKRO)
  • Double-shot PBT keycaps (some regions may use UV-coated ABS)
  • Programmable button & dial
  • Per-key RGB backlighting
  • Bluetooth 5.1 / 2.4 GHz / USB connectivity
  • Three tilt angles
  • Detachable wrist rest
Why Choose It

This keyboard is an great way to experiment with mechanical gaming keyboards without spending too much. The two switch sets let you explore the world of mechanical switches before deciding what style you prefer. 

Best High-end Gaming Keyboard

Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT


This keyboard features an expanded layout with plenty of programmable buttons and full RGB lighting with Corsair iCUE support for an immersive lighting setup. Just remember that it does not have hot-swappable switches! 

  • 100%+ size layout
  • Cherry MX Blue or Cherry MX Speed switches
  • Full n-key rollover (NKRO)
  • Double-shot PBT keycaps
  • 6 programmable macro keys & dial
  • Elgato Stream Deck integration
  • Dedicated media keys
  • Per-key & zone RGB backlighting
  • USB connectivity with USB 2.0 passthrough
  • Two tilt angles
  • Detachable wrist rest
Why Choose It

This keyboard is great for gamers who are also streamers, thanks to its dedicated, programmable macro keys and Elgato Stream Deck integration. iCUE lighting support complements a PC build that uses other Corsair peripherals and components.

Best Wireless Gaming Keyboard

Logitech G915 TKL


This compact TKL keyboard combines a smooth aluminum/steel housing with low-profile switches and advanced wireless connectivity for a sleek, polished look. It doesn't support hot-swappable switches, but the black colorway model has clicky, linear, and tactile switch options. 

  • Tenkeyless (TKL) layout
  • Low-profile GL clicky, linear, or tactile switches
  • Full n-key rollover (NKRO)
  • Per-key LIGHTSYNC RGB backlighting
  • Bluetooth / LIGHTSPEED wireless connectivity
  • USB wired mode available during charging
  • Dedicated media / lighting keys & volume dial
  • Two tilt angles
Why Choose It

If you want the benefits of a mechanical gaming keyboard but full customization doesn't matter to you, the G915 TKL delivers improved key performance in a beautifully-designed and portable package. 

Best Compact Gaming Keyboard

Razer Huntsman V3 Pro Mini


The Huntsman Mini packs groundbreaking new tech into a compact 60% layout. Thanks to optical analog switches, you can customize the actuation distance and reset travel of each key using software. The hardware customization options are limited, but every key can be remapped for unlimited custom macros. 

  • 60% layout
  • Razer analog optical Gen-2 switches
  • Rapid Trigger key reset
  • Adjustable actuation distance
  • Full n-key rollover (NKRO)
  • Fully programmable keys
  • Double-shot PBT keycaps
  • Per-key RGB backlighting
  • USB connectivity
Why Choose It

This keyboard is perfect for extremely fast-paced games where rapid inputs make the difference between victory and defeat. 


Mechanical gaming keyboards are the only real choice for serious gamers. They allow you to customize every aspect of your keyboard, from layout and color style to key travel and actuation force. Even a basic mechanical keyboard will provide a better in-game experience than a standard office keyboard, so you can enjoy the benefits on any budget. 

Mechanical Gaming Keyboard: The Ultimate Guide I FAQs

What Is the Difference Between Mechanical and Membrane Keyboards?

The difference between mechanical and membrane keyboards is the way they register each keystroke.

Mechanical keyboards use individual mechanical switches for each key, which provides excellent tactile feedback and reliable input. 

Membrane keyboards register your keystrokes using a single interconnected surface that is shared by the entire keyboard, with no tactile feedback and a much higher chance of input errors. 

How Do I Choose the Right Switch for My Mechanical Keyboard?

Choosing the right switch for your mechanical keyboard can be difficult since there are many different types. Most gamers prefer linear or tactile switches, but everyone has their own idea about the 'best' switch. 

Consider the differences between the tactile responses, actuation weights, and travel distances of each switch type. You can also buy a 'switch sampler' to experiment with several different types before making your choice. 

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