If you love mechanical keyboards, but struggle to find the right style switch, do not worry. With a hot swappable keyboard, you don’t have to pick!
Switching between switches has never been easier with hotswappable keyboards, because the switches are not soldered to PCB at all. Instead they are pressed in to holes in the PCB and held in place by a plate.
This makes it easy to install several different styles of switches into your keyboard or swap them out whenever you get bored of a certain style. Whether they are clicky, tactile, silent, or linear, you can try them all, and install with ease.
Soldering requires having the right tools on hand, along with a dedicated workstation with good air ventilation. A lot of people don’t have the time or dedication to the learn how to solder in their free. In addition, if you live in an apartment and don’t have a good area to work, soldering may not be feasible or be too much of a hassle for you.
Hotswappable keyboards make it easier than ever to install and remove switches from your keyboard and don’t require the skills, equipment, or work area that soldering switches normally requires. We recommend hotswappable switches to anyone who is not interested in learning how to solder, or to someone who likes to try lots of different switch types.
So how do I find a hotswappable keyboard?
Well there are only few hotswappable keyboards available for purchase right now, but due to the popularity there will be more keyboards coming out in the near future. We’ll go over all these different keyboards and determine what features we like and don’t like about them.
Let’s jump into our list of our favorite hotswappable keyboards!
Favorite: Massdrop CTRL
The Massdrop CTRL is a tenkeyless keyboard, meaning no number pad, that was released in 2018 on Drop.com. There is also a 65% percent version of this keyboard called the Massdrop ALT. The 65% version has 67 keys instead of the 87 keys like the CTRL.
Both versions of this keyboard are hotswappable and come with a switch puller, making swapping out the switches easier than ever. In addition, the keyboards are fully programmable with QMK.
Coming with a detachable USB-C cable, which makes it easy to plug and unplug.
The keycaps come in PBT plastic and have a nice textured feel to them, and don’t develop a shiny or greasy look over time.
You can your pick of which switches it comes with. The options are the following: Halo True, Kaihua Box White, Kaihua Speed Silver, Cherry MX Blue, Cherry MX Brown, and the Halo Clears (which are currently sold out as of January 6, 2020).
You can also pick custom keycap kits for additional costs. The following are available for selection: GMK Red Samurai, MT3 /dev/tty, XDA Canvas, and SA Pulse Noire.
To be entirely honest, we’re a little biased about this keyboard, because we actually own and use the Massdrop CTRL keyboard on a daily basis. This keyboard is durable, made from a metal case and metal plate. The CTRL is solid, rigid, and does not mess around. We would recommend this keyboard to anyone who can stomach the price tag of $200.
We have very few complaints about this keyboard, and you can check out our more in-depth review here.
Input Club K-type
The Input Club K-type mechanical keyboard has a tenkeyless layout and was only made during a group buy in 2018. The K-type is available for sale by looking in the after market for used keyboards.
The K-type is loaded with features that would make any keyboard enthusiast excited, such as PBT keycaps, intense RGB lighting, detachable magnetic feet, anodized aluminum case, and of course hot-swappable switches.
The main drawbacks to this keyboard, is they attempted to do too much with the features and ended up with a lot of stuff that doesn’t work so well, except for the lighting. For example, the PBT keycaps are a thin material so the light can shine through. The texture of the keycaps is pretty rough as well.
For what I’ve researched, the stabilizers are also pretty low quality as they tend to rattle and sometimes the keycaps can get displaced while typing. Of course, you can mod the stabilizers to improve the overall fell, but for a keyboard of this price ($200) you would expect better stablizers.
Overall, this keyboard is pretty good, and is absolutely loaded with features, just not worth the price tag. Although, now that the keyboard has been on the market for a couple years now, you may be able to find a used version with a better price.
Another tenkeyless keyboard, the GMMK TKL is the most affordable keyboard on the list, coming in at $109.95. It’s the only keyboard that is not made entirely of aluminum, and the price reflects that.
The TKL is an easily hot-swappable keyboard with RGB backlights and a plastic case. The keyboard also comes with a built-in keycap puller and a braided micro-usb power cable.
The plastic case is not quite as sturdy as the all metal cases/plates, and the keys tend to rattle a bit to reflect that. In addition, the case is a little flexible, but overall that does not impact the overall functionality of the keyboard.
A couple unique features include a keycap puller built into the back of the keyboard for easy access, in case you ever need to swap out a switch quickly. The TKL also comes with a braided power cable with micro-usb head. Although we would have liked to see USB-C, the micro-usb is not that big of a deal.
Overall the RGB for this case is a little lackluster, the lighting is not too bright and is dull and dim. There are a lot of different lighting options, it’s just the LED’s are not quite strong enough. But if RGB lighting is not very exciting to you anyways, this feature won’t impact you at all.
Check it out on Amazon if you’re interested in reading more and checking out what others have to say about it.
Input Club RE:Type
With similar features to the K-type, the RE:Type is Input Club’s shot at redemption. We’re hoping they will be able to fix a lot of the lackluster features found in the K-type, such as better stabilizers and make the programmability a little easier.
This product was originally slated to release in 2018 but was delayed to “give the engineering team additional work time”. Maybe this means they will release a great product once the keyboard is complete.
There has been no news about when this product will launch, or what status it’s at in the design process. Hopefully we can get some news soon about this product.
With a group buy slated for release in March 2020, it’s not too late to jump on and order one of these for a discount while still going through the Kickstarter process. With several different purchase options including your choice of plastic or aluminum case, switch type, and if you want everything to be hotswappable.
The most affordable mechanical keyboard available with hot-swappable switches, at a cost of $69 at the time I’m writing this. Although the price will likely increase after the kickstarter campaign is complete currently it’s hard to beat this deal.
The K6 is a 65% keyboard and will have options for wireless/wired connection and RGB backlight. The wireless option is quite impressive as the battery will last up to 4 weeks without the usage of the RGB, that’s crazy good.
The charging port will be USB-C with a detachable power cable.
Overall, I’m very excited for this upcoming group buy and want to get my hands on the K6 for a formal review in March.