Optical keyboards may not be as widespread as their mechanical cousins, but they’ve comfortably established themselves as a compelling alternative. And it’s not hard to see why: the best optical keyboards offer smooth, extra-durable switches and extremely low input latency.
Whether you’re an ultra-competitive gamer seeking the lowest possible input latency, or a more casual user who just wants a reliable keyboard, these products offer a compelling balance of performance and reliability. Let’s get started.
- Best Optical Keyboard Overall: Keychron’s K8 is a versatile TKL optical keyboard with Gateron optical switches, dual-mode connectivity, and Mac support.
- Best Optical Gaming Keyboard: Roccat’s Vulcan Pro offers great optical switches, vibrant RGB, and strong customization at a reasonable price.
- Best Optical Gaming Keyboard Alternative: Corsair’s K100 is a high-quality gaming keyboard with ultra-fast switches and all-metal construction, with a price tag to match.
- Best 75% Optical Keyboard: Skyloong’s GK75 Optical is a great-value “exploded” 75% keyboard that feels better than its price suggests.
- Best 60% Optical Keyboard: Razer’s Huntsman Mini delivers Razer’s Optical switches in a solid 60% form factor with some enthusiast-grade trappings.
- Best 60% Optical Keyboard Alternative: Epomaker’s SK61S is a solid value-minded option with Gateron switches and good build quality, but held back by its 125-Hz polling rate.
Our Favorite Optical Keyboards
1. Keychron K8
|Switch Type(s)||Hot-swappable Gateron Optical Blue/Brown/Red|
|Keycap Material||Double-shot ABS|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, USB Type-C|
|Battery Life||Up to 240/72/68 hours (no backlight/RGB/single LED)|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||13.97 x 4.84 x 1.65 inches|
Keychron’s K8 is a solid, all-rounder optical keyboard at a reasonable price. With its Mac and Windows compatibility, wired and wireless connectivity, and hot-swap Gateron optical switches, the K8’s versatility means it’ll likely work for you, whether you’re gaming or typing.
The K8 ships with your choice of Gateron Optical Blue, Optical Brown, or Optical Red switches. You get hot-swap sockets, so you can change switches easily if none of these work for you. However, note the Gateron Optical-equipped K8 is only compatible with other Gateron Optical switches, such as the Gateron Optical Clear or short-travel Gateron Optical Yellow.
That may seem limiting, but it’s not a huge deal considering how few optical switch manufacturers sell loose switches. You’re stuck with Gateron anyway, so it’s not like you’re missing out on that many options. It’s just part and parcel of buying an optical keyboard.
One issue that users have pointed out is the K8’s sub-par stabilizers. They’re a bit rattly and not as smooth as some other options. We think they’re still usable, but you may want to mod (or replace) them if you’re picky about stabs. Thankfully, they’re plate-mounted, so you can pop them out easily.
The K8 is a dual-mode keyboard with Bluetooth and USB-C connectivity. You get up to 240 hours on Bluetooth with the backlight off, which dips to between 60 to 72 hours when you turn the lighting on. It’s decent enough battery life, and should be adequate for most users. You’ll want to plug the K8 in when gaming anyway to avoid any Bluetooth-related latency issues.
As with many Keychron boards, you don’t get any remapping options with the K8. You get built-in Mac and Windows modes, but that’s about it. While we don’t like this omission, we appreciate that it’s not an issue that will bother many users. If you get by fine with standard keyboard layouts, you’ll be fine here.
Overall, Keychron’s K8 is a versatile optical keyboard that feels good to type on, with restrained aesthetics and a budget-friendly sub-$100 price point. Input latency-focused gamers will want to look elsewhere, but we think the K8’s overall package makes it the best optical keyboard for most users.
|Keys||104 + 3 media keys and a knob|
|Switch Types(s)||Roccat Titan Optical Tactile/Linear|
|Keycap Material||Double-shot ABS|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||18.19 x 9.25 x 1.26 inches (Including wrist rest)|
Roccat has never been one of the tier-one peripheral companies, but its recent products show that it’s time to start putting them alongside the Razers and Corsairs of this world. The Vulcan Pro keyboard is a great example. It offers great optical switches, extensive customization, and a unique look that sets it apart from the crowd.
Roccat uses in-house Titan Optical switches on the Vulcan Pro. These full-size optical switches with reduced actuation distances come in two flavors: Tactile (Brown) and Linear (Red). Both are lightweight 45-gram switches, so they’re perfect for gaming.
One of the more unique aspects of the Vulcan Pro is its combination of standard-size switches with uniform, low-profile keycaps. This gives the Vulcan Pro the best of both worlds, offering the potential ergonomic benefits of a low-profile design while maintaining the more desirable typing feel of full-size switches.
The low-profile keycaps also give the Titan switches room to shine. With no keycap walls obstructing the translucent switch housings, the Vulcan Pro has significantly more vibrant RGB lighting than many competitors. If you want bling, the Vulcan Pro provides it.
Like many full-size gaming keyboards, the Vulcan Pro has a few extra media keys above the numpad, plus the now-commonplace knob. Unfortunately, the knob is hard-coded for volume control, with no option to change it in Roccat’s Swarm software.
Another interesting feature is Roccat’s Easy Shift functionality. This function, which you access via the Swarm software, lets you activate a second layer of key binds by holding down a specific key. Easy Shift is mapped to Caps Lock by default and only activates when Game Mode is enabled. Thankfully, you can easily reassign it in Swarm.
The Roccat Vulcan Pro makes a strong case for itself with its great build quality, sleek aesthetics, and competitive price. If you want a low-latency gaming keyboard at a reasonable price, the Vulcan Pro is likely the best gaming keyboard for you.
Don’t need the numpad? Roccat’s Vulkan TKL Pro sports a traditional 87-key for around $100.
3. Corsair K100
|Keys||104 + 6 macro keys and media controls|
|Switch Types(s)||Corsair OPX Optical|
|Keycap Material||Double-shot PBT (Main keys)
ABS (Macro keys and extra keycaps)
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||18.50 x 6.50 x 1.54 inches|
Corsair’s K100 packs proprietary Corsair OPX optical switches and extensive macro and media controls, all with a remarkably high-quality build. It is an incredibly pricey board, but you definitely get a lot of keyboard for your money.
Corsair’s OPX optical switches are linear switches with an ultra-short 1.0-mm actuation distance and zero debounce delay. This makes them ultra-snappy and responsive, responding to even the most rapid inputs. If you’re migrating to optical keyboards in search of super-fast inputs, these are the switches you’re after.
That said, the short travel and ultra-fast response will make these potentially awkward to type on. We wouldn’t recommend the K100 as your primary keyboard if you juggle work and play regularly.
The K100 isn’t just about the switches, though. Corsair went to town with the extra controls here, loading the K100 up with six dedicated macro keys, media controls, a volume roller, and an iCUE control wheel. The latter is the most interesting of the lot: it’s a multi-mode wheel that lets you control multiple keyboard and OS features using a single wheel.
The default modes are quite exhaustive and include adjusting keyboard brightness, OS volume, and scrolling through programs. But you can use iCUE to create custom modes, of course, letting you really put your own twist on the K100’s functionality.
Corsair wraps all of this functionality into a sturdy all-metal keyboard adorned with durable double-shot PBT keycaps. The looks are undoubtedly divisive, but we think its brushed metal finish and 44-zone RGB underglow that makes it look great in action.
Overall, Corsair’s K100 is an impressive optical gaming keyboard packed with great switches and impressive functionality. The roughly $250 MSRP stops it from being a no-brainer recommendation, but those willing to spend will find the K100 a worthwhile purchase.
|Switch Types(s)||Skyloong Optical Blue/Brown/Green/Red/Silver/Yellow|
|Keycap Material||Double-shot PBT|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||12.67 x 5.35 x 1.40 inches|
Skyloong’s GK75 Optical is a great example of how far budget keyboards have come. Seventy dollars gets you a solid 75% keyboard with good build quality and smooth optical switches, complete with a handy programmable knob a la the GMMK Pro.
The Skyloong GK75 comes with a choice of Skyloong’s own optical switches, which range from short-travel options like the Optical Silver to more conventional options like the Optical Blue and Brown. We’ve used the linear Optical Silvers and tactile Optical Browns and were impressed by both. They’re smooth and have a pleasing bottom-out sensation.
We won’t claim they’re brilliant switches that can compete with the best mechanical linear switches, but they’re certainly great for the price. Remember: you’re paying around $70 for this keyboard, so don’t expect world-beating quality.
That said, the GK75 feels a lot better than you might expect for the price. While it won’t compete with a high-end custom keyboard, it’s still miles ahead of many $50 boards when it comes to the build quality and materials. You get a thick ABS case, good double-shot PBT keycaps, and nicely-lubed stabilizers.
We especially dig the transparent ABS case, which gives it more visual appeal than the standard solid black or white of cheaper boards. Our only build quality concern is the aluminum knob, which is a bit wobbly. It works fine, though, so it’s not a deal-breaker in our books.
The only other concern we have is the GK75’s typing feel. Despite its “shallow gasket” design, the GK75 doesn’t feel as bouncy to type on as most gasket-mount keyboards. It’s not a bad keyboard to type on, mind you; it’s just not anything like a gasket-mount board, despite the marketing. So set your expectations accordingly, and you’ll be fine.
Despite those misgivings, the Skyloong GK75 is still a great option if you want the reliability and smoothness of optical switches on a budget. Check out our Skyloong GK75 review for a more in-depth look.
|Keys||104 + 4 media keys|
|Switch Types(s)||Razer Optical Clicky/Linear
|Keycap Material||Double-shot PBT|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||11.59 x 4.09 x 1.49 inches|
Razer’s Huntsman Mini is one of the company’s best compact gaming keyboards. It packs the ultra-low-latency Razer Optical switches into a high-quality, enthusiast-level keyboard that’s much better to use than the company’s older keyboards.
The highlight of the Huntsman Mini is the Razer Optical switches. These in-house products boast impressively low latency, with Razer claiming a 0.2-millisecond response time for both its Linear (Red) and Clicky (Purple) Optical switches. These fast switches take advantage of optical switches’ contactless design to dramatically reduce response times.
Will these make you a better gamer outright? No, probably not. But if you’re considering an optical keyboard to eke out every little advantage possible, these extra-low-latency Razer Opticals are the way to go. So far, so standard for a Razer-brand gaming keyboard. But the Huntsman Mini isn’t all about its switches. For the first time in a long while, you actually get a good keyboard to go with the fancy switches and software options.
Firstly, Razer has finally moved away from the non-standard bottom row common on its older boards. Instead, you get standard-sized Spacebar and modifier keys, so you can easily swap to one of the best keycap sets without worrying about compatibility. That said, you may not even need to do so, as the Huntsman Mini comes with decent-quality double-shot PBT keycaps as standard.
Razer also ships the Huntsman Mini with a layer of sound-dampening foam beneath the PCB. It won’t turn the Mini into a silent keyboard, but it will help reduce many of the extraneous clicks and clacks associated with mechanical and optical keyboards. It’s a nice touch that we think more manufacturers should adopt.
Overall, the Razer Huntsman Mini is a great compact optical gaming keyboard. Wireless connectivity would be nice, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker considering the reasonable price. Hardcore typists should look elsewhere, but anyone seeking a high-quality optical gaming keyboard will want to start here.
|Switch Type(s)||Hot-swappable Gateron Optical Black/Blue/Brown/Red/Yellow|
|Keycap Material||Dye-sublimated PBT|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, USB Type-C|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||11.61 x 4.13 x 1.77 inches|
Epomaker’s SK61S is a solid, budget-friendly 60% optical keyboard. It’s not perfect, but it has a lot going for it: smooth Gateron optical switches, good-quality PBT keycaps, and dual-mode operation for less than $80.
Epomaker sells the SK61S with various Gateron switch options, including the Gateron Optical Red and Optical Blue. As with all Gateron Optical-equipped boards, the SK61S has hot-swap sockets. While you won’t have as much choice as with standard mechanical hot-swap keyboards, you will at least get to try out different Gateron Opticals if the stock options don’t work for you.
You also get several colors to choose from, including a Keychron-style gray-and-gray or a more traditional white-and-gray. Regardless of the colorway, the SK61S ships with dye-sublimated PBT keycaps in the uniform XDA profile.
They’re good-quality keycaps with thick walls and crisp legends. The only issue is the flat profile, which may not be to everyone’s liking. Thankfully, the SK61S’ standard 60% layout means you can swap keycaps without any layout headaches.
Like other keyboards from the Epomaker “family,” including the Skyloong GK75, the SK61S has pre-lubed stabilizers from the factory. They’ll be fine for most of you, but the discerning will likely want to re-lube them. That said, if you’re that picky about stabilizers you’re probably also fine with lubing stabilizers yourself. So it’s not a huge issue.
The Epomaker SK61S has the typical software issues we’ve complained about with Epomaker and Skyloong keyboards. It’s not unusable software, but it’s awkward to use and takes some time to get used to. The RGB lighting setup is particularly challenging to get your head around.
Another noticeable issue with the optical GK61S is its low 125-Hz polling rate. You can game on it, but we wouldn’t rely on this for fast-paced or precision-heavy gaming. You’ll want the Razer Huntsman Mini for that.
Beyond the issues with software and a low polling rate, the Epomaker GK61S is a solid general-purpose compact keyboard. Whether you’re certain about optical switches or just want a keyboard to experiment with, the GK61S has you covered in this form factor.
Before You Buy
If you’re on the fence or just curious about optical keyboards, this section is for you. Let’s quickly run through a couple of areas where optical switches differ (and have an advantage) over mechanical switches.
We won’t go too in-depth here; treat this as a brief overview and not a thorough comparison. If you want to know more, head over to our optical vs. mechanical switches head-to-head for all the details.
Optical switches detect key presses using infrared light and optical sensors, making them a contactless switch design. In contrast, your average mechanical switch relies on physical contact to complete a circuit and activate a key.
On paper, this contactless design gives opticals an advantage in response times and latency. Optical switch keyboards will register and respond to inputs much faster than traditional mechanical keyboards, or so the marketing claims.
Independent tests show that switches such as Razer’s Opticals boast 10 to 40 milliseconds reduced latency vs. mechanical switches. That’s a significant reduction and may be worth investing in if you’re a hardcore gamer.
Corsair’s OPX switches—as used in the K100—also boast excellent low-latency performance, with RTINGS measuring just 0.5 ms latency at 4000 Hz polling. By comparison, a mechanical keyboard like Ducky’s One 3 measured 4.5 ms in the same test.
The jury’s out on how much this matters in the real world, but gaming-focused opticals undoubtedly have the upper hand for raw input latency.
Optical switches are also more durable than the average mechanical keyboard switch. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given how opticals actuate without any physical contact between switch elements.
Most optical switches have a 100-million-click lifespan, which is only equaled by a handful of Cherry MX switches like the MX Speed Silvers. Most other mechanical switches have lifespans between 50 and 80 million clicks; that’s still plenty, but they undoubtedly lag behind optical switches.
Some companies have managed to push optical switch durability even further. The Corsair OPX switches in K100 have a quoted lifespan of 150 million actuations, making even the 100 million of Gateron’s opticals seem short-lived in comparison.
The upshot here is that optical switches have much fewer points of failure; there’s no risk of the metal contacts failing, nor is there as huge a risk of dust or foreign particles interfering with the mechanism. So, while 150 million click lifespans may not feel entirely relevant, there are tangible day-to-day durability benefits that give opticals an advantage here too.
Like them or loathe them, the best optical keyboards show that the technology is here to stay. They’re definitely better suited for gamers, with their low-latency switches and fast response times. That said, they’re now good enough that even dyed-in-the-wool typists should consider an optical keyboard when shopping.
If you’re after a general-purpose optical keyboard, the Keychron K8 is the board for you. It doesn’t offer the blazing-fast latency of the gaming-focused boards, but it’s a reliable and affordable option for those who mix work and play. Conversely, gamers will find a lot to like in the Roccat Vulcan Pro’s low-latency switches and vibrant RGB.