The 8 Best Hot-Swappable Keyboards in 2022

Written by Azzief Khaliq
Last updated Apr 21, 2022

Affiliate Disclosure: When you purchase products through our links, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.

best hot-swappable keyboards

One of the biggest challenges when buying a mechanical keyboard is getting one with the right switches. It’s easy to feel intimidated when committing to a keyboard with soldered switches, especially if you’re new to the hobby. If that’s something you’re worried about, then buying one of the best hot-swappable keyboards is an excellent idea.

Hot-swappable mechanical keyboards let you change switches quickly without any soldering or desoldering. This makes them perfect for new hobbyists or the indecisive, as you can just swap switches until you find the right ones for you. Sound like a great idea? Time to dive into the keyboards, then.

Our Favorite Hot-Swappable Mechanical Keyboards

1. Ducky One 3

Best Full-Size Hot-Swappable Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot PBT
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Dimensions (W x D x H)17.7 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
Weight2.5 pounds

It’s taken Ducky a while to really embrace hot-swap, but we’re glad they did. Its new range of One 3 keyboards has great features that should make them some of the best mainstream hot-swappable keyboards available.

First off, all One 3 keyboards all come with thick double-shot PBT keycaps. Ducky keycaps have always been top-notch, and the fact that they’re now doing double-shot PBT makes them even better. These aren’t the sort of stock keycaps you’ll immediately replace. This is a welcome change from the thin ABS common on cheaper keyboards.

On top of the high-quality keycaps, Ducky’s also shipping One 3 keyboards with “fine-tuned” stabilizers and a layer of EVA foam beneath the PCB. Adding foam is a typical enthusiast mod designed to reduce rattling or pinging noises from the keyboard, and it’s great that you get that from the factory with the One 3.

Ducky One 3

Source: Ducky

The Ducky One 3 is programmable, too, albeit not entirely. You can record macros and move around the Fn, Alt, Ctrl, Windows, and Caps Lock keys on the keyboard itself; no software required. Ducky also equipped the One 3 with DIP switches that let you enable/disable the Windows keys, NKRO, and change the behavior of the right Windows key.

Overall, the Ducky One 3 has the right features to make it the best full-size hot-swappable keyboard. It’s not perfect (we would’ve loved Bluetooth), but the positives far outweigh the minor negatives. The Ducky One 3 comes in three colors: Fuji (linked above), DayBreak, and Matcha.

The One 3 boards are also available in TKL, 65%, and 60% layouts. We’ve opted against including all four in the list, but go ahead and check them out if the full-sized One 3 appeals to you.

2. Keychron C2

Best Budget Full-Size Hot-Swappable Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot ABS
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Dimensions (W x D x H)17.1 x 5.1 x 1.6 inches
Weight1.8 pounds

If you’re dead-set on a 104-key layout but can’t stretch your budget to accommodate the Ducky One 3, then the Keychron C2 might just be the ticket. It has a few obvious drawbacks, but it’s nothing too bad considering the sub-$70 price.

At its price, you shouldn’t be surprised that the C2 doesn’t come with thick PBT keycaps or any standout features. The case is plastic, it lacks Bluetooth, and there aren’t any enthusiast-style extras like foam padding. But it’s a usable board that we’d recommend over older hot-swappable options (like the GMMK) for two main reasons.

Firstly, it supports 3- and 5-pin switches, so all MX-style switches will fit. Secondly, it has a detachable cable. Detachable cables make swapping keyboards a bit easier, for one. But they also let you customize your setup even further with fancy custom cables like these.

Keychron C2

With AKKO Midnight keycaps. Source: u/amerabeans

There are two noteworthy downsides to the C2, though. Firstly is Keychron’s typical lack of software customization of any sort. No macros, no remapping, and no custom lighting modes. The lack of hardware macros may prove an issue for some users, so that’s one thing to consider before committing.

Secondly, the most readily available version of the C2 comes with a single-color white backlight. There is an RGB version, but it seems to rarely be in stock, if ever. So, if you’re buying the C2, you’ll most likely have to make do with a white backlight.

Despite those drawbacks, the Keychron C2 is a decent mid-priced option that offers good value for the everyday mechanical keyboard user. It’s a no-frills board focused on one thing: offering 104 hot-swappable keys at a reasonable price. And, to that extent, it succeeds.

3. Keychron K8

Best TKL Hot-Swap Keyboard

Switch Type(s)Hot-swappable Gateron Optical Blue/Brown/Red
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot ABS
ConnectivityBluetooth, USB Type-C
Battery LifeUp 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

The Keychron K8 packs a lot of desirable features into a roughly $100 keyboard. This makes it not just a great hot-swap keyboard but also one of the better ready-made TKL keyboards in general available right now.

The K8 is a Windows and Mac-compatible keyboard. It’s one of the few mainstream options to come with dedicated Mac keycaps in the box, which is a welcome touch. There’s also a dedicated Siri and Cortana key, handy if you’re a heavy user of your OS’ voice assistant.

Layout positives aside, the K8 also gets most of the basics right. The aluminum frame is solid and weighty, giving the K8 a reasonably upmarket feel. You also get Bluetooth 5.1 support, with the ability to connect to three devices simultaneously and switch between them on the fly.

Keychron K8

Source: u/ichanmrg

The built-in 4000 mAh battery is good for “up to 240 hours” with the lighting off and “72 hours” with the RGB backlight turned on. We’re glad Keychron took advantage of the larger TKL layout to include a substantial battery.

There’s a lot to like about the K8, but it isn’t perfect. The stabilizers are a bit “mushy,” so it might be worth modding if you’re particular about how your stabilized keys feel. The ABS keycaps also aren’t the greatest, and we would’ve loved to see PBT keycaps for the price. But stock PBT keycaps are surprisingly rare on TKLs, so it’s hard to complain too much.

Overall, we think the Keychron K8 is a serious contender for the best hot-swappable keyboard in the TKL layout. Of course, it can be improved, but we’d happily use this daily without issues. The K8 is also available in a slightly cheaper variant with a white backlight and plastic frame if you want to save some money.

4. Tecware Phantom

Best Budget TKL Hot-Swap Keyboard

Hotswap SocketOutemu
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot ABS
LightingPer-key RGB
ProgrammingMacros and lighting
ConnectivityFixed USB cable
Dimensions (W x D x H)14.2 x 5.3 x 1.6 inches
Weight2.48 pounds

The Tecware Phantom is an old budget favorite, and it’s still arguably the best TKL hot-swappable keyboard for those of you who’d like to spend less than $50. Just so long as you’re ok with slightly limited switch choices, that is.

The Phantom’s affordable pricing comes with the downside of Outemu hot-swappable switches instead of the more common Kailh or Gateron sockets. This limits the Tecware to Outemu switches by default. They’re not bad switches, but the range is much more limited than the dizzying array of MX-compatible options.

If you’re OK with that limitation, the Phantom offers a lot of bang for your buck. You get an aluminum plate that adds some rigidity to the otherwise plastic body, pre-lubed stabilizers, and dedicated software for macros and customizing the per-key RGB lighting.

Tecware Phantom

Source: u/milneraj

There really isn’t much to complain about when you take the Tecware Phantom’s sub-$50 price into account. Sure, MX hot-swap switches would be better, and we’re not keen on the default keycaps. But it’s hard to really rag on a super-affordable TKL hot-swappable keyboard designed for those just dipping their toes into mechanical keyboards.

Outemu’s range of switches is limited, but you can still find some interesting options beyond the standard Red, Blue, and Brown switches. These Outemu Teal and Purple switches, for example, might be worth trying out if you ever get bored of the common styles.

All in all, the Tecware Phantom is definitely a board worth considering if budget is your number one concern. Just be sure that you’re OK with having fewer switch options or are willing to mod switches to fit (more on this later).

5. Epomaker EP84

Best 75% Hot-Swappable Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDye-sublimated or double-shot PBT
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Dimensions (W x D x H)12.5 x 5.2 x 1.5 inches
Weight1.9 pounds

The Epomaker EP84’s is often touted as one of the best 75% keyboards overall. Its features and build quality make it an excellent keyboard even if you don’t need its hot-swap functionality.

The EP84 comes with PBT keycaps, either dye-sublimated or double-shot, depending on your chosen color scheme. The Grey Black (linked above) and Grey White have shine-through legends, while other options like the Vintage Grey White have solid dye-sub PBT caps. The dye-sub Vintage Grey White caps are Cherry profile, too, which is even better.

We really like the durable, hard-wearing nature of PBT keycaps, so they’ll always be a plus point for us. Keycap appreciation aside, the EP84 also manages to keep body flex at a minimum, despite its plastic frame. We would’ve loved aluminum, but we’re not going to harp too much on it when the keyboard costs less than $90.

Epomaker EP84

Source: u/iZybeR

The Epomaker EP84 is fully programmable via the software, another point in its favor. Whether you want to remap your keys, set up macros, or tweak any of the 19 included lighting modes, the EP84’s software will do the job.

We also like that Epomaker ships the EP84 with more than just the standard Gateron Red, Blue, and Brown options. You can also opt to get an EP84 with Yellow and Black switches, the former of which is one of my favorite “mainstream” linear switches.

There’s a lot to like about the Epomaker EP84, and we think it’s the best hot-swappable mechanical keyboard in this form factor. It doesn’t have wireless connectivity, but we don’t think that’s enough of a deal-breaker to stop us from recommending it.

6. Keychron K2

Wireless 75% Hot-Swappable Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot ABS
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.1
Dimensions (W x D x H)12.5 x 5.1 x 1.6 inches
Weight1.75 pounds

If Bluetooth is a must-have on your hot-swap 75% keyboard, then the Keychron K2 is the wireless hot-swappable keyboard for you. Depending on your priorities, you may even prefer it over the Epomaker EP84.

Not only does it have Bluetooth 5.1, but the version we’ve linked here has an aluminum frame for additional rigidity and heft. We’re OK with plastic frames, but it’s impossible to deny that aluminum just adds that different high-quality feel that can make a board stand out from its competition.

The Mac keycaps featured on the K8 make a return here, which is nice to see. Unfortunately, as with all Keychron keyboards, the K2’s keycaps are relatively thin ABS. They’re not bad, but they certainly pale compared to even mid-priced PBT keycaps.

The keycaps aren’t the only drawback vs. the EP84. The K2, like all Keychron boards, lacks any sort of software customization and configuration. Key remapping isn’t critical with 75% boards, but we’d at least like to be able to tweak the RGB lighting. Thankfully the K2 comes with 18 different lighting modes, which should stop you from getting bored with them too quickly.

You can’t really go wrong with either the Epomaker EP84 or the Keychron K2. Your choice will depend on what you value more in a keyboard. If you like the K2 but want to save a bit of money, it’s also available with a white backlight and plastic frame for slightly less money.

7. Epomaker GK68XS

Best Hot-Swappable 65% Keyboard

Keys68 / 70
Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDye-sublimated PBT
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.1
Dimensions (W x D x H)12.4 x 4.1 x 1.3 inches
Weight1.9 pounds

Like the 75% boards, the best hot-swappable 65% keyboard is a choice between an Epomaker and a Keychron product (the Keychron K6). It’s a straightforward choice this time, though: the Epomaker GK68XS has almost everything you want in a compact hot-swappable keyboard.

You have Bluetooth 5.1 support with a decent 1900 mAh battery, thick dye-sublimated PBT keycaps, and a choice between plastic and aluminum bodies. The GK68XS’ aluminum body pushes the price out to nearly $200, though, so we’d recommend the plastic option for most people.

The GK68XS has one unique trick that we really like. It comes with an adapter that lets you convert the standard single spacebar into a three-key layout, as you see in the image below. It’s a nice touch and lets you experiment with a split spacebar setup without having to go down the route of a custom (or Japanese) keyboard.

Epomaker GK68XS

Source: u/OpisyALe

It’s also fully customizable through the software, which is arguably essential once your keyboard is this compact. Unlike many other keyboards, Epomaker has also provided a Mac version of the GK68XS software so you can set it up without having to find a Windows PC. There’s also an open-source alternative if the Epomaker software doesn’t work for you.

However, one minor quirk to the layout will take some getting used to. The Tilde (~) key is located between + and Backspace, moving the latter key slightly to the right. You’ll probably miss it a few times while you’re getting used to it.

Beyond that quirk, though, the Epomaker GK68XS is one of the best hot-swappable 65% keyboards you can buy right now. And if you don’t need Bluetooth, the wired GK68X is also available for around $20 less.

8. Royal Kludge RK61 Pro

Best Hot-Swappable 60% Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot PBT
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C, Bluetooth 3.0
Dimensions (W x D x H)11.5 x 4 x 1.5 inches
Weight2.3 pounds

There’s a lot to like about the Royal Kludge RK61 Pro. The RK61 Pro takes the much-loved, budget-friendly RK61 and gives it a few key improvements that make it punch even further above its price bracket.

We particularly like the CNC-milled aluminum case you get with the RK61 Pro. The consensus is that it gives the RK61 Pro a solidity that you don’t get from keyboards in this price bracket. Couple that with the RK61 Pro’s double-shot PBT keycaps, and you have the makings of an excellent typing experience.

Unlike some of its 60% hot-swappable competition (like the GMMK 60%), the RK61 Pro is fully programmable. You can remap and assign keys (including multimedia keys), record macros, and customize the RGB lighting. The former is particularly important for 60% keyboards, in our opinion.

Royal Kludge RK61 Pro

Source: u/zhydss

The RK61 Pro has a decently-sized 1850 mAh battery. Royal Kludge doesn’t make any claims about battery life, but it should be good enough to last you a good few days, depending on your lighting. If Keychron’s 4000 mAh battery lasts 240 hours with the lights off, this should be able to hit around 100 hours (if not more).

Overall, the Royal Kludge RK61 Pro is one of the best hot-swappable 60% keyboards you can get. And it’s hard to beat its price, too. Bluetooth 3.0 is older tech than ideal, sure, but that’s a minor issue compared to all the positives.

What About Drop?

If you’re familiar with mechanical keyboards, you’ll probably notice that we didn’t include any of Drop’s high-end hot-swappable keyboards on our list.

We really like the Shift, CTRL, and ALT; their all-aluminum bodies and semi-custom feel make them quite unique in the realm of ready-made keyboards. However, they’re also costly and out of the reach of most casual hobbyists.

We decided to focus on relatively affordable boards that newbies and mid-range hobbyists might realistically buy. The Drop keyboards, on price alone, are way beyond that.

However, if you’ve already used one or two of the boards on our list and want to take things to the next level (or just want to head straight to the top), then the Drop boards are the ones for you. Each is arguably the next best thing to a full-on custom keyboard and is well worth considering if you have the cash to splash.

Before You Buy

Sure, hot-swappable keyboards remove most of the anxiety of committing to a switch. But there are still a few things you should know about hot-swappable boards themselves before taking the plunge.

MX and Outemu Hotswap Sockets

Most hot-swap keyboards in 2022 will have MX-compatible sockets. These can be from various manufacturers such as Kailh and Gateron. However, all MX hot-swap switches function identically and work with Cherry MX switches and all the Chinese-made clones on the market right now.

MX-compatible sockets are almost always the hot-swap socket you want, as they give you the most options for replacement switches.

Kailh hotswap sockets

Kailh hot-swap sockets. Source: donpark on KeebTalk

You’ll also find Outemu hot-swap sockets, usually on more budget-oriented boards. The Tecware Phantom in our list is one such example. These sockets will only fit Outemu switches by default. This, of course, limits your choices significantly.

That said, you can modify some MX-style switches (such as Gaterons) to fit in these sockets by filing or shortening some of the legs. It is a hassle, though, especially for a full keyboard. So if you want to try as many keyboard switches as possible, you might as well just spend the extra money and get something with standard MX hot-swappable switches.

Outemu hotswap socket

An Outemu hot-swap socket. Source: Jonathan Aditya

3-Pin vs. 5-Pin

One thing you’ll want to pay attention to with MX hot-swap sockets is whether the hot-swap sockets support 3-pin or 5-pin switches. 5-pin sockets will accept both 3- and 5-pin switches, while 3-pin sockets will only take 3-pin switches.

3- and 5-pin switches are functionally identical except for the number of pins (or feet). The extra pins on the 5-pin switches are plastic and are for mounting the switches on plateless, PCB-mount mechanical keyboards.

3- and 5-pin switches

A 3-pin switch (left) vs. a 5-pin switch (right). Source: ThereminGoat

Since the two extra feet on a 5-pin switch are plastic, they can be safely snipped off with a pair of cutters to make them compatible with 3-pin PCBs. There’s no danger here, with the only issue being that this can get quite tedious.

So, to save on the hassle of snipping a ton of feet off when you want to install switches, it’s best to buy the right ones for your keyboard.

Hot-Swap Socket Durability

Changing mechanical switches without soldering is genuinely fantastic. However, hot-swap sockets simply aren’t as durable as traditional soldered connections. The first generation of Kailh sockets, for instance, is only rated for 100 cycles at most. And, judging by posts like this, they can fail well before those 100 cycles are completed.

That’s not great, and it’s why most enthusiasts still recommend getting a traditional soldered keyboard once you find the switches you like. However, that may change soon: Kailh has recently announced a second-generation socket with a much-improved 6000 cycle lifespan.

Kailh second-generation hotswap sockets

Source: Kailh

That’s a significant improvement and hopefully will make for longer-lasting hot-swappable keyboards. Don’t get too excited yet, though. Kailh only announced the sockets at the end of August 2021, so expect it to be a while before they become standard across all hot-swappable mechanical keyboards. They shouldn’t be hard to spot once they do, though, given how colorful they are.

Closing Thoughts

Hot-swappable keyboards used to be rare as hen’s teeth, but thankfully that isn’t the case anymore. It might take a while, but we’re sure you’ll find something on our list that’s the best hot-swappable keyboard for your needs. We’re particularly keen on the Epomaker EP84 and Keychron K8, which we think are two of the best entry- to midrange options you can buy right now.

But you may have different criteria, so feel free to explore and see what works for you. There are still dozens of hot-swap mechanical keyboards on the market that we haven’t been able to include in our list, after all. Once you’ve got your keyboard sorted out, it’s time to purchase an additional set of switches to play with. We’ll point you to our list of where to buy keyboard switches to help with that.

You May Like

8 Keyboard Mods to Improve Your Mechanical Keyboard

8 Keyboard Mods to Improve Your Mechanical Keyboard

One of the best things about mechanical keyboards is how customizable they are. While many are perfectly happy with using stock keyboards, there are a ton of keyboard mods you can perform to help change or improve the look, feel, and sound of your mechanical keyboard....

How to Lube Switches: A Step-By-Step Guide

How to Lube Switches: A Step-By-Step Guide

Lubing your switches is one of the best ways to take your mechanical keyboard experience to the next level. Lubed switches feel much smoother to type on and can often sound better than stock, unlubed ones. Most switches don't come pre-lubed from the factory, so...

The 7 Best Optical Switches in 2023

The 7 Best Optical Switches in 2023

Optical keyboard switches are taking the keyboard world by storm, offering better reliability and lower latency than their mechanical forebears. But with so many new opticals on the market, we won't blame you for not knowing where to start. That's where this list of...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *