The 8 Best Hot-Swappable Keyboards in 2023

Written by Azzief Khaliq
Last updated Oct 25, 2023

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.

Short on Time? The Best Hot-Swappable Keyboards at a Glance
  • Best Hot-Swappable Full-Sized Keyboard: Ducky One 3 retains Ducky’s signature high-quality typing experience but adds hot-swap sockets, pre-tuned stabilizers, and acoustic treatment.
  • Best Value Hot-Swappable Full-Sized Keyboard: Keychron C2 is one of the company’s older models, but it’s still a solid hot-swap 104-key keyboard that gets the basics right.
  • Best Hot-Swappable TKL Keyboard: Keychron K8 Pro is a solid QMK-compatible TKL keyboard with Bluetooth connectivity, screw-in stabilizers, and sound-dampening foam.
  • Best Value Hot-Swappble TKL Keyboard: Tecware Phantom+ Elite updates the old budget favorite with better switches, universal hot-swap, and tuned stabilizers as standard.
  • Best Hot-Swappable 75% Keyboard: Keychron Q1 Pro is pricey, but ticks all the boxes for anyone after a wireless hot-swappable 75% keyboard.
  • Best Value Hot-Swappable 75% Keyboard: Keychron V1 has all the essential enthusiast features, such as QMK compatibility, screw-in stabilizers, and south-facing LEDs, all at a great price.
  • Best Hot-Swappable 65% Keyboard: Glorious GMMK 2 Compact is an excellent update to the old GMMK, with low-latency performance and pre-lubed Glorious Fox switches.
  • Best Hot-Swappable 60% Keyboard: Royal Kludge RK61 Pro offers dual-mode connectivity, an aluminum case, and a solid typing experience that belies its affordable price.

Our Favorite Hot-Swappable Mechanical Keyboards

1. Ducky One 3

Best Hot-Swappable Full-Sized Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot PBT
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Dimensions (W x D x H)17.71 x 5.51 x 1.57 inches

It’s taken Ducky a while to 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 only partially. You can record macros and move around the Fn, Alt, Ctrl, Windows, and Caps Lock keys on the keyboard itself; no software required. It’s limited, but we don’t think full remapping is as essential on a 104-key keyboard as for smaller form factors. So we’re OK with the limitations here.

An unexpected feature of the Ducky One 3 is the ultra-low latency, especially for a mechanical switch-equipped keyboard. RTINGS tested the One 3 and recorded just 4.5 ms of latency, which puts it close to optical keyboards. So if you want a hot-swap keyboard for gaming, any of the Ducky One 3 keyboards should do the job.

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 a variety of colors, from the conservative “Classic” (linked above) to more vibrant colors such as DayBreak, Matcha, and Gossamer Pink.

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 Value Hot-Swappable Full-Sized Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot ABS
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Dimensions (W x D x H)17.15 x 5.12 x 1.60 inches

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 with fancy custom cables like these.

Keychron C2

Source: Keychron

There are two noteworthy downsides to the C2, though. Firstly is the lack of remapping common to the company’s cheaper keyboards: no macros, remapping, or custom lighting modes. While we don’t think remapping is that essential on a full-size keyboard, the lack of hardware-level macros may be an issue for some.

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 minor 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.

The Keychron K2 is also available in a two-tone pebble and beige colorway for the retro-minded amongst you.

3. Keychron K8 Pro

Best Hot-Swappable TKL Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot PBT
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C, Bluetooth
Dimensions (W x D x H)13.98 x 5.00 x 1.65 inches

Keychron’s K8 Pro is an excellent hot-swap TKL keyboard, packing great features such as Gateron G Pro switches, QMK compatibility, double-shot PBT keycaps, and Bluetooth connectivity, all for just over $100. This makes it a great hot-swap keyboard and one of the better ready-made TKL keyboards, in general, available right now.

The K8 Pro isn’t one of those keyboards that wows you with one particular feature or gimmick. Instead, it’s just a combination of solid, useful features that combine to make a solid, great-value keyboard. We’re especially big fans of the QMK and Via compatibility. The latter which allows you to remap the keyboard fully without relying on awkward proprietary software.

Keychron has also spent the last few years upgrading the typing experience of its keyboards, and the K8 Pro is a great example. You get sound-absorbing foam and a silicone damping pad; combined with the steel plate, this makes for a sonically pleasing, solid keyboard to type on. You also get screw-in PCB-mounted stabilizers, which are much better than the plate-mounted stabs on many cheaper keyboards.

Keychron K8 Pro

Source: Keychron

You get a 4000 mAh battery in the K8 Pro, which Keychron claims is good for “up to 300 hours” with the lighting off and “100 hours” with the RGB backlight turned on, albeit at the lowest brightness setting. That should be more than enough uptime for most users, and we’re happy that Keychron decided to take advantage of the TKL form factor to ship a larger battery.

Overall, the Keychron K8 Pro is a serious contender for the best hot-swappable keyboard in the TKL layout. It’s as near to perfect as you’re likely to get from an off-the-shelf keyboard, and well worth the roughly $110 Keychron wants for it.

If you need to save a bit of money (or don’t like RGB lighting), you can opt for the white backlight version for about $10 less.

4. Tecware Phantom+ Elite

Best Value Hot-Swappable TKL Keyboard

Hotswap Socket3- and 5-pin MX-compatible
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot ABS
LightingPer-key RGB
ProgrammingMacros and lighting
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Dimensions (W x D x H)14.69 x 5.98 x 1.65 inches

Tecware’s Phantom+ Elite is a welcome upgrade to its old budget favorite, the Tecware Phantom. While it no longer occupies the ultra-budget sub-$50 market, the Phantom+’s notable upgrades, such as pre-tuned stabilizers, low-latency switch options, and pre-installed dampening, make it well worth the extra $20 or so over the old version.

Tecware’s Phantom+ comes with one of four Tecware-branded switches. You have two linear switches (Pink, Red) and two tactile switches (Orange, Brown), all pre-lubed and with slightly shorter travel distances for more speedy inputs. They feel great and are a cut above most stock switches on mechanical keyboards.

Of course, if none of these work for you, you can always swap them out; the Phantom+ Elite sports universal 5-pin sockets that accommodate all MX-style switches. Beyond this welcome upgrade over the old Phantom, you also get clipped and lubed stabilizers, thick sound-dampening material, a detachable USB Type-C connection, and surprisingly high-quality double-shot ABS keycaps.

Tecware Phantom+ Elite

Source: Tecware

We like what Tecware’s done with the Phantom+ Elite. Sure, it’s not quite as affordable as it used to be, but we think that’s a small price to ensure the keyboard keeps up with consumers’ ever-increasing expectations. Pre-lubed stabilizers and sound dampening are fast becoming stock features, and it’s good to see them available Tecware’s new sub-$80 keyboard.

The Tecware Phantom+ is definitely a hot-swap keyboard worth considering if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck possible. Its factory-lubed switches and “pre-modded” features make it a great plug-and-play option, too, great for those who don’t want to mess around with a ton of keyboard mods.

If $80 is too much for you, you can always drop down to the basic Phantom+. This retains all of the upgrades over the old Phantom, albeit with the limitation of Tecware-only 3-pin hot-swap sockets.

5. Keychron Q1 Pro

Best Hot-Swappable 75% Keyboard

Keys82 (including rotary knob)
Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot PBT
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C, Bluetooth
Dimensions (W x D x H)12.89 x 5.70 x 1.41 inches

Keychron’s Q1 Pro is the summation of everything the company’s been working towards, a top-tier wireless hot-swappable keyboard that may just be the last keyboard some of you may ever need. Yes, it’s pricey, but the Q1 Pro ticks almost all the boxes and more than justifies its asking price.

The Keychron Q1 Pro has the typical “exploded” 75% layout familiar to many Keychron 75% boards. In addition, you get an extra 13th F-row key alongside Keychron’s now-signature knob. The 13th key is mapped to Delete by default but is easily remappable using QMK or VIA.

Other notable features include a “double-gasket” design with additional silicone pads in between the top and bottom cases. This adds even more cushioning and further reduces any pinging or resonances that may occur due to the aluminum case material.

Keychron Q1 Pro

Source: Keychron

The case itself is a thing of beauty, too. Made from architectural 6063 aluminum, the Q1 Pro’s case looks and feels great and goes a long way to justifying the price. It’s not the only aluminum keyboard out there, but it is one of the best you’ll find.

What’s great about the Q1 Pro is that this aluminum frame doesn’t come at the cost of wireless connectivity. You still get a steady Bluetooth 5.1 connection with the Q1 Pro, with the option of connecting up to three devices. The Bluetooth won’t be much good for gaming, but it’s a great option for those who prefer a cable-free desktop.

The Keychron Q1 Pro is the best hot-swappable 75% keyboard on the market, with a price to match. But while $200 may feel like a lot of money, the Q1 Pro is worth every penny.

6. Keychron V1

Best Value Hot-Swappable 75% Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot PBT
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Dimensions (W x D x H)12.93 x 5.85 x 1.01 inches

Keychron’s V1 might not be the company’s premier 75% keyboard but it offers all the essential enthusiast features at a much more affordable price. Sound-absorbing foam, south-facing LEDs, and screw-in stabilizers are all present, with the only major concession being the lack of a sturdy aluminum case.

The V1 sports the more desirable “exploded” 75% layout, which features gaps between the main key area, arrow keys, and small “nav cluster.” We prefer this layout because it looks better and makes it much easier to reach for the arrow or nav keys by touch.

Of course, the layout isn’t the only good thing about the V1. You get full QMK and VIA support, which is sadly uncommon on $100 keyboards even now. You also get a silicone sound-dampening pad pre-installed, which will help reduce unwanted noises and resonances from your keyboard.

Keychron V1

Source: Keychron

You also get high-quality double-shot PBT keycaps in Keychron’s custom OSA profile. These are some of the better stock keycaps out there, with good printing and a tasteful colorway. The profile won’t be to everyone’s liking, but we think it’s decent enough and easy to get used to.

The V1 also comes with a knob, which seems to have become a must-have accessory on modern mechanical keyboards. You can opt for a knob-less version too, but the minor price difference makes us feel that you may as well get the knob and have some fun with it. QMK support means you can freely remap it, so get creative!

Overall, the Keychron V1 is an excellent 75% hot-swappable keyboard at a wallet-friendly price. Sure, an aluminum case would be nice, but the V1 still has it where it counts and will satisfy all but the pickiest keyboard enthusiasts.

7. Glorious GMMK 2 Compact

Best Hot-Swappable 65% Keyboard

Hotswap SocketMX-style 3- and 5-pin
Keycap MaterialDouble-shot ABS
LightingPer-key RGB
ConnectivityUSB Type-C
Dimensions (W x D x H)12.32 x 4.13 x 1.47 inches

Glorious’ GMMK 2 is an updated version of its pioneering GMMK, offering some welcome upgrades such as new Glorious Fox linears, full QMK support, and an aluminum plate. All of these combine to make the GMMK 2 an excellent choice for those seeking a hot-swappable keyboard in the relatively uncommon 96% and 65% layouts.

Unlike the old GMMK, the GMMK 2 is only available in 65% and 96% layouts. While some may see this as a shame, we think it’s a clever way to set the GMMK 2 apart from the crowd, ensuring it doesn’t need to compete with all the 60% and TKL hot-swap keyboards.

That said, it’s not that the GMMK 2 couldn’t compete if it wanted to. It has all the right specs consumers expect from a modern hot-swap keyboard, including QMK support, great factory-lubed stock switches, pre-installed dampening foam, and lubed stabilizers.

Glorious GMMK 2 Compact

Source: Glorious

We think the GMMK 2 looks great, too, with its combination of transparent stock switches and aluminum top case making for some vibrant RGB-fuelled aesthetics. You get 18 built-in lighting modes, but you can further customize the visuals with Glorious’ Core software (or QMK). Add some great low-latency performance, and you have some great hot-swappable gaming keyboards for not much money.

One minor misgiving we have is that Glorious uses double-shot ABS instead of PBT for the keycaps. Given how widespread double-shot PBT caps are these days, even on budget boards, it feels slightly disappointing that we’re not getting any on the GMMK 2. Buying a roughly $100 keyboard and knowing its stock keycaps will likely wear down and shine within a year or so is no fun.

But while stock ABS keycaps are a bummer, it shouldn’t be a huge enough issue to stop you from checking out the Glorious GMMK 2. Whether you’re just after a well-built, high-quality compact keyboard or need low latency for competitive gaming, the GMMK 2 has you covered.

The Glorious GMMK 2 Compact is also available in white.

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
Dimensions (W x D x H)13.11 x 5.98 x 1.85 inches

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 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 more prominent hot-swappable 60% keyboards (like the Keychron K12), 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, so it’s a great feature to have.

Royal Kludge RK61 Pro

Source: Royal Kludge

The RK61 Pro’s 1850 mAh battery isn’t the largest, but it should be adequate for portable use. Royal Kludge doesn’t make any claims about battery life, but it should be good enough to last you a 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).

The Royal Kludge RK61 Pro may be one of the more affordable hot-swap 60% keyboards out there, but it’s a great keyboard that’ll serve you well. While there are other options if you’re ok with wired-only connectivity, the RK61 Pro’s combination of hot-swap, Bluetooth operation, and a durable aluminum case make it a great 60% keyboard whether you’re desk-bound or on the go.

Before You Buy

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

MX and Outemu Hotswap Sockets

Most mechanical keyboards with a hot-swappable PCB in 2023 will have MX-compatible sockets. Several manufacturers make these, but all function identically and will support Cherry MX switches and Chinese-made clones from companies like Gateron, Kailh, and TTC.

MX-compatible sockets are almost always the hot-swap socket you want, as they give you the most options for replacement switches. From “mainstream” options like Gateron, Kailh, and Cherry to more enthusiast names such as Everglide or TTC, standard MX hot-swap switches offer excellent compatibility.

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, such as the older Tecware Phantom. These sockets will only fit Outemu switches by default; this, of course, limits your choices significantly.

That said, some non-Outemu switches—including budget-favorite Akko CS switches like the Lavender Purples—will fit Outemu sockets fine. So you’re not totally limited to Outemu switches; it’s just that you can’t expect every switch to fit without issue. You can also modify some MX-style switches (such as Gaterons) to fit in these sockets by filing or shortening the legs. It is a hassle, though, especially for a full keyboard.

So if you want to try as many keyboard switches as possible, we think it’s worth spending the extra money on a keyboard with standard MX hot-swappable switches.

Outemu hotswap socket

An Outemu hot-swap socket. Source: Jonathan Aditya

Of course, Outemu hot-swap keyboards are more affordable and often offer great value, so you do get a notable positive in return for limited switch choices (or the tedium of having to mod switches to fit). Whether the latter is worth the former is entirely up to you.

Also, note that these sockets all only work with mechanical switches. Optical switches, even hot-swap ones, use different sockets and will not work here.

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 3- and 5-pin switches, while 3-pin sockets will only take 3-pin switches.

Three- 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.

Mechanical keyboard switch pins

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

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 installing switches, it’s best to buy the right ones for your keyboard. Most modern hot-swap keyboards accept both types, but there are still boards out there that will only take 3-pin switches. So be sure to check before buying your switches.

Hot-Swap Socket Durability

Changing mechanical switches without soldering is genuinely fantastic. However, hot-swap sockets aren’t as durable as traditional soldered connections and can break after repeated install-uninstall cycles.

Kailh’s first-generation hot-swap sockets, for example, are rated only for 100 install cycles, and they can often fail well before that limit. However, not all is lost: Kailh’s second-generation sockets are rated for 6000 cycles, which should be adequate for even the most compulsive switch-swapper.

Kailh second-generation hotswap sockets

Source: Kailh

However, most—if not all—keyboard manufacturers don’t disclose the hot-swap sockets they use. So it’s hard to figure out whether you’re getting a durable PCB or one that can stop working before its time. And given how hard it can be to fix pre-installed Kailh hot-swap sockets, a broken PCB may just consign your keyboard to the trash can.

That said, while hot-swap failures are a reality, we don’t think they’re something to be overly concerned about. As long as you’re not swapping switches out daily, the chances of your hot-swap keyboard surviving for years are quite good.

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 Keychron V1 and Keychron K8 Pro, which we think are two of the best mid-range 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. If all the different size options feel a bit confusing, check out our guide to keyboard sizes for a more thorough discussion of each.

You May Like

Cherry Switch Comparison: Which MX Switch Is Right for You?

Cherry Switch Comparison: Which MX Switch Is Right for You?

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: choosing a switch for your mechanical keyboard is hard. It’s probably the most challenging part of getting into the hobby. The only proper way around it is to try as many switches as possible. But not everyone has that...

The 4 Best Keyboard Stabilizers in 2023

The 4 Best Keyboard Stabilizers in 2023

Keyboard stabilizers are an essential, if often overlooked, part of a great mechanical keyboard. Switches and keycaps rightly get the most attention, as they have the biggest impact on how your keyboard feels to type on. But given how often we press stabilized keys...

Skyloong GK61 Pro Review: More to it Than the Knob

Skyloong GK61 Pro Review: More to it Than the Knob

The Bottom Line Skyloong’s GK61 Pro’s most eye-catching feature is its unique split-Spacebar-and-knob combination, a clever solution to the problem of squeezing a knob into a 60% design. But what we really like is the GK61 Pro’s QMK and Via support, freeing us from...


Submit a Comment

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