The best hot-swappable keyboard in 2023: all the top customizable decks compared

best hot-swappable keyboard
(Image credit: Future)

The best hot-swappable keyboards offer something other decks simply can't - the ability to customize and re-customize your typing feel time and time again. These decks come with a PCB plate that allows you to swap the switches under each keycap simply by scooping out the old ones and pushing in the new. That means you can change how your deck generally feels and sounds without having to break it apart. 

Of course, the top models do all this while still offering super-fast response times, a clean board to work with, and a comfortable layout with quality keycaps up top. Custom keyboard hobbyists will tell you just how pricey building your own rig can become, which is where hot-swappable keyboards come in. 

The top brands to be aware of straight out of the gate are Drop, Keychron, and Glorious. These are the biggest names in the industry right now, each with their own flagship and budget options. We've put some top hot-swappable keyboard names to the test to find the best models right here, based on performance, build quality, and feature sets. 

That's why we're rounding up all the best hot-swappable keyboards right here. We're balancing price with features and build quality to highlight the cream of the crop across a range of budgets and needs. Whether you're after one of the best gaming keyboards with a customizable twist, or a comfortable set of keys to use on Windows, Mac, or iPad, there's something for everyone here. 

The best hot-swappable keyboards available now

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1. Drop CTRL

The best hot-swappable keyboard overall

Specifications

Size: TKL
Switches: Cherry MX / Kailh / Drop Halo
Connection: Wired
Key-caps: Doubleshot PBT
RGB: Per-key
Battery: NA
Keys: 87

Reasons to buy

+
High quality design
+
Excellent typing feel
+
USB passthrough

Reasons to avoid

-
No wireless connection

The Drop CTRL is an oldie, but it's still wearing the crown of best hot-swappable keyboard overall. While it eschews some of the newer, fancier features found in gaming-oriented decks, the CTRL places its focus on a high quality typing experience with a solid build and durable design. 

An aluminium frame and metal baseplate form the main deck, with doubleshot PBT keycaps offering the final luxury flourish. Add to that to the fact that you're getting USB passthrough charging, and a wide range of Cherry MX, Drop Halo, and Kailh switches to choose from out of the box and there's plenty to celebrate here. 

The look, feel, and durability of this deck make it a winner, and you can even pick up a barebones board to save some cash on that higher price point if you have some switches and keycaps around. 

2. Redragon K530 Draconic

The best budget hot-swappable keyboard

Specifications

Size: 60%
Switches: Red Dragon Brown
Connection: Bluetooth, Wired
Key-caps: PBT
RGB: Per-key
Battery: 3,000mAh
Keys: 61

Reasons to buy

+
Budget price point
+
Full rollover
+
3,000mAh battery

Reasons to avoid

-
Only ships with Redragon switches

The Redragon K530 is a compact 60% hot-swappable keyboard, but there's plenty of value packed into that tiny shell. You're picking up one of the cheaper options on this list here, but there's still a Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connection (with the ability to switch between three devices) baked in, as well as an impressive 3,000mAh battery. You can pay far more for far less juice right now, so that battery power is well worth taking note of. 

If you're using your Redragon for gaming, it's worth noting the full rollover and the smart double function placements. Because this 60% form factor does away with dedicated arrow keys, the K530 offers dual-function WASD keys. Usually, we find these arrow buttons mapped to the other side of the deck, but doubling up your driver keys does make far more sense in certain games. Not only that, but you're also getting an additional function programming setting, opening up more mapping options. 

The best hot-swappable keyboard for gaming

Specifications

Type: Mechanical (hot-swappable)
Connection: Wired / Wireless
Size: 75%
Switches: ROG NX Red linear
Keycaps: PBT doubleshot
Media Keys: Dedicated knob
Wrist Rest: None
USB Passthrough: None

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding typing experience
+
Speedy and responsive
+
Flexible OLED display and control knob
+
Smaller design still offers plenty of functionality

Reasons to avoid

-
Will be difficult to swap keycaps
-
One of the most expensive decks on the market

The Asus ROG Azoth is actually our favorite gaming keyboard overall, but if you don't need the speed of a deck dedicated to play, its lofty price tag isn't going to make much sense. Still, there's no other deck on the market that manages to pair the experience of a high-end custom hot-swappable keyboard with the speed and agility required for a PC gaming setup. The Asus ROG Azoth blew us away in our testing, offering a gasket mounted design with three layers of foam under the hood for a particularly soft landing and great sound. 

Not only that, but the NX switches that come stock in the box (and with pre-lubed stabilizers), offer up a snappy press and speedy debounce, with a super satisfying clack overall. You'll also receive a full switch lubing kit in the box to keep everything in top condition as well. 

On top of that extraordinary typing experience, you'll find plenty of gaming features that just don't make their way to the vast majority of typists' decks. Each key is programmable via the Armoury Crate software, and you'll also be able to assign presets with space for up to six profiles on the deck itself. A surprisingly detailed OLED display is the cherry on top here, offering system specs and plenty more via a bright screen in the top right corner. 

Read more: Asus ROG Azoth review

The most durable hot-swappable keyboard

Specifications

Size: TKL
Switches: Gateron G Pro Red / Blue / Brown
Connection: Wired
Key-caps: PBT (OSA design)
RGB: Yes
Battery: NA
Keys: 67

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound dampening
+
Comfortable typing experience
+
CNC aluminium case

Reasons to avoid

-
No function row
-
Not fast enough for gaming

With all the customizations they go through, the best hot-swappable keyboards need to be tough enough to take a beating. The Keychron Q2 isn't just tough, it's an absolute unit. This is easily one of - if not the - heaviest keyboards to grace our testing desk. Weighing in at an incredible 3.6lbs while only measuring 327 x 121 x 33.8mm. That's a seriously stocky board which certainly won't fare well in a backpack, but will stand strong on your table top. 

This is a stout piece of kit - a squat bulldog of a keyboard, and I love it for that.

Keychron Q2 review

There's a reason the Q2 is so reassuringly dense; it's built with solid CNC aluminium, stuffed full of Poron foam, and double gasket mounted to keep everything whisper quiet. We were impressed by just how well the Q2 absorbed any unwanted switch sounds during our testing; it was like typing into a vacuum. Of course, you're still getting that satisfying thud of a heavier linear switch, and the clack of a debounce can still ring out.

The keycaps this hot-swappable keyboard ships with may split opinion. The Keychron-specific 'OSA' design sees a heavy curve to each of these keys. We did find some of the legends to be printed in strange ways, but the color scheme and luxury PBT feel made it a joy to work across this board.

With the ability to open up every nook and cranny, and some premium enthusiast features built into the case, this is certainly one for the tinkerers out there. However, we wouldn't recommend diving into this board for gameplay; the speed under the hood can't hold up to dedicated devices.

Read more: Keychron Q2 review

The best modular hot-swappable keyboard

Specifications

Size: Full
Switches: Cherry MX
Connection: Wired
Key-caps: ABS
RGB: Per-key
Battery: NA
Keys: 104

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile design
+
Modular num-pad and display dial
+
Premium look and feel

Reasons to avoid

-
Not fast enough for tournament use
-
Cheaper ABS keycaps

The Mountain Everest Max is a turbo-charged gaming keyboard. Not only is it fully hotswappable, but the TKL base unit can also be expanded with a modular number pad and separate display dial. That makes it an incredibly versatile unit, with the gaming chops to match. 

There's nothing quite like the Mountain Everest Max on the market right now.

Mountain Everest Max review

An aluminium base plate, magnetic USB-C connections, and comprehensive software makes this an extremely luxurious package under the hand - as one would expect for that $299.99 price point. A minor gripe that we did come across in our testing was those cheaper ABS keycaps though, which felt out of place considering the high MSRP on the tag. That's easily fixed with a replacement set, though. 

The Mountain Everest Max feels like it leans more into its gaming audience than other hot-swappable keyboards do. You're getting a nice response time (though not as fast as more competitive, purpose-built machines), and four dedicated macro buttons (with LED displays) to boot. However, the biggest indication that this kit is designed for a gamer to invest in is that digital display dial. From offering up stats on PC performance and APM to controlling RGB lighting, volume, and setting different profiles, this notched dial is a joy to use and completes the whole experience. 

Read more: Mountain Everest Max review

The best hot-swappable keyboard for portability

Specifications

Size: 65%
Switches: Cherry RGB blue, brown, red / Gateron red, silver, yellow, brown
Connection: 2.4GHs / Bluetooth / Wired
Key-caps: Low profile PBT doubleshot
RGB: Yes
Battery: 3,000mAh
Keys: 68

Reasons to buy

+
Satisfying typing feel 
+
Hot-swappable switches
+
Soft keycaps remain comfortable after long periods
+
Fully programmable with macro recording

Reasons to avoid

-
Keycaps do reduce accuracy overall
-
Too slow for fast-paced gaming

With a solid battery life and flexible connections to up to three devices (Mac and PC), the Kemove K68 is the best wireless hot-swappable keyboard we've had our hands on. A soft-touch low profile design and matte finish make this a touch-typists dream, as do the particularly smooth switches and satisfyingly soft landing pad in the base. That surface material does drop accuracy down a little (there's very little grip on these PBT keycaps), but ultimately makes for a far more comfortable experience over longer sessions. 

Kemove itself posits a 12 day battery life on this device with full RGB blaring. In our testing we could stretch things to around 10 days, running the deck with those LEDs up bright for around 10 hours a day. That's still nothing to be concerned about, and should you switch the lighting off you'll easily be able to go long stretches of time without having to plug in. 

Speeds here aren't quite enough to keep up with faster-paced action titles, but did just fine for slower and moderately paced games. However, this is a deck built for productivity, which is where it excels. That wireless connection wasn't quite strong enough to rely on for these more intense gaming moments, dropping a few keystrokes due to its larger latency. However, in everyday work use it held up well throughout. 

One of the biggest things going for the Kemove K68, though, is its portable form factor. Many hot-swappable keyboards are smaller 60-65% designs, but this feels particularly compact and durable. The rounded corners and solid construction left us confident throwing it into a backpack, while the relatively low weight kept things comfortable on the move as well. 

Read more: Kemove K68 review

The best 60% hot-swappable keyboard

Specifications

Size: 60%
Switches: Mountain Linear 45 / Tactile 55 / Linear 45 Speed
Connection: Wired
Key-caps: PBT
RGB: Yes
Battery: NA
Keys: 64

Reasons to buy

+
Soft but satisfying switches
+
PBT keycaps replace ABS on previous model
+
Arrow buttons
+
Space for optional modular number pad

Reasons to avoid

-
Drops some key modular features of the Max model
-
No dedicated volume or macro keys
-
Doesn't offer competition-level speeds

The Mountain Everest 60 is the second modular hot-swappable keyboard from the premium brand, following up from the Max model featured further up this guide. While you're dropping some of the modular options of the premium version, however, this is one of the best hot-swappable keyboard for productivity that we've tested. One look at those arrow keys can confirm that. 

These are some of the most pleasing springs I've had my hands on, and when taken with the thoughtful design and comfortable shape, they push the Mountain name even further into the limelight.

Mountain Everest 60 Review

We found the stock Mountain Linear 45 switches to be supremely comfortable in particular - offering a soft landing but in no way dropping that classic mechanical snap. It was a dream to type on this particular deck, though ripping all those switches out was just as easy as well.

It's the overall form factor that makes the Mountain Everest 60 so well suited to productivity purposes. You're picking up a smaller 60% keyboard here, so leaving plenty of space on your desk, but there's very little sacrifice in the way of functions - compared to more speed focused models. The optional number pad does add a little extra to your setup, but if you're a spreadsheet wizard it's a must-have feature unique to the Everest lineup.

Read more: Mountain Everest 60 review

The best hot-swappable keyboard for Apple fans

Specifications

Size: TKL
Switches: VS Brown / Red / Blue
Connection: Bluetooth / Wired
Key-caps: ABS
RGB: Per-key
Battery: 3,750mAh
Keys: 84

Reasons to buy

+
Great value price point
+
Long battery life
+
Multiple Bluetooth connections
+
iPad support

Reasons to avoid

-
Shell has considerable flex
-
Too heavy for full portability

If you're switching between multiple devices - iPads included - the Vissles V84 is the ultimate hot-swappable keyboard. Out of the box Mac and Windows compatibility (with the keycaps to match) is quickly becoming a must for typists looking for a premium set of keys. 

However, the Vissles V84 goes beyond this simply compatibility, being able to connect to up to five different Windows / Apple devices, easily switch between them via a simple keyboard command, and offering the battery life to sail through even the most hectic workday. 

Being able to seamlessly switch between typing on an iPad and swinging through Tomb Raider on a gaming laptop was a particular highlight.

Vissles V84 review

The V84 also ships with Vissles' own VS switches. We tested the linear model and found them to be particularly smooth and soft, if feeling slightly shorter than the standard Cherry MX / Gateron stems. However, swapping your switches is easy and quick. 

The 75% layout may throw some prospective typists. This is an unusual form factor that builds all the keys into one slab, without spacing. That means you keep your directional arrows and home functions, while also ensuring you have enough space for wider sweeping mouse movements. 

At around $100 / £100, there's some excellent value packed in here - perfect if you're after flexibility on a smaller budget.

Read more: Vissles V84 review

How we test hot-swappable keyboards

We test hot-swappable keyboards using all the same checks we would place on dedicated gaming keyboards, running through out of the box switch performance, any macro or media controls, speed and response times, and typing feel. When testing a new keyboard, we'll live with that deck for a considerable period of time, bringing it into our everyday work and gameplay to ensure it holds up beyond just a few hours of use. After that, though, we'll tear these things apart, completely swapping the whole switch set to make sure there's no dead PCB, and to check the ease of pulling and plugging. 

You can find out more about how we test keyboards, or check out how we make all our recommendations in our full GamesRadar+ Hardware Policy.

Hot-swappable keyboards: FAQ

What is a hot-swappable keyboard?

A hot-swappable keyboard is simply a mechanical (or sometimes optical) keyboard that does solder its switches to the PCB plate underneath the case. This means you can easily pop the switches themselves in and out, customizing the sound and feel of your keyboard. 

Are gaming keyboards hot-swappable?

The vast majority of gaming keyboards produced by brands like Razer, Corsair, HyperX, and others are not hot-swappable. You'll often have to delve further into the customizable keyboard space to find a model that will let you swap the switches, whereas gaming brands will typically stick to cheaper soldered PCB boards. 

There are, however, a few gaming-oriented hot-swappable keyboards, like the aforementioned Mountain Everest Max.

How to tell if a keyboard is hot-swappable

The most reliable way to find out if a keyboard is hot-swappable is to check the product page on the brand's website. Many keyboards allow you to remove the key cap to see the switch underneath, but pulling at this switch to try and remove it can seriously damage your board if it's not hot-swappable itself. 


We're also rounding up all the best Razer keyboards and taking a look at the best wireless gaming keyboard on the market right now. Or, for more discounts, take a look at the latest cheap gaming keyboard deals.

Tabitha Baker
Managing Editor - Hardware

Managing Editor of Hardware at GamesRadar+, I originally landed in hardware at our sister site TechRadar before moving over to GamesRadar. In between, I've written for Tom’s Guide, Wireframe, The Indie Game Website and That Video Game Blog, covering everything from the PS5 launch to the Apple Pencil. Now, i'm focused on Nintendo Switch, gaming laptops (and the keyboards and mice that come with them), and tracking everything that suggests VR is about to take over our lives.