Best 65-percent mechanical keyboards

Mechanical switches FTW.

Image via Drop

Many competitive gamers use compact keyboards because their smaller size saves space and makes them easy to transport. One reason 65-percent keyboards are popular for gaming is their excellent functionality that tucks the arrow and navigation keys in on the right side. 

Apart from the compact size, many 65-percent keyboards come with mechanical keys, with some even having hot-swap functionality. Hot-swappable keyboards allow users to replace the switches with different variants to suit their preferences. Other common features of 65-percent keyboards are wireless connectivity and RGB lighting. 

Best overall

Drop ALT

Image via Drop

Drop’s ALT keyboard is an all-around performer with top-tier build quality, hot-swappable switches, and a couple of uncommon features. The durable aluminum case and plate have an RGB lighting strip running between them. A unique feature is the magnetic feet that can be added or removed from the keyboard easily and offer multiple tilt angles. Another uncommon feature is the USB-C ports on either side of the keyboard. The ports allow users to choose which side the cable plugs into, and the spare USB-C port functions as a passthrough.

One reason to consider this keyboard is the hot-swap capability. Drop’s ALT keyboard is compatible with most switch types, including Cherry MX, Kailh, and Halo. Users can swap switches out with the provided tool. The only limitation to the hot-swapping is that the switches must be three-pin plate mounted instead of five-pin PCB mounted. More advanced users can always clip two of the plastic pins to make switches fit.

Apart from swapping out switches, users can customize the Drop ALT using many options available from the manufacturer. There are multiple keycap options available in colors like black, white or themes like GMK Red Samurai and XDA canvas. A polyester carry case with utility pockets is also available to safely store and transport the keyboard.

The Drop ALT costs a fortune, but it’s packed with features and has a sturdy construction. The only drawback is that the per-key RGB lighting has limited configuration options.

Best customization

ASUS ROG Falchion

Image via Asus

Users who prefer software customization to hardware customization can check out the Asus ROG Falchion. Since this keyboard is part of the Asus ecosystem, it uses Armory Crate and Aura creator for customization. Armory Crate can set up macros and different profiles, including five to store on the keyboard itself. Aura Sync RGB configures the per-key lighting.

Compared to the Drop ALT, the ROG Falchion is only available with four different switch options. The options include the Cherry MX Red, Brown, Blue, and Silver variants. These are the most commonly used switches and should be good enough for most gamers.

Users choose between a wired or wireless connection when using the ROG Falchion. The wireless connection uses a 2.4Ghz frequency that offers stable and lag-free connections. When the battery is low, users can switch to the USB-C cable. According to Asus, the battery life can reach an incredible 450 hours, so users won’t have to charge it very often.

The build quality of the ROG Falchion isn’t as tough as the Drop ALT, but it has some nifty features to help it stand out. There’s a programmable touchpad on the left side of the ROG Falchion,  and it can display the battery life or scroll up and down web pages or adjust the volume. The double-shot Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) keycaps provide extra durability.

Asus’ ROG Falchion offers a brilliant balance of hardware and software customization. Buyers can use the company’s software to program the Falchion to their exact specifications. They can also choose the type of key switch they prefer and have the option to connect wirelessly. 

Best versatility

Keychron K6

Image via Kechron

Buyers looking for a wireless 65-percent keyboard with hot-swappable switches can check out the Keychron K6. Instead of working on the 2.4GHz wireless frequency like the ROG Falchion, the Keychron K6 only features Bluetooth 5.1. The Bluetooth connection is fine for office work and single-player games, but it might not be stable enough for competitive games like Overwatch or Call of Duty

Keychron gives users several customization options to create their perfect keyboard. Users can choose between standard white backlighting or RGB lighting. There’s also an aluminum frame and a wooden wrist rest available. The hot-swappable version of the K6 makes sense for users who like to tinker with their keyboards. Users who don’t want to replace their switches can save money and get the K6 with either Gateron mechanical switches or LK optical switches.

Despite all the customization options, there are a few downsides to the K6. There’s no software available, so it’s difficult to remap the keys. Although RGB lighting is present, users are limited to cycling through presets using the Fn key together with the left and right arrows. Another weak area of the K6 is the (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) ABS keycaps. These keycaps aren’t as durable as the PBT variants, but they reduce the cost of the keyboard, making it more affordable to buyers. 

Keychron’s K6 offers Bluetooth connectivity and has hot-swappable functionality. Its low price cancels out the minor disadvantages like the lack of software and limited lighting options. Users who don’t like the ABS keycaps can easily replace them with PBT alternatives if they want.

Best connectivity

Durgod Fusion 

Image via Durgod

Durgod’s Fusion stands out because of its retro-inspired design. It may look old-fashioned, but it’s packed with the latest technology and gives users the option of connecting through a USB cable, Bluetooth connection, or wirelessly. 

The connectivity options make the Fusion stand out compared to the other keyboards on this list. Buyers can use the Bluetooth connection for typing and office work, then switch to the 2.4 GHz wireless connection for gaming. When the battery runs low, users can switch to the USB-C cable to charge the keyboard up. The wireless dongle safely stores in a tiny compartment behind the logo when transporting the Fusion. 

Despite the retro-design, the Fusion has sturdy build quality. Thick plastic makes up the Fusion’s case, but the interior features a solid metal plate as its base. Instead of ABS keycaps like the K6, the Fusion uses durable PBT variants. 

There’s no hot-swap capability, but users have the option of choosing between a range of Cherry MX mechanical switches. Buyers have a choice between MX Red, Black, Blue, Brown, and Silver types. The Silent Red and Black versions are also available. 

One of the main reasons to choose the Fusion keyboard is its retro design. The design stands out compared to the competition, but it also means there’s no RGB lighting. Durgod’s Fusion keyboard has the most connectivity options of any keyboard on this list, making it ideal for various tasks and environments. 

Best value

RK ROYAL KLUDGE RK68

Image via RK

Premium features like hot-swappable switches and wireless connectivity add to the cost of a keyboard and push the price up. The RK Royal Kludge RK68 includes these features and more for around half the price of the Drop ALT and ROG Falchion.

This keyboard matches the connectivity options of the Fusion. Users choose between a 2.4GHz wireless connection, Bluetooth, or a USB-C cable when connecting the keyboard. With a wireless connection, users can expect 48 hours of life from the 3,150mAh battery with the lighting active and up to five days of use with the lighting disabled.

Considering the RK68’s affordable price, it’s surprising to see hot-swap functionality and flexible connectivity options. The RK68 comes with in-house Brown, Blue, or Red switches that mimic the Cherry MX range. Users can easily swap them out for genuine Cherry MX or Gateron switches using the provided switch puller.

The company made sacrifices to keep the price down, though. The RK68 has an all-plastic design and uses thinner ABS keycaps. Despite the cost-cutting measures, there are two USB-passthroughs to connect other devices like headsets and mice

The RK68 is an affordable keyboard that punches above its weight by including hot-swappable switches and multiple connectivity options. Its minor drawbacks like ABS keycaps and plastic construction can are easily forgiven considering its low price.