If you like mechanical keyboards, you certainly have a look at the deep world of custom builds. Custom mechanical keyboards can be amazing pieces of technology, but they are also expensive and complicated to build. And soldering switches is part of the building process that can be intimidating for many. This is where hot swapping comes in.
A keyboard that is hot-swappable means that the printed circuit board (which is simply the printed circuit board in the keyboard) has special sockets so that you can snap switches in place and pull them out without ever touching a soldering gun. This means that when it's time for a change, you don't have to spend hours desoldering switches.
So if you are looking for a hot-swappable keyboard to taste the custom mechanical keyboard world, these are your best options.
Some things to watch out for
Although the market for hot-swappable keyboards is currently limited, this does not mean that you have to settle for every board.
- Layout: As soon as you start viewing mechanical keyboards, you will quickly realize how many layouts there are. All boards on this list use the Full, tenkeyless (TKL), 75% or 60% layouts. TKL and 75% boards have the most keys on a full board, minus the numeric keypad. And 60% boards are ultra-compact, usually cheaper, but lose a lot of keys (such as the special arrow keys). You must decide which layout works for you.
- Switch compatibility: All boards on this list are compatible with any MX-style switch (brands such as Cherry, Gateron, Kailh and Outemu). [1
- Build quality: Mechanical keyboards are not cheap, so you want to make sure that the housing around the PCB and the keycaps are worth the price. When it comes to keycaps in particular, you want double-shot keycaps for maximum life – there are also the various plastics such as ABS and PBT that can be used, with PBT generally being the better (but more expensive) option.  Now that you know everything you need to know, here are the best hot-swappable mechanical keyboards on the market.
Best overall: DROP CRTL mechanical keyboard
DROP & # 39; s CRTL keyboard has been praised for its extensive customization options, and for good reason. It has fully programmable macros, a removable USB-C cable, RGB backlight and – especially for this list – hot-swappable switches.
You also have a good number of options when ordering the keyboard. You can choose between a low or high profile and six different key switches (Cherry MX Blue, Cherry MX Brown, Halo Clear, Halo True, Kaihua Box White and Kaihua Box Silver). You can also get a barebones board, that is just the body without switches or keycaps, if you plan to replace it immediately.
In terms of build quality, the body of the board has a smooth aluminum (with an RGB strip underneath) to hold the board firmly and the double shot of PBT keycaps look great and feel great. It also has magnetic rubber feet that help tilt the board and hold it in place.
To adjust RGB lighting and program macro & # 39; s, you must go to the DROP online keyboard configurator, which allows you to adjust everything and then flash it directly into the keyboard memory. (This means that the adjustment will be saved regardless of which computer you connect to.)
For those looking for a taste of the custom mechanical keyboard world, the CRTL is certainly the closest you can get without fully boarding .
Best overall  The compact choice: DROP ALT mechanical keyboard
If saving office space is your biggest concern, the DROP ALT has all the fantastic features and profound adjustments that the CRTL has, but in a smaller form factor. The ALT uses a keyboard layout of 65%, which means that compared to the CRTL, the special function keys and five navigation keys are missing.
All remaining keys are grouped, which may seem to be tight, but if you take the time to adjust, you will never think about it again.
It has the same switch options as the CRTL, and you can also get it in a high or low profile (with the high profile in black and low in gray see above.
A mid-range option: Gloriously modular mechanical gaming keyboard
If anything but the price of the CRTL and ALT sounds great to you, the Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard (GMMK) gives you a lot the same for less.
The keyboard is hot-swappable and you can get it in three sizes: full, TKL or 60 %.The actual board has a sand-blasted aluminum plate, keycaps made of double ABS plastic, fold-out feet around it board, and you have the option of 13 different key switches, excluding the version with barebones.
You also get full RGB lighting and the ability to program macros if you use the GMMK software. are installs.
The simplest option: Logitech G PRO X
If you need a safe and easy route to hot-swapping, Logitech is your best choice.
The G PRO X has many of the same functions that we have already seen: fully customizable RGB lighting, programmable macros (although it is strangely limited to the function keys) and the choice between three switch types (GX Blue Clicky, GX Red Linear or GX Brown Tactile). While those are the only options in the box, it is worth noting that the board is compatible with any MX-style switch.
You can also use Logitech & # 39; s G Hub software to adjust RGB lighting and program macro & # 39; s, and to create program-specific shortcuts with the easy to use design with drag and drop . It also means that you can synchronize RGB lighting with other Logitech products that you own.
The USB-C cord is removable and the rubber feet have three angles to choose from. The board uses the TKL layout, with the only note that there are two additional buttons above the print screen and the pause keys, which enable a game mode and can adjust the brightness.
This is definitely a case where you have a premium for simplicity, but if you want the benefits that come from buying from a more established company, it may be worth it for you.