Skip straight to the fun part with these kits that set your custom board up for success
Building a mechanical keyboard lets you craft the perfect input device to suit your preferences. But some parts of the process can be a bit fiddly. Just for starters, you have to make sure your PCB fits your case and you have all the cables you need, and you also need to devote more thought to the concept of stabilizers than most people probably do in an entire lifetime.
Thankfully, you don’t need to let those weird little snags put you off from the process. Instead, picking up the right DIY mechanical keyboard kit will let you cover the fundamentals while leaving the most important (and fun) choices squarely in your hands. Here’s what you need to know to find the perfect custom keyboard kit.
Looking to create your own custom keyboard? This guide will show you all the parts you need to get started.
A mechanical keyboard kit is a bundle of compatible keyboard components that specialist retailers sell together, sometimes pre-assembled. These kits typically include everything you need to make a functioning mechanical keyboard aside from the key switches and keycaps. Since the switches and keycaps are both the easiest parts to install and have arguably the biggest influence on the look, feel, and sound of the keyboard, buying a “build your own” mechanical keyboard kit is a practical shortcut toward creating your ideal board.
The specific contents of mechanical keyboard kits vary, but most include at least a PCB (the “brain” of the board that registers key presses and runs any built-in firmware) with hot-swappable switch sockets, a case, and the stabilizers required to ensure larger keys move up and down consistently no matter where they’re pressed.
Did You Know?:Our complete guide to computer keyboard sizes will help you find the perfect layout to match your setup and preferences.
Now that we’ve established the components included in the typical custom mechanical keyboard kit, here are five of the best kits to get started with, representing a range of keyboard sizes, aesthetics, and manufacturers.
The KBDFans Odin V2 is a premium kit made for those who want to invest in building a beautiful, near full-size keyboard (it includes a slightly compacted numpad and a simplified nav cluster for a more manageable width). The Odin V2 features a fully aluminum case with a gleaming weight bar on the bottom of the board, crowned by the lone RGB element of a glowing logo. With built-in case foam, switch pads, and silicone socks, an Odin build is made to be solid in both feel and sound. Divinity doesn’t come cheap, of course — kits start at $428 without any of the extras.
The Drop Ctrl barebones kit is an excellent pick for anyone interested in building a tenkeyless or TKL board. Though its low-profile, monochromatic design is minimalist when powered off, its potent combination of per-key RGB lighting and an underlit case bring it to life with a rainbow of colors (or a single color if you prefer something slightly more reserved). Take your pick between black or space grey, with either option starting at $150 — you can even build your own keyboard kit by bundling in switches and keycaps and get all your shopping done in one place.
The NK87 is another tenkeyless option with a very different look, thanks to its injection-molded plastic frame: You can go reserved with a beige or smoke, you can get a little more lively with blossom, or you can even bring your retro video game console dreams back to life with atomic purple. This stylish and solidly built kit starts at $135, but you can also opt for the $225 aluminum edition if you prefer a little more heft to your board.
Did You Know?:The HHKB layout is another great space-saving 60% option, and its enthusiast-favorite electrostatic Topre switches create a uniquely satisfying typing experience. Check out the latest HHKB collection here.
Continuing to move downward in size (and remember, the fewer keys a keyboard has, the cheaper and easier it will be to put together), we have this compact yet impactful representative of 60% keyboards. The kit is offered in both Bluetooth/wired and a wired-only variant starting at $80, but it would be tough not to opt for the flexibility of wireless typing for just $9 more. Speaking of flexibility, the GK61XS also includes a split spacebar module that you can swap in to get extra functionality out of the biggest key on the board.
Smaller still is this Planck mechanical keyboard that comes from the wide and wonderful world of 40% keyboards. Plancks are well-known among mechanical keyboard enthusiasts for their ortholinear layout, which positions each key in clean columns and rows rather than staggering their positions from one row to the next. The distinctly clean and compact look of this seventh-generation kit is ideal for fitting in smaller workspaces (or leaving lots of room in roomier arrangements). While the kits start at $129, note that you’ll likely want to spend an extra $15 for your choice of steel or POM plastic plates as well for a firmer, more resonant typing experience.
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