Quirky, collectible, clicky and really useful
Keyboards are becoming an art form. Today, you can find enthusiasts that are are as passionate about their mechanical keyboards as anyone who collects sneakers, comic books, video games, or anything else you can think of.
Just like with any collectible or piece of fashion, the most prized items are usually those with quirky aesthetics or exclusivity – if it looks interesting or is hard to find, people want it. The same holds true with mechanical keyboards, and there has been a surge in hipsteresque mechanical keyboard brands over the past decade.
You’ve probably heard of Razer, Corsair, SteelSeries, and Logitech for their mechanical keyboards. There are plenty more out there that haven’t got the same attention though. Gamers, especially Twitch streamers, are now lifting some of these lesser-known brands to popularity.
Whether it is due to the build and feel of these keyboards, their aesthetics, or just the feeling of finding out about them before everyone else, many people are beginning to look towards third-party and overseas retailers for the hottest new mechanical keyboards. In this article, let’s talk about four brands that you should keep an eye out for.
Ducky keyboards, from Taiwan-based DuckyChannel International Co., are probably the most recognized brand on this list. World-famous gamers such as Tfue have been seen on stream using Ducky keyboards, and they may be known best for collaborations with other popular brands, producing loud and vibrant colorways.
For example, Ducky has collaborated with Razer to release a version of its Ducky One 2 model featuring Razer’s very own key switches. A more recent One 2 Mini collaboration Ducky has had is with Frozen Llama. The two teamed up to release a sleek 60% keyboard featuring cyan, purple, and baby blue PBT keycaps. This release was also limited to just 3,000 keyboards.
However, Ducky’s proprietary models, such as the Ducky Shine line, are nothing to shrug at. Features of the Ducky Shine 7 include double-shot PBT keycaps, support for Razer Chroma Broadcast, Ducky Macro 2.0, and Ducky’s own RGB software, three-level adjustable feet, RGB backlighting, and switch options including almost every Cherry MX color type.
Another perk that adds a bit of mystique to buying a Ducky keyboard is that they will often ship with extra spacebars. For the Ducky Shine 7 model, MechanicalKeyboards.com states, “You may receive a Year of the Dog spacebar, Year of the Pig spacebar, or no extra spacebar at all. We do not know what’s in the box at the time of shipping your order.”
Anne keyboards, made famous by the Anne Pro and Anne Pro 2 models, are manufactured by Obins. Both models are known for their compact 61-key design. The Anne Pro line eliminates every key to the right of the Backspace key, as well as the F1–F12 function row, in favor of a single Function key.
Mechanical keyboards often come with a reputation of being great for gaming, but the Anne Pro’s design may not be best for this purpose. Although with the Function key, you can use the numerical row as F1–F12 and WASD as arrows, many games will demand easier access to these keys.
However, the Anne Pro 2, Obins’ flagship keyboard, is fantastic for basic typing purpose. It ships with PBT keycaps, support for connection via USB and BLE 4.0 (including a USB cable and Bluetooth adapter), RGB backlighting, and a key puller.
Unlike many mechanical keyboards which ship with Cherry MX switches, the Anne Pro and Anne Pro 2 feature Gateron switches – Blue, Red, and Brown. Gateron is often reviewed as having smoother and less scratchy switches when compared to Cherry.
Leopold keyboards often appeal to a niche set of enthusiasts who really love mechanical keyboards with a low-brow, retro aesthetic. Although they do feature some more colorful models, such as the FC750R Swedish Edition, most Leopold keyboards feature grays and blacks, although many of them are two-toned.
The unembellished style of Leopold keyboards carries over to its keyboards’ model names. While Ducky has the Shine and Anne has the Pro, Leopold is known for its FC750R, FC980M, FC660M, and similarly named models.
Leopold keyboards also feature a few very interesting layouts. For example, the FC980M eliminates the bottom-leftmost key of the number pad for a more compact design against the arrow keys. The FC660M features a 65% layout where two keys “hang” in its top-right corner.
I’ve yet to see a Leopold model with backlighting, and the vast majority feature PBT keycaps and Cherry MX switches – Black, Brown, Blue, and Red, although many also offer the special Silent Red, the FC980M additionally offers Clear, and the FC750R additionally offers Silver.
One of the most flashy Leopold models is the FC980C Black Dye. It features black-on-black (or very dark gray) PBT keycaps and Topre 45g switches. Leopold keyboards may not be about being flamboyant, but they come with no shortage of useful options.
Akko is one of the most versatile keyboards brands that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s nothing like Leopold – with Akko, you’re going to get crazy colorways and a huge variety when it comes to backlighting, shell patterns, and other aesthetics.
Like Ducky, some of Akko’s coolest keyboards are a product of collaborations. Coincidentally, one of their closest collaborators is Ducky—for example, the Akko X Ducky 3084, which features three shell and keycap colors (black, cyan, and pink) with engravings on the front of each key (instead of the top). There’s also the Akko X Ducky 3108S RGB, Akko X Ducky One 2 Skyline, and one of the loudest and wildest mechanical keyboards I’ve ever seen, the Akko X Ducky Shine 6 Year of the Monkey Limited Edition.
Again, though, just like Ducky, Akko’s solo models awesome. The Akko 3108 and 3087 models are its most famous, featuring versions such as the World Tour Beijing, 9009 Retro, Dragon Ball Z Vegeta, and Cupid.
The main draw to Akko is its variety, not only in colorways but also switches and keyboard layouts. You’ll find Akko keyboards with Cherry MX or Gateron switches, full-size, tenkeyless, and 60% layouts, and several other styles. It’s difficult to fit Akko into a box due to how wide a variety of keyboards it manufactures.
However, If you’re looking for colorful mechanical keyboards with some of the most beautiful spacebars in the industry, Akko is worth your attention.
Whether it’s those thick PBT keycaps, compact frames, clicky and tactile key switches, or just the beautiful assortment of colors, these four brands have everything you need if you’re looking to impress with a new mechanical keyboard.