Keyboards are becoming an art form. Today, you can find enthusiasts who are as passionate about their mechanical keyboards as anyone who collects sneakers, comics, video games, and anything else you can think of.
As with any collectible or fashion item, the most valuable items are those with unusual aesthetics or exclusivity – if they look interesting or hard to find, people want them. It’s the same with mechanical keyboards: The last decade has seen a resurgence of fashionable brands of mechanical keyboards.
You’ve probably heard of Razer, Corsair, SteelSeries and Logitech mechanical keyboards. However, there are many others who have not received the same attention. Gamers, especially Twitch streamers, are now making some of these lesser-known brands popular.
Whether it’s the design and feel of these keyboards, their aesthetics, or just the feeling they knew about them before anyone else, many people are starting to look to third-party and foreign retailers for the hottest new mechanical keyboards. In this article, let’s talk about four brands to look out for.
Ducky keyboards from Taiwanese company DuckyChannel International Co. are arguably the most recognizable brand on this list. Globally renowned players like Tfue have been spotted streaming using Ducky keyboards, and are arguably best known for collaborating with other popular brands to create loud and vibrant colors.
For example, Ducky partnered with Razer to release a version of their Ducky One 2 with Razer’s own key switches. Ducky’s more recent collaboration with the One 2 Mini is with Frozen Llama. They teamed up to release a sleek 60% keyboard with cyan, magenta and soft blue PBT keycaps. This release also only had 3000 keyboards.
However, Ducky branded models such as the Ducky Shine line are not satisfactory. Ducky Shine 7 features include dual PBT keys, Razer Chroma Broadcast support, Ducky Macro 2.0 and Ducky RGB proprietary software, three-level adjustable feet, RGB lighting and switching options, including nearly all Cherry MX color types.
Another advantage that adds a bit of mystery to buying Ducky keyboards is that they often come with extra spaces. For Ducky Shine 7, MechanicalKeyboards.com states: “You may get a Year of the Dog space, a Year of Pig space, or no extra space at all. We do not know what is in the box when your order is shipped. ”
Known for the Anne Pro and Anne Pro 2 models, Anne keyboards are manufactured by Obins. Both models are known for their compact 61-key design. The Anne Pro line removes each key to the right of the Backspace key, as well as the function line F1 – F12, in favor of a single function key.
Mechanical keyboards often have a reputation for being great keyboards for gaming, but the Anne Pro‘s design may not be right for this purpose. Although you can use a numeric string like F1 – F12 and WASD as arrows with a function key, many games will require easier access to these keys.
That said, Anne Pro 2, Aubin’s flagship keyboard, is great for basic typing. It comes with PBT keys, USB and BLE 4.0 connectivity support (including USB cable and Bluetooth adapter), RGB lighting, and a key remover.
Unlike many mechanical keyboards that come with Cherry MX switches, Anne Pro and Anne Pro 2 come with Gateron switches – blue, red, and brown. The Gateron is often said to have smoother and less scratching switches compared to Cherry.
You can learn more about Anne’s keyboards and find them listed on the Obins (non-English) and Newegg official website.
Leopold keyboards often appeal to niche enthusiasts who truly love low-forehead mechanical keyboards with a retro aesthetic. While there are a few brighter models such as the FC750R Swedish Edition, most Leopold keyboards come in gray and black, although many are two-tone.
Leopold keyboards also have some very interesting layouts. For example, the FC980M lacks the lower-left number pad key for a more compact design than the arrow keys. The FC660M has a 65% layout with two keys hanging in the upper right corner.
I have yet to see a backlit Leopold model, and the vast majority are equipped with PBT keys and Cherry MX switches – black, brown, blue and red, although many also offer a special Silent Red, the FC980M additionally offers Clear, and the FC750R additionally offers silver.
One of the brightest Leopold models is FC980C black dye. It features black on black (or very dark gray) PBT keys and Topre 45g switches. Leopold keyboards are not particularly bright, but they are not lacking in useful options.
Akko is one of the most versatile keyboard brands that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s not like Leopold at all – with Akko, you get crazy colors and a huge variety when it comes to lighting, shell patterns and other aesthetics.
Like Ducky, some of Akko’s coolest keyboards are the result of collaboration. Coincidentally, one of their closest collaborators is Ducky – like the Akko X Ducky 3084, which has three body and keycap colors (black, blue, and pink) engraved 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
The main advantage of Akko is not only a variety of colors, but also switches and keyboard layouts. You’ll find Akko keyboards with Cherry MX or Gateron switches, full-size, keyboardless, and 60% layouts, and a few other styles. Akko is difficult to fit in a box due to the wide variety of keyboards it produces.
However, if you’re looking for colorful mechanical keyboards with some of the nicest spacebar keys in the industry, Akko is worth checking out.
You can learn more about Akko keyboards and find them in the list on the Akko official website (not in English) and Newegg
Whether it’s thick PBT keycaps, compact bezels, clicky and tactile key switches, or just a beautiful assortment of colors – these four brands have everything you need if you want to impress with a new mechanical keyboard.