Update, 3/10/23: Article verified, updated, and expanded for 2023.
Why Choose a Mechanical Keyboard?
If you haven’t used a mechanical keyboard before, you may wonder what the hype is about. There are many reasons why you should choose one over a membrane keyboard or your laptop’s built-in version.
Mechanical keyboards are customizable to your personal preferences. You can choose the way it looks, sounds, and feels. Customization is just one of many benefits of mechanical options compared to membrane models, such as greater durability and build quality.
What to Look for in a Mechanical Keyboard
Choosing your first keyboard can be challenging, especially if you are new to mechanical versions. It is an understatement to say there are many options. It boils down to a few elements: sound, feel, and features.
- Switches: In a mechanical keyboard, switches will determine your typing experience, so those are the most important items to prioritize. There are three main kinds: linear, tactile, and clicky. Linear switches are the quietest and don’t have a noticeable tactile bump. Tactile switches have a bump you can feel while you type, but they aren’t too loud. Clicky switches have an evident clicking noise and a tactile bump.
- Hot Swap: Arguably the most desirable feature in any mechanical keyboard is “hot swap” capability. This means you can change the switches and swap them out for any others you want. You have to watch out with budget and off-brand keyboards—they are often only swappable with certain brands, such as Outemu. True hot swappable keyboards will be compatible with mechanical switches from any company.
- Ergonomics: Next, one often-overlooked feature of a good mechanical keyboard to consider is comfort and ergonomics. This is important to note since an estimated 60% of Americans deal with chronic pain every day, many of which involve limited use of hands and fingers like arthritis and carpal tunnel. If you spend a lot of time typing, you could risk developing or exacerbating an issue like this due to repetitive muscle strain. A mechanical keyboard can be customized to be comfortable for long-term use, so you can do all the typing you need without having cramped fingers and wrists.
- Design: Other features that you should look for in a mechanical keyboard include RGB backlighting, customizable backlighting, wired or wireless functionality, and size. These come down to personal preference. Some people might not care about backlighting, while it will be a must for others. Similarly, the keyboard’s size is also totally subjective. We will be focusing on smaller size keyboards that are more portable.
7 Best Portable Mechanical Keyboards
No matter the features you are looking for, there is a great portable mechanical keyboard for you. These top seven include great options for all types of users while prioritizing portability.
Best Overall: Logitech MX Mechanical Mini
- ✓ Compact design makes it easy to transport and take with you
- ✓ Offers an outstanding level of comfort with its low-profile design
- ✓ Durable and reliable, with a 50-million keystroke life cycle
- ✗ Expensive compared to other mechanical keyboards
The Logitech MX Mechanical Mini is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for an all-around comfortable mechanical typing experience that isn’t too loud and fits easily in your bag. This is a particularly great option if you want to use your mechanical keyboard in the office—it has a clean, professional look and isn’t too noisy.
The low-profile keys make the Mechanical Mini super comfortable to type on, although it’s not for everyone. However, this could be the perfect keyboard for you if you’re worried about wrist strain. It is important to note that the keycaps and switches are hot-swappable.
Logitech MX Mechanical Mini Wireless Illuminated Keyboard
A great portable keyboard for almost any situation.
Best Budget Option: MageGee MK-Box 60%
- ✓ Compact and lightweight design
- ✓ Fully Programmable Keys
- ✓ Customizable RGB lighting
- ✗ No dedicated media keys
You don’t have to spend much money to get into mechanical keyboards. The MageGee MK-Box 60% is a $30 mechanical keyboard with two different switch options, single-color backlighting, and a portable form factor. This is a great place to start if you’re just starting with mechanical keyboards. You can try one out without losing much money if you don’t like it or want different switches.
The switches are not hot-swappable, but you can choose between clicky blue or linear red versions. Plus, the keycaps are swappable. You can choose your own keycaps if you ever decide to do a little bit of beginner customization.
Portable 60% Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, MageGee MK-Box LED Backlit Compact 68 Keys Mini Wired Office Keyboard
An affordable portable mechanical keyboard for everyone.
Best Compact DIY Option: Drop + OLKB Planck Mechanical Keyboard Kit
- ✓ Fully customizable to fit your specific needs and preferences.
- ✓ High-quality parts and components used in construction.
- ✓ Compact and portable design makes it great for traveling.
- ✗ Assembly can be time-consuming and difficult for those who are not mechanically inclined.
If you are interested in building your own custom portable mechanical keyboard, it’s hard to beat a Drop kit. The Drop + OLKB Planck keyboard kit is the perfect base for an ultra-compact keyboard. It slashes off the number pad, function keys, and even the top number row to minimize the size as much as possible.
Drop has plenty of resources for building a custom keyboard using this kit. It already comes with almost everything you need, though. You have to choose your switches and keycaps and pop them in. The fun part is, you can completely customize your keyboard to make it exactly the way you want it. Conveniently, Drop also offers a travel case designed explicitly for Planck-sized keyboards, which is great for protecting your custom build on the go.
DROP + OLKB PLANCK MECHANICAL KEYBOARD KIT V6
The ideal portable mechanical keyboard for DIYers.
Best Backlit Option: HK Gaming GK61
- ✓ Affordably priced
- ✓ Compact and lightweight design
- ✓ Easy to use and program with hotkeys
- ✗ No kickstand
Backlighting is an awesome feature to have in a mechanical keyboard, and you shouldn’t have to give it up to have a portable size. The HK Gaming GK61 is a great option for a compact keyboard with great backlighting features that also don’t break the bank.
The GK61 comes with Gateron optical switches. It is hot-swappable, but you can only swap for other optical versions. It has a 60% layout and all the keys you need while easily fitting in most backpacks. The backlighting is full RGB with full customization, which is fantastic for a keyboard that’s less than $100. It’s compatible with both Mac and PC, as well.
HK GAMING GK61 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
A portable mechanical keyboard that will please the eye.
Best Wired Option: SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL
- ✓ Fully customizable RGB lighting
- ✓ Soft cushioned wrist rest
- ✓ Durable mechanical switches for a responsive typing experience
- ✗ Loud keys
The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL is one of the best keyboards on this list—it is incredibly thin, includes full RGB backlighting, and features gaming-level performance. Plus, it has a magnetic wrist rest for extra comfort for those long typing sessions. You can also choose the switches your keyboard comes with without DIY customization.
Going with a wired mechanical keyboard means you don’t need to worry about messing with any wireless Bluetooth settings. You can simply plug in and get rolling. Wired keyboards are also faster, which is a good feature to have if you want to use your portable keyboard for gaming.
SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL Compact Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
If you prefer a hardwired connection, the Apex 7 is for you.
Best High-End Option: Ficihp Mechanical Keyboard
- ✓ Mechanical keys provide a comfortable typing experience.
- ✓ The touchscreen is a convenient and efficient way to interact with the keyboard.
- ✓ Multifunctional keyboard allows for a variety of tasks to be completed quickly and easily.
- ✗ The touchscreen may be difficult to use for some.
If you have extra money to spend on a fancy keyboard with some unnecessary but admittedly cool bonus features, take a look at the Ficihp Mechanical Keyboard. This unique keyboard has a built-in external display that you can use as an extension of your computer’s screen. It’s even a touch screen—and way bigger than that little touch bar on Mac laptops.
Conveniently, a case is included right out of the box, so you can easily protect your high-end keyboard. The Ficihp is hot-swappable, as well, and features a keycap and switch puller in case you do decide to dabble in some DIY customization.
Ficihp Mechanical Keyboard, Built-in 12.6 Inch Touchscreen
If you have the extra cash, this portable mechanical keyboard is hard to beat.
Best Retro Option: 7KEYS TW1867
- ✓ Bluetooth connection for easy use with your devices
- ✓ Aesthetic design replicates a classic typewriter
- ✓ Quiet and low-noise operation
- ✗ Expensive compared to other modern keyboards
Those who want a timeless typing experience should try out the 7KEYS TW1867, a typewriter-style mechanical keyboard. It has classic round keycaps and hot-swappable switches. There’s also built-in backlighting and a convenient stand where the paper would go on a real typewriter.
You can use this to stand up your tablet or phone, so the TW1867 is particularly useful if you want to type on those devices. This is a Bluetooth keyboard, so you don’t have to worry about any wires getting in the way on the go.
7KEYS Electric Typewriter Vintage with Upgraded Mechanical Bluetooth 5.0
This typewriter-themed mechanical keyboard travels in style.
The Perfect Portable Mechanical Keyboard
Everyone has different needs and preferences, but that’s the beauty of mechanical keyboards. There is so much variety and room for customization that you can get exactly what you want. The perfect keyboard doesn’t have to be bulky, either. These examples are proof that they can be portable, too.