Should You Get a Hot-Swappable Keyboard?

Personalization of  PC and equipment is more accessible now with replaceable parts available. So, wouldn’t it be nice if we could customize our keyboards too?

Now it is possible with hot-swappable keyboards. But what is a hot-swappable keyboard?

Instead of getting different keyboards for different styles and purposes, you can now change your keys to get an all-in-one experience using the hot-swappable keyboard.

So, why should you get a hot-swappable keyboard?

Hot-swappable keyboards are best suited for gamers as users can replace the keys for different clicks, feels, sound, etc., but anyone who likes to customize can use them. They are flexible, easy to repair and swap, and great for changing typing experience.

 

 

Womier K61 60% Keyboard, Hot-Swappable Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Hot-Swappable Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (Source: Amazon)

 

Hot-swappable keyboards are a fairly new concept. So, how do we know if we need one?

Read on to find out the pros and cons of hot-swappable keyboards and specifications to decide for yourself.

What is a Hot-Swappable Keyboard?

Hot swapping essentially refers to computing parts that we can swap while running without affecting the computing performance.

They are keyboards with keys that are replaceable without soldering.

You can replace many components of a PC according to your preference. But, the personalization of the keyboard was pretty limited.

The good news is, now, with hot-swappable keyboards, you can personalize your keyboard easily.

Simply put, hot-swap feature on keyboards allows users to remove and insert keys without the need for soldering, which can be pretty complicated.

Hot-swappable Keyboard
Hot-swappable Keyboard (Source: Pc Byte)

You can pull out the keys without even turning your PC or keyboard off.

Hot-swappable keyboards have plate-mounted switches instead of PCB-mounted switches, which have switches soldered to the PCB (Printed Circuit Board).

Should you Get a Hot-Swappable Keyboard?

Hot-swappable keyboards are very useful for gamers and personalization.

However, it is usually labeled a premium feature that is not highly essential but is undoubtedly an excellent addition to your PC.

If you are a gaming enthusiast with different switch needs, then a hot-swappable keyboard is perfect for you. You can easily change the way your keyboard looks and the key features on the fly.

what is hot swappable keyboard
RK ROYAL KLUDGE RK61 Wired (Source: Amazon)

Advantages of Hot-Swappable Keyboard

Hot-swappable Keyboards are preferred for their wide range of benefits. In addition to their ease of flexibility and repair, they are easy for lubing.

1. It is Flexible

You can easily swap the keys on a hot-swappable keyboard without the need for special tools. They are quite easy to use and flexible. You can use different keys with a different click, feel, etc.

Hot swappable KeyboardNormal keyboards
The keys can be swapped easily without soldering.The keys are soldered. Keys are only swappable if pockets are soldered in.
Easy repair by removal of keysWhole keyboard should be repaired
Limited Layout optionsMany Layout options
Experience different feels, clicks of keys as per need through customization.Users can only experience one kind of specialized sound, click and feel.

2. Easier Switch Repairs

If any of the switches on hot-swappable keyboards are faulty, you can easily replace them.

For example, if any of your keys stopped working in a hot-swappable keyboard like Koi Co (Koi61) Hot-Swappable Keyboard, then you can pop out the keys to check for faults.

Your keyboard and PC can run while doing it so that it won’t take you a minute.

Meanwhile, you will have to change the PCB or solder different keys on standard PCB soldered keyboards. Easy switch repair leads to a longer life for your keyboard.

Watch the video to get more information on replacing switches,

3. Easier Lubing Experience

Lubing is not an absolute necessity for your keyboard. However, it helps a lot in improving the clicks of your mechanical keyboard, reduces tactile bumps, and reduces the rattle.

To lube your PCB soldered keyboards, you need to remove the keys through soldering, which can take longer.

However, hot-swappable keyboards do not need soldering to remove the keys so you can quickly finish the lubing process.

If your keyboard is hot-swappable, you can completely remove the switches without desoldering them.

You can easily remove the switches with a switch puller, making the procedure much more efficient.

4. Easy Personalization

There are many possibilities of hot-swapping, and each swap of keys is independent. So, you can choose keys with different attributes and arrange them on your keyboard.

You can choose different colored keys and create a layout of colors as per your choice. You can also choose between the switch types: linear, tactile, clicky.

Personalized Keyboard (Source: Unsplash)

Disadvantages of Hot-Swappable Keyboard

Although hot-swappable keyboards are quite useful, they lack in certain aspects such as durability.

1. Reduced Durability and Reliability

Hot-swappable keys are not reliable and durable. PCB with sockets causes friction with the pins, which causes them to scratch and eventually wear out.

Constantly removing and inserting the switches can also damage the components of the keyboard.

The socket likely breaks after 4-5 hot swaps of the entire keyboard. If single-socket breaks, the keyboard is useless.

A special tool is required to remove the keys, which can break the switch housing of the keyboard.

There are limited swap times before the sockets wear out. For instance, Kailh hot-swap sockets have only 100 swap cycles.

2. Not Available on Every Keyboard

Hot-swappable keys only work on hot-swappable keyboards. PCB keyboards need to have pockets soldered into them to fit hot swappable keys on them.

In addition, you cannot use half build plates either using a hot-swap PCB. The switches will not attach firmly to the PCB board compared to the soldered switches.

Therefore, the alphas switches are practically suspended, causing a risk of damage to your hot-swap PCB.

3. Limited Layout Option

Hot-swappable keyboards have limited layout options as compared to PCB soldered keyboards.

Creating hot-swap pockets require some expertise, and they use extra space on the PCB board. So, there are limited layout options.

You are limited to one or more layout options while using hot-swappable keyboards.

NEWMEN GM610 60% Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, (Source: Amazon)

4. Malfunction of Keys

The sound of keys is not as dense as soldered keys due to a lack of soldering. High reverberation also causes extended ping from the keys.

The electrical connection can be unstable, which causes the misfiring of keystrokes and switch wobble.

If you prefer mechanical keyboards, read the article; How to Get Used to a New Mechanical Keyboard?

Are all Keyboards Hot-Swappable?

Hot-swap features are not available on every keyboard as a default. However, you can add this feature to other keyboards, too, by modification.

Moreover, due to limited layout, many mechanical keyboards and gaming keyboards still work with soldered keys. You can convert soldered keyboards into hot swaps by soldering or adding mill max sockets.

Watch this video for guidance on converting a normal keyboard to a hot-swappable keyboard.

Read about; Are Gaming Keyboard Better for Typing?

Does Hot-Swappable Keyboard Work with all Switches?

Hot-swappable keyboards have sockets that work with certain switches, while some keyboards work with most. All switches work with Cherry MX switch.

The switches by themselves are not hot-swappable. It is the socket that connects switches to PCB that is hot-swappable.

Cherry Mx Blue Switch
Cherry Mx Blue Switch (Source: Amazon)

Mechanical keyboards have two types of switches; three-pin and five-pin switches.

Five pin switches have two extra plastic pins for more stability. All five-pin switches will support three-pin switches. However, you can covert five-pin into three pins by clipping two extra legs.

Keyboards like Drop ALT are only compatible with three-pin switches. However, customer keyboards are compatible with most switches.

KeyboardsCompatible Switches
Rakk Lam Ang Pro Outemu switches
Skyloong GK61Optical switches
Drop CTRL3 pin switches

What to Look for in a Hot-Swappable Keyboard Switch?

Hot-swappable keyboards must be chosen with keyboard size, Keycaps, and features like travel distance, actuation points, etc., in consideration.

1. Keyboard Size and Layout

Knowing the keyboard size to choose a keyboard switch seems a little far-fetched.

However, keyboard sizes are important if you know the number of switches required.

The common types of keys are Full-sized, TKL, and 60%. Other types like 75%, 65%, and 40% are also available.

As the size of the keyboard gets smaller, the number of keys is reduced. For instance, a full-sized keyboard requires extra keys, which can be quite expensive.

As for smaller-sized keyboards, it is easier to customize them by buying keys as they require fewer keys.

Keyboard SizeNumber of keysKeys reduced
Full sized (100%)104None
1800 Compact Full-sized103-104Number Pad
TKL (87/80 ) keyboard87Number Pad
75% Keyboard80-84Number Pad
65% Keyboard66-69Number Pad
Function Row
60% Keyboard58-65Number Pad
Home Cluster
Function Row
40% Keyboard40-44Number Pad
Home Cluster
Function Row
Arrow Keys
Number Keys (Top Row)
Number Pad17Home Cluster
Function Row
Arrow Keys
Number Keys (Top Row)
Full Alphabet
Macro Pad8-16Number Pad
Home Cluster
Function Row
Arrow Keys
Number Keys (Top Row)
Full Alphabet

2. Keycaps 

Keycaps are not part of the switch but are responsible for the key noise when pressed. They cover the switches and are detachable.

However, not every switch is compatible with all keycaps. Cherry MX switches go with the most common keycaps. But, brands like Razor keycaps have their switches.

Cherry MX switches need keycaps with a+ shape that fit into the switches well, while other brands may have different shape requirements.

Razer Doubleshot PBT Keycap (Source: Amazon)

3. Switch Compatibility

Not all switches are compatible with all keyboard stems. Please go through the table below for some common switches and their compatible switches.

SwitchSwitch compatibility
LogitechRomer G stems
Kailh Box Switches for Mechanical KeyboardsKahil Low profile stem
Logitech GX Red SwitchCherry stem
Kailh x LTC Box Switches for Mechanical KeyboardCherry Stem
Gateron Zealio V2 Switch TactileCherry Stem

4. Reset Point

Reset point refers to the distance measure for the released button to be deactivated after pressing it.

For instance, light Linear Cherry MX Red switches have an actuation point of 2 mm and reset at 1.8 mm, which are very close to each other.

When the actuation point and reset point are close, it increases speed. It is faster to press on key repeatedly. So, this is very suitable for gamers.

5. Switch Type

Switches are of different types specified by linear, tactile, and clicky. Gamers generally prefer linear switches as they are the smoothest.

Speed switches have a short travel distance and actuation point, which allows for fast tapping of keys and is ideal for gaming. Tactile switches are best for typing due to their accuracy.

Optical switches operate on lasers, so less physical contact leads to minor friction damage. They are durable, stable, and fast.

Low-profile switches are shorter and have lower actuation points and travel distances. They have fast inputs suitable for gaming.

Drop Halo True Keyboard Switches — Plate Mounted, Tactile (Source: Amazon)

Best Hot-Swappable Keyboards in 2022

Hot-swappable keyboards are very popular in the market. Check out the best Hot-swappable keyboards in 2022.

Hot Swappable KeyboardsFeature and PriceProduct Image
Drop ALT Mechanical KeyboardHot-swappable 3-pin sockets
Customizable RGB lighting
QMK firmware
PBT keycaps

Cost: $200
Keychron K6 68-Key Mechanical KeyboardRGB lighting
Mac and Windows Compatible
5-pin Hot Swap Sockets
Cost: $69
Kemove Shadow/SnowfoxCompact layout
Mac and Windows compatible
3-pin hotswap
Cost: $98.99
Skyloong GK61Optical hot-swap
Water-resistant
RGB lighting
Cost: $91.66
Hexgears Impulse Hot-swap Mechanical KeyboardBest for typing
Full size hotswap
3-pin sockets
Cost: $99
Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard (GMMK)3-pin hotswap
RGB effects
Detachable cable
Cost: $136
DIERYA DK61E 60% Mechanical Gaming Keyboardoil-proof ABS keycaps
Best for gaming
Cost: $47.99
MOTOSPEED Mechanical KeyboardHigh quality and reliable performance.
Strong compatibility with any kind of device
Cost: $69.90
ANNE PRO 2, 60% Wired/Wireless Mechanical KeyboardCompact and minimal design.
Cost: $65

The Bottom Line

Hot-swappable keyboards are undoubtedly great for customization. You don’t have to be a gamer or fast typer to need hot-swap keyboards.

Personalization of keyboards is for everyone. In a nutshell, the hot-swappable keyboard is switch-compatible and efficient enough to improve speed and accuracy whether you’re gaming or typing.

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