Instead of buying separate Keyboards for different styles and purposes, you can now use the hot-swappable Keyboard to change your keys for an all-in-one experience.
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.
Table of Contents Show
- What is a Hot-Swappable Keyboard?
- Should You Get a Hot-Swappable Keyboard?
- Are all Keyboards Hot-Swappable?
- Does Hot-Swappable Keyboard Work with all Switches?
- What to Look for in a Hot-Swappable Keyboard Switch?
- Best Hot-Swappable Keyboards in 2023
- The Bottom Line
What is a Hot-Swappable Keyboard?
Hot-swapping refers to computing parts we can swap while running without affecting the computing performance.
They are Keyboards with replaceable keys without soldering.
You can replace many components of a PC according to your preference. 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.
You can pull out the keys without 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.
A hot-swappable Keyboard is perfect if you are a gaming enthusiast with different switch needs.
You can easily change your Keyboard’s appearance and the key features on the fly.
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 to lube.
1. It is Flexible
You can easily swap the keys on a hot-swappable Keyboard without needing special tools.
They are quite easy to use and flexible. You can use different keys with different clicks, feel, etc.
|Hot swappable Keyboard||Normal 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 keys||Whole keyboard should be repaired|
|Limited Layout options||Many 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 stop 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 it won’t take 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 improve 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 remove the switches without desoldering them.
You can easily remove the switches with a puller, making the procedure much more efficient.
4. Easy Personalization
There are many possibilities for hot-swapping, and each swap of keys is independent.
Therefore, 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.
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 must have pockets soldered into them to fit hot swappable keys.
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 alpha 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 requires 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.
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.
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, many mechanical and gaming Keyboards still work with soldered keys due to the limited layout.
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.
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.
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, custome Keyboards are compatible with most switches.
|Rakk Lam Ang Pro||Outemu switches|
|Skyloong GK61||Optical switches|
|Drop CTRL||3 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 Size||Number of keys||Keys reduced|
|Full sized (100%)||104||None|
|1800 Compact Full-sized||103-104||Number Pad|
|TKL (87/80 ) keyboard||87||Number Pad|
|75% Keyboard||80-84||Number Pad|
|65% Keyboard||66-69||Number Pad
|60% Keyboard||58-65||Number Pad
|40% Keyboard||40-44||Number Pad
Number Keys (Top Row)
|Number Pad||17||Home Cluster
Number Keys (Top Row)
|Macro Pad||8-16||Number Pad
Number Keys (Top Row)
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.
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.
|Logitech||Romer G stems|
|Kailh Box Switches for Mechanical Keyboards||Kahil Low profile stem|
|Logitech GX Red Switch||Cherry stem|
|Kailh x LTC Box Switches for Mechanical Keyboard||Cherry Stem|
|Gateron Zealio V2 Switch Tactile||Cherry Stem|
4. Reset Point
The 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 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.
Best Hot-Swappable Keyboards in 2023
Hot-swappable Keyboards are very popular in the market.
Check out the best Hot-swappable Keyboards in 2023.
|Hot Swappable Keyboards||Feature and Price|
|Drop ALT Mechanical Keyboard||Hot-swappable 3-pin sockets
Customizable RGB lighting
|Keychron K6 68-Key Mechanical Keyboard||RGB lighting
Mac and Windows Compatible
5-pin Hot Swap Sockets
|Kemove Shadow/Snowfox||Compact layout
Mac and Windows compatible
|Skyloong GK61||Optical hot-swap
|Hexgears Impulse Hot-swap Mechanical Keyboard||Best for typing
Full size hotswap
|Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard (GMMK)||3-pin hotswap
|DIERYA DK61E 60% Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||oil-proof ABS keycaps
Best for gaming
|MOTOSPEED Mechanical Keyboard||High quality and reliable performance.
Strong compatibility with any kind of device
|ANNE PRO 2, 60% Wired/Wireless Mechanical Keyboard||Compact and minimal design.
The Bottom Line
Hot-swappable Keyboards are undoubtedly great for customization. You do not have to be a gamer or a 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 gaming or typing speed and accuracy.