What's a Hot Swappable Keyboard? Are They Really Worth It?


Jun 02 2023

A mechanical keyboard is no ordinary tool, it's an instrument. Your instrument. And much like a musician who opts for a custom guitar over a basic model, the magic lies in the customizability. Mechanical keyboards are the artisanal bread of the tech world - they're the thing that makes you say, "Oh, so that's how this should actually feel!" 

Forget the dull thud of a generic office keyboard. Welcome to a world where each keystroke delivers a satisfyingly tactile response, where you command a symphony of clicks that reverberate with your ideas, punctuating your productivity. Customize them with keycaps of your preference, or bathe your workspace in an RGB glow that mirrors your personality. It's a feast for the senses.

Mechanical Keyboards 101: Let’s get started

At their core, mechanical keyboards operate on an entirely different level compared to conventional office keyboards. They utilize mechanical switches, which provide a distinct type of feedback with each keystroke, akin to playing individual notes on a piano. These switches are what define the 'mechanical' in the mechanical keyboards. Each switch contains moving parts, typically a spring and a stem, which provide tactile and auditory feedback.

These switches come in three varieties: linear, tactile, and clicky, each catering to different user preferences. Gamers might prefer the smooth, uninterrupted keystrokes that linear switches provide. In contrast, tactile switches, with their noticeable bump halfway through the keypress, offer an intuitive feel that others often favor. Clicky switches, reminiscent of old-school typewriters, provide a pronounced audible click with each keypress, which programmers and vintage tech aficionados might enjoy. The beauty is in the variety - there's no absolute 'best' switch. It's all about what feels right to you.

A great way to find the mechanical switch best for you is with a switch sample pack. It includes 18 mechanical switch options and 4 O-Rings dampener types.

What makes a mechanical keyboard ‘hot swappable’?

Now that we've touched on the mechanical keyboards, let's discuss what makes a keyboard 'hot swappable.'  First and foremost, it’s important to note that not all mechanical keyboards have this feature. The magic of hot swapability lies in a special printed circuit board (PCB) - the heart of the keyboard - designed with special sockets, allowing you to change your switches with simple tools. This enables the user to pull out or replace a switch without having to solder it onto the board, making it a dream for customization 

and experimentation.

A board that is not hot swappable, on the other hand, would require soldering and much more effort to customize your build. What’s more, it paves the way for potentially damaging the board if you accidentally do something incorrectly, almost certainly voiding the warranty immediately. A hot swappable keyboard does not run any of these risks. 

A GMMK PRO Keyboard being customized

What are the benefits of a hot swappable keyboard?

Why choose a hot swappable keyboard? Customization freedom is one of the biggest advantages. Hot swappable keyboards allow you to swap out keycaps and switches with a simple removal tool. The ability to replace or experiment with switches and other modifications allows you to discover exactly what keyboard configuration is the best for you.

Another advantage of hotswap is practicality. With a conventional keyboard, a broken key usually means replacing the entire keyboard, which can be frustrating, costly, and wasteful. With a hot swappable keyboard, you can easily replace a faulty switch, making it a much more sustainable and economic choice for the long term. Without a doubt, it’s not only a more satisfying typing experience, but a much better investment overall.

What hotswap keyboard is best?

If you're considering stepping into the world of hot swappable keyboards, the GMMK 2 is an excellent starting point. It is the successor to the original GMMK, the world’s first hotswap keyboard. The name stands for Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard, and it was revolutionary in the keyboard community since it took customization to a whole new level, making it accessible and simple for all.  

The GMMK 2 builds on its predecessor's features with vastly improved acoustics, better tactility, and a premium solid aluminum top frame, compared to the GMMK 1's plastic frame. Priced at just $120, with free shipping for orders over $50 in the continental US, it offers exceptional value for money. While the GMMK 1 is about $80, the significant enhancements are well worth the extra bucks.

What size keyboard should I get?

The GMMK 2 comes in two sizes to suit different user preferences and space constraints. The 96% layout provides all the standard keys in a compact design, reducing the keyboard's size by 4% and saving valuable desk space.

For those who prefer an even more compact form factor, the GMMK 2 also offers a 65% keyboard. This compact variant retains the essential keys but omits the number pad, further saving space without compromising functionality.

If you want to go even smaller than 65%, the original GMMK has a Compact 60% keyboard layout for the ultimate space-saving design, giving your mouse plenty of space to move.

For those who are after the ultimate hot swappable keyboard experience, the GMMK PRO is the premium choice. This award-winning keyboard features top-of-the-line components, superior acoustics, and limitless customization options. It also includes an infinite-spin rotary knob for volume, which is clickable to pause and play audio. The GMMK PRO is a 75% keyboard, and it takes the entire keyboard experience to a whole new level.

Let the customization begin!

Switches are the heart of a mechanical keyboard, and choosing the right ones can dramatically change your typing experience. The Glorious Lynx switches provide a super smooth press for quick key presses, while the Panda switches deliver a satisfying tactile feedback. Humblebrag, but the Panda switches were voted the best tactile switches of 2023 by The Gaming Setup and Switch and Click.

One of the most visually striking elements of a mechanical keyboard is its keycaps. Glorious GPBT Keycaps offer a perfect blend of style, durability, and comfort. Made from PBT polymer, known for its resistance to shine and finger oils, these keycaps are built to maintain their look and feel even after extended use.

Now, let's talk about cables. Coiled cables, such as the Glorious Coiled Cable, not only provide a functional connection between your keyboard and PC but also add a visual flair to your setup. Their flexible, spring-like structure adds a touch of personality while reducing desk clutter.

And lastly, a keyboard is not just an instrument of work, but a reflection of its user. It's prone to collect dust and crumbs, and over time, this buildup can affect its performance and lifespan. This is where a good keyboard cleaning kit comes in. The Glorious Cleaning Kit is designed specifically for mechanical keyboards, including everything you need to keep your keyboard pristine and working at its best. It even includes a keycap puller and a detailing brush, ensuring that every corner and crevice can be cleaned effectively.

The Bottom Line

If you're eager to dive into the world of hot swappable keyboards, the GMMK 2 is the perfect starting point. With a balance of affordability, quality, and customizability, it's a great way to begin your journey. With an active online community of enthusiasts, you'll never be short of ideas, inspiration, and support as you venture into this exciting world. 

So why wait? Explore the world of hot swappable keyboards today and experience the difference yourself. Happy typing!