Top 5 Custom Keyboards to pick up in 2024

What are the top mechanical keyboards? What about switches? These are the types of questions I keep on getting and while I love answering them live on streams and in comment sections, I figured I should write about my top 5 choices. I’m going to start with custom keyboards. While I hope everyone takes this for just an opinion piece, I do want to remind everyone that these types of lists are based on my biases and preferences. I will always recommend checking out reviews, and to do your research before you pick up any product. But grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive into some of my thoughts.

For context, I have been building keyboards for myself, companies and clients for nearly 4 years now. I live stream 3 – 5 times a week and do lots of in depth dives on boards. None of this is sponsored but you may find some affiliate codes in this article that help support my content.

Before we begin

Let’s set some expectations, there will be no variety of layouts for the sake of variety. I’m going to talk about the keyboards that I still use to this day and stuff that (hopefully) is available to pick up when reading this article.

Neo80

Hate it or love it, the Neo80 is such a solid option for people looking to get into keyboards. It starts at $110 USD for the plateless variant and can max out at $190 if you get the fully decked out version. This keyboard packs a punch of how much value it brings to the table. It features all the amazing bits and pieces of keyboards we’ve seen in the last few years such as a catch ball enclosure to easily open up the case, and tons of mounting styles.

This is definitely my TKL of choice lately and I’ve been using it for those days that I just want something more than a 75% on my desk.

Pros

  • Minimal Design
  • Tons of ways to customize the internals to your liking
  • One of the easiest keyboards to take apart, a modder’s dream!
  • Fantastic build quality
  • Lots of color options
  • 18mm front height

Cons

  • Not all mounting systems sound great

Note: This board leans to a deeper more subdued sound profile, while it’s not a con I am listing it here as a note.

Read more about my thoughts of the Neo80.

neo80 keyboard weight
neo80 keyboard

Mode Envoy

The Mode Envoy has seen the most time on my desk out of any keyboard I have owned. It’s brighter sounding (clacky), softer to type on, and has tons of ways to make it your own on Mode’s customizer page and starts at $219.00 USD. I loved it so much that I even did a collab with Mode to make one in some of my own colours I liked.

While it isn’t cheaper than my last recommendation, I can confidently say it really is lovely and very comfortable to type on with its unique lattice block mounting system!

I prefer the FR4 or aluminum plate here with the green lattice blocks. Pair this with long pole switches and it’s fantastic.

Pros

  • Comfortable to type on
  • Ways to customize it’s mounting system
  • Easy to take apart and a super simple build experience
  • Mode’s customer support and quality is fantastic
  • Lots of colour options

Cons

  • The screws that lock the board into place make the board sound metallic (I just leave them off)
  • Sounds softer with standard linear switches, I would recommend long pole linear switches


Here are all my thoughts on the Envoy.

Bauer Lite

The Bauer Lite. This is the keyboard that now lives at my gaming setup. This is Omnitype’s answer to making their iconic Bauer keyboard more accessible at a price of $119.99. It’s an injection molded shell that houses a wonderful WILBA pcb, and it’s had a few internal upgrades since the Bauer’s time in the light. 

It’s also lightweight, so it’s easy to toss around as I move things around on my desk while I play different games. I found myself getting a bit more frustrated personally at the heavier boards when I gamed and the 65% layout is a perfect size.

I’m also very much in love with the overall design language of this board, but it being plastic may not be for everyone. To touch on pricing again, I personally don’t think the price point is outrageous but I can see where it gets muddy on the value side of things compared to things like the Neo80 or Cycle7. Ultimately if the visual aesthetic of the board speaks to you, then this is a fun pick up.

Pros

  • Gorgeous design
  • Well implemented gasket system
  • Deep and full sound signature
  • Great build quality
  • Stunning colour options


Cons

  • Does not sound that great with tactile switches (preference)
  • Made of plastic
  • A bit more on the pricier side for a plastic keyboard


Here are all my thoughts on the Bauer.

Mode Sonnet

Yes, another Mode board here. Remember this is my personal list of boards I use on the regular and that they have stock of. This board is one of my work horse boards that stays at my productivity set up.

The Sonnet is a solid option for anyone after a premium 75% layout keyboard. It’s the perfect layout for people who want a smaller board but aren’t ready to leave the realm of TKLs. The Sonnet starts at $299.00 and, to me, is the prettiest board on this list. It has a gorgeous side profile and tons of ways you can dress it up. It’s great and for a lot of people this may be the first and last keyboard they ever buy. It’s that good. It does have two ways you can mount the PCB assembly, but in my opinion the suggested silicone stack doesn’t feel or sound that great and I prefer to stack it on poron foam for those who want that deeper foamy sound. However, top mount on this is a joy.  The typing experience here is a tad bit firmer, so if that’s something you prefer then this is a solid choice.

My favourite combo of things is a polycarbonate plate in top mount config, or the aluminum plate with the foam stack.

Pros

  • Timeless design
  • Two mounting styles
  • Great range of sound signature depending on how you build it
  • Excellent quality


Cons

  • Silicone stack option is a pass
  • More expensive than other items on this list

KBD8X MKIII

My final pick is the KBD8X MKIII from KBDFans. If there is one thing I really appreciate about KBDFans, it’s that they have plenty of solid in-stock boards. The price starts at $199.00 USD and I would consider this the most premium of the recent wave of TKLs we’ve seen. I certainly appreciate the heft and detail on the weight of the board. It does have multiple mounting systems, but I just really don’t like the gasket system they offer here. Instead the top mount option is super solid, but I did need to force break the case.

I currently use one off and on for my gaming room when I need to play a game where it makes me use the F row.

My recommendation is to grab this with a plastic plate and top mount it, it’s lovely.

Pros

  • Lots of colors
  • Two mounting styles
  • Solid top mount system
  • Awesome weight design

Cons

  • Gasket mount is forgettable
  • Force breaking this is required, it does come with the force break tape however
  • A bit bland looking other than the weight
KBD8X MKIII
KBD8X MKIII

Wrapping up


One honourable mention I have is the MONOKEI x TGR – Tomo. The only reason it isn’t on my list is just because I haven’t found the need to purchase one vs the Sonnet. It’s all personal preference when it comes down to styling, but I just found the Sonnet to be more well priced.

Well, I hope this list helps. I’ll be writing other “top 5” lists for things like switches and stabilizers. Ultimately, I wanted to do this to help people better understand what I typically use. Custom keyboards are a very personal item, don’t shop off of hype and remember to be financially responsible when making large purchases.

See you on my live streams!