Best TKL Mechanical Keyboards of 2017

Guides| Views: 6235

LED shine on the Masterkeys Pro S

Choosing which mechanical keyboard to buy can be hard. There’s so many terms, products, designs, and prices to pour through and I understand that it can all be confusing.

So, what I’ve done is collected the information, broken down the details into easy to read lists, and I’ve also added a comparison table.

If you’re looking for the cheapest TKL keyboards check out my other guide.

Or simply skip to the list

Why tenkeyless keyboards

80%, TKL, Tenkeyless, these are all terms that describe the same thing; a keyboard without a numpad.  Those of us who don’t work with numbers will find a numpad is good to use but most of the time its wasted space. That’s backed up with the fact that there is already a number row available.

If number crunching is something that you do and still want a TKL then you can get an separate numpad. That way you can move it out of the way when not needed but it’s there when you do need it. I’ve added a few suggestions at the bottom of the list.

Removing the numpad is space saving. This means more space on your desk for necessary items. It’s even possible to move the mouse closer to the keyboard which is beneficial as well.

Ergonimcally a better design

Ergonomic comparison of a TKL and full size keyboard

Moving the mouse closer to the keyboard means the arms aren’t flared out when in use. Having the elbows and wrists inline with the shoulders will reduce tension on the shoulder and elbows. Ergonomically this is a much better setup for the user and your body will thank you in the long run.

This is why TKL keyboards are better than full size keyboards for gaming. Personally I believe that if a keyboard is going to be branded a gaming keyboard then it should be comfortable to use for those long gaming sessions.

TKL keyboard comparison table

There’s quite a few keyboards on this list and they each have their pros and cons. Some offer exceptional build quality, while others have LEDs. Have a look at this comparison table to see the differences, or you can scroll further down for a small description of each keyboard.

Preview
Best Choice
IKBC MF108 V.2 RGB Mechanical Keyboard with Cherry MX Brown Switch, Black CNC Aluminum Case and Black PBT Double Shot Keycaps
RGB Underglow
GANSS Gaming Mechanical Keyboard, Backlit RGB LED, Ganss G.S 87 PRO [Cherry MX—Brown Switch]
RGB Backlight
Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Cherry MX Brown (Silent Tactile), RGB LED, TenKeyless (Small)
Best Value
iKBC C87 PBT Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard with Cherry MX Brown Switch, White
KUL ES-87 Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard (Cherry MX Brown)
Switches
Cherry MX
Cherry MX
Cherry MX
Cherry MX
Cherry MX
LEDs
RGB
White
RGB
Colour
Silver or Black
White
Black
Black or white
Black with aftermarket options
Case Material
Aluminium
Aluminium on plastic
Plastic
Plastic
Plastic
Multimedia Keys
Detachable Cable
Cable Channelling
Keycaps
Double-shot PBT
Double-shot PBT
Painted laser etched ABS
Laser-etched PBT
Printed ABS
Extras
Keycap puller, extra keycaps
Extra keycaps, keycap puller
Braided cable, keycap puller
Keycap puller, keycaps
Extra keycaps, keycap puller, PS2/USB adapter, dust cover, DIP switches, Power and OSX modes
Weight
2.04kg - 4.50lbs
860g - 1.9lbs
1.18kg - 2.6lbs
1.09kg - 2.4lbs
1.0kg - 2.2lbs
Mac Compatible
Price
from $169.99
from $129.00
$92.19
from $69.99
$124.99
Best Choice
Preview
IKBC MF108 V.2 RGB Mechanical Keyboard with Cherry MX Brown Switch, Black CNC Aluminum Case and Black PBT Double Shot Keycaps
Keyboard
Switches
Cherry MX
LEDs
RGB
Colour
Silver or Black
Case Material
Aluminium
Multimedia Keys
Detachable Cable
Cable Channelling
Keycaps
Double-shot PBT
Extras
Keycap puller, extra keycaps
Weight
2.04kg - 4.50lbs
Mac Compatible
Price
from $169.99
More Information
RGB Underglow
Preview
GANSS Gaming Mechanical Keyboard, Backlit RGB LED, Ganss G.S 87 PRO [Cherry MX—Brown Switch]
Keyboard
Switches
Cherry MX
LEDs
White
Colour
White
Case Material
Aluminium on plastic
Multimedia Keys
Detachable Cable
Cable Channelling
Keycaps
Double-shot PBT
Extras
Extra keycaps, keycap puller
Weight
860g - 1.9lbs
Mac Compatible
Price
from $129.00
More Information
RGB Backlight
Preview
Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Cherry MX Brown (Silent Tactile), RGB LED, TenKeyless (Small)
Switches
Cherry MX
LEDs
RGB
Colour
Black
Case Material
Plastic
Multimedia Keys
Detachable Cable
Cable Channelling
Keycaps
Painted laser etched ABS
Extras
Braided cable, keycap puller
Weight
1.18kg - 2.6lbs
Mac Compatible
Price
$92.19
More Information
Best Value
Preview
iKBC C87 PBT Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard with Cherry MX Brown Switch, White
Keyboard
Switches
Cherry MX
LEDs
Colour
Black or white
Case Material
Plastic
Multimedia Keys
Detachable Cable
Cable Channelling
Keycaps
Laser-etched PBT
Extras
Keycap puller, keycaps
Weight
1.09kg - 2.4lbs
Mac Compatible
Price
from $69.99
More Information
Preview
KUL ES-87 Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard (Cherry MX Brown)
Keyboard
Switches
Cherry MX
LEDs
Colour
Black with aftermarket options
Case Material
Plastic
Multimedia Keys
Detachable Cable
Cable Channelling
Keycaps
Printed ABS
Extras
Extra keycaps, keycap puller, PS2/USB adapter, dust cover, DIP switches, Power and OSX modes
Weight
1.0kg - 2.2lbs
Mac Compatible
Price
$124.99
More Information

Kul ES-87

Keyed Up Labs, or KUL for short, bring a well built, economical TKL keyboard to the table. Though it’s been out for a few years now the ES-87 is still a highly recommended keyboard and for good reason.

A lot of the time this keyboard is recommended over Leopold or the previously coveted Filco keyboards thanks to it’s exceptional build quality and intelligent design.

An ES-87 comes in black but there’s aftermarket cases available with different colours. The case is plastic and there’s flip-out feet and rubber pads on the underside.

DIP switches on the back allow for greater customisation, which is a nice feature to have when a keyboard lacks programming.  Here’s a guide on what they do.

KUL ES-87 DIP switch settings

The ES-87 also has a Power mode and an OSX mode. When activated the Power mode makes the left diamond key input left Ctrl+left Shift, while the right diamond key becomes right Alt+right Ctrl. When OSX mode is enabled

Comes with

Keycap puller

Extra keycaps

USB/PS2 converter

Plastic cover

KUL ES-87

With such praise and acclaim for build quality the KUL ES-87 is an excellent keyboard. You could pay quite a bit more for a Leopold FC750R but the differences between the two are pretty much the PBT keycaps.

 

Pros

  • Exceptional build quality
  • Flip-out feet
  • Power/OSX modes
  • Aftermarket cases
  • DIP switches
  • Cable channeling
  • Standard bottom row allows for customisation

 

Cons

  • Laser etched ABS keycaps
  • Not programmable
  • Lacking LEDs

Ganss GK87 Pro

Perhaps one of the best looking keyboards on this list. The GK87 features white font keycaps but it’s the addition of bonus red keycaps that help give it some character.

One of the only keyboards with aftermarket underglow and it’s a TKL. There’s also the bonus of white LEDs that actually look pale blue. Between the backlighting and underglow are enough settings to keep your eyes fixed on the light show in front of you.

For the RGB underglow to work the case has to be a translucent plastic. And it’s not a bad case at that. There’s an anodized aluminium top plate with the only case issue being the cables non-detachable cable.

Comes with

Keycap puller

Red keycaps

Sale
Ganss GK87 Pro

Has white LEDs but more impressivly the GK87 Pro is one of the only keyboards that has RGB underglow. Amazon has it listed as the GS87, it's actually the GK87.

 

Pros

  • RGB underglow
  • White LEDs (look pale blue)
  • Double-shot PBT keycaps
  • Flip-out feet
  • Bonus red keycaps add character
  • Standard bottom row allows for customisation

 

Cons

  • Gamer font keycaps
  • Not programmable
  • Non-detachable cable

Masterkeys Pro S RGB

Cooler Master has upped their game from the QuickFire Rapid to bring the Masterkeys Pro S RGB. There’s a couple of variants of this keyboard and all have their features.

RGB wise this keyboard has some of the best modes. My favourites are snake and equalizer modes. Modes can be changed with the keyboard’s hardware or you can install the software app for greater customisation. If you’re a programmer you can even make your own modes.

Equaliser mode on the Masterkeys Pro RGB keyboards

Equaliser mode is the best mode!

It’s got all the gaming features with low latency connection, adjustable repeating rate, macro programming, and 6KRO that changes to NKRO when needed.

The case is rubberized matte black plastic and feels nice. A rubberized case, however, means it shows up fingerprints easily. Keycaps are average as well but the font isn’t gamer-y, so that’s really nice.

If you are looking for a version with a numpad you can get Masterkeys Pro M. There’s also cheaper PBT models.

Comes with

Keycap puller

Check out my review of the Masterkeys Pro S RGB

Sale
Cooler Master Masterkeys Pro S RGB

If RGB LEDs are a selling point to you then the Masterkeys Pro S RGB has you covered. There's plenty of light modes saved to the on-board chip and even more when paired with the companion software.

 

Pros

  • Braided USB cable
  • RGB LEDs
  • Flip-out feet
  • Large variety of RGB modes
  • Hardware and software configurable LEDs
  • Standard bottom row allows for customisation
  • Has snake and equalizer mode
  • 6KRO and NKRO

 

Cons

  • Fingerprint magnet
  • Average painted ABS keycaps shine quickly
  • Not programmable
  • Software isn't Mac compatible
  • Cable channelling only on L model

iKBC C87

No frills but a solid entry into the world of mechanical keyboards. iKBC’s C87 is a great TKL keyboard for first time buyers and at a very reasonable price.

There’s not much to say, this is a keyboard that lacks programming and LEDs. It does have cable channeling, however, the cable itself doesn’t detach.

The white backplate adds rigidity and weight. This helps to stabilise the C87 when in use and makes typing feel nice and refined.

Two colour schemes exist: black and white. If you’re looking for LEDs you can get the RGB variant, the F87.

Comes with

Keycap puller

Extra keycaps

iKBC C87

A great keyboard to enter the world of mechanical keyboards. Especially considering it comes with genuine Cherry MX switches.

 

Pros

  • PBT keycaps
  • 2 stage flip-out feet
  • NKRO
  • Cable channeling
  • Standard bottom row allows for customisation

 

Cons

  • Laser-etched legends
  • Non-detachable cable
  • No LEDs
  • Not programmable

Varmilo VB87M

VB87M Varmilo Pink and Blue

Get the Varmilo VB87M on Amazon. (This colour scheme can be had on request. Simply message the seller!)

One of the only Bluetooth TKL keyboards, the Varmilo VB87M has quite a few customisation options. You can even choose between Gateron or Cherry MX switches.

Enclosed in an ABS case, this is a hefty, solid keyboard weighing in at shy of 2kgs (4.19lbs). Colour wise the cases come in white, black, blue, and light blue.

Laser-etched PBT keycaps legends can be either printed on the side or top of the keys. Different colourways exist for the keycaps and you can choose what best suits you with your purchase. Have a look at all Varmilo TKL options.

The downside is that the VB87M only connects via Bluetooth. If you are looking for wired connection you can get the VA87M which does open up the possibility for LEDs.

Comes with

Keycap puller

Sale
Varmilo VB87M

Not many Bluetooth TKL keyboards exist and one that's built as well as Varmilo's VB87M. The cable is only used for charging.

 

Pros

  • Can choose keycap colour and printing
  • Can have side printed legends
  • PBT keycaps
  • Flip-out feet
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Battery life with 10 hours of usage will last roughly 15 days
  • Standard bottom row allows for customisation

 

Cons

  • Laser-etched legends
  • Only works when connected via cable
  • No LEDs
  • Not programmable

iKBC MF87 RGB

iKBC MF87

Encased in a block of aluminium the MF87 RGB is the very definition of premium. Components in the MF87 are of the highest caliber and there’s features that justify the price tag.

Price wise this is the most expensive keyboard on this list and this is all thanks to that CNC aluminium case. We’re talking over 4lbs (1.8kg) of aluminium was used just for the case. A weight like this means rigidity, stability, and no movement when in use.

Lighting modes can be changed via the keyboard and the colours themselves can also be changed on the keyboard. Similarly hardware toggles exist for Dvorak or Colemak layout toggles.

The RGB LEDs are bright and have numerous modes. One of the most standout features is the timer mode that uses the LEDs to countdown and then flash when time’s up.

To let the light of the LEDs shine through, iKBC has used double-shot plastic. The plastic used is the premium PBT that has a nice texture and better durability than ABS.

Issues have occurred with initial MF87 RGBs, however, these have since been addressed. The solution was to add padding to prevent the PCB from touching the aluminium case. Another problem was caused by over-tightened screws on the PCB and this has also addressed and resolved.

Comes with

Keycap puller

Red and blue keycaps

iKBC MF87 RGB

A block of aluminium has been CNC milled to create the beast that is iKBC's MF87 RGB. It's not just the hefty case that makes this the best keyboard on the list.

 

Pros

  • Double-shot PBT keycaps
  • RGB LEDs
  • Hardware RGB mode toggles
  • Dvorak and Colemak toggles
  • Roughly 4lbs (1.8kg) of aluminium case
  • Red and blue replacement keycaps
  • Timer mode via LEDs
  • Standard bottom row
  • NKRO

 

Cons

  • Previous QC problems (resolved now)
  • No key assignment

Need a numpad?

If you’re in desperate need of a numpad but can also see the benefit of having a TKL keyboard then solutions do exist.

You can get standalone numpads that connect via USB. This means they can be positioned wherever suits you best and can be moved out of the way when not in use.

Here are a few of my standalone numpad suggestions:

Jelly Comb USB numpad with Outemu switches

Qisan USB numpad with Gateron switches

Keycap replacements

Sometimes stock keycaps need replacing even on new keyboards. I recommend getting some PBT keycaps. They feel much nicer when used and wear slower than ABS keycaps. (PBT and ABS keycap article coming soon)

EnjoyPBT Japanese keycaps

EnjoyPBT Japanese – Get it on AliExpress here it’s Japanese – Kit1

Dye-sublimated keycaps from Pheilcia

Dye-sublimated keycaps from Pheilcia

Keyreative Gradient

Keyreative Gradient PBT keycaps from zFrontier

Here’s 13 ways to customise your mechanical keyboard

Still looking for the right keyboard to you?

Have a look at my compact keyboard guide

Checkout my wireless guide

Share This:

Last update on 2018-08-17 at 11:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2 Responses to " Best TKL Mechanical Keyboards of 2017 "

  1. Zobeid Zuma says:

    None of them are fully programmable? Who is making a fully programmable TKL?

    I recently got an old IBM XT keyboard with the required converter — which is programmable — and, despite the funky layout, it quickly became a favorite. Biggest advantage: I could assign the “Windows” key somewhere off the bottom row and not hit it by accident anymore!

    • Rhys says:

      It’s not easy finding programmable TKL keyboards. A lot of enthusiast TKL keyboards are programmable though these are generally run in group buys, and are produced by smaller manufacturers and sent out as unassembled kits.

      If you can handle the form factor Vortex’s Race 3 (75%) is programmable on board, with a few limitations currently. Though software is coming. Otherwise if you’re still keen on programming Plum’s Nano 75 is also programmable. These keyboards aren’t on this list as I want to keep it set to TKL keyboards. I am working on a 75% list as well. Stay tuned for that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: