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A hot-swappable keyboard is a type of mechanical keyboard that doesn't require soldering if you want to swap out broken keys. Instead, there are mechanical links on the keyboard that allow you to replace any key with another. You can also swap out the keycaps if you prefer different colors or designs.
The hot swappable keyboards were typically found in business or industrial settings where downtime needs to be minimized. Hot-swappable keyboards can also come in handy for a home user who wants to easily switch between different keyboard designs or layouts, or customize the key switches to suit their own needs.
Since you can change not only the keycaps, but even the key mechanism, a hot-swap keyboard also allows you to test various types of switches. The following three types are available:
Linear styli offer smooth, consistent actuation without any tactile feedback. Linear switches are great for people who don't like the little "bumps" of click switches or the loud noise they make when pressed. They are popular with gamers because the even keystrokes provide more precision.
Linear switches are similar in feel to rubber domes, except they have no moving parts. Linear switches are ideal for typists who need a light touch. They are quieter than click switches (tactile and clicky) making them perfect for people who work in quiet environments and don't want to disturb co-workers or roommates.
Tactile switches are a type of switch that produce a tactile jerk and audible click each time a push button is pressed.
Tactile switches give immediate feedback when you touch them, so just by hearing the sound you know they're working properly. Some people really enjoy typing on these keyboards because they feel like they're making more noise when they press the keys, which also gives them more feedback.
Clicky switches produce a noticeable jerk when pressed and a loud, audible click when released.
When typing, the loud and clicking switches give excellent tactile feedback, so you know exactly when the keystroke was registered. Apart from that it sounds really good. In the office, these keyboards can be distracting to others, but they definitely make the listener feel that the person typing is very busy.
If you're looking for a keyboard that's linear, clicky, or tactile, you can find almost every switch option on most hot-swappable mechanical keyboards. Typically, there are three color options for the switches: brown (tactile), red (linear), and blue (clicky). Based on these colors you can see which switches were used on which keyboards on a keyboard.
To help you with the selection, I have a few good keyboards here, which I would like to give you as a start for further research. The keyboards are all mechanical and offer all the advantages that hot swap keyboards have. Some of the keyboards are smaller than a "normal" keyboard and also do not have a number pad, but you can already see that in the product photos.
If you want to browse a little further, you will find the current 5 bestsellers available on Amazon here. This list is always up to date and should also provide you with good keyboards that offer hot-swap mechanics.
If you buy a keyboard, you have to see if it is compatible with the 3-pin or 5-pin switches. There are different techniques here. Some keyboards like that Redragon K530 Pro Draconic (a 60% keyboard) even gets along with both types and thus recognizes up to 99% of all available switches from well-known brands.
It's a bit easier to hot-swap a 5-pin switch correctly without bending the contacts. On circuit boards and panels that don't hold switches very well, it also helps to keep the switch from tipping. 5-pin switches are definitely recommended for use with hot-swap sockets, but depending on the board, 3-pin switches may also do.
Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He appears as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with problems of a technical nature. In his free time he drives electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with his iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions for current bugs.
The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de