With the recent popularity of mechanical keyboards, it can feel like the entire hobby is tailored towards the aesthetic and technical needs of Windows users — black and gray keycaps, overcomplicated designs, and Windows-specific modifiers are all too common. That’s not always the case, though. There’s a broad range of premium mechanical keyboards that fit wonderfully into the Apple ecosystem, many of which aren’t even labeled as being Mac-compatible.
To clear up any confusion, and to help you find the dream keyboard for your Mac setup, we’ve curated what we think are the best mechanical keyboard kits, keycaps, and switches to fit seamlessly in Apple workstations like the Mac Studio.
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DIY keyboard kit
The Bakeneko60 is a minimalist 60 percent keyboard kit that fits nicely into an Apple-centric desk layout. Available in multiple colors, including Sky Blue, Pink, and “Whitish” (their name for a slightly-darker-than-white color), the Bakeneko60 pairs well with white keycaps.
Along with looks, this keyboard uses a Gummy O-Ring mounting, which is a type of gasket mounting that stretches a large o-ring around the entire plate/PCB assembly, using the friction between the case and the o-ring to suspend the assembly in the case. This results in a more flexible and “bouncy” typing experience, and makes the case completely seamless.
With hot-swap sockets, you can also pick the switches and keycaps you want on this keyboard. We have a few recommendations for switches and keycaps (plus more suggestions down below), but if you want to figure it out yourself, you can also find some great sample packs online.
The best thing going for the Bakeneko60, however, is availability. While many premium keyboards can be hard to find without multiple month-long wait times, Cannonkeys currently offers the Bakeneko as a constantly in-stock option; you don’t have to wait for a pre-order or group buy.
The Keychron Q1 stands out in Keychron’s Q-series for one particular reason: It comes in a fantastic “Shell White” color scheme that's right at home with the Apple aesthetic, while most of the line’s other offerings are only available in black, gray, and blue. The Q1 also is programmable with QMK or VIA, has hot-swap sockets, and comes with a switch on the back for switching between Windows and Mac inputs on the fly.
The Q1 uses standard gasket mounting, where the plate and PCB are sandwiched between rubber gaskets around the edge of the case, which creates a muted sound signature and a more flexible typing experience.
The only real issue is that the Shell White Q1 is only available as a full keyboard kit, meaning you’re stuck with an extra set of switches and keycaps (although you can easily swap them out without any soldering). While this isn’t horrible for someone new to keyboards, it can be frustrating if you have a different type of keycaps or switches that you intend to use.
If building your own keyboard is an intimidating prospect, there are still some fantastic pre-built options on the market. They don’t compare to a custom keyboard in terms of materials or freedom of customization, but they are convenient and easy to access, which can't be beat.
Varmilo is one of the best pre-built keyboard manufacturers today. With thick plastic, some of the best OEM keycaps on the market, and beautiful design sensibilities, it’s hard to do better. Combine that with the company's switch choices — classic Cherry MX and Varmilo electro-capacitive switches — and you’ve got a keyboard that both feels great and is built to last.
Classic, compact Topre experience
The Happy Hacking Keyboard is a venerable classic that’s withstood the tests of time and the evolving keyboard market. Using an integrated plate and Topre switches, the HHKB is a light, simple, and portable wireless keyboard that can do pretty much anything.
For most users, the HHKB’s main hurdle is the unique layout — the keyboard has blockers on either corner, a Control key instead of caps lock, and a second-row backspace, all of which can be disorienting for first-time users. But once you’ve gotten used to some of its unique key placements, it’s hard to go back to anything else.
While it is a more premium option, the HHKB fills a small niche well — something that its huge following is a testament to. It's not for everyone, but you'll know if it's for you.
Vintage style, new materials
Biip is a well-known designer in the keycap space, working with groups like Drop, KBDFans, and EnjoyPBT. The MT3 Extended 2048 keycaps are a collaboration with Drop that calls back to the classic font of the Apple Extended Keyboard II.
These keycaps are made from PBT, with dye-sublimated legends, which means the legends are embedded into the keycaps, and are incredibly durable. The legends themselves are reminiscent of the Univers 57 Condensed Oblique font, and the subtle off-white plastic calls back to the yellowed-with-age look of a retro keyboard today.
KBDFans’ black-on-white PBT keycaps are a solid set of Cherry-profile keycaps that mirror the Apple aesthetic without looking like they’re ripped straight from the '90s. These keycaps are made under the KBDFans’ PBTFans line; they’re one of the few premium doubleshot PBT keycaps available today (most doubleshot keycaps are made from ABS).
PBT keycaps help to create a deeper typing tone, and they don’t shine easily with use. They are also made from a thick plastic, which can feel better to type on. And with PBTFans’ basic sets, both black-on-white and white-on-black are available.
The main draw of these for Mac users is the “Simple” base kit. Instead of the usual Control, Alt, and Win keys, these keycaps feature Mac-specific symbols without any text. And just as importantly, you won’t be left with an out-of-place set of keycaps that are clearly meant for a Windows machine.
For the ultimate minimalist setup, blank keycaps are a no-brainer. They’re as clean and simple as you can get, and don’t break the bank either.
This set of blank PBT keycaps are in NP profile, which is a fairly tall keycap profile with uniform key heights and rounded edges. They’re great for moving from a traditional scissor-switch keyboard to a mechanical one because they retain the flat typing surface without having an unpleasant typing-feel underneath the switches.
Made from thick, blank PBT, there’s no concern of legends rubbing off or the keycaps shining easily. Instead, they’ll look just as clean a year from now as they did the day you got them. So long as you already have a good idea of where all your keys are, these keycaps are a great choice.
While most “clicky” switches offered today use a click jacket to create their tactile bump, both models of the Apple Extended Keyboards used Alps-manufactured switches with a “click leaf” system that utilized a folded metal sheet, compressed to create sound and a tactile bump.
Click leaf switches fell out of popularity well before the mechanical keyboard trend, but there are still alternatives that come closer to a click leaf system than the traditional click jacket. One of these is the “click bar,” a system where the stem presses down a clicking mechanism, resulting in a more noticeable, less scratchy bump, and an audible click both when pressing and releasing the switch.
While these are not identical to click leaf-style switches, they hold more similarities than a click jacket switch — primarily, the stem being independent from the clicking mechanism, and the typing-feel like a sharp, metal-based tactile bump.
There are a few different click bar switches on the market. The most popular (and usually considered the best) are the Kailh Box Navy and Box Jade switches, which are 65 and 90-gram versions of the same switch. They have a heavy tactile bump and a deeper typing sound (fitting for their “Thick Click” nickname), and a satisfying feel that’s distinct from the standard Cherry MX Blue.
While a modern MX-style switch with a click leaf is rare, it’s not impossible. However, the community’s focus on linear and tactile switches has meant that the only noteworthy project to create a click leaf tactile switch, the Zeal Clickiez switch, was stuck in development for what felt like ages.
But now that they’re here, these switches are one of the most notable clicky switches to be produced recently. The Zeal Clickiez have an entirely custom-made internal design, with a typing-feel that’s more reminiscent of the classic Alps feel than any other MX-style switch on the market.
Along with that, the Zeal Clickiez are adjustable — moving the secondary switch leaf converts them from clicky to linear or tactile, making it a “3-in-1” switch that enables a customizable typing experience without needing extra switches (although switch reviewer ThereminGoat suggests leaving them in clicky mode, since the linear and tactile settings are nowhere near as impressive).
With these switches, ZealPC has introduced a system that’s never been used in a modern MX-style switch, and it seems to have worked incredibly well. If you’re willing to pay a large premium compared to other switches (Box Navy switches are a quarter the price) and wait for a pre-order, these are a great option for a mechanical keyboard that calls back to the classic Apple aesthetic and typing experience.
More mechanical keyboard guides
- The 10 best mechanical keyboard switches you’ve never heard of
- 7 ways to make your mechanical keyboard quieter
- How to clean your disgustingly filthy keyboard
- The 8 best USB cables to elevate your custom mechanical keyboard
- Are ceramic keycaps the next big keyboard trend?
- How to lube mechanical keyboard switches and stabilizers