OEM vs. Aftermarket Keyboards: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Choose?

In the world of keyboards, the terms “OEM Keyboard” and “aftermarket” are commonly used, but their meanings and implications are often misunderstood. Whether you are a professional gamer, a typist, or someone building a custom PC, understanding the differences between OEM and aftermarket keyboards can significantly influence your purchasing decision. This article aims to demystify these terms and help you make an informed choice.

What Are OEM Keyboards?

OEM stands for “Original Equipment Manufacturer.” An OEM keyboard is one that is produced by the same company that manufactures the computer or other primary device. For example, if you buy a Dell computer, the keyboard that comes with it is an OEM keyboard, as it is produced by or for Dell.

OEM keyboards are typically designed to match the aesthetics and functionality of the devices they accompany. They are known OEM mouse for their reliability and compatibility, ensuring that all features, such as multimedia keys or specific shortcuts, work seamlessly with the computer they are intended for.

Characteristics of OEM Keyboards

  1. Integration: OEM keyboards are fully integrated with the system they are paired with, offering a seamless user experience with guaranteed compatibility.
  2. Reliability: Since they are made by the original manufacturer, they often adhere to high standards of quality and durability.
  3. Cost: OEM keyboards are usually included in the package when you purchase a new computer, making them a cost-effective option if you are not looking for additional features or customization.

What Are Aftermarket Keyboards?

Aftermarket keyboards, on the other hand, are produced by third-party manufacturers. These keyboards are designed to be compatible with a wide range of devices and often offer a broader array of features and customization options compared to OEM keyboards.

Aftermarket keyboards can range from budget-friendly models to high-end, feature-rich versions aimed at specific niches, such as gaming or professional typing.

Characteristics of Aftermarket Keyboards

  1. Customization: One of the biggest advantages of aftermarket keyboards is the ability to customize. This includes options for mechanical switches, RGB lighting, programmable keys, and ergonomic designs.
  2. Variety: There is a vast selection of aftermarket keyboards available, catering to different needs and preferences. Whether you need a compact, travel-friendly keyboard or a full-sized, high-performance gaming keyboard, the aftermarket has something for you.
  3. Price Range: The price of aftermarket keyboards can vary greatly. While some basic models are very affordable, premium models with advanced features can be quite expensive.

Key Differences Between OEM and Aftermarket Keyboards

Design and Build Quality

OEM keyboards are designed to match the aesthetic and functional aspects of their respective systems. They often feature a consistent design language that complements the primary device. However, they may lack the robust build quality and premium materials found in high-end aftermarket keyboards.

Aftermarket keyboards, especially those aimed at enthusiasts and professionals, often boast superior build quality. They may use materials like aluminum, have mechanical key switches, and include advanced features such as customizable backlighting and programmable macros.

Features and Functionality

When it comes to features, aftermarket keyboards usually take the lead. While OEM keyboards focus on basic functionality and seamless integration, aftermarket keyboards often come packed with features like mechanical switches (Cherry MX, Razer, etc.), customizable RGB lighting, additional macro keys, and ergonomic designs.

Customization and Upgradability

Aftermarket keyboards shine in terms of customization and upgradability. Users can often replace key switches, keycaps, and even internal components to suit their preferences. OEM keyboards, in contrast, offer little to no customization options and are designed to work out of the box with minimal user intervention.

Which Should You Choose?

Consider Your Needs

Choosing between an OEM and an aftermarket keyboard largely depends on your specific needs and preferences.

  • For Basic Use: If you need a reliable keyboard that works seamlessly with your computer and you do not require any advanced features, an OEM keyboard is a practical and cost-effective choice.
  • For Enthusiasts and Professionals: If you are a gamer, a professional typist, or someone who values customization and high performance, an aftermarket keyboard is likely the better option. The ability to tailor the keyboard to your specific needs can enhance your overall experience and productivity.

Budget Considerations

Your budget is also a significant factor. OEM keyboards are typically less expensive because they come bundled with the computer. Aftermarket keyboards, while offering more features and customization, can range widely in price. It’s essential to balance your desired features with your budget constraints.

Long-Term Use and Durability

If durability and long-term use are crucial for you, investing in a high-quality aftermarket keyboard may be worthwhile. Many aftermarket keyboards are built to last, with features like mechanical switches that offer a longer lifespan compared to the membrane switches commonly found in OEM keyboards.


Both OEM and aftermarket keyboards have their own set of advantages and limitations. Understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs, preferences, and budget. Whether you opt for the seamless integration of an OEM keyboard or the customizable features of an aftermarket keyboard, choosing the right one can significantly enhance your computing experience.

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