UHQBot Posted September 22, 2022 Share Posted September 22, 2022 The best cheap gaming keyboard doesn't mean sacrificing the pleasurable clickity clacks high-end model. You might find some features diminished, but you'll get to avoid the financial assault often associated with buying a keyboard. PC peripherals are getting pricey, and keyboards are no exception. With the best models hitting well over $200, we thought it best to weed out those trying to charge that just for the basics. With plenty of affordable gaming keyboards to choose from, I went through and tested them out so you can spend your cash on something worthwhile, because "cheap" doesn't have to mean bad. There's a lot of false economy crap on the market, but this list showcases the best budget keyboards I spotted for under $100, even less than $30 in some cases. What the best gaming keyboards are likely to have more of over those listed here, are extra features. The cheaper keyboards might omit media controls, LED displays, or mechanical switches to keep costs down, and it's sometimes hard to tell what's worth the sacrifice. So I got a tonne of cheap keyboards to test and picked out the ones that are worth it even with those features left out. Those that didn't crumple under the weight of Alan's heavy-'donkey' typing were then selected for the list. We've even included some keyboards that come bundled with other accessories to try and save you even more money. And if you're gagging for features, it might be best to head over to the best mechanical keyboards—we'll always recommend these first. Image 1 of 2(Image credit: G.Skill)Image 2 of 2(Image credit: G.Skill) 1. G.Skill KM360 Genuine Cherry MX switches at a great priceSwitch: Cherry MX Red | Size: Tenkeyless | Backlights: White | Passthroughs: None | Media Controls: Integrated | Wristrest: NoneAffordableReliable Cherry MX switches Bright white LED No numpad limits its potential for work There is a trend towards $200+ gaming keyboards in the market at the moment, but that doesn't mean there aren't quality mechanical switch boards available at a more reasonable price. Often you'll find these more budget-oriented options offering cheap switches from other manufacturers, but the G.Skill KM360 comes featuring the classic Cherry MX Red linear switch out of the gate.The KM360 is a simple slab of keys. Though this works to its advantage. The fact it offers so little extra beyond the basics is how it's able to deliver genuine Cherry mechanical key switches at an affordable price. That means a precise, reliable, and impressively smooth actuation for gaming and typing. This TKL board is basic, but what it does, it does very well If you can't cope with your gaming board not lit up like a rainbow then you may be disappointed with the single-color option, but damn, the white LEDs on this G.Skill board are the brightest I've ever seen. Normally I like to keep at max brightness all day long, but the KM360 would burn out my retina if I did.This TKL board is basic, but what it does, it does very well. It's solid, well-built, reliable, and looks pretty decent too. There's no wrist rest, no passthrough, or media controls, but I'll happily give it a pass in favor of affordable functionality. Best gaming keyboard | Best graphics cards| Best gaming chair Best VR headset | Best wireless gaming mouse | Best wireless gaming keyboard (Image credit: E-Element) 2. E-Element Z-88 Mechanical Keyboard Best cheap keyboard with a variety of switch types and colorsSwitch: Outemu Blue, Brown, Red | Size: 81-Key | Backlights: Preset RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media controls: Function Key | Wrist rest: NoVariety of Outemu switchesAluminum backplateAvailable in black or whiteNo wrist restOn the expensive side The Z-88 from E-Element is available in either black or white and offers a variety of Outemu switches, meaning it's great for the cheap connoisseur who likes to pick and choose everything about their setup. Those Outemu switches don't feel as high-grade as the Cherry ones listed above, but they are genuinely mechanical. That means you don't have to worry about the spongey feeling of a membrane no more.The keycaps do look and feel a bit cheaper than you might expect of a well-known brand, but they are easy to read on the E-Element. They're made of ABS plastic, which is the least resistant to wear of the two commonly found keycap materials, but ABS plastic is often found on more expensive keyboards, too. Just don't slam the keys too hard in anger and you'll be okay for a good while.It's a cheaper board but you're grabbing mechanical for under $50 here. Plus it's often discounted for even less. We saw it go for $30 earlier this year, so keep an eye out for those sales. While you will notice the difference in quality between this and a pricier gaming keyboard, at least you aren't settling for anything less than mechanical. (Image credit: Havit) 3. Havit Mechanical Keyboard and Mouse Combo Best cheap keyboard and mouse comboSwitch: Proprietary Blue | Size: Full Size | Backlights: Preset RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: Function key | Wrist rest: YesSleek industrial lookIncluded mouseSide backlightingDetachable wrist restNo softwareNo dedicated media keys While only available with clicky proprietary blue switches, this model does come packaged with a wired, optical gaming mouse. That's the big benefit of this two-in-one Havit package: you don't need to throw even more money at a gaming mouse. You're essentially ready to game with this one, surprisingly affordable package.The exposed hardware and aluminum backplate give this version of the Havit mechanical keyboard a sturdy, industrial look. And it must be said that it is a fairly sturdy, if a little plasticky feeling, keyboard. The keycaps and fairly easy to navigate, as well, and there's even a wrist rest included. What I will say about that wrist rest is that it doesn't offer a tremendous amount of support, as it's so low to the ground and doesn't have any padding. Best not buy it just for that one feature, then. Besides the lack of exclusive customization software or dedicated media controls, this package of Havit peripherals leaves little to be desired. I mean you're getting two for the price of one here, and that's great if you need a keyboard and mouse in a pinch and for less. Image 1 of 6(Image credit: Future)Image 2 of 6(Image credit: Future)Image 3 of 6(Image credit: Future)Image 4 of 6(Image credit: Future)Image 5 of 6(Image credit: Future)Image 6 of 6(Image credit: Future) 4. Keychron K2 (Version 2) The most affordable wireless keyboardSwitch: Gateron | Size: 84-key | Backlight: White LED | Passthrough: None | Media Controls: Function shortcuts | Wristrest: None | Keycaps: ABSWell-pricedGreat overall build qualitySeamless connectivitySomewhat scratchy switches This is exceptionally cheap for a wireless keyboard. Even more so for its high quality. It starts out at just $69, and for that, you get a decent-sized gaming keyboard with great wireless functionality and genuinely mechanical Gateron switches.Its design is nicely simple with grey ABS keycaps and a slightly more compact 84-key layout that only skimps out on the numpad and offers a slightly squashed nav cluster. Whilst I’ve previously argued that 60% compact keyboards may be the way to go if you’re a spacesavin’ gamer, the Keychron K2’s 75% offering may just make me rethink that decision. For more of an affordable board, the build quality is nicely sturdy with no deck flex and a decent bit of heft. It’s no Model M of course, but for the price, I don’t have any complaints. The triple device connectivity definitely makes short work of switching devices. As switches go, my review sample is kitted out with some Cherry MX Brown clones courtesy of Gateron. As much as Gateron say there’s a 55g weight to them, I can’t help but think they feel an awful lot lighter than that, and in comparison to the real things, also feel a tad hollow. To make matters worse, underneath the Backspace and Enter key, it’s possible to hear the sound of the metal stabilizer making the switches pretty pingy, which brings the feeling of the Keychron K2 being a more affordable board too close to home.The triple device connectivity definitely makes short work of switching devices or locations throughout the working day. I checked it out on my PC and MacBook Pro and on the K2’s left-hand side there's a little switch next to the Bluetooth/Wi-Fi switch that lets you choose whether to use it in Windows or Mac mode. All the changes are practically instantaneous, and as for the pairing process via Bluetooth, it couldn’t have been simpler.Battery life is also something to write home about with a 4000mAh capacity ensuring the K2 can go the distance, with or without backlighting. You’ll find a total of 68 hours with full lighting and 240 hours with it off.All in all, if you’re looking for an entry-level mechanical keyboard, this is a good choice, especially if you’re working from home and using multiple devices. That's not even considering its wireless capability, which really feels like the icing on the cake of the already impressive Keychron K2. And if the Gaterons aren't to your taste, the K2 is also available in a hot-swappable form. Read our full Keychron K2 review. (Image credit: HyperX) 5. HyperX Alloy Core RGB A trusted brand made affordableSwitch: Membrane | Size: Full Size | Backlights: 16.8 Million Color RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media controls: Dedicated | Wrist rest: NoDedicated media keysDedicated softwareTrusted brandSpill-resistantPlastic bodyMembrane switches HyperX is a trusted name among peripheral manufacturers. While it typically caters to a more premium brand, the Alloy Core RGB brings extensive features and reliable performance at an affordable price. The price does skirt the definition of a "budget" keyboard, but the dedicated media controls and customization software help justify the MSRP. HyperX has had to incorporate membrane switches for this particular model, but that has the added effect of making the Alloy Core spill-resistant. We'd prefer mechanical keys, but a quality membrane is still much better than some old office board.With the Alloy Core, it's a decision of what you're after in a gaming keyboard. If you're after a full-size keyboard with some extra features and solid RGB lighting effects, something like the Alloy Core or the Roccat Magma are more your speed. You're not going to find many mechanical keyboards going for very cheap with a full-size layout, as every switch is an added cost. Though if you don't necessarily want a full-size board, we still recommend a mechanical keyboard first and foremost, like those above.A really rubbish mechanical board can feel worse under finger than a much better made membrane one, so we wanted to throw in a couple of alternatives for the mechanical switches if, for whatever reason, those weren't your thing. (Image credit: Roccat) 6. Roccat Magma membrane keyboard A membrane board with styleSwitch: Membrane, Rubber dome | Size: Full Size | Backlights: 5 zone RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media controls: Function keys | Wrist rest: YesNicely tactile for a membrane boardUnique RGB top plate designAnti-ghosting and 26-key rolloverSilent keypressesRGB cycle isn't very smoothNot the sturdiest boardWrist rest not cushioned Perfect peripherals(Image credit: Colorwave)Best gaming mouse: the top rodents for gaming Best gaming keyboard: your PC's best friend... Best gaming headset: don't ignore in-game audio I've been thoroughly impressed by the tactility of the Roccat Magma membrane keyboard's rubber dome switches, and the unique RGB top plate design really is a sight. Though it may not be as sturdy as some boards, nor as full of fancy greebles, it's a (literal) beacon of excellence among membrane gaming keyboards.Sadly, there's no per-key lighting here, but Roccat has opted for 5 separately configurable lighting zones behind the keycaps. The zoned RGB design does still offer some nice gradients and effects, but the cycle isn't as smooth as it could be, and the colors aren't super accurate. It looks a little dim in places, and there are a few blemishes under the top plate that detract from the design, though some might like the Cyberpunky 'naked look' Roccat was going for here. Swarm software has some funny gimmicky features, like the ability to add sounds to your key presses, such as a typewriter, or some laser beam pew-pews. The most practical feature comes in the form of Roccat's Easy Shift key assignment. Not all the keys are assignable, but there's a huge list of potential actions for each one that is. It delivers without breaking the bank. The Magma's non-mechanical nature means that—although the keycaps do come off for easy cleaning—you won't be able to jam fancy new keycaps onto it like you would a mechanical counterpart. But actually, and I hate to admit this, I really like the rubber dome membrane construction Roccat has used here. It's oddly tactile, with great feedback and actuation, as well as being soft and silent for keeping on your teammates' good side.The Magma isn't the sturdiest board ever. Compare it to some of the solid, milled metal boards around and there's some minor concern that when you press down on the spacebar with force—the board bows a little. As long as you don't intend to smash the keyboard with your fist, you should be ok. But something to keep in mind: if you're an exceptionally heavy typist, a metal keyboard is a better option. Otherwise, it's a spectacular-looking board. The deeply rounded corners and thick black frame really set it off, and the lettering isn't some overkill, sci-fi typeface. There may not be dedicated media controls, but it's a nifty full-size keyboard with function keys and 26-key rollover, as well as anti-ghosting, so it's everything you need for competitive gaming. That's what Roccat was aiming for, and it delivers without breaking the bank. You even get a wrist rest with it, and although it's not spongy, it's a nice bit of support.The Roccat Magma is a keyboard for gamers who prefer a soft and silent, yet tactile feel from a membrane board, and are happy to have their whole board lit up like a quest item. With its outlandish lighting design choice, it's a board for flashy, '80s retro aesthetic enthusiasts who're looking to do some competitive gaming for cheap. And despite some minor annoyances, such as the RGB color inaccuracies and a hard wrist rest, it's nothing that can't be overlooked for the $60 (£50) price tag.Read our full Roccat Magma review. Best cheap gaming keyboards FAQ Where are all the cheap keyboards with fancy key switches? Cheaper keyboards used to always come with membrane switches. And that's still somewhat the case, depending where you look and which brands. However, there are a ton of cheaper mechanical switch brands out there nowadays, offering something akin to a Cherry switch. So don't fret if you want to ditch membrane and go mechanical: it's definitely possible. Cheaper keyboards will have an overall different feel than your standard Razer and SteelSeries keyboards. But don't worry, these great-value gaming keyboards will still feel good under your fingertips, and your wallet will thank you for it. If you want to know more about switches, you can read our detailed explanation of mechanical key switches. Jargon buster - keyboard terminology Actuation Point The height to which a key needs to be pressed before it actuates and sends an input signal to a device.Clicky A switch that delivers an audible click every time it's pressed, generally right around the point of actuation.Debounce A technique to ensure that only one input registers every time a key is pressed.Housing The shell that surrounds the internal components of a switch.Hysteresis The result of the actuation point and reset point in a switch being misaligned. This generally means a key needs to be lifted off of further than normal before it can be actuated again. Linear A switch that moves directly up and down, generally delivering smooth keystrokes without noise or tactile feedback.Mechanical Keyboard A keyboard built around individual switches for each key rather than a membrane sheath mounted on a PCB.Membrane Keyboard A keyboard on which all the keycaps are mounted on a membrane sheath; when a key is pressed, a rubber dome depresses and pushes against the sheath and PCB beneath, actuating the key.Stem The component of a switch on which the keycaps are mounted on a mechanical keyboard.Switch The physical component of a mechanical keyboard beneath the keycaps on a mechanical keyboard. The switch determines how a key is actuated, whether or not it provides audible or tactile feedback with each press, and more.Tactile A switch that provides a 'bump' of feedback every time it's pushed.Tenkeyless A keyboard that lacks the right-hand number pad. View the full article Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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