Building a gaming PC setup on a budget can be hard sometimes, but thankfully, having good peripherals can be do-able without breaking the bank. A mechanical keyboard is often considered the best option when it comes to gaming, and you can find some under $100. They might lack some high-end features, but for the most part, they're quite solid and can even use standard switches like the Cherry MX or proprietary ones.
We've tested over 90 keyboards, and below are listed our top recommendations for the best cheap mechanical keyboards. For more options, you can also check out our best mechanical keyboards, the best gaming keyboards, and the best gaming keyboards under $100.
The best cheap mechanical keyboard that we've tested is the Redragon K552-RGB. This wired-only, mechanical TenKeyLess keyboard is a decent option for gamers who want to spend under $50 but still want something well-built. Its hard plastic and metal frame feels robust and sturdy, and although the spacebar wobbles a little, its double-shot ABS keycaps feel stable.
It uses clicky mechanical Outemu Blue switches that don't need a lot of force to activate a key, and they provide tactile feedback and an audible click when a keypress is registered. This blue switch variant may not be great for an open-office environment due to its loud typing, but there are other models available in different switch types that should be quieter, though we haven't tested them yet. While there's no accompanying software to customize the RGB backlighting, it can still be customized directly on the keyboard using hotkeys.
Unfortunately, there's no way to program macros or any of the keys on the keyboard. Also, its ergonomics are only okay since it has a fairly tall profile and only one incline setting, and it doesn't come with a wrist rest. Nevertheless, the Redragon is a surprisingly decent mechanical keyboard considering its price point and is among the best keyboards we've tested.
The best cheap mechanical keyboard under $100 we've tested is the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. This good overall keyboard has all the same great features found on other higher-end SteelSeries keyboards, providing an outstanding gaming experience.
It uses hybrid mechanical switches, which are a mix between typical mechanical switches and rubber dome switches. The proprietary Hybrid Blue Mechanical switches offer good tactile feedback and are fairly easy to press, making sure your commands are registered quickly. It has full RGB backlighting with individually-lit keys, which you can customize through the SteelSeries Engine software. Each key is macro-programmable, it has dedicated media keys, a scroll wheel for volume control, and an OLED screen on which you can display anything you want.
Unfortunately, if you use this in an open-office environment, the switches are loud and might disturb others around you. However, they still offer a good typing experience, and it's a really well-made keyboard, so it should last you a while. Overall, this is the best cheap mechanical keyboard you can find under $100 that we've tested.
If you're looking for a TenKeyLess (TKL) alternative, consider the Razer BlackWidow Lite. This wired-only keyboard doesn't have on-board memory like the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, and its software isn't compatible with macOS, but it has better typing quality, and its footprint is smaller thanks to its TKL size. It uses proprietary Razer Orange switches with a nice tactile bump when the keypress is registered, but the height of the keys might cause fatigue quickly. Unfortunately, its backlight is white only, so RGB keyboard fans might be a bit disappointed. On the plus side, it's quiet to type on, especially with the included O-rings, which is great for an office environment.
If you're looking for a full-size keyboard with macOS-compatible software, check out the SteelSeries, but if you want a TKL keyboard to help conserve space, get the Razer.
The best compact mechanical keyboard we've tested under $100 is the Obinslab Anne Pro 2. This wireless keyboard is ideally suited for traveling with your mobile devices due to its connectivity options, but it also makes for an outstanding gaming keyboard with plenty of room for your mouse. You can pair it with up to four devices over Bluetooth, and switching between them is quick and easy.
It's available in many different types of switches, including Cherry MX, Kailh, and Gateron. Our particular unit used Gateron Brown switches, which had excellent tactile feedback that was smoother and mushier than other Brown switches, resulting in a stable typing experience. The backlighting on the keyboard is outstanding, as it has full RGB lighting that can be customized in the ObinsKit software. The software also allows you to reprogram every key, set macros, and save multiple profiles to the onboard memory.
Unfortunately, due to the keyboard's size being a compact 60%, it completely lacks dedicated arrow keys, media keys, a Windows Lock key, or a Numpad. Furthermore, due to its size and design, the ergonomics are mediocre, and it lacks any incline settings or a palm rest. Also, though it's an excellent mobile and tablet keyboard, it has connectivity issues with Android. However, this is still a remarkable keyboard for gaming and is one of the best mechanical keyboards we've tested.
The best wireless mechanical keyboard under $100 that we've tested is the Corsair K63 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. This wireless, TenKeyLess board is an excellent gaming computer that's also quite versatile. You can use it over Bluetooth or its proprietary receiver, which allows you to pair with two devices simultaneously, and you can easily switch between them with a function command. It has blue backlighting, and the brightness is controlled directly on the keyboard.
It uses standard Cherry MX Red switches, which are easy to actuate despite needing a bit of extra force compared to other linear switches. The keys are stable and spaced out at a standard distance, which is very helpful with typing accuracy. Typing doesn't cause any fatigue due to the incline setting, and it's overall a very quiet keyboard when typing, ideal for office environments. It has good software support in the form of iCUE, where you can reprogram keys, set macros, and save profiles.
Unfortunately, since there's no tactile feedback, it's not always clear if a keypress has been registered or not. Build quality is decent at best, with its plastic frame and wrist rest both feeling cheap. Furthermore, there's no onboard memory or cloud support, meaning you'll have to reconfigure your settings if you move to a new computer. Overall, this one of the best gaming keyboards under $100 we've tested.
10/19/2020: Updated text for clarity and structure, no changes in product picks.
06/02/2020: Updated notable mentions to reflect the current market.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap mechanical keyboards for most people. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our keyboard reviews. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no keyboard is perfect for every use, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.