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 100 keyboards, and below is a list of 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 option is a decent option for gamers who want to spend under $50 but still want something well-built. Its frame is made of both plastic and metal, and it feels sturdy. Although the spacebar wobbles a little, the doubleshot ABS keycaps feel stable.
It uses clicky Outemu Blue switches that don't need a lot of force to activate and that provide clicky and tactile feedback when a keypress is registered. It may not be great for an open-office environment due to its loud typing, and it's not available in other types of switches, although there are variants available with different color schemes. 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 reprogram any of the keys or set macros. 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, this is a surprisingly decent mechanical keyboard considering its price point and is among the best keyboards we've tested.
The best budget mechanical keyboard under $100 that we’ve tested is the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. This wired-only option feels very solid and durable, thanks to the aluminum alloy top that makes it more rigid, and the doubleshot ABS keycaps. It also has good ergonomics as it comes with a wrist rest and one incline setting.
It comes with the proprietary SteelSeries Hybrid Blue Mechanical switches that are comparable to Cherry MX Blue, with low actuation force and low pre-travel. They feel very responsive and have a satisfying tactile bump as well as an audible click when a key is actuated. It's also highly customizable through its user-friendly software. It comes with a good number of extra features, like an OLED screen that can show you almost anything you want, and a Windows key lock to prevent you from minimizing your game accidentally.
Unfortunately, the audible click makes it quite loud, and it doesn’t have any dedicated macro keys. However, it has full RGB backlighting, which is great for dark-room gaming, and you can easily control its brightness directly on the board. All in all, if you're looking for an exceptional mechanical gaming keyboard for under $100, this is an excellent choice.
If you're looking for a TenKeyLess (TKL) alternative, consider the Razer BlackWidow Lite. This wired-only model doesn't have onboard 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 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 save space, get the Razer.
The best compact mechanical keyboard we've tested under $100 is the Obinslab Anne Pro 2. This wireless model makes for an outstanding gaming keyboard with plenty of room for your mouse, and it's also well-suited for traveling with your mobile devices due to its connectivity options. 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 uses Gateron Brown switches, which have excellent tactile feedback and are smoother, but also mushier than Cherry MX Brown switches. The backlighting is outstanding, as it has full RGB lighting that can be customized in the ObinsKit software. This software also allows you to reprogram every key, set macros, and save multiple profiles to the onboard memory.
Unfortunately, due to the compact size, it completely lacks dedicated arrow keys, media keys, a Windows key lock, or a numpad. Also, due to its size and design, the ergonomics are mediocre, as it lacks any incline settings or palm rest. Also, though it's an excellent mobile and tablet keyboard, it may have trouble connecting to Android devices. However, this is still remarkable for gaming and is one of the best mechanical keyboards we've tested.
The best wireless mechanical keyboard for less than $100 that we’ve tested is the Corsair K63 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. It's quite versatile, has great typing quality, and good ergonomics thanks to the included wrist rest and the adjustable incline setting. You can connect it with two different devices at the same time, either with the USB receiver or via Bluetooth, and you can easily switch between them directly on the keyboard.
It comes with linear Cherry MX Red switches, which require a bit of force to actuate and don’t offer any tactile feedback. The pre-travel distance isn’t as low as other gaming keyboards, but the switches still feel very responsive and typing on it shouldn’t cause any fatigue. It also has a few extra features, like dedicated media keys and a Windows key lock, and although there aren’t any dedicated macro keys for MMO players, it's possible to reprogram any key.
Unfortunately, the build quality is only decent, as it’s entirely made out of plastic that feels a bit cheap, but at least the keys are very stable. Also, there isn’t any onboard memory or cloud sync feature, so you can’t keep your customization settings when you switch devices. That said, among all the wireless options we've tested, this is the best cheap mechanical keyboard.
12/18/2020: Updated text for clarity and structure; no changes in product picks.
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.