You’ll hear that mechanical keyboards are generally considered to be better than membrane keyboards for several reasons.
Firstly, they offer better tactile feedback, which makes them more comfortable and enjoyable to type on. Secondly, they have a longer lifespan, as they can last up to five times longer than a membrane keyboard. Additionally, they have better key rollover and faster response times, making them better for gaming. Lastly, mechanical keyboards are more durable and resistant to wear and tear, which makes them a great long-term investment.
Still, can you get a cheap mechanical keyboard and enjoy the benefits?
This in-depth guide for budget mechanical keyboards will basically tell you that yes, that’s a great way to get started and not sacrifice much in terms of quality.
The custom mechanical keyboard scene is a fantastic place to spend your time, thanks to independent creators such as Taeha Types, who designs and assembles high-end keyboards on commission, and hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts in the community. Still, the number of brands, switches or keycaps can be a bit overwhelming – and might stretch your budget to the limit. Should you go for Glorious or Xtrfy or should you experiment with something that looks cheap enough on Amazon?
If you want an affordable mechanical keyboard, here’s what you should know.
Why a cheap mechanical keyboard is so hard to find
Finding a really cheap mechanical keyboard isn’t easy, for those reasons above, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options that will give you that premium typing or gaming experience without having to spend more than $200.
Also read: Kemove K68 Review: A Cheap Mechanical Keyboard with A Premium Feel
If you’re new to mechanical keyboards, we highly recommend buying a cheaper one first to see if the switches themselves (and that clicky sound) are right for you.
After that, you can dive in the world of keyboards from Ducky or services like Keyboard concierge. I’ll tell you how I got started with mechanical keyboards and what you should look for to get the best bang for your budget.
A cheap mechanical keyboard can be a great daily driver AND a starter kit
For example, my first mechanical keyboard was a compact keyboard with clicky switches called BLITZWOLF BW-KB1, for which I paid around 50 euros.
Still, after a while, I found this to be a keyboard too loud for my needs, since the switches really were clicky. That’s how I ended up in the world of PCB hotswap keyboards, which were very expensive back in the day but now can be bought at reasonable prices.
1. Low profile XDA (I think nuphy.com are the only ones making these), made of PBT with dye sub legends
2. Cherry Profile, made of double shot PBT
3. OEM profile keycaps (aka stock/generic keycaps), made of shine through ABS with material dye
4. OSA profile (Keychron owner, mix between OEM si ASA), made of double shot PBT
5.XDA profile, PBT, material dye
If you’re just starting here and want a cheap mechanical keyboard as an entry point, I strongly recommend getting a cheap mechanical keyboard with a PCB with hotswap. If you also want to try various keyboard switches, look for a mechanical keyboard that supports 5 pin switches, since that will allow you to experiment with both 3-pin and 5-pin switches.
Cheap mechanical keyboards: Go for pre-built, not barebones keyboards first
Also, it’s wise to get an already built keyboard instead of a barebones mechanical keyboard until you decide what switches and keycaps you want on your final build.
What type of keyboard switches you should look for in a cheap mechanical keyboard? It all depends on what you’ll use it more for and what type of feeling you want to get when interacting with it.
This image (via KitGuru) is a super helpful way to visualize the difference between linear switches, tactile switches and clicky switches.
If you want to use your mechanical keyboard for gaming, you can consider linear switches – and speed switches in particular, which have a much shorter travel to contact (the so-called “actuation” you probably saw mentioned everywhere).
Great and cheap keyboard switches for gaming
For really cheap linear switches or more budget friendly switches, I highly recommend looking at Gateron Milky Yellow. These are the most famous budget switches and they’re so good, even those who only buy premium rave about their smoothness.
Other options are the Akko CS (in Rose Red, Matcha Green, Jelly Black or Radiant Red), the linear switches from TECSEE or Gazzew.
Here’s what a linear Akko CS in Matcha Green switch looks like
Great and cheap keyboard switches for typing
However, for typing and productivity purposes, you probably want a mechanical keyboard with a tactile bump.
If you use your keyboard for writing, programming or other work, look for budget tactile switches like Gazzew Boba u4t, AKKO CS (in Lavender Purple or Cream Blue), or TecSEE (in Purple Panda or Sapphire).
Switch orientation on your mechanical keyboard
Keyboard switch orientation is another hotly debated topic in the world of mechanical keyboards but, if you’re looking for a cheap mechanical keyboard to get started, don’t really stress it yet.
Most budget mechanical keyboards have north-facing switches. This has the advantage that, if you get shine-through keycaps, the RGB lights are going to look great.
On the downside, it’s harder to add later some sets of premium keyboard caps. Some Cherry-profile double-shot caps (aka poured in two layers) can create interference with north-facing switches.
While that’s a problem I haven’t encountered yet, others have noticed issues.
You can see what that debate’s all about in the video below but really, it’s a rare issue. You can mitigate this with long pole stem switches from makers like TECSEE or AKKO but really, most manufacturers have updated the switches housing to avoid this issue.
That being said, you can check below a list of budget mechanical keyboards I personally tried and highly recommend for various reasons – including some that are sold under multiple brands but feature the exact same build.
Here are some budget mechanical keyboards we tried and loved:
Cheap mechanical keyboard great for experimenting with
You’ll find this fantastic, budget mechanical keyboard sold under multiple brands on Amazon but trust me, it’s the same exact hardware.
If you’re shopping for a deal and get it under $70, keep an eye out for Kono 67, Gamakay LK67, TOM680 or EPOMAKER TH86 – they’re the same thing.
This mechanical keyboard comes with hot-swap sockets that let you try both MX-compatible 5-pin (PCB mount) or 3-pin (plate mount) mechanical switches.
My model is the Gamakay LK67 – here’s a shot with some of the keys removed so you can take a look at it better.
For other variants of this, the keycaps are shine-through and look great with the RGB backlighting. Of course, you can pick linear switches or tactile non-clicky switches for a more silent mechanical keyboard.
I like the fact that this keyboard uses both a steel plate for sturdiness and sound absorbing foam, so if you have to type a lot you won’t get annoyed by the acoustics.
A budget mechanical keyboard: Royal Kludge RK68 with hot-swappable switches
Another great choice in the world of cheap mechanical keyboards is this model from Royal Kludge.
It comes in at under $60 and offers hot-swappable switches, letting you choose your favorite 3 pins or 5 pins switches.
This is a cool minimalist keyboard since it doesn’t feature RGB, just a discreet blue LED backlighting with 20 backlight modes with various brightness settings and glowing speeds.
It connects with up to three devices and switches easily between them by pressing FN + Q/W/E and can be used either wired via USB-C or wireless (13 hours at the brightest setting).
Really, if you’re looking for a cheap, reliable, customizable mechanical keyboard, Royal Kludge is always a good choice.
More expensive but still a budget mechanical keyboard: The Womier K87 TK
Still frequently available for under $100, the Womier K87 TK is a thing of beauty if you want a flashier keyboard.
It’s a hot swappable mechanical keyboard with a botanical design all over, including on the enter keycap.
That design is done using a combination of acrylics, so the design looks 360 and really pops when you take advantage of the millions of RGB lights combinations. Of course, since it’s hot swappable, you can later on buy other switches for a custom build, from Gateron to Cherry or most other manufacturers.
EPOMAKER K870T Hotswap mechanical keyboard
This hot-swappable mechanical keyboard from EPOMAKER is another great choice, especially if you want to save space on your desk. It does have 87 keys, so everything you might need, but has a compact form factor.
In terms of specs, it works both on Bluetooth 3.0 and in wired mode, with a battery life of about 200 hours in standby.
This budget mechanical keyboard also features everything you’d expect from RGB, including a roller button that lets you adjust brightness and light speed.
Keychron K6 Compact Mechanical Keyboard – or better yet, the Pro Model
Keychron is another great brand when you’re looking at affordable mechanical keyboards.
The Keychron K6 model hovers at around $75 and features a compact 65% layout with 68 keys and works both wired and wirelessly via Bluetooth 3.0. It’s also fitted with one of the biggest batteries for mechanical keyboards, a 4,000 mAh one which offers up to 200 hours of battery life (without backlighting).
Still, if you want to go with Keychron, I do recommend you wait a bit and put some more money aside. Another $30 extra will get you Keychron K6 Pro and really, that “Pro” moniker is earned.
For the upgrade, you get hot-swappable switches and, more importantly, compatibility with Via/QMK.
That’s a third-party software for customizing your keyboard that’s usually reserved for the premium Keychron Q series. Here though, you can get that premium feature for much cheaper, and you can remap your favorite keys and create macros.
The K6 Pro is a very good starting point if you’re new to mechanical keyboards and want a cheaper model that can later be upgraded. You can later go and choose any MX style 3 pin or 5 pin mechanical switch from any brand, whether it’s Cherry, Gateron or Kailh.
Did this help? If you still have a question about mechanical keyboards, leave it below and we’ll see if we can get it sorted.
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