Although mechanical keyboards usually cost more than their membrane counterparts, plenty of budget options are available that don’t break the bank.
In this blog, we’re going to review the eight best budget mechanical keyboards you can buy right now.
TL;DR – Top Cheap Mechanical Keyboards
- HyperX Alloy Origins Core: The best budget gaming keyboard overall. It comes in various sizes and switch types to fill multiple roles.
- Redragon K552: The best cheap gaming keyboard that ticks many boxes at an affordable price.
- Royal Kludge RK61: Our top pick for Mac users looking for their first mechanical keyboard with a detachable cable.
- SteelSeries Apex 5: A full-sized keyboard boasting hybrid mechanical switches and an ergonomic design.
- Keychron K2 Version 2: The best budget wireless keyboard with Bluetooth connectivity.
- Logitech K845: The best, full-sized clicky keyboard for typists.
- Das Keyboard Model S: A remarkable, full-sized keyboard for programmers.
- Razer Huntsman Mini: A compact keyboard with Razer optical switches and near-zero latency.
- TL;DR – Top Cheap Mechanical Keyboards
- What Are the 3 Types of Mechanical Keyboards?
- What Does Percentage in Mechanical Keyboard Mean?
- Is Buying a Mechanical Keyboard Worth it?
- Reviewing the Best Affordable Mechanical Keyboards in 2022
- HyperX Alloy Origins Core – Best Mechanical Keyboard Overall
- Redragon K552 – Best Mechanical Keyboard Under $100
- Royal Kludge RK61 – Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Mac
- SteelSeries Apex 5 – Best Budget Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
- Keychron K2 Version 2 – Best Budget Wireless Mechanical Keyboard
- Logitech K845 – Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Typing
- Das Keyboard Model S – Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Programming
- Razer Huntsman Mini – Best Mini Mechanical Keyboard
- Comparing the Top Cheap Mechanical Keyboards in 2023
- How to Choose a Mechanical Keyboard
- Frequently Asked Questions About Mechanical Keyboards
- What is the Difference Between Mechanical and Non-Mechanical Keyboards?
- What is the Cheapest 60% Mechanical Keyboard?
- What is the Best Budget 75% Keyboard?
- How Much Should You Spend on Your First Mechanical Keyboard?
- How Long Do Mechanical Keyboards Last?
- What is the Most Clicky Keyboard?
- What Keyboard Does Tfue Use?
- What Keyboard Does Ninja Use?
- What Keyboard Does FaZe Clan Use?
What Are the 3 Types of Mechanical Keyboards?
Mechanical keyboards come with a wide variety of switches, each one with a unique sound and tactile feel. These can be categorized into linear, tactile, and clicky.
- Linear switches offer an even, smooth motion and are the quietest of all mechanical switches.
- Clicky switches are the opposite of linear switches. These require greater actuating force and produce a satisfying clicky sound with each press and a slight bump during key travel.
- Tactile switches are the middle ground between clicky and linear switches. Just like clicky switches, they bump during key travel. However, they’re also silent, like linear switches.
What Does Percentage in Mechanical Keyboard Mean?
Percentages in mechanical keyboards refer to the number of keys found on the device.
- 100% keyboards come with a dedicated numeric keypad and the standard key count, i.e., 104 keys.
- TKL (Tenkeyless) and 75% keyboards drop the numeric keypad but retain the function and navigation keys.
- 65 and 60% keyboards also get rid of the navigation keys, as well as the function keys row found atop standard keyboards.
- 50 and 40% keyboards further reduce the number of keys located on top of a QWERTY key layout.
Is Buying a Mechanical Keyboard Worth it?
Yes. Mechanical keyboards are 100% worth it. They offer several advantages over membrane keyboards, e.g., a greater tactile feel, ‘clicky’ button feedback, superior durability, and keyboard customizability.
So, is a mechanical keyboard worth the hype? Yes!
Reviewing the Best Affordable Mechanical Keyboards in 2022
As you may know, there’s no shortage of mechanical keyboards in the market – a single “mechanical keyboard” search on Amazon reveals hundreds of search results! – making it impossible to test out every product.
So, we asked Reddit’s vast community for its opinions on the best budget mechanical keyboards. As part of our research, we scoured popular subreddits, including r/MechanicalKeyboards, r/Keyboards, r/BuildaPC, r/Razer, and r/HyperX (to name a few), popular social media groups, and a few Discord servers (notably MechKeys and Keeb Hangout).
Based on live interaction, polling results, and expert opinions, 19 keyboards (all under the $150 price mark) stood above the rest.
Our Testing Methodology
Each keyboard was evaluated according to metrics like ease of typing, gaming performance, and programming to assess performance, tactility, key travel, and sound feedback.
Countless testing hours later, the following are 8 of the best budget mechanical keyboards in 2023:
HyperX Alloy Origins Core – Best Mechanical Keyboard Overall
HyperX Alloy Origins Core is the best budget mechanical keyboard for its price, and this nomination is very well deserved.
For starters, Alloy Origins Core is available in three sizes: Full size, Tenkeyless (~75%), and 60%, so it doesn’t matter how big or small your computer desk is; you can pick what’s right for you. For reference, we bought the Tenkeyless model for this review.
Instead of relying on the ‘traditional’ CherryMX mechanical switches, HyperX utilizes its own custom switches within the Alloy Origins Core mechanical keyboard. Buyers can choose from one of three switch options: HyperX Aqua, HyperX Red – Linear, and lastly, HyperX Blue.
For this review, we ordered the keyboard with HyperX Red – Linear switches, which we found comparable to CherryMX Reds. There’s no bump in the key travel, and the overall key operation is smooth and quiet, producing the right amount of ‘click.’
Despite the budget-friendly price tag, the HyperX Alloy Origins Core is a sturdy piece of hardware using an aircraft-grade aluminum body; the chassis is rigid and doesn’t bend or creak.
Overall, the HyperX Alloy Origins Core is a great all-around keyboard.
Redragon K552 – Best Mechanical Keyboard Under $100
Redragon’s K552 is a compact, Tenkeyless keyboard that offers a great user experience at an affordable price.
The K552 Kumara has two different models, red and black, and only comes in a Tenkeyless configuration with 87 keys. For this review, we ordered the white keyboard (it has a sleek look and is the more attractive option, in our opinion).
Thankfully, the Redragon K552 has the option of red, blue, and brown switches, allowing you to choose a keyboard that blends with your overall PC color theme.
In testing, we were impressed by this budget keyboard’s performance. And even though it lacks Cherry MX switches, the existing ones come surprisingly close to the real deal in terms of overall feel and tactility.
The K552 is the best option for people with less than $100 to spend on a mechanical keyboard.
Royal Kludge RK61 – Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Mac
Mac users looking to upgrade their standard Apple keyboards can consider the Royal Kludge RK61.
Royal Kludge RK61 is a compact 60% keyboard that comes in two color variants: White and Black. The former is popular with Mac users because it perfectly matches the white theme of Apple products.
As for the switches, the Royal Kludge RK61 offers three options: red, blue, and brown – the brown buttons provide the same tactility as blue switches and the quiet functionality of Red switches.
Surprisingly enough, the switches on the Royal Kludge RK61 are hot-swappable, and you can easily replace them with a keycap puller.
The RK61 performed up to par in our tests. We faced no issues pairing the keyboard with our M1 Macbook, and after a bit of tweaking, it felt like using an official Apple keyboard product.
SteelSeries Apex 5 – Best Budget Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
For gaming, mechanical switches aren’t always the best choice. However, that doesn’t mean membrane keyboards are best suited for gaming, either; the sweet spot lies somewhere in between.
The SteelSeries Apex 5 is a ‘hybrid’ mechanical keyboard that offers the perfect middle ground between mechanical and non-mechanical keyboards and covers all the right bases.
In terms of design and features, the keyboard comes with a 100% key layout and includes RGB backlighting that you can control via the SteelSeries software. There’s also a magnetic, detachable wrist rest that adds to the appeal of this hardware.
Buyers have two switch options: the ‘Hybrid Blue – Tactile & Clicky’ and ‘Whisper Quiet – Tactile & Silent.’ We went with the Tactile & Silent keys and enjoyed the experience.
The SteelSeries Apex 5 doesn’t disappoint with its build quality, either. The keyboard has an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy frame that’s remarkably sturdy and built to last.
Suffice it to say; this keyboard is the weapon of choice of several veteran eSports teams!
Keychron K2 Version 2 – Best Budget Wireless Mechanical Keyboard
Wireless connectivity is a rarity in budget keyboards in general and budget mechanical keyboards in particular. So, it’s little surprise that most budget wireless keyboards come with membraned keys.
However, the Keychron K2 Version 2 is an exception; as it comes equipped with wireless Bluetooth connectivity and quality mechanical switches.
In terms of size, the Keychron K2 Version 2 features a 75% key layout with 84 buttons. Also, the switches come in Gateron red, blue, and brown colors. For this test, we went with the Blue switches.
These switches were nice, loud, and tactile, and the input latency was minimal despite the Bluetooth connectivity.
The verdict: a fantastic wireless keyboard for people on a budget.
Logitech K845 – Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Typing
The Logitech K845 is an excellent full-sized mechanical keyboard if you only want to type. And because this list focuses on cheap products, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than Logitech K845 in this price range.
Regarding switches, the Logitech K845 is available in TTC blue, brown, and red, as well as cherry blue and red.
As expected from a Logitech product, the K845 showcases high-quality adjustable tilt legs, an aluminum top case, and a flexible USB cable.
On the flip side, the keycaps appear to be made of cheaper PBT material, but you can’t be super picky from a budget-oriented keyboard.
To conclude, the K845 is a good low-priced mechanical keyboard for typing.
Das Keyboard Model S – Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Programming
The Das Keyboard Model S is a full-sized, wired mechanical keyboard perfect for programming thanks to its spaced-out keys and spacious ergonomics.
Being a keyboard aimed squarely at professionals, the Das Keyboard Model S only comes in black. As for the mechanical keys, the Model S features standard Cherry MX Blue switches for that loud, satisfying clicky sounds and above-average tactility.
The build quality is remarkable. The keys are gold-plated for minimal latency, and the keycaps are laser-etched for fading resistance.
Overall, Das Keyboard Model S is our favorite keyboard for professionals looking for a solid, durable mechanical keyboard.
Razer Huntsman Mini – Best Mini Mechanical Keyboard
The Razer Huntsman Mini is a compact gaming keyboard that features Razer’s signature optical switches.
It is set according to the 60% keyboard standard (no numeric keypads or navigation keys), making it larger than most keyboards you see on laptops. As for colors, it’s available in Classic Black and Mercury White.
As mentioned earlier, the Razer Huntsman Mini uses Razer’s proprietary optical switches. You’ve got three options to choose from: ‘Clicky Optical Switch,’ ‘Analog Optical Switch,’ and ‘Linear Optical Switch.’
Gamers may opt for linear optical switches, while professionals and typists would benefit more from the tactility of ‘analog’ and ‘clicky’ optical switches.
If trimming things down to the bare minimum is your thing, the Razer Huntsman Mini is the keyboard of choice.
Comparing the Top Cheap Mechanical Keyboards in 2023
|Model||Size||Switch Type||Rating (/10)|
|HyperX Alloy Origins Core||100, 65, 60%, TKL||Mechanical||9.5|
|Redragon K552 Kumara||TKL||Mechanical||9.5|
|Royal Kludge RK61||60%||Mechanical||9.5|
|SteelSeries Apex 5||100%||Hybrid||9.0|
|Keychron K2 Version 2||75%||Mechanical||9.0|
|Das Keyboard Model S||100%||Mechanical||8.5|
|Razer Huntsman Mini||60%||Optical||8.5|
How to Choose a Mechanical Keyboard
Choosing the proper mechanical keyboard can be confusing for beginners, given the myriad of online and offline products available. Here’s a list of essential features you should consider before purchasing.
The most crucial factor to keep in mind is the switch type. Each switch type (clicky, linear, and tactile) has pros and cons, so the choice boils down to personal preference. For example, clicky and tactile switches are ideal for typing but may feel too clunky for gaming – choose wisely!
Mechanical keyboards come with two types of actuators: optical and mechanical. Mechanical actuators rely on direct contact between the switch and the PCB, whereas optical switches rely on light beams, resulting in lower input latencies (up to 30 ms).
Another factor to consider in your mechanical keyboard purchase is the size (scroll up to the start of this blog to know what mechanical keyboard percentages mean).
For office work, a 100% keyboard is ideal. However, if you have a small desk, you’re better off buying a smaller keyboard without a dedicated numeric keypad or navigation keys.
4. Polling Rate
Just like gaming mice, the polling rate has a significant impact on performance. Most mechanical keyboards offer a polling rate of 125 Hz, which is good enough for regular, everyday usage. However, gamers should opt for a 500 Hz or faster polling rate keyboard.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mechanical Keyboards
Here are a few mechanical keyboard FAQs.
What is the Difference Between Mechanical and Non-Mechanical Keyboards?
Non-mechanical keyboards use a membrane layer with rubber domes. Each time a key is pressed, the rubber dome underneath the keycap depresses and sends an electrical signal to the PC. Over time, these rubber domes lose their elasticity and may register incorrect characters.
On the other hand, mechanical keyboards rely on mechanical switches with spring-loaded mechanisms that offer a superior tactile feel to membrane keyboards. That’s why mechanical keyboards are ideal for those who value tactility and precision.
What is the Cheapest 60% Mechanical Keyboard?
Of all the budget keyboards currently available, the Razer Huntsman Mini is our favorite mini, 60% keyboard. It’s a compact, affordable keyboard that features decent build quality for the price and can be used for a wide range of scenarios.
What is the Best Budget 75% Keyboard?
The Keychron K2 Version 2 is the best budget 75% keyboard that’s inexpensive and offers a pleasant typing experience, especially considering its price.
How Much Should You Spend on Your First Mechanical Keyboard?
Our team of experts believes that one shouldn’t spend more than $150 on their first mechanical keyboard. These are specialized pieces of hardware; each offers a different tactility, click response, key travel, and customizability experience. First-hand experience is needed before going deeper into mechanical keyboards.
How Long Do Mechanical Keyboards Last?
Mechanical keyboards generally have a long lifespan and can function as intended for up to 10 years of heavy usage. The main reason is that mechanical switches last much longer than membrane buttons. Cherry MX switches, e.g., have a lifespan of 100 million clicks, whereas cheap switches can last for 40 to 50 million clicks, on average.
What is the Most Clicky Keyboard?
The most clicky (or clickiest, for lack of a better word) keyboard you can get your hands on right now is the Logitech K845. It’s available with TTC blue switches that produce crisp and loud sounds with excellent tactile feedback.
What Keyboard Does Tfue Use?
Popular Twitch and YouTube streamer Tfue uses a custom mechanical keyboard that allegedly cost $3,500. The keyboard was custom-built by YouTuber Nathan Kim of ‘Taeha Types’, who specializes in luxury keyboards.
What Keyboard Does Ninja Use?
Ninja uses the Ducky One 2 Mini keyboard. As the name suggests, the Ducky One 2 Mini is a compact 60% keyboard popular among veteran eSports players.
What Keyboard Does FaZe Clan Use?
FaZe Clan uses the SteelSeries Apex 5 keyboard. Apex 5 is a hybrid mechanical keyboard that uses mechanical switches layered on top of a rubber membrane to reduce tactility.
Unlike membrane keyboards that more or less offer the same level of overall feel and typing experience, mechanical keyboards come in various ‘flavors.’
Not only do we have three major types of mechanical switches (linear, tactile, and clicky), but each has its subtypes, and all have their pros and cons.
Most of our testers agreed that HyperX Origins (with Red Switches) is the jack of all trades regarding work, gaming, and general everyday usage. However, it’s not loud enough to annoy others nor too quiet to lack that ‘mechanical’ feel.