The best cheap gaming keyboards in 2021 best cheap gaming keyboard

The best cheap gaming keyboards will still give you a proper PC gaming experience, while leaving you some spare dollar to spend on those other components you’ve got saved on PC parts picker. That’s even more important in a world where some manufacturers think charging over $200 is acceptable for gaming peripherals. All the RGB in the world can’t be worth that, surely. 

It’s worth noting that when we say ‘cheap,’ we’re talking about pricing, not quality. Most keyboards in this guide are under $50 and, while they might be lacking some of the bells and whistles of their pricier counterparts, they will still perform as a reliable companion for your gaming PC.

When hunting for a budget keyboard, think about what features really matter to you. Some may not include any RGB lighting, while others will provide lighting but no software to control it. Chances are, these keyboards will be pretty barebones, so if you’re looking for something with media controls or LED displays, you’ll want to look to one of the best gaming keyboards instead.

Another thing to note, cheaper keyboards usually come with membrane switches. If a super cheap keyboard includes mechanical switches, they’re probably knock-off Cherry switches. That doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to fail, but they wont be backed by the same level of acclaim that top keyboard switch manufacturers are. 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.

Anyway, we’ve attempted to list as many cheap gaming keyboards as possible to give a range of price points up to $50. We’ve even added a couple of quality keyboards that come bundled with other peripherals to take some of the stings out of the cost of a new setup. However, if you do find yourself with some money to burn, do check out the best mechanical keyboards for some satisfying clickity clacks.

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(Image credit: STOGA)

1. STOGA Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

The best cheap great, clicky all-round keyboard

Switch: Proprietary Blue | Size: Tenkeyless | Backlights: Preset RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media controls: Function Key | Wrist rest: None

RGB Backlighting

Durable form factor

No Wrist Rest

No Software

The STOGA mechanical keyboard switches are pretty much indistinguishable from Cherry MX Blues. They emulate that clicky sound and feel that’s sought after by gamers and typists. This model is a compact, no-nonsense tenkeyless design with pre-determined RGB backlighting. Unless you despise clicky switches or desperately need dedicated media controls, it’s difficult to go wrong with the STOGA.

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(Image credit: Havit)

2. Havit RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Best cheap keyboard with Kailh switches and RGB Underglow

Switch: Kailh Blue | Size: Full Size | Backlights: Preset RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media controls: Dedicated | Wrist rest: None

Genuine Kailh switches

RGB lighting

Phone holder?

No wrist rest

No software

This particular Havit Mechanical keyboard features clicky, Kailh Blue switches, and RGB underglow. The full-size layout and dedicated media controls do a reasonable job imitating more popular gaming models, but at a fraction of the price. The omission of a wrist rest is a bit disappointing given the inclusion of an oddly specific feature: there’s a phone holder for some reason.

Best gaming keyboard | Best graphics cards| Best gaming chair
Best VR headset | Best wireless gaming mouse | Best wireless gaming keyboard 

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(Image credit: E-Element)

3. E-Element Z-88 Mechanical Keyboard

Best cheap keyboard with a variety of switch types and colors

Switch: Outemu Blue, Brown, Red | Size: 81-Key | Backlights: Preset RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media controls: Function Key | Wrist rest: No

Variety of Outemu switches

Aluminum backplate

Available in black or white

No wrist rest

On the expensive side

The Z-88 from E-Element is definitely on the pricier side when stacked against the competition on this list, but being available in either black or white and offering a variety of Outemu switches provides options that many other budget keyboards don’t. However, at this price, an included wrist rest would’ve been nice.

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(Image credit: Havit)

4. Havit Mechanical Keyboard and Mouse Combo

Best cheap keyboard and mouse combo

Switch: Proprietary Blue | Size: Full Size | Backlights: Preset RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media Controls: Function key | Wrist rest: Yes

Sleek industrial look

Included mouse

Side backlighting

Detachable wrist rest

No software

No dedicated media keys

The exposed hardware and aluminum backplate give this version of the Havit mechanical keyboard a sturdy, industrial look. While only available with clicky proprietary blue switches, this model does come packaged with a wired, optical gaming mouse. Besides the lack of exclusive customization software or dedicated media controls, this package of Havit peripherals leaves little to be desired.

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(Image credit: HyperX)
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(Image credit: HyperX)
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(Image credit: HyperX)

5. HyperX Alloy Core RGB

A trusted brand made affordable

Switch: Membrane | Size: Full Size | Backlights: 16.8 Million Color RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media controls: Dedicated | Wrist rest: No

Dedicated media keys

Dedicated software

Trusted brand

Spill-resistant

Plastic body

Membrane 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.  

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(Image credit: victsing)
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(Image credit: victsing)

6. VicTsing RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Best cheap compact gaming keyboard

Switch: Tactile Blue | Size: Compact | Backlights: Preset RGB | Passthroughs: No | Media controls: Function key | Wrist rest: No

Compact size

Built-in Keycap puller

Excess cable storage

Detachable magnetic frame

Ugly keycap font

The compact VicTsing RGB mechanical keyboard is excellent for anyone who doesn’t have the desk space for a full-size keyboard but needs a tenkey. Even with all the keys crammed in, it still types pretty well.

The built-in keycap puller on the keyboard’s underside is a smart design choice, along with storage to wrangle any excess cable. This keyboard is a solid budget choice if you can get over the funky looking keycap font choice.

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.

PCGamer.com

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