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Best Budget Mechanical Keyboards for 2021

Best Budget mechanical keyboards
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Mechanical keyboard enthusiasts can spend hundreds of dollars on boards with limited-run backplates, obscure switches and bespoke keycaps. Some high-end, pre-built models, including the best gaming keyboards and best wireless keyboards, can also pass the $100 mark pretty quickly. But that doesn't mean the joys of mechanical switches are exclusive to the deep-pocketed--there are some budget mechanical keyboards worth buying.

Before we get to our picks for the best budget mechanical keyboards, though, here are a few tips for shopping around.

Shopping Tips

Choose your form factor. When looking for the best budget mechanical keyboard, many will be either full-sized with a number pad or tenkeyless (TKL) without one. Those who spend a lot of time working in spreadsheets probably can't imagine using a keyboard without a number pad, but those who are more likely to spend their time gaming might appreciate the extra space afforded by a TKL design. There are also 60% keyboards that omit the arrow and navigational keys, giving you the most desk space but appealing to a smaller crowd, due to the more limited functionality.

Choose your switch type. Mechanical switches aren't all created equal. Different switches feature varying actuation points, travel distances,and types of feedback. There are three main categories of mechanical switches you should know:

  • Linear switches are easy to depress because there’s no tactile bump along the way to bottoming out. Many gamers prefer linear switches because they're easy to press repeatedly quickly and tend to be quiet. These are often Red or Black.
  • Tactile switches feature a noticeable bump that offers clear feedback before bottoming out and, in many cases, increase the required actuation force. Many typists prefer tactile keyboards because they make it easier to feel each keypress. Common examples include Brown and Clear switches.
  • Clicky switches are tactile switches but also make noise when they hit the bump in the keypress. These are preferred by people who A) work alone or B) want to subject everyone around them to a cacophony of click-clacks for some reason. These are often Blue, Green or White.

There's a wide range of options within each category, but these categories should apply to the vast majority of mechanical switches. Manufacturers are often kind enough to break down their switches into those categories, and they're usually color-coded as well. Some examples include:

Consider a switch tester. The wide variety of mechanical switches available can make buying a keyboard seem daunting. Although it's possible to change mechanical keyboard switches, it’s a notable hassle. Luckily, there are many switch testers on the market that make it easier to experiment with a variety of switches--the exact mix depends on the tester--before committing to a specific one. It's an added up-front cost but cheaper than replacing a keyboard that features switches you don't like.

Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard You Can Buy Today

With many gaming features and switch choices, the Cooler Master CK552 is the best budget mechanical keyboard. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

1. Cooler Master CK552

Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard

Switches: Gateron Red, Blue or Brown | Backlight: Per-key RGB | Type: Full-sized | Size: 18.1 x 5.3 x 1.6 inches (460 x 135 x 41mm) | Weight: 1.9 pounds (850g)

Beautiful RGB backlighting
Solid aluminum top plate
Variety of available switch types
Red switches can be easy to mis-press

The Cooler Master CK552 is the best budget mechanical keyboard for most. It’s a full-sized gaming keyboard with RGB backlighting, an aluminum top plate, and a 5.9-foot (1.8m) USB 2.0 cable. It includes a good selection of switch types: Gateron Brown (tactile), Blue (clicky) and Red (linear), which are all said to be able to withstand up to 50 million key presses without failure.

My review unit came equipped with Gateron Red switches that proved responsive during gaming--so much so that I occasionally pressed a key I didn't mean to. That also means it stumbled a bit during heavy typing sessions. Choosing a different switch type could help, and Cooler Master makes the keyboard with tactile Brown or clicky Blue switches too, but they aren’t as easy to find online as of writing.

Good for gamers and enthusiasts, the CK552 features on-board memory that can store up to four profiles and on-the-fly controls that make it easy to record macros and control the backlighting. It's also compatible with the Cooler Master Portal utility, which offers more granular controls over many of the same areas but isn’t as robust as rivals, such as Razer Synapse. Still, this dual approach should appeal to people who don't like to install a bunch of software and those who want greater control over their peripherals.

For an even cheaper option with more functionality but lesser quality, check out our review of the Aukey KM-G17, which includes macro keys and a volume dial for only $50. 

Despite its cheap price, the HyperX Alloy FPS Pro boasts Cherry switches and a tough build.  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

2. HyperX Alloy FPS Pro

Best Budget TKL Mechanical Keyboard

Switches: Cherry MX Brown or Blue | Backlight: Red | Type: Full-sized | Size: 14.1 x 5.1 x 1.4 inches (358 x 130 x 36mm) | Weight: 1.8 pounds (816g)

Compact shape, detachable cable make for easy transport
Cherry MX switches are slightly better than rivals 
Solid steel construction should withstand heated gaming sessions
Red-only backlighting 
Keycaps show noticeable shine after limited use

The HyperX Alloy FPS Pro (currently available for $70) was made with esports in mind, making one of the best budget mechanical keyboards for gamers. It features a compact TKL design, a detachable USB cable and solid steel construction that should allow it to travel well. Those features alone would allow it to stand out from other keyboards on this list, but HyperX didn't stop at the Alloy FPS Pro's portability.

The Alloy FPS Pro is available with Cherry MX-branded linear Red or clicky Blue Switches, and that also helps it stand out from other budget mechanical keyboards. There's nothing wrong with most manufacturers' switches, but Cherry's are still seen as the best of the best--at least in the mainstream consumer market. (Don't worry, enthusiasts, we wouldn't besmirch your Zealios or the new Panda switches from the Glorious PC Gaming Race.)

HyperX also decked out the Alloy FPS Pro with n-key rollover and 100% anti-ghosting as well as red backlighting with a variety of effects. All of these features combined led to some of the best and most comfortable gaming sessions I had during the course of preparing this round-up. The Alloy FPS Pro was responsive, fit perfectly with the rest of my setup and felt like the natural choice for gaming.

It would be nice to see RGB backlighting and some dedicated media keys, but from a pure gaming standpoint, it's hard to beat the Alloy FPS Pro at this price point.

The Logitech K840 Mechanical is quiet and quality, making it perfect for work. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Logitech K840 Mechanical

Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Productivity

Switches: Romer-G Tactile | Backlight: None | Type: Full-sized | Size: 17.5 x 5.2 x 1.4 inches (445 x 132 x 34.3mm) | Weight: 2 pounds (910g)

Comfortable Romer-G switches rated for 70 million clicks
Minimalist design suitable for any desk
Quieter than most keyboards with tactile mechanical switches 
No backlighting
On the larger, heavier side

The Logitech K840 Mechanical keyboard features the company's proprietary Romer-G mechanical switches that have proven fairly divisive among consumers. Some people appreciate the switch's tactile feel, which is quite distinct from other tactile switches, while others think it feels a little "mushy. The switches have 3.2mm total travel, actuating at 1.5mm with 45 grams of force, compared to the more traditional Cherry MX Brown’s 4mm total travel, 2mm actuation point and 55 grams of force. I've used Romer-G switches almost daily for the last several years, and it's safe to say that I'm in the former camp.

Little else about the K840 should prove divisive. The keyboard features an anodized aluminum top plate, which helps with durability and a more premium look, plus a 5.9-foot (1.8m) braided cable. Flip-out feet make it easy to adjust the typing angle. Logitech also threw in a 26-key rollover that should eliminate registration errors and features customizable function keys, and the keyboard is compatible with the Logitech Options configuration software available on Windows and macOS.

Unfortunately the K840 doesn't feature any backlighting, which will disappoint anyone who wants to click-clack late into the night, but that's the only true disappointment here. Plus, the lack of RGB combined with its mute design makes it fitting for the workplace. With a numpad, navigational keys and tactile quiet switches, there’s no excuse not to get work done. This is a solidly built keyboard that I found comfortable to type on, even though it's a bit larger than what I'm used to.

The Logitech K840 Mechanical also works for gaming in a pinch, although I found it too wide to use comfortably with my large mousepad. Someone with a smaller mousepad--or, perhaps, just wider shoulders--might be okay. Everyone else would probably be better served with a more svelte option.

The Havit KB487L's unique layout makes it fit for working and gaming.  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. Havit KB487L

Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Work and Play

Switches: Outemu Red | Backlight: None | Type: Tenkeyless | Size: 15.7 x 7 x 1.9 inches (398 x 177 x 48mm) | Weight: 2.3 pounds (1kg)

Attractive design with distinctive keycaps
Unique layout that bridges the TKL and full form factors
Responsive linear switches that are great for gaming
Lack of switch options
Unique layout won’t be for everyone

The Havit KB487L doesn't fit neatly into any other category, but it's such an interesting keyboard that we had to include it here. It's a standard TKL shape, but instead of having the usual cluster of shortcut keys along the right-hand side, it has a number pad. This leads to a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ design that offers the space-saving advantages of a TKL keyboard but doesn't actually consign spreadsheet lovers to using the number row. I didn’t notice the difference during everyday use--I rarely use either the shortcut cluster or the number pad--but it’s almost certain to throw off anyone who’s used to a more traditional layout.

Havit also equipped the KB487L with durable PBT keycaps that felt nicer than any of the other keycaps I poked, prodded and pressed in the course of preparing this round-up. They also boast a unique black, white, and orange color scheme that allow the KB487L to stand out among the sea of monochromatically faced keyboards currently available. This doesn't look or feel like a budget mechanical keyboard.

Luckily the KB487L’s beauty is more than skin deep. I didn’t notice any mis-pressed keys throughout multiple days of playing Valorant or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and those games make it pretty easy to tell when you’re doing something wrong with the keyboard, namely by making what should have clearly been a headshot fly off somewhere between the lost cities of Atlantis and Narnia. It still wasn’t my preferred experience, but I liked it more than most linear switch-equipped options.

best budget mechanical keyboard

Clickytactile switches make the MSI Vigor GK50 Elite the best budget mechanical keyboard for frequent typists.  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

5. MSI Vigor GK50 Elite

Best Budget Mechanical Keyboard for Typing

Switches: Kailh Blue (clicky) or Kailh Box White (clicky) | Backlight: Per-key RGB | Type: Full-size | Size: 17.1 x 5.3 x 1.5 inches (435x135x38 mm) | Weight: 1.8 pounds (800.5g)

Sturdy metal top plate
Keycaps fight off grease
Clicky switches can get tiring when gaming
Questionable cord durability

The MSI Vigor GK50 Elite (along with the low-profile version also on this page) is a great keyboard for typing. With it currently on sale for $65 it's also a cheaper alternative to other favored typing clackers, like the Hexgears Impulse currently going for $100. Like the Impulse, the Vigor GK50 Elite offers the excellent Kailh Box White switches. You can also get this keyboard with Kailh Blue switches, meaning this clacker will be loud and clicky no matter what.

While the plastic keycaps here aren’t fancy, they did a great job of fighting off fingerprint smudges during our testing. MSI also included a premium top plate, but skimped a bit on the cable, which is rubber that doesn’t  have much reinforcement for durability. But this is still a well-priced, albeit simple, keyboard with a premium typing experience. 

Gamers will miss out on lavish premium features, like bonus macro keys or onboard memory. Additionally, the Vigor GK50 Elite is only available with clicky, tactile switches that can be exhausting to hit rapidly and repeatedly. 

Read: MSI Vigor GK50 Elite review  

Heavy typists who need desk space should consider the Aukey KMG14. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

6. Aukey KMG14

Best Budget TKL Mechanical Keyboard for Typing

Switches: Outemu Blue | Backlight: RGB | Type: Tenkeyless | Size: 14.1 x 5.4 x 1.4 inches (357 x 138 x 36mm) | Weight: 2.3 pounds (1.1kg)

Satisfying--but not deafening--clicky switches
Ergonomic design well-suited to touch typing
RGB backlighting
Still a bit loud for intense gameplay
Heavy for a TKL board
Not as durable as other options

The Aukey KMG14 was the only clicky keyboard I tested that didn't make me want to "accidentally" spill something on top of it. The clicks are still pronounced, sure, but they’re closer to the pleasant pinging end of the spectrum than the "unbearable clacking" end. Pretty much everything else about the keyboard was also a welcome surprise, given its price.

Aukey equipped the KMG14 with RGB backlighting and full n-key rollover. It also used double-shot ABS keycaps, which is surprising given how cheap this mechanical keyboard is. Still, the KMG14 comes with a keycap puller to make it easier to swap out the keycaps with something a little snazzier, which was a nice touch and something I wish some other manufacturers had thought to include with their more-unfortunate-looking keycaps.

While this is marketed as a gaming keyboard, I’m recommending it for typing, simply because the clicks proved to be distracting to me and my teammates while I played games like Valorant and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. There are no tactile or linear switch options here that would be less distracting. People who prefer single-player games--or who don't mind grieving their teammates every time they press a key--will find a fine gaming keyboard here as well.

You can find the Aukey KMG14 on Aukey's website for $31 currently, making it the cheapest keyboard on this page.

The switches in the MSI Vigor GK50 Low Profile are short but comfy.   (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

7. MSI Vigor GK50 Low Profile

Best Low-Profile Budget Mechanical Keyboard

Switches: Kailh Choc (clicky) | Backlight: RGB | Type: Full-size | Size: 17.1 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches (435 x 141 x 34mm) | Weight: 1.5 pounds (700g)

Typewriter-like typing
Braided cable
Good price
Software won't download
Stiff spacebar key can be annoying when gaming
No wrist rest

Mechanical keyboards with low-profile switches can come at a premium, but the MSI Vigor GK50 Low Profile (along with the full-sized switch version on this page) offers one of the best budget mechanical keyboard experiences and is only $65 . It competes well against pricey keyboards and particularly excels in typing. Its low profile Kailh Choc switches bring back memories of typewriters with its shamelessly loud clicks. We also liked the fast response, which made our fingers want to get moving even faster. 

It’s not the perfect keyboard. In fact, we found the stiffer shift key to be a hindrance and the stiffer spacebar to affect our ability to use it rapidly while gaming. On top of this, the accompanying software doesn’t download properly at the moment, so RGB and other customization is limited.

However, this clacker has the speedy switches that gamers need with a design they like, plus a typing experience that made us feel nostalgic and eager to get to work. 

Read: MSI Vigor GK50 Low Profile review 

Finding Savings on the Best Budget Mechanical Keyboards

Whether you're shopping for the one of the best budget mechanical keyboards or a different model, you may find savings by checking out our lists of the latest Newegg promo codes or Best Buy promo codes.

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