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It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a MOBA, MMORPG, FPS, or any other video game genre acronym, if you’re playing on a PC, you need a good keyboard. Like the best gaming chairs, keyboards can have several special features that drive up the cost. But like any gaming product, budget-friendly alternatives exist.
You don’t need to buy the brightest keyboard with the most buttons to get the most out of your gaming sessions. You can easily find a cheap gaming keyboard with a handful of premium features from reliable brands like Logitech and SteelSeries. The best budget gaming keyboards are responsive, durable, and, thankfully, under $100.
What to consider
When looking for budget-friendly gaming keyboards, look for those from trusted brands like Logitech, SteelSeries, and Redragon to make sure you grab something reliable and durable. These companies also sometimes offer limited warranties, which protect against potential hardware failure and key damage.
Type of switch
Gaming keyboards are often mechanical and use spring-loaded switches under their keycaps. These are the classic-looking, generic keyboards we often imagine and the opposite of the soft, rubberized membrane keyboard.
Switches fit under keycaps, and the type of switch a keyboard uses has to do with the sound it makes while operating and the response of a key. Most brands have proprietary or market-sounding names for their keyboard’s switch type, but there are three main categories: linear, tactile, and clicky. Each switch type also has a corresponding color to indicate which category it belongs to, which can be viewed after lifting a keycap from its place.
- Linear: These are smooth, often quiet switch types that produce the least amount of noise when using a keyboard. These are represented by red, yellow and black colored switches. These can meet your gaming needs but fall short of the daily use of a typewriter.
- Tactile: Generally recommended for most gamers, tactile keyboards produce a moderate noise level and give a small bump under pressure to confirm a key has been used. Tactile key switches are brown and clear in color.
- Clicky: These are similar to tactile keyboards, but offer an even more responsive shock when used. They also, as their name implies, produce the loudest click-clack sound. Blue and green colored switches indicate clicking keys.
If you’re looking for a keyboard to customize the switch type of an individual keycap, look for one that’s considered hot-swappable. It’s hard to find a reliable gaming keyboard with hot-swap switches under $150, but we’ve got one nominee on this list, in case you want a tailored experience.
Keyboards come in a variety of sizes, but we’ll stick with the three most common gaming keyboards: full-size, tenkeyless (or TKL), and 60%. Their differences will determine which type is best for you and your play style.
- Full format: These keyboards have between 104 and 108 keys – more than that is typically a bonus, programmable key. They include a numeric keypad, arrow cluster and navigation buttons.
- without key: A keyboard labeled tenkeyless or TKL does not have a numeric keypad. The omission of the numeric keypad, usually on the right side of a keyboard, results in a smaller, more compact device, saving space. This also helps keep your gaming mouse closer to your keyboard, resulting in a smaller space for faster response.
- 60%: These compact gaming keyboards lack a numeric keypad, navigation cluster, and function row. This makes your playing space more concise as your hands move within a smaller area resulting in faster reaction times. These are preferred for players playing first-person shooters.
Some keyboards are equipped with macros, programmable keys that allow gamers to perform tasks at the touch of a button. These buttons can be customized to perform tasks automatically, as simple as opening a program or as complex as performing a series of keystrokes. How useful they are depends on the game you’re playing.
While wireless keyboards may seem useful for traveling and getting rid of cable clutter, they pose a latency issue. Because wireless keyboards connect to laptops, mobile devices, and desktops via Bluetooth, users often experience input lag and lag between keystrokes. Wired is the best option when choosing a gaming keyboard to avoid that lag, especially when pressing more than one button at a time.
How we evaluated
To find the best cheap gaming keyboards, we consulted video game publications IGN, Games Radar, and PC Gamer. We also asked our technology test editor, Hunter Fenollol, what he recommends for keyboards under $100. We also searched hundreds of products from retailers like Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy, looking at top-selling and top-rated products based on users . This list balances cheap gaming keyboards based on different playstyles, budgets, and features.
Looking for more PC gaming articles? Check out our picks for the best gaming mouse, best streaming webcams, and best gaming chairs according to Reddit.