Be kind to your fingers and your bank account with the perfect inexpensive mechanical keyboard
Every typist deserves to enjoy mechanical keys, no matter their budget.
Thankfully, the massive growth of the mechanical keyboard market in recent years has led to more contenders for the title of best cheap mechanical keyboard now than ever before. Just as important, “cheap” doesn’t mean low quality. With more options to choose from, saving money doesn’t require sacrificing performance, durability, or features as long as you know where to look.
We’ve broken down the contenders for the best budget mechanical keyboard (in our opinion) into three categories based on price, from insta-buy boards coming in way below $75 all the way to options that balance budget with premium looks, feel, and durability under $250. Let’s get started.
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The base model of the Keychron C1 is a fully featured mechanical keyboard that costs less than you might spend on a lunch date. Sure, stacking on more nice-but-inessential features such as hot-swappable switches and backlighting bumps up the price tag a bit, but even then it might not cost as much as dinner. Whichever way you go, you’ll get a compact tenkeyless with your choice of three kinds of built-in switches. The pictured retro-styled colorway is limited to the non-backlit version, so keep that in mind as you make your pick.
Did You Know? The HHKB travel bundle makes it easy to always keep your favorite board handy no matter where you’re working. Click here to learn more.
You don’t see too many 65% keyboards out there, but the LTC Nimbleback makes it look good at an equally nice price. The compact layout slightly truncates the lower right side of the standard key array, clearing out space for a standalone set of arrow keys with an abbreviated control key cluster on top — ideal for casual and gaming uses with just enough productivity to tackle documents and spreadsheets too. Granted, that customizable RGB lighting might get some looks if you take it into the office.
Speaking of customizable RGB lighting, what if your whole keyboard had it? That’s the pitch behind the Womier K61, a compact and eye-catching 60% board. The keyboard’s color-changing underglow LEDs and individual key lighting create an eye-catching light show on the unique frosted resin case. Hot-swappable switches mean it’s almost as easy to change up the feel of typing as it is to change the look. The Womier K61 is easily the best cheap mechanical keyboard for stealing the scene.
High quality, sleek looks, and no frills are the defining features for the Drop Entr keyboard. Alright, you could probably classify that white backlighting as a frill, but at least it’s a classy one. Drop created the Entr as an appropriately named entry model into the mechanical keyboard hobby, opting for the popular tenkeyless format and focusing on just a handful of high-impact customization options. Entr’s meant to be welcoming to newcomers, but the high build quality means it will be your faithful sidekick for years to come.
If you ever typed on an old-school IBM or Lexmark keyboard, you may have noticed that its keys created an idiosyncratic feeling and sound when pressed. If you want to recapture that feeling — or try it out for the first time — the Unicomp New Model M is the modern-day answer. It uses the very same buckling spring switch technology that powered the originals, and while this full-sized board is more compact than its ancestors, it still weighs in at a hefty six pounds. No worries about this one sliding off your desk.
The Das Keyboard Model S Professional goes for high-end feel and looks at a surprisingly affordable price. This board is an ideal daily driver upgrade for an office environment where you don’t want to stand out too much. The full-sized number pad is ideal for knocking out spreadsheets and the hybrid function key/media controls keep you in your flow state with your music of choice. The Model S Professional only comes in black, but you do get your choice of tactile Cherry MX Brown switches or clicky Blues.
At a current asking price just north of $200, you won’t find a better all-purpose mechanical keyboard than the HHKB Professional Classic. Its Topre switches are regularly cited by enthusiasts as the sweet spot for tactile typing, producing a measured and mellow feel under the fingers that is perfectly suited to extended sessions of writing, coding, gaming, and beyond. Its minimalist design and unique 60% layout make it easy to integrate into just about any working setup, and you can even take your pick of white and black colorways to suit your aesthetic.
Did You Know? The HHKB layout replaces the seldom-used caps lock key with the control key, making essential commands and shortcuts even faster to use without leaving the home row. Click here to learn more.
Prefer a more traditional key layout with a slightly larger footprint, but still want to feel those electrostatic capacitive Topre switches? The REALFORCE R2 Midsize is a tenkeyless board, meaning it has dedicated function and arrow keys but no number pad, and its current price still comes in well under the $250 mark. A full-size version complete with number pad is also available for the same price — and if you want some beautiful lighting effects and don’t mind paying a little extra, you can opt for the REALFORCE R2 RGB instead.
Squeaking in just under the $250 mark is the Logitech G915 Wireless RGB mechanical gaming keyboard. It’s the highest-priced keyboard on this list, but for the extra cash you get a full layout of keys on low-profile gaming switches and built-in media controls with an edgeless wheel for volume control. The G915 supports wired use over USB as well as wireless via Bluetooth or Logitech Lightspeed — the latter requires a dedicated USB dongle, but offers minimal latency for the extra trouble.
Looking for even more keyboards to fit your budget? The whole line of HHKB keyboards is made in Japan to exacting standards, so you know it will keep performing for years down the line.