What You Must Know Before Buying A Cheap Mechanical Gaming Keyboard: Buyers Guide 2020

By Bitstudio

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cheap mechanical gaming keyboardAre mechanical gaming keyboards better?

That depends on what you want to use them for.  The best cheap mechanical gaming keyboard can often be a great upgrade in these times of low-quality membrane keyboards.  As you’ll find out in this comparison, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. How cheap? A few picks can be found for under $30!

Here’s the deal:

In the early days of computing, PCs like the early IBM and Apple machines ruled the day. They featured keyboards that were built like a tank compared to their modern counterparts. If you were to tear those behemoths apart you would find that the majority were mechanical keyboards. There is still a demand for these relics on sites like eBay. Disassemble most keyboards today and you’ll find a membrane-type contact. These are usually made of silicone, cheap rubber or even plastic film. Most likely they are not made to be worked on, just discarded. These days even a $30 mechanical gaming keyboard can be a low-cost gaming rig upgrade.

So what’s the catch?

The mechanical keyboards of yesteryear were quite expensive to manufacture. Now a decent, cheap mechanical gaming keyboard can now be had for as low as $25. This now makes them extremely competitive with the more common membrane style keyboards. Gamers, in general, prefer the tactile and/or audible feedback a mechanical gaming keyboard provides. As opposed to a membrane keyboard a mechanical keyboard uses a physical switch under each key. On keypress, they can range from silent to having a distinct “click” sound that some gamers prefer. The switch can vary as to the pressure needed to activate it. Generally, it doesn’t require fully depressing the key to send a signal (like many membrane type keys do).  The table below is a good place to start comparing cheaper mechanical keyboards for gaming. You’ll also want a good gaming mouse with programmable buttons as well.
InfoKeyboard FeaturesSwitch TypeNumber of KeysProgrammable? 
Element Z88 60% Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, E-Anti-Ghosting
Blue Switches, Rainbow LED Backlit, Water Resistant
Blue (louder)81N/A
price
Velocifire VM01 Mechanical Gaming KeyboardIlluminated
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Brown (quieter)
104N/A
HyperX Alloy FPS Pro - Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - 87-Key, Ultra-Compact Form Factor - Linear & Quiet - Cherry MX Red - Red LED Backlit (HX-KB4RD1-US/R1)Illuminated
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Red (medium quiet)
104N/A


Mechanical Keyboard, E-YOOSO K600 LED Rainbow Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard 104 Key Gamers Keyboard PC Computer USB Wired Gaming Keyboard Brown SwitchesIlluminated
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Brown
87
+12 multimedia
N/A
HyperX Alloy FPS Pro - Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - 87-Key, Ultra-Compact Form Factor - Linear & Quiet - Cherry MX Red - Red LED Backlit (HX-KB4RD1-US/R1)Illuminated
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Red (medium quiet)
N/A...
SK61 Black Wired 60% Keys NKRO Gateron Optical Axis RGB Backlight Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (61 Keys, Gateron Brown Switch)Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
61 key
Gateron Brown (quieter)
61Yes

SteelSeries Apex M400Illuminated
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Custom104Yes
Tesoro Gram Spectrum Low Profile G11SFL Blue Mechanical Switch Single Individual Per Key Full Color RGB LED Backlit Illuminated Mechanical Black Gaming KeyboardLow profile
Rainbow LED Backlit
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Blue or red
104N/A
Redragon K557 KALAIlluminated
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Blue
Audible click
104N/A
Razer BlackWidow Ultimate: Esports Gaming Keyboard - Dust and Spill Resistant - Individually Backlit Keys - Razer Green Mechanical Switches (Tactile and Clicky)Illuminated
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Razer Green
Audible click
N/AYes
Redragon K552 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard RGB LED Rainbow Backlit Wired Keyboard with Red Switches for Windows Gaming PC (87 Keys, Black)Illuminated
Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Red104N/A
Redragon S117 Gaming Keyboard Mouse Combo Mechanical RGB Rainbow Backlit Keyboard Redragon S117 Gaming Keyboard Mouse Combo Mechanical RGB Rainbow Backlit Keyboard Brown Switches RGB Gaming Mouse for Windows PC Gamers (104 Keys)s RGB Gaming Mouse for Windows PC Gamers (104 Keys)Water Resistant
Anti-Ghosting
Keyboard + Mouse Combo
RGB Rainbow Backlit
Brown Switches RGB (104 Keys
104 keys3 macro keys

What’s the real story about cheap mechanical gaming keyboard switches?

There are several types of switches for mechanical keyboards. hey very widely in the kind of feedback they give to the gamer. some give only a tactile feedback that let you know when the key has been activated without an audible click. Some provide an audible click of varying levels from quiet to quite prominent. Yet others have a linear keypress that some prefer to a membrane keyboard. Razer and some other companies have designed hybrid switches that are part mechanical, part membrane. One of the first mechanical switches to become popular with gamers was the Cherry MX.

The Cherry MX switch comes in several variations including Red, Brown, Black, Blue, and Speed. Each has their own particular feel. Which type is right for you is a matter of taste.

Comparison of mechanical keyboard switches

SwitchTactileAudible ClickStats/Feel
Cherry MX REDLinearNoLight, fast, Actuation Force: 45g
Actuation Point: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm
Cherry MX BLACKLinearNoHeavy Actuation Force: 60g
Actuation Point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Cherry MX BLUEClickLoudHeavy Actuation Force: 60g
Actuation Point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Cherry MX BROWNYesNoMedium Actuation Force: 45g
Actuation Point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Cherry MX SPEEDLinearNoLight Actuation Force: 45g
Actuation Point: 1.2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
KailhCherry MX CloneSee Cherry MX See Cherry MX stats
Razer GREENClickLoudHeavy Actuation Force: 55g
Actuation Point: 1.9mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Razor ORANGELinearNoMedium Actuation Force: 55g
Actuation Point: 1.9mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Razor MECHA-MEMBRANEYes, with medium level soundN/AMedium Hybrid
Logitech ROMER-GSomewhatQuietSimilar to Cherry MX SPEED
SteelSeries
QX1
LinearNoFast, low resistance

Three main categories of cheap mechanical gaming keyboard switches and why it matters

Linear Switches

Cherry MX Red switches are a popular choice in this category. They are perfect for FPS gamers, and others where the player will be repeatedly hitting keys in rapid succession. They have no audible click from the switch, nor a tactile “bump” making them very fast to actuate with each press of the key. Of course, when one is pounding on a key in machine-gun fashion, you will hear the keycap itself hitting the bottom of its travel distance. On the Cherry MX Red that is 4mm.  Cherry MX keyboard switches were the original brand which now is duplicated by many low-cost Chinese factories. Always check the number of reviews an look for highly-rated models. You can find many bargains in all the knockoff keyboard categories.

Not all gamers prefer linear keyboard switches as it all comes down to what feels right for the individual gamer. They are rarely preferred for basic word processing due to the lack of feedback. Where speed in gaming is the goal, however, they can excel. Some tactile switches can provide fast action with a slight tactile feel, so shop around for what you prefer.

Bitstudio’s top pick for best linear switch mechanical keyboard under $100 is the Corsair Vengeance Compact Mechanical-Keyboard

Tactile Switches for a cheap mechanical gaming keyboard

This type of switch gives the gamer a slight resistance at the point of key actuation. Most but not all of these are silent,  some will have a quiet click noise. Many MMO players prefer a tactile switch keyboard. In games that do not require rapid-fire keystrokes all the time, this type of mechanical keyboard is a good fit.

Bitstudio’s top pick for best tactile switch mechanical keyboard under $100 is the Velocifire VM01 Mechanical Keyboard The VM01 feature the quieter than Blue, clicky clones of Cherry MX Brown. The keyboard has some weight to it and good lighting options for this price range.

Clicky Switches

in the early days of the PC. These were the common keyboard. The IBM model M keyboard quickly became the gold standard for typists. The tactile feel an audible click were an asset for common office computer use, such as word processing. Some gamers still prefer the clicky feedback of these type of mechanical keyboards. For some games these work just fine.

Bitstudio’s top pick for best clicky switch mechanical keyboard under $100 is the Pictek 104 Keys Anti-ghosting Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard If you want to hear when your keys actuate, this is your keyboard. With it’s Cherry MX Blue clones, you get a definitely that audible click along with that blue tactile bump that many prefer.

Hybrids, Clones, and Custom Switches

Today there are many options for cheap mechanical gaming keyboard including hybrids of these main categories of keyboard types. In the end, your preference is what matters. With clones of popular switches on the market, there are more choices than ever. It behooves the gamer to learn about the characteristics of the different types of switches in order to make an informed decision.

Bitstudio’s top pick for best custom switch keyboard under $100 is the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Featuring Razer’s own responsive Green switches with their own audible click and tactile bump. Backlit with individually programmable key-switches for lots of options.

Keyboards for the FPS Player

FPS players generally will be looking for a linear type keyboard. More important than a tactile pop or an audible click is that in the heat of fast-paced action, repeated key presses will actuate smooth and quick without too much travel. This is where a Cherry MX Red based key mechanism fits the bill nicely. A good choice for FPS is a keyboard like the Corsair Vengence K65 Compact Mechanical Gaming Keyboard with its Red switches and rugged aluminum chassis. Many of the pro gamers who compete for a living in games such as Overwatch use keyboards like the Logitec G810   or the Fnatic Gear Rush LED Backlit Mechanical Pro Gaming Keyboard with Blue MX Cherry Switches.  The Corsair STRAFE Mechanical Gaming Keyboard featuring red LED lighting and Cherry MX Red switches is another favorite with the pro gamers.

Keyboards for the MMO Player

In the more relaxed world of MMO style gaming, a player may prefer a keyboard that gives them the satisfying click of a Blue or Brown based switch. The Blue is louder and may just be a problem if you like to talk to your teammates while in the game. The Brown based keyboards are a nice compromise, being much quieter, yet still providing good tactile and audible feedback. A good choice here would be a keyboard like the Velocifire VM01 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard with it’s not too loud Brown clicky switches. Keep in mind that your party might get tired of your constant clicking if you are on chat often, esp. during combat.

Keyboards for the Professional Player

Pro teams like Cloud9 often use gear like Logitec’s G810 keyboard  While teams like Fnatic have their own line of keyboards like the Fnatic Gear Focus XL  both keyboards come with a choice of different switches. Many of the pro keyboards are surprisingly still in the $100 range, still not out of reach for the average gamer.

In the end, it all comes down to what feels good to you. Choose your cheap mechanical gaming keyboard and go for the win.

 

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