Every gamer needs a keyboard. Actually, scratch that—every gamer needs a great set of keys. Although it’s easy to point at something pricey and see its merits, we want to see how cheap we can go and still get something decent.
First, we set some guidelines: the keyboard should offer mechanical switches suitable for gaming. We know that some gamers actually prefer membrane keyboards but as of right now, the most sought after models are all mechanical.
Second, the keyboard needs to be reliable. A gaming keyboard needs to stand up to abuse and the rigors of obsessive gaming. Long hours, dirt, accidental spills and crumbs, you name it, it needs to be able to take it.
Third, it needs to be cheap. There's an ocean of gaming keyboards out there, sometimes it just feels like there are too many choices. Of course, a keyboard, like a mouse, is personal (and here are the best gaming mouse (opens in new tab) choices for you). Everyone's different and everyone wants a different feel. But also, everyone wants affordability.
So after going through a pool of both expensive and cheap keyboards, we found an el-cheapo model that we think is superb. And it only costs $24—a perfect compliment to the ultra cheap but still decent gaming mouse we found. And if you're looking to spend a little more money... here are the best gaming keyboard (opens in new tab) options right now.
The cheapest gaming keyboard
Otemu Blue mechanical switches
Compact, Ten-keyless formfactor
No number pad
Only available with Blue switches
No extra features and backlights (a pro for some)
Rubber feet could use more stability
There’s no shortage of cheap keyboards, but ultra-budget mechanical keyboard is an exotic species. We thought we wouldn’t be able to find anything worth buying below $60—until we ran in to the $27 Redragon K552-N Kumara. Over 1500 reviews on Amazon raving about this keyboard is in line with what we think: it's good!
The Kumara is likely the best looking keyboard you’ll find at this price range. It lacks the finesse of a premium board, but it at least doesn’t try to masquerade as something above its pay grade with a gaudy show. The plain black finish is easy on the eyes, and the company logo isn’t nailed onto every other key. The omission of the number pad may not bode well with users who crunch numbers, but gamers would certainly appreciate the extra wiggle room for their mouse.
One of the main drivers for the Kumara’s incredibly low price is its Otemu Blue switches. Otemu is a line of Cherry MX clones and generally sell for cheaper. Although it’s available in the same stem colors as Cherry MX, the Kumara only makes use of the Blues. Initial impression of the switch is good; both its feel and sound are almost indiscernible from Cherry MX Blues. The switches are plate mounted (as opposed to PCB mounted) for higher stability. Longevity remains to be seen, though the switch is rated for 50 million clicks per key.
We’re surprised to see that the Kumara handles NKRO like a champ. It didn’t skip a single keystroke even with 26 keys pressed down at the same time. We also tried some common key combinations and didn’t encounter any ghosting.
For a keyboard that makes generous use of ABS plastic, we’re glad to see that the Kumara employs a metal backplate. Having a rigid back plate is important since it needs to keep the switches mounted to it as stable as possible. But despite so, the Kumara is still lightweight compared to premium mechanical boards. Its weight factor, combined with its tiny rubber feet, makes it slide around the table with moderate force.
Features are understandably austere. There’s no macro recording, passthroughs, or even braided cables. There are some interesting decorations as well. For example, the WASD legends printed on the arrow keys make us wonder if they’re recycled from another board.
If you’re sizing up the Redragon Kumara as an introductory mechanical keyboard, rest assured that its performance is definitely a notch above whatever you already have. The Kumara also comes in a variant with red backlight for $4 more, and a variant with RGB backlight for $6 more.