The best cheap gaming keyboard means all the basic gaming goodness, without all the unnecessary frills, or ridiculous pricing. When you're looking at $200 for the best gaming keyboards, a simple budget keyboard alternative can really save your bank balance some stress. That way, you can supersize your graphics card, or just build a complete machine for a lot less.
When we say 'cheap,' we're talking about pricing, not quality. Most budget keyboards in this guide are $50 or under and will be a stalwart companion to your gaming PC. Certain features will be omitted to keep the price down, though. Make sure you know which features really matter to you—be they media controls, LED displays, elaborate macro keys, or mechanical switches—and decide what you can live without.
Anyway, we've attempted to list as many of the best cheap gaming keyboards we've tested over the years, with a range of price points up to $50. We've even added a couple of quality keyboards that come bundled with other peripherals to take some of the stings out of the cost of a new setup.
If you do find yourself with some money to burn, however, the best mechanical keyboards would always be our first recommendation.
There is a trend towards $200+ gaming keyboards in the market at the moment, but that doesn't mean there aren't quality mechanical switch boards available at a more reasonable price. Often you'll find these more budget-oriented options offering cheap switches from other manufacturers, but the G.Skill KM360 comes featuring the classic Cherry MX Red linear switch out of the gate.
If you can't cope with your gaming board not lit up like a rainbow then you may be disappointed with the single-colour option, but damn, the white LEDs on this G.Skill board are the brightest I've ever seen. Normally I like to keep at max brightness all day long, but the KM360 would burn out my retina if I did.
This TKL board is basic, but what it does, it does very well. It's solid, well-built, reliable, and looks pretty decent too. There's no wrist rest, no passthrough, or media controls, but I'll happily give it a pass in favour of affordable functionality.
The STOGA mechanical keyboard switches are pretty much indistinguishable from Cherry MX Blues. They emulate that clicky sound and feel initially sought after by typists, but which has since becomes a much-loved switch for gaming, too.
This model is a compact, no-nonsense tenkeyless design with pre-determined RGB backlighting. Unless you despise clicky switches or desperately need dedicated media controls, it's difficult to go wrong with the STOGA.
The Z-88 from E-Element is definitely on the pricier side when stacked against the competition on this list, but being available in either black or white and offering a variety of Outemu switches provides options that many other budget keyboards don't. However, at this price, an included wrist rest would've been nice.
The exposed hardware and aluminum backplate give this version of the Havit mechanical keyboard a sturdy, industrial look. While only available with clicky proprietary blue switches, this model does come packaged with a wired, optical gaming mouse. Besides the lack of exclusive customization software or dedicated media controls, this package of Havit peripherals leaves little to be desired.
HyperX is a trusted name among peripheral manufacturers. While it typically caters to a more premium brand, the Alloy Core RGB brings extensive features and reliable performance at an affordable price. The price does skirt the definition of a "budget" keyboard, but the dedicated media controls and customization software help justify the MSRP.
HyperX has had to incorporate membrane switches for this particular model, but that has the added effect of making the Alloy Core spill-resistant. We'd prefer mechanical keys, but a quality membrane is still much better than some old office board.
The Roccat Magma reminds us you don't need mechanical key switches for a good gaming experience. You get tactile keypress feedback, 26-key rollover and anti-ghosting bundled up in a gorgeous '80s retro neon aesthetic.
There may not be per key-lighting, nor are the LEDs super accurate if you want a highly specific colour, but the entire face plate lights up to create this unique beacon of RGB goodness. And for a full size, RGB-laden keyboard with function key media controls and a wrist rest, it's well worth the price tag.
Read the full Roccat Magma review.
Best cheap gaming keyboards FAQ
Where are all the cheap keyboards with fancy key switches?
Cheaper keyboards usually come with membrane switches. If a super cheap keyboard includes mechanical switches, they're probably knock-off Cherry switches. That doesn't mean they're guaranteed to fail, but they wont be backed by the same level of acclaim that top keyboard switch manufacturers are.
Cheaper keyboards will have an overall different feel than your standard Razer and SteelSeries keyboards. But don't worry, these great-value gaming keyboards will still feel good under your fingertips, and your wallet will thank you for it.
If you want to know more about switches, you can read our detailed explanation of mechanical key switches.
Jargon buster - keyboard terminology
The height to which a key needs to be pressed before it actuates and sends an input signal to a device.
A switch that delivers an audible click every time it's pressed, generally right around the point of actuation.
A technique to ensure that only one input registers every time a key is pressed.
The shell that surrounds the internal components of a switch.
The result of the actuation point and reset point in a switch being misaligned. This generally means a key needs to be lifted off of further than normal before it can be actuated again.
A switch that moves directly up and down, generally delivering smooth keystrokes without noise or tactile feedback.
A keyboard built around individual switches for each key rather than a membrane sheath mounted on a PCB.
A keyboard on which all the keycaps are mounted on a membrane sheath; when a key is pressed, a rubber dome depresses and pushes against the sheath and PCB beneath, actuating the key.
The component of a switch on which the keycaps are mounted on a mechanical keyboard.
The physical component of a mechanical keyboard beneath the keycaps on a mechanical keyboard. The switch determines how a key is actuated, whether or not it provides audible or tactile feedback with each press, and more.
A switch that provides a 'bump' of feedback every time it's pushed.
A keyboard that lacks the right-hand number pad.