I think I’m finally starting to understand you guys. The numbers tell me that y’all really like cheap $#!t, and your comments are giving me a slightly different version of the story. One that I’ve also figured out, you want to see the cheap stuff – That’s also the good stuff! So we went looking for the least expensive keyboard on the market, but one that is still fully- *clickety clack* mechanical, and, without any of that “MeCHaNicAL FEeL” marketing malarkey either. So here we go then, a roundup of the 9 cheapest true mechanical keyboards on Amazon. Enjoy!
🙂 The be quiet! Dark Base Pro 900’s modular design supports a variety of different layouts and configurations. Click on the link in the video description to learn more.
First up is our audience’s favorite brand, apparently. Redragon products have been, “flying” off the shelves, like “fire”. Since our last peripheral roundup, available here. This is the Redragon K551 Vara.
The product page says it is, Built like a tank, and actually we’re inclined to agree. It’s splash proof and the exposed steel backplate is sturdy, not to mention heavy AF. It’s got double shot injection key caps with a Gamer-y, but very readable legend over top of what they describe as Cherry Green equivalent switches, but they both look and feel a lot more like blues if you ask me. With that in mind then the typing experience is pretty good, but the key caps are a little on the slippery side, and keystrokes produce a metallic twang, that like country music you’ll either love or hate. The backlight has a generous 10 steps of brightness including off, But unfortunately only one effect, Breathing. Though an RGB version is available, and there’s an unlit one as well in case you want to save $2.
Aula’s Demon King is a tenkeyless with, according to the box, its own branded Aula mechanical blue switches, but it turns out that they’re actually just Gateron Blues, and the diagram on their website is a ripoff of Razer’s marketing materials for their Razer Green Switches produced by Kailh. Anywho, the keyboard itself is nice and heavy, But with more deck flex than other keyboards in our roundup and typing is overall… OK. Due in large part to the laser engraved key caps whose width and raised corners are debatably fine, But whose key cap wobble is not. The dual-purpose keys have the symbols beside each other rather than stacked, so the backlit version that we’re assuming exists can illuminate both, but on ours it’s just kind of hard to read, or funny. My favorite keys are the “5%” key and the “1!”
*lolz* On that subject, there’s also an indicator light for Num Lock even though there’s no number pad. It’s a decent board overall, if you don’t mind the annoyingly narrow enter key since it uses the European ISO layout rather than the North American ANSI. The next keyboard on our list isn’t a mechanical keyboard at all. It’s the Airfox K500 Irina Kaptelova, named after a Russian actress for some reason. We’re actually including this one just to highlight how easy it is for people with little experience with mechanical keyboards to order the wrong thing.
This one is in Amazon’s mechanical keyboard category even though it uses scissor key switches. For what it’s worth though, she feels a little cheap, but she types pretty nice if you’re into low profile switches. If Apple made a mechanical keyboard aimed at gamers with a rainbow, LED Scheme at- Okay, It’s not very Apple-y at all but, the tenkeyless Z77 from E-Element is actually pretty sweet anyway. It’s Outemu Blue switches are a little louder than Cherry MX Blues, but otherwise they offer a very similar tactile experience, and they also have some extra brackets around the cross that are supposed to increase stability. But it should be added you won’t be able to add your own sound dampening O-Rings.
The build quality feels solid and even though the backlight colors can’t be changed on this version, It comes pre-loaded with nine effects that are easy to control without the use of software. Finally, I’m not sure if this is a good sign or not, but they included a few extra key switches in the box should the board’s original PCB-mounted switches fail. So ugly gray cable aside, this one is a great option.
And if you’re looking for an even more compact version of the same, try the 545g E-Element Z88 Super Scholar. All the features and keys of the Z77 but, smarter. With a smaller footprint and bezel-less design.
It actually has some other improvements too, like a detachable cord, cable management tracks and multiple backlight color choices. But what if you want bigger and not smaller? Then, there’s the uh… Hey wait a tick, no, this one isn’t from E-Element actually. It says it’s an EagleTec KG011, and yet, it has a similar finish and the exact same legend as the last two boards, and that’s the same legend that the Redragon keyboard was using too. OK, so budget keyboard part sourcing seems to be a little inbred, but regardless this one is also a nice board, with an icy blue backlight that can be set to breathing mode and a Corsair inspired metal backplate. Not to mention that – like the others mentioned – switchable WASD and arrow keys are included in case you wear out one of the sets.
And now then for something completely different. This thing is called the Qisan or Magicforce Smart One, depending on where you look. It’s our smallest keyboard with just 68 keys and weighing a mere 528g. The blasted finish on the backplate belies its low price tag, and it’s even available with switches from Cherry, Gateron or Outemu for different feels.
What they all have in common though, is that the function and number keys, which have been combined, and a removable cord, and media on-the-go adapter are all included, to make it a very portable keyboard. You might even consider taking this one to class, since ours uses the quiet Outemu Black linear switches. These have a similar feel to Cherry MX reds, the ones that are so common in gaming boards, but quite a lot heavier.
Okay, now this tenkey actually is from E-Element. Though, it has a different legend, different key caps and even different stems. The screws on this weird compartment on the bottom made us think that they might have put weights inside, like a high-end gaming mouse, but no.
All 1220 grams of this puppy seemed to be from the thick steel backplate. It’s got a bunch of lighting modes, even though the backlight color can’t be changed, and if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s probably our loudest keyboard in this roundup. Overall, not bad, and it’s the only one with an included wrist rest, though with that said we couldn’t find anyone whose wrists or even palms actually touched it. The Drevo Gramr, grammar rate or Caliber, whatever it is, is a lone wolf in many respects. it’s the only board in our roundup that uses brown switches offering a happy medium between typing and gaming, and apparently, it helps you use every spell correctly, which… okay…. It’s also the only one with a braided cable, embedded numpad, and the ability to set up five of your own lighting schemes, though the included effects are a fair bit cooler.
As for the cons, the otherwise nice backlit double shot key caps have additional pad printing on the outside that looks blurry and cheap, the casing is creaky and the Caps Lock key is illuminated when Caps Lock is off rather than on for some reason. Overall though we really liked its feel, features and compact layout. Now then to hand out the trophies. The Magic Force definitely put a spell on me. It’s sturdy yet light and is available with a wide variety of different configs, various key switches, key counts and even backlights.
If you’re looking for something big, heavy and gamer-y though, we ended up recommending Redragon again, and I also personally thought that the E-Element Z77 was pretty well-rounded. With that said though, the big surprise here is that none of these boards stands out as “bad”, Your mileage may vary though, because at the low end of the market you don’t get the same quality assurance program that you would from a major brand. Though at these prices there’s the argument to be made that you could just pick up another one if it dies. Blue Apron lets you create delicious chef designed recipes at home, by delivering all the farm-fresh ingredients in exactly the right proportions to your doorstep.
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