Getting a gaming keyboard can improve your performance and make gaming more enjoyable — plus, you don’t have to spend more than $100 to get a decent one. We tested out a bunch starting as low as $30, and while you’ll find some features missing or cheaper materials used in the budget finds, compared to higher-end models, these all performed really well for the money (well, except one).
Just like picking out a new gaming mouse, getting the right gaming keyboard has a lot to do with personal preference, from ergonomic design to whether you prefer RGB lighting, a mechanical gaming keyboard, a wireless keyboard, or a full-size keyboard. For instance, I like tactile switches — ones where you can feel the actuation point — but don’t care for clicky key switches that make a sound when actuated. Also, some keyboards might feel great for gaming, but you might not like them for day-to-day typing. If you have a chance to test out different types of switches before you buy, I highly recommend it. You can check out this glossary of keyboard terms, too, to help narrow your keyboard design preferences.
Our picks below aren’t definitive as we’re still testing. For example, Corsair’s $74 K63 and HyperX’s Alloy FPS Pro TKL at $70, which were recommended by our readers, are worth checking out in addition to what we have here. If you think I’ve overlooked any other great sub-$100 gaming keyboard, let me know in the comments.
Even on its lower-end models such as the G413 backlit gaming keyboard, Logitech doesn’t cheap out on build quality and components. It uses the same Romer-G Tactile switches found on its more feature-filled models and has the same slim, simple and durable keyboard design with brushed aluminum-magnesium alloy top case. It has a braided USB cable with a USB passthrough port on the back right and channels underneath for mouse and headset cable management.
The tactile switch on this mechanical gaming keyboard is relatively quiet with no click when actuated, just a subtle bump and a short actuation. If you love to hear and feel your key presses, this probably isn’t the best switch for you. There’s just one color for the backlight — red — but the backlighting is bright and the key font on this full-size keyboard is easy to read. Logitech includes 12 faceted keycaps, which is nice but we didn’t feel much difference.
The G Hub software is programmable, letting you set up macros and custom functions on the F1-F12 buttons and there’s a game mode that shuts off the Windows key. Overall it’s a more polished mechanical gaming keyboard than the others here, but it’s also pricier at $64 and up.
Aukey makes everything from power banks and chargers to dash cams and yes, gaming keyboards. The $40 G6 mechanical gaming keyboard uses Outemu Blue mechanical key switches that are clicky, and you’ll have no problem feeling the actuation point as you go through your keystrokes. They are also loud, so if you’re typing or gaming in a shared space be prepared for some side-eye. Also, the keycaps are on the small side, which resulted in a lot of mistakes when typing and gaming. Unless you’re really accurate or have slender fingertips (I don’t) you’ll likely need time to adjust.
This relatively cheap mechanical keyboard is short on features — you won’t find any macro keys — and there’s no software to install for programmable buttons. As for lighting, you’re limited to a single color per row, but there are nine lighting modes to choose from and you can create two custom lighting effects. That’s really it, though, so if you’re just looking for a budget mechanical keyboard with lights, media shortcut keys and a number pad, this hits the spot.
The Cynosa might be a gaming keyboard, but it will likely remind you of an office keyboard. It’s a membrane keyboard not mechanical, so the keys are quiet and definitely feel softer than the others here. Some people might find them downright mushy. Oddly, you need to apply quite a bit of force to get the keys down. If you’re looking to use one keyboard for both work and play, though, this is a fine compromise for its current $44 price.
This is also the most programmable keyboard here. There are a lot of preset lighting effects to pick from and you can also create your own using the Synapse 3.0 software. There’s also Razer’s Hypershift feature that lets you set up a secondary set of functions for your keys that are accessed with a “shift” key you choose. You can also rebind keys and set macros with the software.
If you’re not a fan of loud clicky keyboards, the Cynosa is worth tracking down to test out.
Wireless gaming keyboards are a rarity because the last thing you want to do is potentially introduce lag into your performance. The G613’s Lightspeed wireless performs as good as wired and its battery life is stellar at up to 18 months on two AA-size batteries. That said, the keyboard has no backlight whatsoever, which while understandable for the power savings, no keyboard backlighting really kills the gaming experience in the dark. You do get six programmable buttons down the left side, so that’s something.
The G613 uses the same Romer-G Tactile mechanical switches as the G413, so everything I said about that one applies here. I happen to like the feel of this switch for gaming and typing, though I was in the minority for our testing. It’s definitely one you should try before you buy if you can.
If you want wireless and lights, consider the K57. This wireless keyboard uses rubber-dome switches with a pronounced actuation point, which gives it more of an office-keyboard feel like the Razer Cynosa. Gaming on it requires a touch more force than the mechanical keyboards here and rollover is limited to eight keys. Aside from those, the experience is just fine.
The K57 wirelessly connects to your PC via low-latency Bluetooth or Corsair’s 2.4GHz Slipstream technology that uses a tiny USB-A adapter for lag-free gaming. It can also be used wired with the included Micro-USB cable, which charges up the keyboard, too. While it doesn’t have the longevity of the Logitech when you’re using the per-key RGB lighting, you can get through several days of gaming without needing to charge it up.
A row of dedicated macro keys on the left and discrete media controls on the right round out the features. Plus, Corsair’s software is straightforward to use, which makes creating custom keyboard lighting and setting up those macro keys pretty painless. At $85, however, you’re definitely paying more for those features.
Made from ABS plastic and aluminum, the $40 waterproof K561 (yes, waterproof) mechanical gaming keyboard feels as solid as it sounds. Like the Aukey, it uses Outemu Blue switches that are tactile, clicky and loud. The keycaps are slightly bigger, though, so if you have rounder, wider fingertips you might find Redragon a better choice. This one is tenkeyless, too, for those who don’t want or need a numberpad, but the company makes several other mechanical keyboards and all are less than $70 if you’re looking for a full-size keyboard.
The Redragon software is amateurish compared to Logitech’s and Razer’s. You can set up single-key macros and up to three separate profiles. There’s no control over setting per-key backlighting, but that’s hardly a surprise at its $40 price. You can pick from 19 different light patterns, and adjust speed, brightness and direction of light movement. Whether it’s for comfort or you’re looking to save space on your desk or in your backpack, the K561 mechanical gaming keyboard is a good pick.
Read more: Best gaming PCs for 2020
I’m only mentioning this keyboard because of its high rating on Amazon that definitely doesn’t jibe with our experience. It’s huge, clunky and generic and won’t win any design awards, and you definitely won’t mistake it for a genuine mechanical keyboard.
However, the keyboard may appeal to people with a budget, going for around $38 and does have some decent gaming features for the money, like RGB lighting (whole keyboard only), a row of five macro keys and three profile/mode keys for up to 15 macro keys total and gray keycaps for the WASD and arrow keys.
The keyboard design also leaves something to be desired. While the macro keys are nice to have, the bottom one is directly across from the Ctrl key, so you might end up hitting the macro key by accident. (I did. A lot.) It’s not a great keyboard for typing in general, either. Also, there are media control keys, but none for volume — only mute, which is just WTF.
In the end, this’ll get the job done, especially if it’s only for occasional use, but frequent gamers are better off with one of the others here.
E3 2019 wrap-up, AT&T cancels Fold preorders
Originally published last year and updated periodically.