Velocifire Mechanical Keyboard
Logitech G610 Orion
If you want to get more serious about your gaming, a mechanical keyboard should be one of the first things you buy. They can be quite expensive, though - fortunately, there are plenty of high quality yet affordable options out there, although they can be hard to find alongside the more prevalent expensive models. That's why we put this guide together for you - read on if you're interested in the
Top 5 Budget Mechanical Keyboards Under $100 (2020)
|Corsair STRAFE||$$$||Cherry MX Red||Yes|
|Velocifire Mechanical Keyboard||$$||MX Brown||Yes|
|Rosewill RK-9000V2 RE||$$$||Cherry MX Red||Yes|
|Logitech G610 Orion||$$$$||Cherry MX Brown||Yes|
1. Corsair STRAFE
The Corsair STRAFE might just be our all-time favorite mechanical keyboard for gaming, even given the extremely affordable price tag. The STRAFE is fully programmable and boasts 100% anti-ghosting functionality (104 key rollover), meaning that it's perfectly suited for most any game out there. You won't be cursing at your computer for missed key inputs with this beast.
On the switch side of things, the specific model we're gushing about has full Cherry MX Red switches with gold crosspoint contacts and gold-plated closure, although you can also opt for Cherry MX Blue, Brown, or "Silent" switches. All are equally well-received by users, and it really comes down to personal preference as to what switches you should go with. The whole keyboard is beautifully backlit, and features an impressive array of dedicated media controls as well as USB pass-through functionality.
- 100% anti-ghosting with 104-key rollover
- Very sturdily built
- High quality backlighting
- True Cherry MX switches
- On the higher end of our "Under $100" category
Verdict: This beautiful mechanical keyboard by Corsair will not disappoint in any sense of the word.
- 100% Cherry MX key switches - Gold contact Cherry MX mechanical gaming keys deliver the ultimate competitive advantage.Two year warranty
- Dynamic backlighting - Brilliant RED backlighting enhances the experience with virtually unlimited lighting adjustability.Gaming Grade Circuitry - 100% anti-ghosting with 104 key rollover on USB ensure no matter how fast your play, all your keys register
- Fully programmable - Reassign any key or set up the most extreme macros for effortless gaming. PC with 2 USB 2.0 ports. Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7. An internet connection is required to download the Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software
2. Velocifire VM01
We didn't know much about Velocifire before testing this keyboard out, and we were rather wary of how good a mechanical keyboard in this price range could be. Thankfully, we were very pleasantly surprised, and now thoroughly recommend this basic model from Velocifire.
This keyboard features MX Brown switches, which are basically more quiet than other switch colors. You'll still get feedback when pressing keys, but none of that loud clacking you get with Red or Blue switches. The switches operate using gold-plated contacts (as is standard among high quality mechanical keyboards), and each boasts a lengthy lifespan of 50 million keystrokes.
The Velocifire also comes with anti-ghosting technology so none of your key presses will "go missing," and the whole unit uses extremely durable ABS keycaps for maximum longevity.
- Dirt cheap for a mechanical keyboard
- Subtle backlighting
- Well-built using industry-standard components
- Switches are not true Cherry MX switches
Verdict: The Velocifire VM01 is perfect as a first mechanical keyboard. It lets you test the waters for close to nothing, and you'll soon be clamoring for a more feature-rich model down the road.
3. EagleTec KG011
Not everyone likes the ubiquitous black and red color schemes of most gaming gear. If you appreciate some lighter-colored equipment, the EagleTec KG011 is for you! The whole model is a pleasant white color, and it features a soft blue backlight that really brings the unit to life. The backlight is fully adjustable in terms of brightness, and it even comes with a "breathing" or "pulsing" mode that you can enable.
Mechanically, the KG011 features 104 double-shot injection molded keycaps that sit atop "medium-resistance" switches. These switches do provide both tactile and auditory feedback when pressed, although they're simply described as "custom" - not Cherry MX switches. The keyboard does come with 100% anti-ghosting technology for you fast typists out there too!
One of the best parts of this unit is how its constructed. The entire body is built using metal and ABS plastic, and it's championed as one of the most spill-resistance keyboards out there.
- Gorgeous white body with fully-adjustable blue LED backlighting
- Durable construction using both metal and ABS plastic
- Solid switch engineering underneath the keycaps
- Switches are not official Cherry MX switches
Verdict: This is another fantastic entry-level mechanical keyboard. You can get your feet wet without dropping a ton of cash, and you'll soon be hooked thanks to the sleek design and solid construction of the KG011.
4. Rosewill RK-9000V2 RE
This Rosewill unit offers everything you could ask from a mechanical keyboard at an extremely competitive price point, and at a surprisingly high level of quality. It's not a flashy gaming keyboard by any means, but it gets the essential functions of a good mechanical keyboard down perfectly.
Cherry MX switches and N-key rollover ensure all of your gaming needs are covered, from the tactile and auditory feedback you need for FPS games to the reliable, quick keystrokes you use in MOBA or RTS style games. Each key is rated for 50 million keystrokes, meaning you won't have to worry about replacing this bad boy for quit some time.
The specific version we tested out is the barebones model - you can opt for just about any color Cherry MX switches out there though, and there are also RGB-backlit models available if you can't do without backlighting.
- Simple, understated design.
- Cherry MX switches
- N-Key rollover
- You may spend a bit more than $100 if you opt for the backlit version, or a different switch color.
Verdict: This is a rock solid mouse that you can rely on for headshot after headshot after headshot.
- 100% Cherry Red MX Switches. They deliver a fast and precise response with great tactile feedback.
- The N-key rollover function is a must-have for gamers!
- Multimedia keys give you direct control from your keyboard.
5. Logitech G610 Orion
Logitech's G610 is definitely on the very upper end of our "under $100" mechanical keyboard category, and it may even cross slightly over depending on current sales (or lack thereof). That being said, this is one of the most bang-for-your-buck keyboards out there. The Logitech name has become synonymous with affordable, well-built computer peripherals, and the G610 is exactly that.
Logitech built the G610 using Cherry MX Brown switches, which deliver a low-noise typing experience while maintaining the tactile feedback that all mechanical keyboard users know and love. The back-lighting is something to be marveled at too - you can customize the brightness of individual keys, so you'll never lose track of important spells, shots, and other game controls.
The G610 offer fully-programmable function buttons for all of you macro-lovers out there, and also has a complete set of dedicated media control buttons for your convenience. Last but not least, each key is rated for 50 million keystrokes!
- Logitech's classic sleek, subtle design
- Incredibly customizeable back-lighting
- Cherry MX Brown switches
- Slightly more expensive than the rest of this list
Verdict: If you're willing to splurge a bit on your budget mechanical keyboard, you can't go wrong with Logitech's G610 Orion.
- Performance-driven gaming keyboard: Full-size keyboard delivering a pure, fluid gaming experience
- Tactile Cherry MX Brown Mechanical Key Switches: Low-noise switches have a tactile bump for feedback with every keypress
- Customizable Lighting: Personalize individual key lighting brightness to keep track of spells and other commands. Backlighting: White. G610 gives you full control of per-key backlighting.
Buying Guide (2020)
While there are plenty of high quality, affordable mechanical keyboards out there (like the 5 we have listed here!) you do have to be careful when investing in any "budget" gaming gear. There are hundreds of companies out there hawking cheap, poorly-made, and even outright broken gaming equipment to anyone who wants to save a buck or two.
To avoid falling victim to these predatory copycat companies, all you need is a bit of knowledge concerning what a mechanical keyboard does, how it works, and where it might fail given shoddy construction and manufacturing.
Mechanical switches are the core of every mechanical keyboard out there, and are where the "mechanical" identifier comes from. The concept is pretty self-explanatory: instead of those rubber "domes" and flimsy contacts you find in non-mechanical keyboards, every single key of a mechanical keyboard sits atop an actual, mechanical switch mechanism.
When you press a key, you activate the switch and the underlying bit of contact metal (usually gold-plated) is struck - in other words, the computer registers a keystroke.
The reason people like mechanical keyboards so much is because these mechanical switches are incredibly reliable, and because they offer tactile and/or auditory feedback when in use. This becomes extremely important in games where you need to be as precise and quick as possible in your keystrokes. You don't want to be guessing whether or not your keypress went through, and you need to know at exactly which moment its registered. Mechanical keyboards fill both of those needs.
Basically, the end-all be-all of mechanical keyboard switches are "Cherry MX" switches. These are widely known to be the most reliable, well-made, and durable switches out there. Within the umbrella of "Cherry MX," you can then customize your switches according to personal preference, and pick between Red, Blue, Brown, and several other switch styles. These colors simply refer to the level of tactile and auditory feedback you'll get from each keystroke, as well as the actuation force required to perform a keystroke (how hard you have to press the key down for it to register a keystroke).
Now, when shopping for a budget mechanical keyboard, it's extremely important to look into what sort of switches the model is built with. You don't need Cherry MX switches per se, as there are plenty of models out there that use generic or proprietary switches and still perform wonderfully. The important bit here is to avoid any model that's deliberately vague with what sort of switches they use, or any model that's marketed as a "mechanical-like" keyboard that's not a true mechanical keyboard.
If you're not confident in your ability to distinguish between switch types, you can play it safe and only invest in a keyboard that's built using Cherry MX switches.
Back-lighting is another big deal in the gaming world, as it lets you play accurately in low-light conditions and can be manipulated in order to highlight important game aspects or game controls at a glance.
Speaking very basically, there are two types of backlighting. One features smaller LEDs that shine through just the actual letter or symbol engraving on each key cap. In this case, the letter or symbol itself will appear to glow and light up. Generally speaking, this sort of back-lighting is preferred.
There are various other types of back-lighting that all amount to light sort of flooding the entire keyboard. This sort of back-lighting features more powerful LEDs that "bleed" out from under each key-cap. The letters and symbols are still illuminated, but so is the entire keyboard. It may not be quite as easy to immediately identify a specific key with this back-lighting, as everything is bathed in light.
When shopping for cheap mechanical keyboards, you do want back-lighting. You just need to make sure you're not being dazzled by rainbow-colored lights that serve only to direct your attention away from cheaper aspects of the keyboard.
In the keyboarding world "ghosting" occurs when you press too many keys too rapidly, and some of those keystrokes aren't registered. This results in "lost" keystrokes that can be quite detrimental when gaming.
Any gaming keyboard worth its salt offers 100% anti-ghosting technology, so you should immediately reject any budget mechanical keyboard that does not do so.
You may also see anti-ghosting advertised as "N-Key Rollover." N-key rollover simply means that you can press as many keys as you want, all at the same time, and every single keystroke will still be properly registered.
Now, N-key rollover is a bit of a marketing gimmick. Even the most hardcore gamers out there will never need more than ~6-key rollover, so you shouldn't worry about it in particular. The key here is to make sure that the manufacturer does promise some sort of anti-ghosting or x-key rollover technology.
Just like anything else in this world, mechanical switches and key caps do eventually break down.
This is one of the easiest ways of telling if you're dealing with a high quality cheap mechanical keyboard, or a crappy rip-off budget mechanical keyboard. Basically any well-known manufacturer out there will guarantee some sort of life cycle for their mechanical keyboards, usually in the form of saying each key is guaranteed XX million keystrokes (30 - 60 million is common).
If you're looking at a mechanical keyboard that doesn't make any sort of guarantee at all, spend some extra time digging into the switch technology being used, the manufacturing process, and anything else you can find out about the physical durability of the keyboard.
When buying a more affordable mechanical keyboard, you have to make sure you're walking the thin line between "cheap as in disposable" and "cheap but well-made." If you purchase a series of cheap, low-quality keyboards, you'll quickly run through enough of them that you might as well have just bought a more expensive one in the first place, after all.
Now obviously with this specific list, we're focusing on mechanical keyboards under $100. That being said, you don't want to go too cheap with your first (or replacement) mechanical keyboard.
In our experience, the cutoff seems to be right around $40. You can find the odd sub-$40 model that's well made and long-lasting, but at that price point you start wading through an endless river of copy-cat manufacturers, crappy keyboards, and shady marketing.
Stay within the ~$40 - ~$100 range, and you'll be fine (as long as you do your other due diligence as well, of course). If you're looking at budget mechanical keyboards just because you're cheap and not because you're actually strapped for cash, we'd seriously recommend thinking about splurging just a little bit.
With mechanical keyboards, more than most other gaming peripherals, you really do get what you pay for. Trying to cut corners will net you a crappy keyboard that lasts a few months before keys start breaking, lights start burning out, or connectivity issues crop up.
Think about the big picture for a minute - if you up your budget just a bit and end up spending ~$100 - ~$200 on a high quality mechanical keyboard, that keyboard will last you for years. If you just buy a series of crappy, cheap models, you'll quickly spend more than that $100-$200 you were thinking about to begin with.
Our Final Thoughts
Upgrading to a mechanical keyboard is one of the best changes you'll ever make to your gaming setup. None of us over here at Armchair Empire have met anyone who actually preferred a membrane or hybrid keyboard to a good mechanical keyboard after trying both - there's just no competition.
Mechanical keyboards aren't always cheap, however, which is why we put this guide together. We hope it's helped, and we wish you the best luck in finding the best cheap mechanical keyboard for your rig!