The Best Cheap Keyboards for 2023

Keyboards are an essential part of any PC setup, but once you start getting particular about typing comfort and features, the prices can rise fast. Some elite gaming and productivity mechanical keyboards cost $200 or more, and while that’s the upper extreme, models like these can leave you with keyboard envy. Replacing a worn-out keyboard with a decent new one for minimal money might look like an exercise in compromises.

That said, you can find value champs if you know where to look. Budget keyboards, even at their best, tend to lack a whole lot of extras, but they still get the job done—whether that job is a paper due at midnight or some gaming after work.

Our ever-evolving list of favorite budget keyboards touches several categories of this hardware: gaming, ergonomic, and productivity models. We include full-size keyboards as well as space-saving tenkeyless (TKL) and 60 percent options. In our search for the best low-cost keyboards, we’ve left no key uncapped. Let’s look at our top picks, followed by detailed buying advice on how to land the best budget board.

Deeper Dive: Our Top Tested Picks

Cherry Stream Keyboard

Best Cheap Wired Keyboard for General Use

Why We Picked It

The Cherry Stream is a low-profile, full-size keyboard from noted key-switch manufacturer Cherry. Don’t be fooled: At this price, it doesn’t use Cherry’s fabled mechanical key switches. But it also doesn’t skimp on quality. This keyboard is comfortable and quiet, and it packs more than a few shortcut keys, which gives it an edge over other basic budget typers. The Stream is somewhat bulky and doesn’t offer a dedicated software utility for customization, a common concession among budget keyboards. But we bet it’s a far better productivity aid than whatever came bundled with your PC.

Who It’s For

For PC users who don’t mind wired connectivity (a USB cable) instead of wireless, the Cherry Stream is a comfortable daily driver that’ll meet day-to-day typing needs.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Comfortable, precise scissor-switch mechanism
  • Very quiet
  • Convenient shortcut and media keys

CONS

  • Bulky
  • No backlight
  • Bare-bones utility software
  • Windows only; no macOS layout offered

Cherry Stream Wireless Keyboard

Best Cheap Wireless Keyboard for General Use

Why We Picked It

The Cherry Stream Wireless Keyboard costs slightly more than its wired counterpart, but it’s still a remarkable productivity keyboard for the price. A 36-month battery life will keep battery swapping to a minimum, while 128-bit AES encryption ensures everything you type will remain safe, if you or your employees work in a common space and handle sensitive data. It’s a little bulky, and certainly plain, but it’s a Cherry worth picking.

Who It’s For

If you’re looking to cut the cord from your daily-driver keyboard without spending a bundle, the Cherry Stream Wireless provides all you need.

PROS

  • Low-profile design
  • Comfortable typing feel
  • Rated 36-month battery life
  • 128-bit AES encryption

CONS

  • Customization software is barebones
  • Limited Mac support
  • Uses AA batteries

Keychron C1

Best Cheap Mechanical Keyboard

Why We Picked It

An inexpensive mechanical keyboard with a retro color scheme, the Keychron C1 delivers the minimum required of a wired mechanical keyboard for a sweet price. Gateron G Pro Brown switches provide satisfying key presses, something you can’t take for granted on budget boards. Some of the keys wobble a bit, and you don’t get a customization or control software app, but the C1 remains an excellent value for an 87-key board.

Who It’s For

If you’re longing for a compact mechanical keyboard but strapped for cash, the Keychron C1 is well worth a look whether you’re working with Windows or macOS.

PROS

  • Inexpensive for a true mechanical keyboard
  • Color scheme will appeal to retro-tech geeks
  • Available in a choice of mechanical switches
  • Windows/Mac keycaps included

CONS

  • Stabilizer placement makes some keys wobble
  • No software utility

Learn More

Keychron C1 Review

Corsair K55 RGB Pro

Best Cheap Gaming Keyboard

Why We Picked It

Graphics cards, fast monitors, $70 AAA games: PC gaming can get plenty expensive, and premium gaming keyboards hit your wallet at least as hard as other upgrades you might consider. But the Corsair K55 RGB Pro can keep gamers competitive while keeping their checkbooks in the black. With dedicated macro buttons, a detachable wrist rest, and RGB lighting, the K55 RGB Pro certainly looks the part. It’s not a mechanical board, but it does offer a comfortable-enough typing experience, whether you’re playing games or just surfing the web. Its plastic body gives away its budget roots, but it’s a reliable gaming keyboard for just about any situation.

Who It’s For

If you’re a gamer looking to spend more money on games and less money on gear, the budget-friendly Corsair K55 RGB Pro will provide everything you need.

PROS

  • Dedicated macro buttons and media controls
  • Detachable wrist rest
  • RGB lighting
  • Cheaper than similarly sized keyboards

CONS

  • All-plastic design
  • Rubber-dome switches
  • Zonal, not per-key, RGB illumination
  • Takes lots of desk space

Roccat Magma Mini

Best Cheap 60 Percent Gaming Keyboard

Why We Picked It

A gaming keyboard for those who prefer their peripherals lean and mean, the 60 percent Roccat Magma Mini sports some fine aesthetics, namely vibrant RGB trim that wraps all around the chassis. Its all-plastic build and membrane rather than mechanical key switches keep it from being a stellar gaming keyboard. But it’s a great choice if you’re on the hunt for a cheap way to game while saving as much desk space as possible. (Lighting up the perimeter is a bonus, if that’s your kind of thing.)

Who It’s For

For gamers who prefer fewer keys and smaller footprints, the Roccat Magma Mini is an economical choice whose RGB lighting will dress up any desktop.

PROS

  • Inexpensive for a keyboard with a 60 percent layout
  • RGB lighting
  • Resists spills

CONS

  • All-plastic design with membrane switches
  • Shortcuts take some getting used to
  • Larger-than-necessary footprint
  • Customization options take some getting used to

Logitech Wireless Keyboard K350

Best Cheap Ergonomic Keyboard

Why We Picked It

The Logitech Wireless K350 has been kicking around for a long, long time—since 2003, to be exact. But despite its age and a number of name changes, the K350 still has some life in it, providing long battery endurance, a stable wireless connection, and a comfortable typing experience on the cheap. It’s chunky, it’s noisy, and it lacks Bluetooth support, but the K350 still manages to be a solid value performer among sculpted-design ergonomic keyboards even after all these years.

Who It’s For

The Logitech K350 predates the iPhone, enduring two decades of PC progress and many versions of Windows, but it still impresses those looking for a productivity keyboard that’s cheap, cordless, and ergonomically friendly.

PROS

  • Low-cost typing comfort
  • Customizable functions
  • Long battery life
  • Stable wireless connection

CONS

  • Chunky, dated design
  • Loud typing
  • No Bluetooth support

Amazon Basics Low-Profile Wired USB Keyboard

Best Keyboard for the Very Tightest Budgets

Why We Picked It

The Amazon Basics Low Profile Wired USB Keyboard is as bare-bones as they come, but it’s also the cheapest acceptable typing device we’ve tested, coming in under $20 (with its oft-fluctuating price going as low as $12). While it’s far from exceptional, its low-profile design isn’t an eyesore, and it comes with a few shortcut keys to boot. If you’re pinching pennies, this Amazon Basics keyboard does exactly what it’s supposed to for less than the cost of a fast-food dinner for two (or maybe one, depending on what you order).

Who It’s For

For users with the tightest of budgets who want a keyboard that’s good enough for everyday computer needs, the Amazon Basics Low Profile Wired USB Keyboard won’t wow, but it will get the job done.

PROS

  • Cheaper than a McDonald’s meal (depending on the day)
  • Media control and Fn Lock keys
  • No software to fuss with
  • Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock indicators

CONS

  • Flimsy typing feel
  • No pop-out feet to add tilt
  • Likely much shorter lifespan than mechanical keyboards

Buying Guide: The Best Cheap Keyboards for 2023

What makes for a budget keyboard, price-wise? The sweet spot is around $50—but if that seems high, know that if you shop carefully, you can go as low as $20 and still come away with a usable typing experience. A low price doesn’t mean a keyboard can’t be a good performer, as our list of favorites demonstrates.

To keep these keyboards in budget territory, manufacturers must make some concessions. For example, an affordable wireless keyboard may use disposable AA or AAA batteries rather than an internal battery pack you recharge. Or you may not have a choice of key switches, the physical mechanisms under each key that determine travel time, sound, and overall typing comfort. (Most won’t be mechanical in this price range.) Also expect a lack of robust utility software, which allows for things like macro customization.

Corsair K55 RGB Pro

(Credit: Molly Flores)

As a result, a budget keyboard is not for everyone. Serious esports players will likely scoff at the lack of game-improving features and customization options, while productivity hounds may roll their eyes at the absence of macros or automated commands. And plenty of people who care about desk aesthetics will bemoan the less-than-stylish designs of most cheap options.

But if you’re shopping for a cheap keyboard because you’ve got a hard line capping your budget, most of these cons won’t be deal-breakers. On the contrary, you’ll be able to overlook many of them given a keyboard’s price. And if you shop carefully, you can find a few models that strike a perfect balance between cost and features.


What to Look for in a Budget Keyboard

Keyboards, whether cheap, mainstream, or elite, come in three main size classes: full-size, TKL, and 60 percent. Full-size keyboards offer a complete layout: a 10-key numeric pad, a full row of function keys, dedicated buttons for secondary commands like Page Up and Page Down, and maybe a few shortcut keys that users can program themselves. Some models at this size may offer dedicated media controls and other creature comforts. The downside, of course: Full-size keyboards require more desk space.

Logitech Wireless Keyboard

(Credit: Joseph Maldonado)

In the name of downsizing, TKL keyboards remove the numeric keypad (the ten keys in “tenkeyless”) along with roughly 20% to 30% of the rest of the board, letting you reclaim that desk space. Keep in mind that losing keys doesn’t always mean losing functionality. On some models, shortcut functions are moved onto other keys, as key combos.

Is TKL still too much keyboard to handle? You can trim all the fat away and opt for a 60 percent design, which shrinks a keyboard even smaller than a TKL model. These smaller keyboards are favorites of programmers and the hardcore gaming crowd, but they do have a slight learning curve. Check out our 60 percent keyboard guide for everything you need to know about the category.

Keychron C1

(Credit: Joe Maldonado)

Once you’ve found the size of keyboard that suits you best, you can dig into the details. Today’s upper-end gaming keyboards, for example, mostly use mechanical key switches, which pair each key to its own spring-loaded switch. The traditional pace-setters among mechanical switches are from a company called Cherry, but you’ll find plenty of alternatives to them, each with a slightly different design tweaked to provide a specific feel and sound. Common alt-switch names to look for here include Kailh and Gateron.

If you see mechanical key switches in a budget gaming keyboard, they are likely to be from one of these lesser-known brands. More likely, though, in the under-$50 keyboard market you’ll have to settle for rubber-dome membrane switches, which use a sheet of springy material with domes molded into it to provide the bounce under the keys, versus individual springs on each key. These switches are less tactile and tend toward a softer feel, not delivering the loud click that many mechanicals do when pressed. But they get the typing done.

Amazon Basics Keyboard

(Credit: Joe Maldonado)

Budget productivity keyboards will almost exclusively rely on rubber-dome or scissor switches (a type of switch that isn’t strictly mechanical but usually has an X-shaped stabilizer under each key). You can find some budget models with dedicated shortcut keys and even wireless connectivity, but expect them to be limited in what they can do, versus a $100-and-up alternative. Although you’ll find exceptions, Bluetooth connectivity tends to give way in favor of a 2.4GHz wireless link requiring a USB dongle. And forget about rugged metal frames—most economy productivity keyboards are plastic and lightweight.

If you’re reading this and wondering if a cheap keyboard is worth the trade-offs, don’t count one out until you ask yourself whether a basic feature set isn’t exactly what you need. Keyboard makers do tend to pile on the features to pump up the price, and maybe adjustable polling rates, a volume roller, or a plush wrist rest aren’t worth an extra $50 to you.

It’s all about how you use your PC and what kind of keyboard you’re coming from. A budget keyboard should be able to provide the basics at a price that doesn’t sap your wallet, and $30 to $50 should get you a board that’s a marked step upward from the basic economy models bundled with most PCs.


Which Cheap Keyboard Should You Buy?

Savvy techies will never let a tight budget hold them back from decking out a PC setup. The keyboards we’ve collected here aren’t the finest money can buy, but that’s not why you’re here. They’re all solid performers we can recommend if you’re strapped.

If you’re looking to fully deck out your work or battle station on the cheap, also check out our frugal picks for computer mice and budget monitors. And if you’re searching for other budget gear, check out our picks for the best budget laptops and cheap gaming laptops.

Below is a detailed spec list of the best recent budget keyboards we’ve reviewed. Also hit the review links for more details on the various keyboards’ switch feel, and for deeper looks at their feature sets.

Facebook Comments Box

Views: 0