Keyboards are one of the most essential gaming peripherals. Follow along as we show you our picks for the best gaming keyboard under $100 in today’s day and age.
It’s honestly kind of surprising that people will dump thousands of dollars into the perfect gaming setup. From the best gaming motherboard for their processor to the best WiFi adapter to keep their gaming wireless – people are ready to splurge on every little thing, but the keyboard trails last.
Unbeknown to most gamers, your keyboard actually plays a huge role in how well you perform and the outcome of your gaming experience.
An Overview Of Our Favorite Gaming Keyboards
Before we dive in and discuss each keyboard in detail, let’s take a quick bird’s eye look at the options we’ve got lined up for you this year.
Below, we’ll showcase our top 5 picks and give you the quick n’ dirty on them – here you go.
Your Top 7 Options For The Best Gaming Keyboard Under $100
Now that we know what we’re going to be looking at – let’s get into the meat and bones – that is the top 5 picks for the title of the best gaming keyboard under $100 in today’s day and age.
Keep reading to learn more about every candidate in detail. We’ll cover the general gist of what each keyboard has to offer, talk about the pros and cons, and give you our definitive recommendation on who that keyboard suits best.
Let’s dive right in!
Corsair K60 RGB Pro SE – The Best Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Under $100
|Wired||True Mechanical||Full-Size (100%)||Yes||Per-Key|
If you’re looking for the best all-around mechanical gaming keyboard in today’s day and age – the Corsair K60 is a solid contender, not to mention that it’s quite affordable being under $100.
It offers great build quality, a stellar mechanical activation via Cherry MX Viola’s, brightly-lit RGB with a bunch of bells and whistles alongside iCue connectivity.
SteelSeries Apex 5 – Best “Hybrid” Keyboard
As much as this isn’t quite a true mechanical keyboard, it definitely deserves a spot on our top list because it’s an absolute beast, hands down.
This keyboard features super comfy tactile “hybrid switches” (membrane overlaid with switches) with an activation that’s very similar to Cherry MX Blue switches. At the same time, it also offers a whole lot of creature comforts like unparalleled customizability, an expansive software suite, an OLED display that you can tinker with, and a very comfortable wrist rest. All in all, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.
Obinslab Anne Pro 2 – Best Compact Gaming Keyboard
|Wireless (BlueTooth)||Mechanical||Compact (60%)||Yes||Per-Key|
Maybe you’ve got limited desk space, or maybe you want to do away with all the fancy frills keyboard manufacturers are throwing down these days. Whatever the case, the Obinslab Annie Pro 2 is definitely worth a look.
It’s got impeccable build quality, a great design with per-key RGB, a true mechanical activation, and all the essentials in place to make it the absolute best compact (60% size) gaming keyboard out there below the $100 price point.
Logitech G413 Carbon – Best “No Frills” Gaming Keyboard
|Wired||Mechanical||Full-Size (100%)||No||Full Board|
Let’s face it, some folks just aren’t game for the fancy blinking lights, tons of adjustable bits and bobs, as well as the crazy confusing macro stuff. They just want the basics, done exceptionally well.
This is exactly what the Logitech G413 Carbon offers. You get a rugged aluminum frame, awesome Romer-G tactile switches, great action response time, and some very sexy aesthetics without the crazy RGB.
Razer Cynosa V2 – Best Rubber Dome Keyboard For Gaming
|Wired||Rubber Dome||Full-Size (100%)||Yes||Zone-Based|
Razer’s always had a stellar reputation for putting out reliable and pretty gaming equipment. The Cynosa V2 is no exception as it comes as one of the only worthwhile rubber dome keyboards out there in the market.
It offers plenty of basic creature comforts, brightly-lit zone-based RGB backlighting, macro and media keys, and very decent build quality to go along with it.
Redragon K556 “Devarajas” – The Best Bang For Your Buck Option
|Wired||Mechanical||Full-Size (100%)||Yes||Pre-Programmed (18 Modes)|
If you’re looking for the golden middle that offers the best bang for your buck, the K556 Deverajas is probably the option you should be keeping on your radar.
It offers a solid aluminum build with great-feeling keycaps covering very functional Outemu brown switches that offer a tactile and comfy activation feel. At the same time, the keyboard comes with plenty of customization options, spare switches, and a fair few creature comforts.
BONUS: Aukey KM-G12 – The Best “Budget” Mechanical Keyboard For Gaming
|Wired||Mechanical||Full-Size (100%)||Yes||Zone-Based (Per-Row)|
We were honestly surprised by how high quality of a keyboard this is at under $50. You’ve got a steel frame, bright RBG backlighting, plenty of customizability, a sleek low-profile design, and true mechanical activation. That’s incredible value for your money, and it stacks up easily against keyboards 3-4 times its price tag.
What To Look For In A Good Gaming Keyboard
In today’s tech-enabled world, gaming keyboards cover a lot of ground when it comes to price, features, and the other bits and bobs that may sway potential buyers in their favor.
However, as cool as they are – something we can all agree on – picking between any two given options can be a pretty tough challenge.
From the various “techspeak” marketing gimmicks to an influx of cool but useless features, and new brands hitting the market – it’s often hard to differentiate the treasure from the trash.
So, to help you make things a little more straightforward, here are the criteria we’ve put in place for picking out the best gaming keyboards when we do a review like this.
Activation Type & Quality
First and foremost, we’ve got the activation. Gaming keyboards these days will use either a membrane, a switch, or a dome in order to receive your keystroke and send out the corresponding input.
You’ll often find manufacturers trying to dodge giving a concrete activation type for their keyboards. For example, you might see “semi-mechanical” keyboards out there.
In reality, that’s just not possible. A keyboard can only be one thing at a time. In other words, it’s either a mechanical or a membrane keyboard, no semi-mechanical options actually exist.
So what’s the difference between each type?
As the name might suggest, these are keyboards where the key-press activation happens via a membrane positioned over a circuit board. When the membrane is preseed, the board fires a sequence. When it’s depressed, the sequence stops.
Rubber Dome Keyboards
This is a type of keyboard where instead of a membrane or mechanical switch – there’s a small rubber dome used to provide a tactile feel and some degree of resistance to the keys. This makes it a little more difficult to press the key. However, it doesn’t offer any benefit in terms of input response speed as most dome keyboards simply have the dome over a membrane, making them membrane keyboards at the end of the day.
On the other side of the ring, we’ve got the good old mechanical keyboards. Wait, old?
Yup – mechanical keyboards are actually a much older type of activation where the keys are positioned overtop of spring-loaded switches that add a decent amount of press-feedback to each keystroke while providing a much faster activation time as well.
This type of keyboard is usually a lot more durable and offers better tactility together with a style of typing that is usually way more comfortable for most people.
The type of activation aside, it’s also important to look at the materials the keyboard is made with. In particular, there are several different areas of the keyboard where this matters.
The PCB itself should be made with a proper board and etched neatly/cleanly.
On the other hand, the top and bottom covers would usually be made out of plastic or metal. We recommend that you go for metal on a more expensive keyboard since it provides better durability. On the other hand, plastic is fine for cheaper options. The best of both worlds is sometimes a combination of a metallic backplate with a plastic front cover.
What about the keys though? What’s the best material for keyboard keycaps.
The keys are rarely made out of metal. They’re usually going to be made out of either ABS, PBT, Polycarbonate, POM, PVC, or some other sort of plastic compound. However, generally speaking, around 90% of keyboards will only feature one of two materials from the list above for their keycaps – ABS or PBT.
So, which one’s better?
We recommend that you opt for PBT keycaps if possible. They are more durable, don’t retain the oil from your fingers as easily, and look substantially better as well.
Backlighting Type & Quality
If there’s one thing that really makes a gaming keyboard pop – it’s the fancy backlights. But what should you go with – single color, or maybe an RGB assortment?
Whether there’s a particular color scheme you want your build to follow, or even if you’re just chasing the next most intricate lighting setup for the sake of visual expression – we’d recommend that you go with RGB.
Depending on the keyboard, you get a huge lineup of colors to play with, and you can easily pick out the one you want or need. However, there’s one drawback to going down the RGB route. It’s a fair bit more expensive than typical single-color LED backlighting.
On average, RGB-backlit keyboards run a solid 40-50% higher price tags than their single-color counterparts. And whether or not that price-hike is worthwhile is up to you and your personal needs/wants.
However, it’s not just the type of backlighting that you opt for that makes or breaks a good keyboard. It’s also the quality of the backlighting itself.
Cheaper RGB keyboards usually feature very un-even lighting. This means in some cases you’ll see some keys being dimmer than others – this is especially common with keyboards in the sub-$50 price range.
In addition to this, full-spectrum RGB keyboards are normally set up in one of two ways – in zones, or on a key basis.
The first would usually divide the keys into several groups where you get to control lighting for each group individually. On the other hand, the latter is then split up into two more groups – one where the hue is set for all keys, and the other where you can configure lighting on a key-by-key basis individually.
It should be obvious that as you up the complexity from setting the color for all keys to zones and then to an individual key – the cost of the keyboard rises as well.
NKRO & Anti-Ghosting
First and foremost, let’s cover anti-ghosting. While this is a commonly headlined term you’d see printed in big bold text across packaging and marketing materials – nearly all keyboards (gaming and normal) actually come with anti-ghosting built-in.
Anti-ghosting is a feature to counteract the keyboard-ghosting phenomenon where if you press more than 6 keys all at the same time – none of your other inputs would register on the computer. Inversely, anti-ghosting allow you to push every key at the same time and have all of them register.
So, now that we understand what anti-ghosting is, let’s talk about its slightly more technologically advanced relative: NKRO (N-key rollover).
N-key rollover is a feature that’s typically found in more high-end keyboard models. It helps the computer register each and every keystroke, independent of how many inputs are coming in all at once.
This is done via the anti-ghosting technology we just covered, processing each keystroke independently before sending it over to the computer instead of relying on the OS and BIOS to figure it out, which imposes limitations on how many keystrokes can be input at a time.
For most folks, wrist rests are basically a must on keyboards. They save you from wrist pain, create a more comfortable typing angle, and ultimately add a whole lot of simplicity to your keyboarding life.
That’s why you should look for a board that offers a wrist rest of some sort. And if you’re anything like us, a detachable option is a great pick.
Material wise, most wrist wrests will either be made out of PU leather (polyurethane), a rubber compound, or even plastic. We’d recommend you avoid the latter, in favor of PU or rubber wrist rests.
Macro Keys & Shortcuts
Let’s face it – no one likes having to tab out of their game to turn down Spotify or turn up their whisper-quiet teammate in voice chat.
That’s why macro keys and media shortcuts are an absolute godsent!
As the names suggest – macro keys allow you to execute some kind of script or shortcut in order to perform a particular action such as setting up the right options for your game (if you have to change them between titles). On the other hand, media shortcuts allow you to control things like video playback and audio volume directly from your keyboard.
Many modern gaming keyboards come with entire software suites that enable you to customize just about anything from the lighting to particular macros and even some degree of functionality.
This can range from a very basic applet that helps you set the backlighting color all the way to extensive programs that allow you to control the lighting configuration of your entire setup, as well as the response time, and other functionality of your keyboard.
Accessories & Creature Comforts
While they’re not really going to make a dent in your KDA – having a solid loadout of creature comforts on your gaming keyboard is pretty cool. Examples could include a multi-position wrist rest, switchable keycaps with several switches that ship with the keyboard, and other handy little bells and whistles. In most cases, you’ll be looking at a higher-end keyboard if these sorts of add-ons interest you as they seldom come with “budget boards” in favor of cost savings.
Gaming Keyboard FAQ
Just as with most other things, it’s a good idea to do a fair bit of research before you go and buy a gaming keyboard. After all, it’s got to fit you like a glove in order to offer any sort of benefit to your gaming sessions.
So with that – it should come as no surprise that people ask a lot of questions before they settle on one keyboard or another. Below, we’ll take a look at some of these questions and give you our definitive answers to help you figure out which keyboard is right for you.
Should You Get A Mechanical Keyboard?
A mechanical keyboard offers a way more satisfying experience for both casual typing and gaming. This is because of the cool clicky tactile feel that you get as you use it. It also offers faster action response times, which is crucial in competitive fast-paced games.
Are Membrane Keyboards Bad For Gaming?
Not in the least. It really depends on what games you’re interested in as different games require different things.
For example, games like counterstrike where millisecond delays can shift the outcome of a round drastically – mechanical keyboards would probably win out.
However, in an MMORPG, a membrane keyboard that offers more macro and customizability features may just be the superior pick.
Are Mechanical Keyboards Better Than Membrane?
Of course, it’s purpose-dependent at the end of the day, but as a rule of thumb – mechanical keyboards are better than their membrane counterparts.
This is because of the fact that mechanical keyboards offer a better response rate, a customizable typing experience (you can mix and match switches and change them at any time), as well as a much better typing feel.
What Is The Best Mechanical Switch For Gaming?
Unfortunately, this is a pretty tough question to answer – there’s just no single switch that’s specifically better-tailored for gaming out of the popular lineup (Cherry, Gatetron, Qisan, and others).
The switch that’s going to feel best for you will be the one that’s best for gaming. And if you don’t have a favorite switch yet – maybe it’s time to order a switch test kit.
This kit offers a few switches all in one go so that you can try them all out before you commit to a particularkeyboard.
But if you do need a recommendation – we’ve found the Cherry MX black and brown switches are absolutely fantastic. And if you need a lighter actuation – the Cherry MX blues are a good idea.
How Long Should A Gaming Keyboard Last?
In most cases, the average keyboard in today’s day and age is rated for 50 million keypresses. Going off of basic math, this would put your keyboard’s lifespan into the 10-20 year range.
However, we’d recommend that you maintain your keyboard yearly, keeping it clean, spill-free, and used with love.
Gaming Keyboard Vs. Normal Keyboard – What’s The Difference?
Unlike your average plain black office keyboard, gaming keyboards offer a whole lot of extra features that set them apart from their plainer counterparts and help you make the decision as to whether or not they’re really for you.
For example, many gaming keyboards offer in-game profiles, macros, customizations, tailored switch activations for specific games, and a whole lot of aesthetic upgrades such as per-key RGB lighting.
Are Gaming Keyboards Worth It?
The features most gaming keyboards offer such as NKRO (N-key rollover), macro keys, super quick activation, and others, can be totally worth it to competitive gamers.
But, is it going to make you a superstar gamer off the bat? It’ll definitely give you a better gear loadout for starters, but remember – a good keyboard doesn’t replace in-game skill.
Closing Thoughts – Our Ultimate Recommendation
And there you have it, dear reader, all you need to know about the 7 top picks for the best gaming keyboard under $100.
We’ve covered the options at hand, learned about the ins and outs of a good gaming keyboards, answered your most burning questions – and now it’s time for us to make the finite recommendation on which board stands to rule them all.
Our favorite? The Redragon K556 Devarajas!
This keyboard simply offers unbeatable bang for your buck, and it’s built in a really high-quality manner, while still clocking in at nearly half the cost of most mainstream gaming keyboards.
So now that we’ve shared what we know – it’s our turn to hear from you. What’s your favorite affordable gaming keyboard right now? Let us know in the comments below!