Keyboards are, among other things, a foundational part of PC gaming. Not every game uses the old one-two punch of a mouse and keyboard, but they remain a core essential for many games, as well as general typing and computer use. But the struggle is eternal. You want a fancy, beautiful keyboard with great keys and perfect tactile response. A flashy button-laden skateboard with no wheels but multi-colored lighting and clicky sounds. And you want one that’ll last for quite a while… all for as cheaply as possible.
Well, have no fears; it’s a great big world out there, full of lackluster gaming keyboards in all ranges of pricing and value–but we’ve tamed that wasteland, searching far and wide for quality type-planks you can rely on, all without having to cut open the secret part of your wallet. To that end, on the heels of a successful campaign, I’ve compiled this. I present to you my best seven gaming keyboards available under $50.
#7 Cooler Master Devastator II
A sequel to the popular Cooler Master Devastator, Devastator 2: Tactile Feel introduced us all to a halfway-mechanical keyboard with a new take on the old and familiar rubber dome key system. It wasn’t the first, but Cooler Master has done a decent job of introducing a relatively cheap but effective keyboard sing the technology, and it worked. The idea is simple; bring gamers the soft and responsive (and cheap) touch of a membrane key interface while adding an extra moving part to bring crisp mechanical performance into the fold.
The upsides are pretty numerous. The effect works, to a degree, providing a solid typing feel that responds as well as any other keyboard, though gamers used to full mechanical suites and expecting such may be disappointed. The Devastator II is also almost always bundled with a mouse, which itself feels pretty sturdy and reliable. While the keyboard itself feels pretty comfortable to use, the mouse was stock-standard for me; it didn’t shine, but it also didn’t implode on use or stab my hand with a small knife.
On the other hand, the Devastator II has its share of issues, though you might not know it with surface reviews or a quick glance at the store. While I’ve had no problems with either included device, many people cite issues with either the keyboard or included mouse after as little as a couple of months. The pricing can also be odd; as of my writing, the cheapest Devastator II is available only on Newegg, and only in the red LED. Though all of the single-color versions are under $50, the red LED version clocks in at $30, with a rebate currently up on offer. Others can run you a bit more. On this one, I’d shop around before buying.
- Hybrid mechanical key system
- Comfortable, easy to use
- Includes a mouse for the deal
- Single-color only, for the price
- Somewhat spotty reviews
#6 HAVIT Rainbow
In keeping with the pattern here, the HAVIT Rainbow is a combo that almost always includes an associated mouse, which makes for a pretty good deal when price is your main judging factor. But, there’s always more to it, which is where I come in. While not mechanical, the Rainbow keyboard itself feels much better than you’d expect for a relatively cheap contender coming from a brand you might not have previously heard of. While the shape makes it a bit awkward to type on, for me personally, I’ve spent more time typing and gaming on a standard keyboard like it than anything mechanical, so it doesn’t feel out of place.
While the keys are standard, the keyboard comes with some pretty solid features for something in the price range. True to its name, the Rainbow comes with an underbed LED lighting system that accents the keys well, though the array is static. While you control what the lights do or if they’re on at all, the colors are set in stone. The mouse, on the other hand, has adjustable colors and DPI, and feels pretty solid for an “included extra”. The keyboard also has multimedia keys, which some of you may care about. And that’s about it. Though, both devices notably have a built-in sleep timer to turn the lights off after a few minutes of not being in use, which is a nice touch.
While it’s not the most quality feeling setup, both devices work well, and installation is just plug and play. The keyboard’s color spectrum and the mouse’s ‘breathing’ go well together, and I didn’t really have a complaint on either. And for those who just can’t play with membrane keys, I understand completely, but if you just like the clicking of mechanical keys, the Rainbow should hold you over, minus the feedback-laden responsiveness of switches.
- Good lighting system
- Comes with decent mouse
- Easy to use, easy to adjust
- Lacks a high quality feel
- Not mechanical, if that’s what you’re looking for
#5 Razer Deathstalker Essential
I had a Razer mouse die too young on me once, and ever since then I’ve worried about their products. But, that said, the Deathstalker ‘Essential’ edition surprised me. While I like mechanical switches as much as the next guy, I don’t mind smooth, responsive membrane keys, and that the Deathstalker has in spades. It’s not mechanical, and it’s not lit in any capacity, but what it brings is a smooth and responsive key setup, to the degree that it can sometimes be hard to find for under $50 as many places charge what it’s actually worth, an assessment I won’t argue with. It did make my list, after all.
The keys on the Deathstalker are all dark, low-profile both visually and physically. They respond fast and take only the minimum of effort to press, which is something of a double-edged sword, depending on the typist in question. Some may enjoy the fast response and quick “handling” of the board; others may miss keys or make mistakes because of how little tactile feedback there can be, coming off of something mechanical. For me, as a gamer and a writer, I can tell you that typing in long-form on the Deathstalker was a breeze, maybe some of the most comfortable typing I’ve done.
On the downside is the Deathstalker’s lack of overall features. While it has programmable keys–a nice, uncommon touch in this price range–it lacks dedicated multimedia keys, which just means a little extra work. Setting up macros is quick and easy, however, making up for this. The attached wrist rest, however, felt a little awkward to me. Some models have an extension like this you can remove, but the Deathstalker is stuck with it, and if it doesn’t feel the best there’s not much you can do about it. Overall, though, it’s a relatively minor gripe.
- Very quick, very responsive
- Extremely slick and low profile, black and cool for edgelords like me
- Comfortable to use
- On-the-fly macros and programmable keys
- Feels high-quality
- No lighting of any kind (save for the ‘Lock’ key indicators)
- Not mechanical, if that’s what you’re here for
- Wrist rest is fixed, but it might not bother you
More keyboards on a higher budget: Best Gaming Keyboards Under $100
#4 IOGEAR Kaliber Gaming HVER
The HVER or ‘Hover’ keyboard is a surprising offering from a company I’m not very familiar with. Another in the vein of the hybrid mechanical-membrane group, it uses a clicky plunger ‘switch’ over traditional rubber caps to provide the feel and press-weight of a mechanical keyboard without the cost. It works pretty well, providing a solid keypress that’s just a bit softer and quieter than a real mechanical switch, though it doesn’t really feel the same. The keyboard is built with a pretty cool aluminum frame, over which the plunger-switch keys ‘hover’, giving the board its name. It’s also looking pretty fancy.
The HVER feels pretty good, though. It’s another interesting, solid board from an unfamiliar company, but it feels good to use. Similar to the Deathstalker above, it feels good to type on as well. And it feels durable, too, though that may just be the aluminum. There’s also nothing to install; the keyboard is a plug-and-play option despite the limited RGB lighting.
Again, the lack of mechanical switches may be a dealbreaker for anyone reading this, but for anyone who likes the mechanical feel but wants a quieter option, the HVER is a good choice. The system also has lighting, as I mentioned above, but this specific model is limited to three colors: a green and a darker and lighter blue. The limited color field can also be drowned out, as I feel like the LED system isn’t the most visible of the keyboards reviewed. In brightly lit gaming environments it loses some effectiveness.
- Durable aluminum construction
- Hybrid mechanical keys
- Easy to use, plug-and-play
- Responsive, comfortable typing
- No deep options
- Weak LED lighting, only three colors
#3 Corsair K55
There comes a time in every man’s life where he has to make a choice. Mine was where to put this. I’ll be the first to admit my bias towards Corsair, and I considered putting this in one of the top two spots–but being realistic, the K55’s main selling point in regards to this article is price, and for what’s on offer it’s just not as competitive as number one, or number two. That said, the K55 is a fantastic keyboard, one of the best non-mechanical models there is in my opinion, and well worth the price. Were it on sale, or were it to get a price cut across the board, I would recommend it as my second-place pick for this article.
So what does it do? Simply put, it’s a quality RGB-lit keyboard with a simple, effective design and great features for any use. While it is a membrane-based system, the keys aren’t nearly as linear as other, similar models, meaning it feels really good to type on. It also feels like a keyboard of name-brand quality, as it should. In regards to the keys themselves, it also has dedicated multimedia controls and six specified macro keys, programmable at any time. Where the K55 really shines–so to speak–is the beautiful RGB lighting. It’s only three-zone adjustable, so your individual keys can’t be rainbowed out, but there’s a myriad of colors and settings available, from built-in profiles to custom options of all kinds. It looks exceedingly good, stands out in the dark, and goes with any system of any coloration.
While the downsides aren’t major, they do drag the K55 down just a bit. First and foremost is the price tag; it’s still available for under fifty, but just barely, usually clocking in at or near the $49.99 mark. If your price is $50 and you’re looking for a really good membrane keyboard, though, look no further. The keyboard also comes with a rubber wrist-rest, which while soft and flexible didn’t feel very good to me personally. Your mileage may vary on this, of course–but regardless, it’s removable, so it won’t hold the keyboard back. Overall, there’s not much holding this thing back.
- Extremely good RGB for the price range
- Very fast, responsive keys; smooth typing
- Macro keys, multimedia keys, no external software requirements for anything
- Detachable wrist-rest
- Basically no ghosting
- Right at $50 (usually)
- Not mechanical, again if that’s why you’re here
#2 Patriot Viper V730
Patriot offers a pretty wide variety of keyboards and peripherals through their Viper Gaming line, but I was still surprised to see an entry in this price range, especially such a featured one. Needless to say, after some examination it ended up placing quite high in my list. It is, in essence, a smooth aluminum framed mechanical keyboard using Kailh Brown mechanical switch-based keys, all backlit by a deep red LED field that’s heavily customizable. It looks nice, and while more color options would have been a strong selling point, the red goes extremely well with the base design and the aluminum really sells it. And for the price, the board feels very good to use. It’s comfortable, and very tactile to type and game on.
The switches are, as I mentioned above, Kailh Browns. They have a good bit of push to them, and they’re not very linear, which can be a plus. They’re also quiet; not like a membrane keyboard but not the heavy rattling of many mechanicals. This is another unit with a fixed mounted wrist-rest and while I’m not normally a fan, this one works well with the profile of the keyboard, and at least allowed me to play comfortably. Not sure if I’d like to type on one day in and day out, but I’m also not an expert on the long-term feel of various switch types, so I’m sure it’s something you get used to.
Overall, the Patriot is a high performance mechanical keyboard at a great price that’s hard to recommend higher. My only concern is on the long-lasting durability of the keyboard; beautiful aluminum frame aside, the keys are mechanical and the product can’t be made very expensively to sell for this price. But, that noted, Patriot’s Viper Gaming division has a blanket two year warranty on all of their keyboards, which feels very reasonable. And for discerning LED consumers, there’s a more expensive model with five colors and an extensive array of options on showing them.
- Fully mechanical keyboard using Kailh Brown switches
- Excellent lighting profiles, customizable down to individual key-lighting
- Solid, aircraft-grade aluminum frame
- Feels very good to use
- Not too loud, not too quiet
- Multimedia macros using the Function key
- Near infinite anti-ghosting, with 104 key limit
- Sleeved cable
- Only available at this price in Kailh Brown switches
- Only available at this price in red LED backlighting
- Fixed wrist-rest
- Price varies; could potentially only be available as high as $70 if sold out
#1 Redragon K552 KUMARA
And last but not least, the top spot on the list. Anyone who knows budget mechanical keyboards should have seen this coming, because the K552 is phenomenal. First and foremost, it’s very compact, fitting an entire keyboard into a fraction of the space and squeezing even more out of up to twelve multimedia hotkey macros, while sporting custom Cherry MX Blue equivalent mechanical switches, red LED backlighting, and a durable, comfortable shape. Honestly, what can I say about the KUMARA that isn’t a selling point? Aside from its obvious lack of a number pad, that is.
The K552 is built on a low profile base of high-end aluminum, it features conflict-free keys 100% immune to ghosting, has an adjustable base so you can set the angle of it, completely customizable backlight profiles, removable keys, a solid frame-mounted plate to sport the ky assemblies and more. Everything from the frame to each individual key is designed to withstand the test of time and perform its job well, and that it does. What it lacks in the department of overall flash, bells and whistles, it more than makes up for with supreme usability and a strong reputation that Redragon and the K552 itself have more than earned.
If you’re into heavy customization, a full RGB experience, or a more tactile/less clicky mechanical switch, you may be disappointed; the KUMARA is still a fantastic and extremely affordable mechanical keyboard for anybody, especially anyone just getting into mechanicals, but it’s also a suitable gaming keyboard for anyone regardless of preference at the ridiculous $30 price tag it sports. Make no mistake–this is a great value, and only consumers with no interest in mechanical keyboards should pass it up.
- Extremely high quality, solid build keyboard
- Very responsive mechanical switches; moderately tactile, very clicky
- Very comfortable to use
- No install required
- Adjustable back leg angle
- Easy to clean; built to withstand average spills
- Tested and proven by thousands of gamers
- Zero key ghosting
- Function key based multimedia controls
- Not as customizable as high-end models
- Only available in black, with red LEDs and custom Outemu switches
- No numberpad
Guide Written By Devon Boyette