When it comes to PC gaming, your keyboard and mouse are just as important as the hardware in your desktop, offering an upgraded experience not only visually but in terms of game performance too. The problem is that gaming keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, and it can be a little confusing – especially those new to the world of PC gaming – and more importantly, expensive.
But while some gamers will lead you to believe that the only way to improve your game is to drop hundreds on a top-of-the-line keyboard and mouse, we at Tech Advisor believe otherwise. There’s a bustling budget gaming keyboard market, and while it’ll be tough to find a keyboard that does everything you might expect from a high-end gaming keyboard, there’s likely to be something to suit your needs – and all for less than £50/$50.
Here’s our selection of the best cheap gaming keyboards available right now, along with what to consider when on the lookout for a budget gaming keyboard.
Corsair K55 RGB Pro – Best overall
The Corsair K55 RGB Pro is one of the entry-level keyboards in Corsair’s collection, but don’t assume the budget nature means Corsair has skimped on features.
The most notable feature is the inclusion of six dedicated macro keys dotted along the left side of the keyboard, all customisable via Corsair’s iCUE software for Windows – something you rarely find at the budget end of the market. This opens a world of opportunities for dedicated gamers, allowing the ability to run sequences of keystrokes with the push of a single key.
You’ll also find dedicated media controls in the top-right, freeing up all the function keys for gameplay, and for those that always seem to hit the Windows key during heated moments, there’s a game mode that disables the Windows key too.
As you may expect, there’s RGB backlighting available, but while there are several lighting patterns to choose from, the 5-zone nature of the lighting system means the light patterns are never that intricate.
The build quality does feel a little on the cheap side, sporting an entirely plastic body, but the upside to this is that the K55 RGB Pro is fairly lightweight at 768g. The keyboard also comes with a detachable textured plastic wrist rest to comfortably angle your hands during longer gaming sessions, although with a large footprint, it may not be the best option for those with smaller desks.
The dealbreaker for many will be the decision to go for a membrane-based rubber dome switch in place of a fully mechanical one. To Corsair’s credit, the keys don’t feel as spongey as you’d expect from a rubber dome key switch, and the typing experience is largely satisfying with a 4mm key travel and tactile feedback, but you’re not getting the short, sharp click present on mechanical alternatives.
If you can get over the lack of mechanical switches, the Corsair K55 RGB Pro is one of the most feature-packed budget gaming keyboards you can get your hands on right now.
Rapoo V500Pro – Best budget mechanical keyboard
Rapoo’s V500Pro stands out from much of the budget gaming keyboard competition for one simple fact: it features a fully mechanical keyboard.
Offering a combination of a 4mm travel distance and the satisfying click feedback that gamers crave, the mechanical switches are one of the biggest selling points of the V500Pro. It’s a joy to use when gaming and when working too, and with anti-ghosting tech and curved keycaps, you’ll be at the top of your game.
However, as with most mechanical keyboards, the V500Pro is very loud in use, making it less than ideal for use in shared spaces, and it’s probably not the best option if you stream either. There’s also a noticeable metallic pinging noise when typing too hard on the keys, and once you notice it, you can’t unnotice it (sorry).
Mechanical nature aside, the Rapoo V500Pro has a more understated look compared to ‘traditional’ gaming keyboards, sporting a dark grey aluminium alloy faceplate with RGB backlighting. The lighting isn’t customisable on a per-key basis like premium alternatives, but you do get to enjoy a variety of lighting modes to play around with, and if you prefer, you can turn it off altogether.
It’s also spill-resistant, a nice added touch for those that like to eat and drink while they game.
But while Rapoo went all-in on the design and mechanical keys, the V500Pro lacks macro keys, and there aren’t dedicated media controls either, so some gamers may find it a tad limited compared to the likes of the Corsair K55 RGB.
Still, if a fully mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting is what’s most important for you, the Rapoo V500Pro is a solid choice.
Trust GXT 881 Odyss – Great for shortcuts
The GXT 881 Odyss is one of the most affordable keyboards Trust makes, but it still offers everything most keen gamers are looking for. Semi-mechanical keys deliver 4mm of travel, making for a satisfying and responsive typing experience. However, that creates an obvious trade-off – the Odyss can get very loud once you start enthusiastically tapping away.
From a design standpoint, it looks much like a regular keyboard. A full-size QWERTY keyboard and range of function keys are joined by a separate number pad, while there’s plenty of space to comfortably rest your palms. A wired connection via USB-A means it could easily be used as an everyday keyboard, but the Odyss has some gaming-specific features up its sleeve.
The most notable is a range of RGB lighting effects. Across six modes, they provide an eye-catching, vibrant aesthetic, although the ‘breathing’ setting can be quite off-putting. All have adjustable brightness to suit your environment.
There’s also a dedicated gaming mode, which disables the Windows key in order to provide a more immersive gaming experience. It can be triggered via keys on the bottom-left or top-right of the keyboard, with the latter one of 10 ‘Direct access’ keys. These offer easy access to volume and music controls, as well as File Explorer and the homepage of any app you’re using.
Trust has also customised the function keys, with everything from Settings to the Calculator app available at the touch of a button. Elsewhere, Advanced anti-ghosting allows up to 19 keys to be pressed simultaneously, while each has a lifespan of up to 8,000,000 clicks.
The Odyss might not be made of aluminium or steel, but it remains sturdy and resistant to sudden movements. This plastic build also helps it stay lightweight – at just 860g, it’s one of the more portable gaming keyboards around.
If you’re in the market for a dedicated gaming keyboard, and don’t require the bells and whistles of more expensive alternatives, the Trust Odyss could be the one for you.
Trust GXT 856 Torac – Most outlandish design
The Trust GXT 856 Torac Illuminated Gaming Keyboard is a very popular budget USB wired option, and it’s easy to see why. With a multi-coloured backlight that can change brightness and speed and comfortable keypress, it’s a compelling choice – though you’ll have to be comfortable with a very outlandishly rugged design, with strange metal bits sticking out the top of the keyboard.
The headline feature of this device is the ability to use up to eight keys simultaneously with anti-ghosting. You can use the Fn key to gain quick access to 12 different media keys, including volume, playback, email and more. There’s also a dedicated game mode, which puts the Windows key in lock mode to allow for no interruptions during gameplay.
The body of the Torac is made from a black strong metal top plate and has stands on the bottom if you prefer to have your keyboard at an angular position. Whilst this device is spill proof, it doesn’t have a specifically ergonomic design, nor does it have any dedicated software. You also cannot customise the colours or patterns of the RGB lighting.
The Torac boasts a QWERTY membrane keyboard, with keys that have a travel distance of 4mm. Whilst you get a good deal of bounce back from these, they are quite noisy. If you’re a streamer, make sure to either have a filter on, or place your microphone away from the keyboard.
As gaming keyboards go, this covers the basics for a good price. However, the design is a little out there, and isn’t ideal if you’re after a range of customisation options.
What to consider when buying a cheap gaming keyboard
Form factor is an important element to consider when on the market for a gaming keyboard, as they tend to come in all shapes and sizes to cater for different audiences.
The majority will offer a full-size keyboard with a number pad, but there are an increasing number of tenkeyless (TKL for short) options for those that want a little more desk space. It’s not the ideal option if you work with numbers a lot, but if you’re only using it for gaming, TKL may be the route to go down.
There are also 60% keyboards that go a step further by removing the navigational keys, but these are generally less popular due to the limited functionality on offer.
Just as important is the type of keyboard you opt for. Most gamers prefer the tactile, clicky response of a mechanical keyboard, but those are hard to find at the budget level.
What’s more likely is a membrane keyboard. Generally, these switches aren’t quite as responsive as mechanical alternatives, and some offer a comparatively softer, spongey feel, but this varies between manufacturers, with the likes of the Corsair K55 RGB Pro and Trust GXT 856 Torac offering a tactile typing experience without a mechanical switch.
Switches aside, you’ll want to consider the gaming-specific features on offer. Most will offer basic Game Mode functionality that disables the Windows key to avoid accidental mispresses, but some go a step further with the likes of RGB backlighting, media controls and even dedicated macro keys. The latter is rare at the budget end of the market, but it’s not unheard of.
For more on upgrading your gaming setup, take a look at the following: