So, you’ve read over my previous guides and you’re still looking for the best cheap mechanical keyboard of this year?
Well, maybe it’s time to consider compact or 60/70/75% keyboards.
What are 60/65/75% keyboards?
60/65/75% keyboards are also known as compact keyboard, they’re some of the smallest mechanical keyboards available.
I’m talking about keyboards without numpads, function rows, and sometimes even arrow keys.
Sure, it may sound like they’re not properly equipped for every day use but that’s not the case. Clever design and function layer mapping means compact keyboards have access to all the keys of a full sized keyboard. This compact design gives way to efficient use of desk space and also provides better ergonomic support than a full sized keyboard would.
Thanks to the small form factor compact keyboards are cheap. They’re cheaper than TKL and full sized keyboards as they require less materials to make. This is good news for anyone who’s willing to settle for a keyboard that doesn’t require a full set of keys.
As costs are kept low, things like keycap pullers and detachable cables are normally included in the price.
If you’re not after a compact keyboard have a look at my full sized guide or my tenkeyless guide
Just like previous guides I will give preference to Gateron and Cherry MX switches, then Outemu followed by Kailh. I prefer Gateron switches as they are smoother than Cherry MX switches and Outemu over Kailh as Kailh switches aren’t as refined as Outemu switches.
As a side note, my preference for switches are green and blues, I like clicky, tactile switches but that may not appeal to you. I suggest you have a look at this picture below to ensure you make the right decision when it comes to switches to get the most out of your purchase.
My choices for the keyboards on this list are as follows:
Under $50 – Drevo Gramr 84
Under $80 – MagicForce 68
Under $110 – iKBC New Poker II
For more detailed information keep reading.
At this price point you’re getting an entry level cheap compact mechanical keyboard. These keyboards won’t have Cherry MX and Gateron switches either. Expect build quality to be a little lacking.
Drevo Gramr 84
|Outemu switches||Non-standard bottom row|
|Plastic case with plastic cover||Non-detachable USB cable|
|Flip-out feet and rubber pads to prevent movement||Quality control is a little lacking|
|White LEDs with 6 settings||Quality control may let inconsistencies through|
|Double-shot ABS with blue side printed secondary functions|
|Numpad available via fn combination|
|Media keys via fn combination|
|6KRO, 24KRO, NKRO available|
|USB channeling to guide cable out via the back or sides|
|Keycap puller and stickers|
What makes the Drevo Gramr 84 Good
Making an entry into the world of mechanical keyboards can be daunting and that’s why the Gramr 84 is on this list. It’s a great entry level keyboard worthy of your consideration. It does have a selection of Outemu switches which means you can have a keyboard that suits your typing needs.
Keycap wise the Gramr 84 uses double-shot ABS for the legends. Double-shot keycaps are significantly better than laser-etched when it comes to wear over time. I like the blue side printed secondary functions as this adds unique character to the keyboard.
The 75% layout offers quite a lot of functionality at not much cost to keyboard efficiency. The loss of the numpad and a few lesser used keys may only be felt my a few people. If you do need a numpad, however, the Gramr 84 has designated the right-hand side of the keyboard to a numpad – available via an fn combination.
Cable channeling on the underside of the keyboard allows for the cable to exit via the sides or back of the Gramr 84. Speaking of the back, there’s fold-out feet to prop up the keyboard and rubber pads to ensure stability.
One Amazon review title really describes the Drevo Gramr 84 accurately. “The best and worst thing about this board: it’s cheap.” This is a keyboard that does have a reasonable amount of features at under $50 USD.
It should be noted that quality control on keyboards at this price range may let issues like non-registering keys or LEDs not working as intended slip by. Outemu switches are cheap alternatives to Cherry MX and this means consistency and functionality isn’t on par.
The font is, in my opinion, horrible. Should this bother you finding replacement keysets may prove difficult as the non-standard bottom row makes this process doable but tricky.
E-Element Z-88 RGB
|Durable metal and plastic case||Secondary key functions are laser-etched|
|Flip-out feet and rubber pads||Build quality is a little lacking|
|RGB LEDs with 10 lighting modes||Only the white model comes with hot-swap tool|
|Double-shot ABS keycaps|
|Standard bottom row|
|Multimedia and windows key lock available via fn combination|
|Cable channeling allows the cable to exit top or side of the board.|
|Switches are hot-swappable|
|Selection of white or black colouring|
What makes the E-Element Z-88 Good
Well, the first thing that needs to be mentioned are the hot-swappable switches. The switches in this keyboard may look like they’re soldered in but they can simply be replaced. Which is good news!Hot-swappable switches means you can play around with the Outemu switches and if they breakdown or you’d simply like to try a different switch you can swap them out.
There is a caveat though, it’s easier to do this with the white version of the Z-88. A tool is included with the white model to make the switch swapping easier.
The Z-88 comes with RGB LEDs which is good value as lots of keyboards at this price point don’t even have backlighting.
This 75% layout means the Z-88 has nearly all necessary keys available through physical buttons, only a few fn combinations are required.
Cable channeling and splash proofing are great features that more mechanical keyboards should have.
Along with what’s already been mentioned there’s all the standard features you’d expect, NKRO, multimedia/windows key lock, flip-out feet and rubber padding.
Blue switches are known for their tacticle click, which is also very loud. Give this proper consideration when purchasing this keyboard for a crowded office.
Build quality on this keyboard is a little questionable. Some keyboards have been reported to have faulty LEDs and non functioning keys. There’s even been a case of the keyboard arriving with 2 c keys rather than a v key.
Qisan 82 aka Ajazz AK33
|Zorro switches (Cherry MX equivalent)||Build quality is cheap|
|Aluminium plate, plastic case||Non-standard bottom row and Escape key|
|Flip-out feet with rubber pads||Painted legends|
|ABS keycaps||No keycap puller|
|LED backlighting with 4 different modes|
|Media and windows key lock with fn combination|
|Detachable USB cable|
|Selection of white or black colouring|
What makes the Qisan 82 Good
It’s a cheap mechanical keyboard. While other keyboards within this price bracket (it’s only a little over $50) attempt to offer exceptional quality with a low price, the Qisan 82 offers, quite simply, a cheap basic mechanical keyboard.
There’s backlighting, ABS keycaps, NKRO, media keys, the ability to lock the windows key, and even a detachable USB cable. You don’t get double-shot keycaps, nor a keycap puller but you do get a functional mechanical keyboard that will suit your daily typing needs.
The 75% layout of the Qisan 82 also means you don’t have to have the arrow keys or sometimes rarely used keys, such as page up or down, on a function layer (requiring pressing fn+whichever corresponding key you require).
This is a reasonable introduction into the world of mechanical keyboards, however, for a little bit more money you can get better alternatives with better build quality and better switches. It’s a worthy consideration at around $55USD.
Zorro keycaps can be inconsistent and aren’t as great as other Cherry clones let alone Cherry MX switches. Inconsistent actuation force and some loose keys may occur. Zorro switches are also not as smooth as Cherry MX switches.
The build quality of the Qisan 82 does leave a lot to be desired. That is to be expected from a keyboard in this price range. Picking up the Qisan 82 you’ll notice the build and construction quality feel cheap, then you type on it, the typing experience for the price won’t let you down.
Some weird layout design was used when this board was created. The escape key is strangely larger than normal and the bottom row is non-standard. This is a shame as the keycaps are ABS and have painted on legends. It will be hard to find a replacement keyset for the Qisan 82 but at the price paid when it does come time to upgrading you’ll have gotten your money’s worth.
MagicForce 68 aka Qisan 6
|Choice of Kailh, Outemu, Cherry MX and Gateron Switches||Lightweight makes it feel cheap|
|Aluminium atop plastic case||Keycaps are a little thin|
|Flip-out feet and good rubber pads for stability||Chinese manual|
|ABS double-shot keycaps|
|Standard bottom row|
|DIP switches on back lock windows key and change other keys|
|Adjustable polling rate|
|Media keys available via fn combination|
|Lightweight for portability|
|Detachable USB cable|
|Mac and Linux compatibility|
What makes the Qisan 68 Good
The Qisan 68 is one of my favourite mechanical keyboards. It’s cheap but very feature heavy and it’s a great entry level keyboard. It’s easy to customise thanks to the floating key design and standard bottom row.
The base model is under $40 USD but comes with Outemu switches. I’ve listed the MagicForce 68 in the Under $80 USD category as I say it’s worth the price difference for the Gateron switches. You can fork out another $10 for Cherry MX switches but in my opinion Gateron switches are better.
65% layout really trims off a lot of keys. Keys such as the function row, numpad, home, and end keys. These functions aren’t lost though. They’re simply available by hitting the fn + another corresponding key, eg. fn + 1 = F1. Personally I seldom use the function row so losing it wasn’t a loss to me at all.
DIP switches allow for greater customisation. Switch the caps lock key with left control key or windows key with fn key. The third setting available is the ability to lock the windows key.
Out of the box I noticed the MagicForce 68 is a very light keyboard. I thought that this keyboard wouldn’t be as stable as other mechanical keyboards, however, the saving grace are the rubber pads. These pads positioned on the back of the case, and on the fold-out feet, really reinforce the MagicForce 68 to the desk.
Another issue I had was the default polling rate. Firing up some games and attempting to moved presented me with start then stop movements. This will prove to be problematic to any gamer. The solution is to simply change the polling rate. Changing the polling rate to 20C/S (fn + w) should fix the problem. Fn + W, E, or R are the polling rate settings.
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth is a bit sluggish|
|Battery life of a week with LEDs||Some reports of connectivity issues|
|Gateron switches||No flip-out feet|
|Choice of case colour||Loose stabilizers|
|RGB LEDs with 50 settings||No included English manual- user created manuals linked in Worthy notes section|
|Double-shot PBT keycaps|
|Macro programmable thanks to arm microprocessor|
|Phone app for macros and lighting|
|Detachable micro USB cable|
What makes the Anne Pro Good
It’s a Bluetooth 60% keyboard! The small form factor and Bluetooth connectivity of the Anne Pro makes this keyboard an excellent travelling companion.
While a 60% compact mechanical keyboard may seem like it’s not a suitable choice for portability it’s actually very good at efficient use of space. Behind a function layer sits the fn combination layer, keys like the F-row sit on this. To simply input one of these keys hit the fn key plus the corresponding key. For example fn+3 = F3.
There’s also a phone app for the lighting and macros. The Anne Pro has arm microprocessors that allow for two layers of customized keys. Thanks to the ability to save these profiles on the phone you can have more than two layers ready, they just need to be uploaded when required.
Good news for those of you creative types. The lighting can be customised the way you prefer down to the colours, layout or which specific key lights up.
Being able to program layers allows for custom key layouts. This means that once you could set the Anne pro to have dedicated arrow keys at the loss of other keys for example.
Macro programming is also performed via the app and once set will use up one of the two programmable layers. Having to use the app may be a drawback to those of you who’d rather not perform these functions with their phone.
Get the Anne Pro on Banggood.com
Bluetooth on the Anne pro isn’t bullet proof, but neither are most wireless connections. Connectivity issues with Bluetooth may arise from time to time.
It should also be noted that connection speed and response times are when connected via cable. Over Bluetooth the connection latency can’t offer such a speedy connection.
Bluetooth connections may lag (sluggish response) when typing. This may irritate some users. Just note that this is only temporary and should fix itself in a few seconds otherwise using the cable will resolve this.
Connectivity issues may occur with this keyboard. Not many Anne Pros have these issues. You can try updating the firmware to resolve these issues – here’s a guide with download links.
If you do experience further issues contact your supplier for a replacement, I link to Banggood.com, if you purchased from them send them a message, they should replace a faulty purchase.
For those of you at a loss without an English manual I’ve linked below some helpful, work in progress, links below:
Get the Anne Pro on Banggood.com
Here’s a video review of the Anne Pro by TaeKeyboards
|Gateron switches||Height not adjustable|
|Choice of coloured case||Programming only available via website|
|Choice of aluminium or plastic case||No NKRO unless you flash it on|
|Case underglow||Mac and Linux users may require some tinkering|
|Rubber pads to prevent movement||Non-standard bottom row|
|White LED backlight with 12 modes|
|Dye-subbed thick PBT keycaps|
|Detachable mini-USB cable|
What makes the Tada68 Good
The stellar value for money! Seriously it’s so hard to find a keyboard that has all the features the Tada68 has, with good build quality, at this price point.
These features come in the form of thick PBT keycaps, on par with EnjoyPBT. These kinds of keycaps are worth more than half the board itself. Even though the Tada68 has a non standard bottom row you shouldn’t worry too much as the stock keycaps are excellent. You may have difficulty finding replacement keysets if you do want to swap sets.
The plastic case is good but the Aluminium case is better. Just remember that you will be paying more money for the Aluminium case, it’s well worth it.
Even with the plastic case the build quality of the Tada68 is excellent, especially for how much it costs. It’s very hard to consider other keyboards especially when you get the versatility of a 65% keyboard which is fully programmable.
Fully programmable means that you can change each and every key on the keyboard to suit your needs. Sure it does take some tinkering but it’s a great feature to have.
Thanks to the QMK firmware support, you can flash the Tada68 and have a much more powerful keyboard than stock.
If you take all of the components that make up the Tada68 and add them up, you’ll find it hard to justify selling this keyboard for such a low price.
To be able to program the Tada68 you’ll need to use a website to compile any changes. Having to use the internet for this process can be problematic for a couple of reasons. What if you don’t have an internet connection or the compiling webpage gets taken down. The news about this isn’t good flash player is no longer supported by pretty much most web browsers or even Adobe themselves.
Here’s some helpful Tada68 programming resources for those of you wanting to reprogram your Tada68. These don’t answer the question of what happens if you can’t access the website but they’ll help you when it is running.
Those of you who know how to flash QMK can use that for programming the Tada68 if the website is down. The beauty of using QMK is that you have more control and you can even enable NKRO. Here’s a link to the Tada68 QMK firmware.
For the Mac and Linux users should you have some issues with your keyboard here’s a link with some advice about some tinkering to try and resolve your issue.
iKBC Poker II
This is a keyboard that’s focused solely on being a great keyboard. If you’re serious about getting a compact mechanical keyboard this is the one. The price is ridiculously good and should be considered even if your budget is $40USD. Seriously, if you’re going to spend the money, get a solid well built mechanical keyboard that you won’t want to part with nor will it let you down. The New Poker II is the one to buy on this list.
Note: iKBC (originally KBC) and Vortex both manufactured the Poker line of keyboards. This may be confusing as quite often you’ll find Poker keyboards branded as either iKBC or Vortex. Essentially both companies made the Poker II with each adding their own iterations.
Generally iKBC offer a little bit more with their keyboards versus the offerings of Vortex. We’re talking things like PBT keycaps versus ABS.
|Cherry MX switches||No backlight|
|Plastic case||Height not adjustable|
|PBT keycaps||Ability to swap caps lock and fn requires a work around - linked below|
|Side printed legends||Previous 60% cases won't work - will change in time|
|3 programmable layers|
|6 DIP switches for greater customisation|
|Ability to lock arrow keys (WASD) on|
|Pre-programmed QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak, & Workman selection|
|On-board memory to save configuation|
|Media keys via fn combination|
|Comes with 2 detachable cables and 6 colourful modifiers|
|Cable channeling for back or side exit|
|Mac and Linux compatible|
|Standard bottom row|
What makes the New Poker II Good
One of my favourite mechanical keyboards and my pick for this entire list, seriously, if you want a compact mechanical keyboard, this is the one to get! I remember my first Poker II, the original one, I loved the build quality. It was a fantastic keyboard, I just didn’t like it. That was because I picked the wrong switch for me and didn’t end up keeping it. It should be noted that my daily driver is the Pok3r as the Poker II was so good I had to have the next iteration.
Plenty of thought and care has gone into iKBC’s New Poker II as is evident by the impressive amount of features. Functionality isn’t lost with the 60% size as all less utilised keys are available via an fn combination, even the media keys.
A braided right-angle USB type-C cable connects underneath the New Poker II and can route either out the back or to sides thanks to cable channeling.
There’s even PBT keycaps and the legends are back in the left corner with a good font! A feature I really like are the side printed secondary functions, they’re a great addition.
There’s now 3 programmable layers available along with 6 dip switches. This is great news for you macro users or key swappers. The on-board memory also means these settings are saved onto the New Poker II so wherever you plug it in, you’ll have all your pre-programmed settings available.
This time the New Poker II has 6 DIP switches which allows for even greater customisation. DIP switches 1 and 2 switch between keyboard layouts, switch 3 swaps the fn and pn switches, switch 4 enables locking on the arrow keys (WASD), switch 5 switches caps lock and left ctrl and switch 6 swaps windows key and alt.
Although the ability to swap the caps lock with the fn key is not natively available via a DIP switch change there is a way swap these keys. Thanks to the New Poker II’s programmability you can simply swap the left ctrl key to be fn and then enable DIP switch 5. Here’s a link on how to do this where the windows key is actually left ctrl.
As the new USB C connection is on the bottom side of the New Poker II you’re stuck with the stock case for now. This is a bit of a shame as there’s lots of after market 60% cases available.
Looking for something bigger? Check out my guide on TKL keyboards
Found the right compact mechanical keyboard for you? If you’re happy with the keyboard but would like to change its appearance read this guide. It’s 13 ways to customise your keyboard!
Cheap compact keyboards not your cup of tea? Have a look at my recommendations at a higher price point.
Last update on 2018-12-15 at 22:44 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API