The Best Cheap Mechanical Keyboard 2017 – Tenkeyless TKL

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Updated
Current version as of 18 July 2017!

Added MagicForce 82

I’m back again writing another article on cheap mechanical keyboards. This time it’s the Tenkeyless or TKL or 80% version.

There’s a lot to choose from out there, so I’m going to help point you in the right direction. It’s worth your while to get setup with something decent.

Consider this:

Sitting above the alpha keys on a keyboard rests the number row. At times this is enough for a lot of people. People who don’t use numbers that often, only here and there, can attest to the need for solely this row. This leaves the numpad to the right close to useless.

Have a think, sure a numpad may be more efficient but how often are you using it? If you feel that you use it once a day and could probably do without, then it’s time to look into saving the desk space and getting a TKL keyboard.

What a view! Credit to u/Deelighted

Check out my full sized guide or for more details have a look at my ultimate guide for necessary information about mechanical keyboards!
Or if you’re looking for compact cheap mechanical keyboards have a look at this guide

The full sized guide has a bit more information about switches and types, so have a look there for a bit more of a detailed breakdown. A brief summary image is below:

Cherry Switches Table

Picking the right switches makes the experience

My picks from this list:

Under $50 – The Plugable TKL

Under $80 – I’d go with the Rantopad MXX with custom keycaps as I can choose Gateron blue switches. I would buy the Corsair Strafe but I am not a fan of linear switches.

Under $100 – Between the Cooler Master and the iKBC C87, I’d choose the iKBC. Don’t get me wrong they’re both great keyboards. It’s just the iKBC is a better keyboard for the money. It doesn’t have a gamer focus, yet it can be used for gaming. It looks good but it types even better!

More details:

Under $50USD

As there’s not as many keys, it’s easier to find a reasonably priced TKL keyboard. This drop in size means a reduction in overall cost, the price of keyboards move down a tier thanks to this lack of size. It is worth noting that at under $50USD don’t expect longevity, just expect a mechanical keyboard that’s a great way to get your foot into the door of the world of mechanical keyboards.

Then be pleasantly surprised if these keyboards hold up for a relatively long time!

Aula Demon King TKL

ProsCons
Gateron or Outemu switchesLaser-etched ABS keycaps
Media KeysISO layout
Standard bottom row makes it easy for customisationLacking NKRO
Lock windows keyLoud
Prop-up feet and rubber feet for stabilityThin, laser-etched keycaps will wear
Cluster anti-ghostingNon-detachable cable
Heavy plastic caseNon-backlit
Mac compatibility
Aula Demon King TKL Blue Switches

Popped the top of the Aula Demon King TKL! Credit to lolwat_o_O

What makes Aula Demon King TKL good

I couldn’t believe it. Gateron switches on a keyboard this cheap! Originally the Demon King came with Kailh switches and there are some stock of the next proceeding Outemu switches as well. However, the current iteration of the Demon King mechanical keyboards are housing Gateron switches.

The keycaps are laser-etched ABS plastic which will wear over time. This isn’t a problem as the standard bottom row means sourcing keysets will be easy. I advise you do this as the font on this keyboard is awful.

Media keys are on the function row as well as the ability to lock the windows button. A handy option for those of you who don’t need or use the windows key.

A plastic case, prop up feet and rubber stabilisers allow for comfort and stability when in use. The casing is heavy and won’t allow for movement either.

Get the Aula Demon King TKL 

Worthy notes

While the Aula Demon King TKL is advertised as having NKRO this is not true. Common in cheap keyboards, rather than purchasing the necessary components for full NKRO, key clusters are arranged to allow what appears to be NKRO when it’s actually 3 key-rollover. The Demon King uses this 3 key-rollover, worth noting for you gamers out there.

The Aula Demon King TKL should be stocking the Gateron switch version of this keyboard. However, previous older models may be sent out, therefore, it’s not gauranteed you’ll receive Gateron blues. These are known as loud clicky switches so bare that in mind when purchasing.

The keycaps are laser-etched ABS plastic which will wear over time. This isn’t a problem as the standard bottom row means sourcing keysets will be easy. I advise you do this as the font on this keyboard is awful.

 


Redragon Kumara K552

ProsCons
Outemu blue switchesNon-removable cable
Metal and ABS plastic designGamer font keycaps
Prop-up feetLED longevity is questionable
Red LED backlight with breathing effect and brightness controlDouble key presses or keys failing to register
Floating key designSometimes requires disconnecting and reconnecting
Double-shot ABS keycapsLoud
Standard bottom row means finding new keysets is easier
Media keys and windows key lockout option available via an fn combo.
Anti-ghosting
Splashproof design
Mac compatible but lights won’t work
NPKC Rainbow Gradient on Redragon Kumara K552

NPKC Rainbow Gradient on Redragon Kumara K552

What makes the Redragon Kumara K552 good

You get a floating key design on a metal and ABS frame. Underneath are fold-out feet to help angle the Kumara K552 to better suit your needs. I advise the use of the feet as without it the keyboard may move on your desk as there are no non-slip pads underneath otherwise a purchase of some rubber pads should do.

Red LEDs with a breathing mode and three levels of brightness sit atop the Greetech blue switches. Greetech switches are tactile and clicky. It’s this clicky sound that makes the user experience great, yet loud.

Keycaps on the Kumara K552 are made of double-shot ABS plastic which means the keycaps won’t wear. I suggest swapping out the keys as the font on this keyboard is pretty bad and this is entirely possible thanks to the standard bottom row.

One of the standout features that I’m impressed with is the splashproof design. Waterproofing shouldn’t be a requirement but catering for the odd spill here and there is a great feature.

Get the Redragon Kumara K552 

Worthy notes

Issues at this price point do exist, however. The LEDs have been known to dim or burnout, which should be expected for a mechanical keyboard for under $40 USD.

Keys double pressing or outright not registering when being pressed have been reported. A lot of the time you’ll have to get the product returned to have it replaced or get your money back should this happen.

Other users have noted that sometimes the entire keyboard becomes unresponsive. This issue can be resolved by simply unplugging the keyboard and then re-plugging it back in again, this act may prove to me an inconvenience to some users.

 


Plugable TKL

ProsCons
Outemu blue switchesNon-removable cable
Floating key designSecondary key functions are laser-etched
Metal plate housed in plastic caseThe odd loose keycap
Rubberized flip-out feetLoud
Media keys and windows lock-out available via fn combination
WASD and arrow keys swappability
ABS double-shot keycaps
White LED backlight with breathing mode and brightness options
NKRO
Keycap puller
Mac and Linux compatibility
Box contents of the Plugable TKL

Box contents of the Plugable TKL

What makes the Plugable TKL good

It’s easy to see that the Plugable TKL is a well made product. Picking it up you notice the weight and trying to see if it bends or flex helps solidify just how solid and well built the Plugable is.

ABS double-shot keycaps adorn the Plugable TKL meaning wear isn’t as much a problem as the second function which are laser-etched onto the cap. It’s entirely possible to change out the keycaps on the Plugable thanks to the standard bottom row!

Surprisingly there’s lots more value in the Plugable TKL than the Kumara and Redragon, NKRO is there for the gamers, a keycap puller for switching out your keycaps, Mac and Linux compatibility just to name a few.

This is a keyboard that is less of a gamer keyboard than the Kumara and Redragon. The plugable will fit in a professional work place.

Get the Plugable TKL 

Worthy notes

When you compare the price difference between the plugable and other keyboards in this price range it’s very hard to beat. For less than $10USD more than the Kumara and Redragon you get a well built keyboard, one that offers more features and looks better.

For a keyboard of this quality at this price you can’t go past the Plugable TKL. It’s so good there’s no excuse for someone to not be using a mechanical keyboard.

If you’re considering a keyboard under $50 USD then this is the one to choose!

 


Under $80USD

At the under $80 USD price point for a cheap mechanical TKL keyboard options start to open up. Better build quality and features become available.

Typing preference is now an option with these keyboards as switch selection is sometimes a choice.

Nixeus Moda V2

ProsCons
Choice of Kailh Switches include Red, Brown, and BlueABS laser-etched keycaps
Floating key designNon-removable cable
Metal caseNo backlight
Flip-out feet and rubber pads to prevent movementQuality control issues
Standard bottom rowKeys stick or may not register
6KRO and NKRO
1000Hz polling rate
Media buttons and window button lock with fn combo
Heavy
Keycap puller
Mac and Linux compatible
Nixeus Moda V2

Different angle of the Nixeus Moda V2

What makes the Nixeus Moda V2 good

Cheap switch selection are what the Nixeus Moda V2 brings to the table. The ability to pick a cheap keyboard with a durable metal body and switches that suit your typing style makes the Moda V2 worth considering.

There’s weight behind the steel plate and rubber feet which help prevent movement. Aesthetically this keyboard looks good with the metal body and floating keycap

A high polling rate means the Moda V2 will be checking for keypresses every 1 millisecond. Pair that with NKRO and the choice of 6KRO (for Mac users) and this makes the Moda V2 a worthy consideration for gaming.

Get the Nixeus Moda V2 

Worthy notes

Build quality has been noted to not be spectacular. Kailh switches don’t have the best track record with durability and this causes switches to stick or unregistered key presses.

While backlighting may not be a necessity for everyone, it’s been included in previously mentioned keyboards at cheaper prices.

The keycaps are ABS laser-etched which means they will wear over time. You will need to replace the keycaps at some point. Keysets are easy to switch due to availability thanks to the standard bottom row.

 


Rantopad MXX

ProsCons
Gateron switches standard, can choose Cherry MX at extra costThin ABS laser-etched keycaps
Selection of case coloursNo height adjustment
Floating key designNo English manual in the box (can be found here)
Aluminium alloy case with rubber feet
Standard bottom row
Media keys and gaming mode toggle available via fn combination
Customisable white LED backlighting and 6 stock functions
NKRO
Portable thanks to light weight
Detachable cable
Keycap puller
Mac compatibility
Cherry switches available
RGB lighting option available!
Red Rantopad MXX

There’s different case options for the Rantopad MXX

What makes the Rantopad MXX good

At under $80USD you can choose which Gateron switch best suits you on the Rantopad MXX, otherwise if you’re willing to pay a little more, you can get Cherry MX switches of your choosing. There’s even RGB lighting options but that puts the Rantopad MXX into another price bracket!

The Aluminium body, with rubber footing does give this keyboard a polished feel. There’s even options for different coloured cases.

NRKO, customisable lighting options, media keys and gaming mode toggling, there’s lots of features catering to gamers. They keycaps also has that slick gaming font for those of you who like that look.

Change out the keycaps on the MXX and you can have a keyboard that doesn’t look like its sole purpose is playing video games.

Get the Rantopad MXX 

Worthy notes

While the Rantopad MXX does have quite a few features, it’s not without its drawbacks.

For the people who prefer their keyboards to sit flat on their desks, you’re out of luck. The lack of recline comes from the solid aluminium frame.

The keycaps are ABS laser-printed and thin. It’s a good thing the bottom row is standard so you can replace the keyset with a better one.

 


Corsair Vengeance K65

ProsCons
Cherry MX red switchesNon-standard bottom row
Anodized Aluminium and plastic ChassisNon-backlit
Floating key designRequires rubber pads to completely remove movement
fold-out feetKeycaps legends are printed on
ABS keycaps and textured spacebar
Additional grey WASD and arrow keycaps
Media keys and Windows key lock out via fn combination
Dedicated volume keys
BIOS and polling switch at the top of the case
NKRO
Detachable USB cable
Mac compatibility

Corsair K65 with custom caps. Credit to u/xKronicL

What makes the Corsair K65 good

For those of you who prefer red switches. This is the keyboard for you! To add on top of that, the red switches are Cherry MX switches.

Anondized aluminium sits ontop of plastic backing to form the case while the USB cable connects underneath. This kind of design means the braided micro USB cable is less likely to get damaged as the housing will be pulled on rather than the cable connection.

Media keys are hidden under an fn combination but there’s dedicated volume and windows key lockout buttons. NKRO and Mac compatibility is here

Dedicated BIOS and polling rate switch is also housed on the case. Sliding this knob will allow the keyboard to be put into BIOS settings or select what polling rate you’d like the keyboard to use. What is polling rate? It’s how often your computer checks whether a key has been pressed.

Polling rates per setting are as follows 1/2/4/8, in milliseconds, which works out to 1=1000Hz, 2=500Hz, 4=250Hz, 8=125Hz.

There’s ABS keycaps and included in the box are grey WASD and arrow keycaps to give your keyboard a little flair.

Get the Corsair Strafe 

Worthy notes

A lack of backlight is a bit of a trade off for Cherry MX red switches. Personally I prefer Gateron switches which are cheaper than Cherry MX switches and they would allow for backlighting, especially at this price.

While printed keycaps won’t wear as quickly as laser-etched keycaps there’s still the matter that they will wear. It’s important to take this into account if you intend to keep this keyboard for years. A non-standard bottom row means it’s not going to be easy to find replacement keycaps should the keycaps wear or you’d like to customise your keyboard.

 


Under $100USD

At under $100USD you really only have one keyboard worthy of your choice. Sure, above $100USD the TKL range selection broadens with keyboards like the Majestouch-2 but at $100USD this is the keyboard to get.

MagicForce 82

MagicForce’s latest edition to the mechanical keyboard world is an 82 key TKL with Cherry MX switches.

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesNon-standard bottom row
Aluminium alloy plate and plastic bodyNot all units easily available (details below)
Cable channeling
Rubber pads and flip-out feet
White or blue LEDs with 9 modes
Floating key design
Double-shot ABS keycaps
Media keys and windows key lockout option available via an fn combo.
DIP switches for settings quick toggle
NKRO
Detachable USB cable
Mac compatible
Vintage typewriter keycaps on MagicForce 82

Vintage typewriter keycaps on MagicForce 82

What makes the MagicForce 82 so good

Following the success of the MagicForce 82’s smaller brother comes a slightly larger version. In fact the main difference to size is the added F keys. Lengthwise, there’s not much between the 68 and the MagicForce 82.

There’s plenty more similarities with the MagicForce 68 as well. An aluminium plate on top of plastic case, floating key design, double-shot ABS. There’s 3 DIP switches on the back. These toggle Caps Lock and left Ctrl swapping, Win and left Alt, and Win with Fn keys. These are features offered in the MagicForce 68 which made that such a great value keyboard and the MagicForce 82 doesn’t fall short.

While there’s two models offered, the differences boil down to plate and case colour. If you want the standard model then the keycaps come white, despite choosing either a black or white model. There’s also quirky typewriter keycaps, a throwback to typewriters of yesteryear.

Get the MagicForce 82 on AliExpress

The MagicForce 82 with blue backlight

The MagicForce 82 with blue backlight

Worthy notes

I much rather prefer the keycaps on the MagicForce 82 over the MagicForce 68 as well. They’re not overly gamery with the normal keycap edition looking much better than the typewriter keycaps.

While appealing to the eye, typewriter keycaps aren’t that great to type on. It’s one of the main reasons why you don’t see round uniform profile keys on keyboards any more. My advice, get the normal keycaps. You can swap out the keycaps but just be weary of the bottom row’s 1u size keys to the right of the spacebar, some sets do cater for this.


iKBC C87

ProsCons
Cherry switchesKeycaps are laser-etched
PBT keycapsNon-backlit
Flip-out feetNon-detachable cable
Rubber pads to increase stability
Media keys and windows lock via fn combination
Keycap puller
10 gaming keycaps
Non gamer aesthetic
Cable channeling
NKRO

What makes the iKBC C87 good

The thing that stands out with the iKBC C87 is the build quality. Sure this keyboard doesn’t have backlighting and the keycaps are laser-etched but it makes up for it by being a solid, well built mechanical keyboard. It’s simple and that means all the focus was in a properly built keyboard.

Coming from the designers of the Pok3r keyboard, the C87 isn’t a keyboard targeted at gamers. However, it’s a keyboard worthy of any gamer with features like NKRO, and windows lock.

There aren’t as many media keys as other keyboards but to be honest it’s rare when the pause/play, skip/previous buttons actually work on those keyboards.

Your choice of customisation comes in the selection case colour and which Cherry MX switch best suits your typing preference. The keycaps on the C87 are PBT which means they won’t wear or shine like ABS keycaps. However, the keycaps are now laser-etched (they used to be double-shot) this means the lettering will wear over time. When this happens you’ll be happy to know that the standard bottom row will make finding replacement keysets easy.

Get the iKBC C87 in black 

Get the iKBC C87 in white 

Worthy notes

Out of the box the C87 has 6KRO enabled. This needs to be enabled by hitting the fn key and scroll lock.

The cable does not detach from the keyboard either. However, with the positioning of the connection, iKBC have inserted channels to feed the cable out, either side ways or straight behind, to suit your needs.

Have a look at my other guides

Best cheap full sized keyboard

Ultimate mechanical keyboard guide

Or if you’ve already have a mechanical keyboard that you’re happy with why not look at how you can customise it. Here’s 13 ways to customise your keyboard

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Last update on 2018-12-15 at 23:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5 Responses to " The Best Cheap Mechanical Keyboard 2017 – Tenkeyless TKL "

  1. […] If you’re not after a compact keyboard have a look at my full sized guide or my tenkeyless guide […]

  2. […] And this is my cheap TKL keyboard guide […]

  3. […] size, while still retaining close to full functionality. This is a 75% keyboard, very similar to an 80% keyboard (TKL – tenkeyless), this format tends to lack a numpad and on rare occasions certain keys from the navigation cluster. […]

  4. […] you’re looking for the cheapest TKL keyboards check out my other […]

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