The Best Cheap Full Size Mechanical Keyboard 2017

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Current version – updated on 17May2017!

While cheap mechanical keyboards do exist, it’s hard to know which ones are good cheap mechanical keyboards and which ones are dud mechanical keyboards. Do you need a numpad, arrow keys, or function row quite frequently? Then a full sized keyboard is what you’re looking for!

To help, I’ve made this list of cheap mechanical keyboards broken down by price in USD. I’ll be using a mix of stock photos to show what the keyboard originally looks like and what it can look like should you decide to customise it.

Corsair Strafe Grey White and Blue Keycaps

Strafe customised with Max keycaps. Credit to u/KawMaster

First, a little introduction of things to keep an eye out for when choosing the best cheap mechanical keyboard for you.

Mechanical Keyboard Switches

In order to keep the prices down I’ll be linking mostly alternative switches to Cherry MX. Gateron switches are smoother but can also be louder than Cherry. Build quality and switch consistency are pretty close between Cherry and Gateron, hence the preference for these switches.

Gateron – Smoothest switch, solid build quality. Cheaper than Cherry MX but not as consistent.

Cherry – Solid build quality and consistent activation. Most expensive as it’s highly sought after

Outemu – Cheaper clone, better than Kailh in terms of feel. OK build quality, but not as consistent as previous two switches

Kailh – Switches used in Razer keyboards. They don’t feel as good as Outemu and therefore are not as good as the rest.

Buckling Spring – Popularized by IBM. Isn’t a Cherry clone. Very distinct sound, feel, and click. Highly sought after but heavy.

Switches really make the keyboard, so be sure to pick the right one. If you don’t want to get a switch tester from here, to keep the costs down, have a look at the following chart:

Cherry Switches Table

Picking the right switches makes the experience

Recommendations

My choices for the keyboards on this list are as follows:

Under $50 – EagleTec KG010/KG011

Under $80 – James Donkey 619

Under $100 – iKBC C104

For more detailed information keep reading.

Here are the best TKL cheap mechanical keyboards of 2017

Here are the best compact cheap mechanical keyboards of 2017


On To Best Cheap Mechanical Keyboard – Full Sized

Under $50 USD

At this price point, you’re getting an entry level mechanical keyboard. Don’t expect very durable/long-lasting components or LEDs. Keycap pullers and wrist rests most likely won’t be included. My suggestion? spend a few dollars more and get the James Donkey 619 if you don’t need RBG and are happy with orange backlighting.

1. EagleTec KG010/KG011

KG010

The KG010 is black with blue LEDs

For a cheap mechanical keyboard under $50USD, you’d be surprised what great value these are.

Sure, they don’t have Cherry or Gateron switches, but the Outemu blues are a great tactile switch for those of you getting your first mechanical keyboard.

ProsCons
Outemu blue switchesLayer programming is a bit limited
ABS plastic and Aluminium design - built like a tank, rear adjustable feetLoud
Double-shot ABS keycapsUndetachable cable
Function keys double up as media keys when paired with fn combinationNo keycap puller
Standard bottom row allows for customisation
Floating key design
NKRO
Blue backlight with dual lighting options - breathing/on
Splash resistance
Plug and play with Mac and Linux
The KG011

The KG011 is silver with white keycaps and blue LEDs

Why the KG010/KG011 makes the list

What you get out of these keyboards versus what you pay is very impressive.

A mix of aluminium and ABS plastic is used to make up this keyboard. This combination of materials means this keyboard will endure tough love, but don’t expect it to last forever. While it may be built like a tank, the internal components may not last as long as you need.

Keycaps come in a standard format and bottom row, which means replacing the stock ABS that comes with the KG010/KG011 is really easy. I advise that you do this as the keycaps on these keyboards are very average. The font is nothing special, and on the silver keyboard the keycaps are white on silver – very unappealing.

Keyboards don’t really need waterproofing – just the protection from the odd splash now and then, which the KG010/KG011 have.

The function keys double up as media keys and a few other shortcuts. Gamers will be happy to know that NKRO is available with the KG010/KG011.

There’s plug and play, and for those of you on Linux or Mac you needn’t worry as these keyboards will work by simply plugging them in.


Under $80

At this price point is where it starts to get competitive. There’s 4 cheap mechanical keyboards to consider here.

For under $80 you can expect better build quality and durability. Keycap removers may be included as well.

2. Plugable 104

Plugable 104

Feature packed and cheap, the Plugable 104

ProsCons
Outemu blue switchesSecondary key functions are laser-etched
Floating key designThe odd loose keycap
Metal plate housed in plastic caseLoud
Rubberised flip-out feet
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
Plugable 104 Box

Plugable 104 box contents

Why the Plugable 104 makes the list

It’s a shame that the Plugable only scrapes into this price point by about $5. It’s so cheap that there isn’t an excuse to own a mechanical keyboard. The quality and features that come with a $55USD keyboard shouldn’t be this great!

At this price point consider spending the $10 more than the EagleTec keyboards.

The Plugable 104 doesn’t look so much like a gamer keyboard, it will fit in to a professional workspace thanks to it’s all black design and white LED backlighting.

The case is a mix of plastic on top of a metal plate, so there’s weight and no flex. Underneath are rubberized pads and fold out feet for stability when in use.

The Outemu blue switches are accompanied with double-shot ABS keycaps. These caps won’t wear and the font isn’t too over the top, though, not great.

There’s Mac and Linux compatibility, NKRO, and a keycap puller.

3. MagicForce 108

MagicForce 108 with SA Ice Cap set

MagicForce 108 with SA Ice Cap set

Qisan’s MagicForce 68 proved that China can make good value and well-built cheap mechanical keyboards. So, following that success, it made sense to release a full sized keyboard. The MagicForce 108 is exactly that.

ProsCons
Gateron switches1.8m undetachable cable
ABS double-shot shine through keycapsLack of adjustable feet, only rubber stoppers to prevent movement when in use
Standard layout makes for easy customisationQuality control sometimes fails to identify faulty LEDs
Crystal white case - Looks like a floating key design with clear surrounding
Media keys accessible with fn combination
Backlit - with multiple settings
5 levels of brightness
Selectable NKRO or 6KRO
Mac and Linux compatible
Solid weight means it won't move around your desk when in use
MagicForce 108 box contents

MagicForce 108 box contents

Why the MagicForce 108 makes the list

It’s hard to beat the value offered by the MagicForce 108. For under $80 USD you get multi-function backlighting (that gets very bright on the highest setting), double-shot shine through ABS keycaps, and a see through case atop a crystal white base.

A choice of Gateron switches means you can choose the right switch for you. And the standard bottom row layout makes it easy to find replacement keysets, which I strongly advise you do.

Media keys are available as well as the selection of either 6KRO or NKRO when necessary. Similarly to the EagleTec keyboards, the MagicForce 108 has plug and play, with Mac and Linux compatibility.

Build quality on this keyboard is pretty good, but it must be noted that some unlucky people have received units with dead LEDs.


4. James Donkey 619

James Donkey 619 Features

Look at all this value

While it’s closer to the $50 category than the under $80 category, the James Donkey 619 is loaded with features. The real selling point are the Gateron switches that come with it. It’s also got a solid metal plate, programmable alpha and numerical keys, orange backlighting, and a strong gamer aesthetic if you’re into that kind of look. This keyboard has replaced the Cougar Attack X3 as it’s simply a much better and nicer looking keyboard.

ProsCons
Cherry SwitchesPlastic framing is a little flimsy
Aluminium CaseABS keycaps are laser-etched and thin - Will wear over time
Floating key designNon-standard bottom row makes it hard to find keysets
Red backlit with 5 stage brightnessPaying a premium for Cherry switches
Media controls via fn key
Dedicated volume control keys
1ms response time
NKRO
On-board memory allows for 3 customised profiles
Anti-slip rubber feet
Mac and Linux compatible

Why the James Donkey 619

 

Similar to the upcoming Corsair Strafe, the James Donkey has a metal plate and ABS casing. This casing also extends to the yellow feet on the sides of the keyboard. Underneath is the plastic undershell, flip-up feet, and rubber pads to prevent movement.

Trying to bend the metal plate by grabbing at either side yields zero results. Pressing in the middle of the keyboard when stationary will cause slight bowing. This only happens with quite a bit of force is applied and not while typing. Having side mounted feet that raise the keyboard above the desk will cause this.

While it’s not the heaviest full size keyboard, it’s still rather hefty. The build quality is acceptable for its price and the looks should appeal to the gamer crowd.

It’s got a detachable braided micro-USB cable, and textured ABS keycaps. This keyboard has the second best keycaps on this list. The thickness is fine but the texturing is what sets these keycaps apart. Font wise it’s better than a lot of other gamer keyboards, however, some keys have some uneven and even odd formed lettering.

Should you want to change the keycaps you can do so thanks to the standard bottom row and keycap puller.

All the tools for gaming are available as well, there’s NKRO, macro progamming, and multimedia keys available via Fn combination. Orange LED backlighting can be set to MOBA, FPS or even MMO games. There’s 5 game modes and 8 more visual effect modes.

If you’d like to know more, have a look at my review of the James Donkey 619 here


5. Corsair Strafe

Corsair Strafe with gaming keycaps added

Corsair Strafe with textured gaming keycaps added

The question to ask is – why the Corsair Strafe over the Corsair K70? They are both very similar cheap mechanical keyboards with the difference being price. Sure, the K70 has an aluminium body with dedicated media keys but you’d expect to pay $20 more for these features.

ProsCons
Cherry MX switchesABS keycaps wear easily
Aluminium plate and plastic housing combinationNon-standard bottom row - difficult for changing keysets
HeavyBuild quality is just ok
Adjustable feetOn rare occasions switches may stick
Multimedia controls via fn combination
Textured keycap sets
Red backlighting - Dynamic, adjustable lighting with multiple different modes
USB Pass-through
Completely programmable
NKRO
Mac and Linux compatability
2 year warranty
Plastic keycap puller
Corsair Strafe Grey White and Blue Keycaps

Corsair Strafe customised with Max keycaps. Credit to u/KawMaster

Why the Corsair Strafe is on the list

For a cheap mechanical keyboard from a gaming peripheral manufacturer, the Corsair Strafe is rather justifiable for its price. Included in that price are Cherry MX switches of your choice.

The Strafe is a heavy keyboard and that’s thanks to the aluminium plate encased in plastic. Adjustable feet are on the underside and it’s the combination of this and the weight which will prevent the Strafe from moving on your desk when in use. Connection for the USB pass-through is positioned at the top of the keyboard for those of you needing an extra USB port.

Red LEDs adorn the Strafe with their adjustable lighting and brightness. These LEDs have their own light-up settings, however, the really impressive part is the fact that you can program these LEDs to operate the way you want.

Re-programming the Strafe means you can assign any key to any switch. This is handy as the media keys sit atop the F-row but can be reprogrammed so that they don’t require a fn combination. Even fn, windows, caps lock can all be moved to a place of your choosing.

Inside the box is a plastic keycap puller, and textured gaming keycaps so you can game by simply feeling your required keys. Gamers will also be happy to note the NKRO over USB comes with this keyboard as well. For people on Mac and Linux, you’ll be happy to know there’s out of the box compatibility.


Under $100

Going above $100, we won’t be looking at cheap mechanical keyboards any more, so this is the last category. At this price point, expect more features and better build quality than previously mentioned keyboards.

6. iKBC C104

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

 

Why the iKBC C104 makes the list

Elegant and yet simple is the best way to describe the iKBC C104. The C104 makes the list because of this simplicity as it was made with the utmost care and focus on being a great keyboard. The build quality is some of the best on the list and it features your choice of Cherry MX switches.

This keyboard is my choice out of all the keyboards on this list. Sure, it’s not feature packed like the others. It’s missing things like backlighting, adjustable polling rates, and detachable cable but the C104 makes up for these missing features in other ways.

There’s an additional 10 gaming keycaps, a keycap puller, USB channeling, and PBT keycaps. This kind of thought is what goes into the design of the C104 and that’s what makes it my best choice on the list.

Consider the fact that the laser-etched legends rub off over time, however. The standard bottom row will make it easy to find replacement keysets.


7. Unicomp Model M 104

It’s a full sized keyboard – 104 keys but the Unicomp Model M is a no frills keyboard. Sure, it’s not going to be as customisable nor has as many features as previously mentioned keyboards, but that’s because this is a buckling springs mechanical keyboard.

ProsCons
Buckling spring switchesLacking features
USB connectionNot as good as original but very close
Two-tone PBT keycapsSeparate versions for Windows and Mac computers
HeavyLoud
Range of different styles and keycaps to choose from
Grey and white Model M

Unicomp Model M 104 with white alphas and grey modifiers

Why the Unicomp Model M 104 is on the list

No frills is the best way to sum up the Unicomp Model M 104. Sure, it’s missing things like backlighting, media keys, NKRO and the like but the main focus of this keyboard is typing.

Desk movement won’t be an issue as the Model M 104 is heavy. It’s actually the heaviest keyboard on this list! The durability of the Model M 104 is phenomenal and issues like squeaks are simply resolved by taking off the keycap to reseat it.

The feeling on the Unicomp Model M 104 is spectacular because of the buckling springs and the build quality of this keyboard. Should you experience an issue, the support from Unicomp is second to none and your issue will be resolved as soon as possible.

 

What to do with the money you saved

So you’ve saved quite a bit of money getting a cheap mechanical keyboard. Now the question is: What to spend your saved money on?

For keyboards that are too loud you can get o-rings to dampen the sound.

There’s two colours which indicate the amount of sound dampening

o-ring differences

Blue for softer landing and shock absorption. Red o-rings offer the same but not as great reductions

 

Get a keycap puller in case you need one but the keyboard you purchased didn’t include one

There’s two types of keycap pullers. One’s plastic the other is a wire frame, the wire frame is better for not damaging your keysets.

WASD keycap puller

 

You can look at getting some nice PBT keycaps like the TaiHao Bumble Bee set.

A little customisation goes a long way!

TaiHao Bumble Bee on MagicForce 68

TaiHao Bumble Bee on MagicForce 68. Credit to u/UGMadness

 

Or, for those of you looking to do some gaming, why not get some rubber WASD, ASDF, or arrow keys?

Improve your gaming response by letting your fingers feel the necessary keys rather than having to look for them.

Blue or Red Rubber Keycaps

 

MagicForce have made this round, typewriter-inspired keyset for a unique look and feel.

Why not change the look of your keyboard entirely and put on these rather unique looking, typewriter styled keycaps? The unique design is a little pricier than other keycaps but not many keysets standout this much!

MagicForce typewriter keyset

MagicForce typewriter keyset

Looking for more information?

Best cheap TKL  mechanical keyboard

Best cheap compact mechanical keyboard – coming soon

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

2 Responses to " The Best Cheap Full Size Mechanical Keyboard 2017 "

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

  2. […] I wrote my best full size budget mechanical keyboard guide the James Donkey was only fresh on the scene. Now that I am in possession of the 619 I’ve […]

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