Tenkeyless keyboards, as the name suggests, don’t have numeric keys. And the mechanical type TKL keyboards have dedicated switches for each key.
These keyboards are compact, and therefore easily portable; are sturdy, therefore highly durable; are customizable, therefore highly versatile. All these features are usually loved by users who rely heavily on keyboards: gaming enthusiasts, typing experts, and business professionals.
Let’s not beat around the bush. The fact that you are here makes it clear that you already know enough about the basics. Here we have compiled a list of the best Tenkeyless keyboards under $100. There is a handy buying guide which beginners should read, and advanced users could skip.
Table of Contents
AUKEY KM-G14—Best Cheap Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard
Switches: Blue, Clicky | RGB lightning: Yes | Keycaps: ABS plastic | USB Port: No | Cable: non-removable | Wrist rest: No | Programmable: No | Weight: 2.31 lbs.
- RGB lightning
- N-key rollover
- ABS plastic keycaps
- Non-removable cable
AUKEY keyboard is the best cheap tenkeyless keyboard in the market right now. Though devoid of premium features like USB pass through, Media control knobs and a wrist rest, it has all the essential features of a compact mechanical keyboard.
To begin with, it comes with Cherry MX Blue switches which, if you can remember, are tactile and clicky. Typing on this keyboard would be smooth and fluid, and would always be accompanied with a satisfying click sound.
Despite being touted as a keyboard for gamers and typists, it is more suited for the latter than the former. Also, if you work in a shared space, you should think twice before buying this keyboard: your colleagues might mind the noise.
Next, it comes with ABS plastic keycaps with medium keyprofile. The overall built of the keyboard is for the most part, plastic. So, it might not last as long as a good mechanical keyboard should depending on the usage. However, you cannot argue much, as you have to keep the budget under $50 for this tenkeyless mechanical keyboard. It is dirt cheap.
Finally, the cable connecting the keyboard to the system is non-removable. It is bad news for users who are constantly on the move as they are most likely to end up with a broken and frayed cable. And once it happens, they have to repair the entire keyboard rather than just replacing the cable.
What to look for in an Affordable TKL mechanical Keyboard?
Make a checklist of these features as you are scoring the online market for a suitable tenkeyless mechanical keyboard for your needs.
For your ease, we have already reviewed the best products following this buying guide. It is completely possible, you might not find even a single one of them catering to your taste.
Premium Keyboards usually have a metallic body to withstand wear and tear of time and usage. Tenkeyless keyboards are no different.
When you are short on money, plastic TKL keyboards are also available as an alternative. The fact that metallic keyboards are almost always better than plastic ones has nothing to do with the reliability of the premium plastic keyboard. With a shortcoming of a short life span, they can be as good as their metallic counterparts.
For those who can touch type( to type without looking at the keyboard) backlight isn’t much of an issue. But these people are a tiny minority. Most of us do need to see the keyboard and backlight can come very handy when typing in a dark setting.
What about RGB lighting?
RGB lighting is usually preferred by the gamers. Though it brings no particular advantage in gaming, it adds to the aesthetics of the keyboard. Those who are accustomed to RGB keyboards hardly go back to keyboards with no backlight.
Type of Switches:
Mechanical keyboards usually come with one of three different types of switches: linear, tactical and clicky. These switches are characterized by their actuation force (the force needed to activate each key) and actuation point( the point to which each key has to travel to trigger a response).
Linear switches: These switches need to be pressed all the way down to activate the key. Smooth to press, needs less force than the other two. These are highly suitable for gamers.
They bump part ways through the keypress to indicate the actuation. A little harder to press. Suitable for regular users and typing experts who don’t want to trouble their colleagues in a shared space.
Clicky Switches: They are the same as the tactile switches except for the fact that the bump is matched by a clicky sound. Suitable for typing experts.
Until recently, these switches were made by Cherrymx as it held the patent for it. The company color named each switch type. Cherry MX Reds (Linear), Cherry MX Blue (Clicky), and Cherry MX Brown (Tactile).
Mechanical keyboards usually come with the flexibility of changing the layout of the keyboard. With DIP switches on the bottom of the keyboard, users can switch between QWERTY, Colemark and Dvorak. You can also change the behaviour of a few keys: Keys can be swapped and disabled. (Gamers can disable the windows key to prevent accidentally pressing it during intense gaming sessions.)
Users can also record macros and customize the backliting of the keyboard. In some keyboards, there are dedicated softwares for this purpose, and in some, there are onboard keys.
In keycaps there are two things to be considered: the built quality and the keys profile.
Keycaps are usually made out of ABS(Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) or PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) plastic. The former (ABS) is lightweight and weak as compared to PBT, and it becomes shiny after prolonged usage.
Key profile of a keycaps determines how the keys in different rows are shaped and arranged. The best keycaps are sculpted to cup your fingers, and thus, are comfortable to type on.
USB Slot and Cable:
The mechanical keyboard must have a USB slot and a separate cable to connect to your system, rather than a cable permanently attached to it.
It happens almost always that the cable breaks or frays before the keyboard does. Now, you might get the idea of why a removable cable is preferable.
Multiple media control knobs and buttons should be a preference for those who use them frequently. E.g., Gamers and Creative experts. They are handy for quick commands and anyone could benefit from them. If they don’t offer any particular advantage they don’t cause any harm too.
Kevin is a Tech journalist for over a decade. He writes on Wearables, Headphones, and Laptops. When he is not glued to his laptop, You will find him working on exciting projects that include Unboxing new Gadgets, comparing them, and tweaking their hardware.