Coming from a relatively little-known gaming hardware maker, the Redragon Rudra belongs to a cluttered field of budget gaming keyboards where the average casual gamer won't know where to start if they want to find gems among the many, many contenders for their hard-earned money.
Thankfully for them, I can come right out and say it: the Rudra (also known as the Redragon K565 on some online shops) is way better than a sub-£50 keyboard has any right to be.
In fact, coming up in my testing queue after a parade of premium £150-£250 keyboards from some of the best-known gaming brands out there has marched across my desk, you'd struggle to pick out where it lags behind its more expensive rivals. It's got sturdy, responsive switches supporting well-designed swappable keys. It has programmable RGB backlighting to light up the typing and gaming experience. And it's got a full 104-key layout with a tenkey and numpad in a compact yet comfortable form factor.
But does it deserve a place among the best gaming keyboards available right now, or the best keyboards overall? I got to test it over a number of weeks to find out for myself.
Redragon Rudra review: Design and build
The Redragon Rudra looks striking as soon as you take it out of the box. It's a mechanical, gaming-focused keyboard so you expect big ol' chunky keys, but here they are practically typewriter-sized.
Furthermore, the switches underneath are made extra visible on account of being translucent while the keys on top are matte black. When you turn it on, RGB lighting then lights up both the letters on the keys and the translucent switches underneath, giving the whole board an extra sense of elevation.
It's a wired keyboard, with a rubber-coated wire rather than a fabric one, but as this is a sub-£50 proposition, that's to be expected. The form factor is compact, even for full-size 104-key option I had. There is no construction or 'padding' around the front, side or back of the Rudra, which means it should fit in smaller spaces than keyboards with a front wrist rest or a back panel frame. The downside to this is that there is nothing naturally placed to rest your wrist or thumb on when typing, which risks fatigue over the long term.
The typeset used on the keys is stylised and striking, although my OCD isn't the biggest fan of the fact that the TAB, CAPSLK, SHIFT and CTRL labels don't line up on the left-hand side...
With the lighting and software packed inside, the keyboard feels nicely weighted and heavy without being cumbersome to move.
Redragon Rudra review: Features
The Redragon Rudra comes with RGB backlighting and programmable keys, like most gaming keyboards, where you can reassign any key to pretty much any function, as well as format macro commands. The backlighting has 18 presets, ranging from a dark board with keystroke light-up to a dizzying fast swirl of colours raging across, all depending on your preferences and epilepsy-trigger tolerances.
The case also comes with a handy key-replacement kit and spare keys, which is a nice touch on a sub-£50 keyboard.
As said before, the lack of a wrist rest or indeed any structure in front of the bottom keys means you might need to invest in an external wrist rest if you're susceptible to wrist problems or don't like having to elevate your hands while typing.
Redragon Rudra review: Performance
Typing on the Redragon Rudra has, for me, been a joy. I freely admit that I'm one of those oldies who much prefers a big, clunky mechanical brick that makes that satisfying clicky-clicky sound to a light, response-absent low-key membrane keyboard.
The keystroke action has a nice, firm but not too hindering resistance to it, there is no wobble in the keys, even when raised as high as they are here, and I found the accuracy better on this one than some much more expensive premium keyboards I've tested recently.
The smaller overall form factor doesn't seem to affect the typing experience much at all, although the keys here are a teeny bit tighter packed (especially in between the main keyboard area, the tenkey and the numpad. Bigger hands and fingers might find themselves feeling a little bit constricted here, though, as my hands are fairly small.
For gaming use, it's acquitted itself well, reformatting is easy, and the easy way you can switch between backlighting modes is a welcome change from some other makers' convoluted methods to customise their respective light shows.
There is a noticeable lack of sound-dampening though, making typing clearly a little louder here than on more expensive keyboards with more advanced sound dampeners, so if you're not a fan of loud clicky noises, this might soon become an annoyance.
Redragon Rudra review: Price
The Rudra comes in at under £50, with occasional offers even pushing it under £40, which has to be considered a fantastic price for such a good keyboard. It's squarely within budget keyboard territory, yet has performed similarly to some recent mid-level or premium price-point keyboards I've tested recently.
Should you buy the Redragon Rudra?
The Redragon Rudra is a budget keyboard that comfortably outperforms its price point. It may not have quite the same premium finishing as some more expensive keyboards, or more advanced features like an ecosystem app for use with other Redragon gear, but it's got 18 different RGB backlighting modes, sturdy mechanical switches, and offers an involved and relatively comfortable typing experience, although bigger hands might want something a little less compact. It looks striking too, especially in its red-and-black guise, with stylised lettering to quite literally top it off. If you're looking for a budget keyboard that does it all, you can do quite a lot worse than the Redragon Rudra.