I took a chance on this $50 mechanical keyboard and it's great except for one thing

RedDragon Elise Pro side view
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Finding the right mechanical keyboard that works best for you is no easy task. Even if you browse our guide on the best mechanical keyboards, you still might get one with the wrong switches.

With so many types of switches and mechanical keyboard designs to try out, it’s really easy to end up owning a few of them. I’m certainly guilty of this myself but as I use my mechanical keyboards all day, I don’t mind taking a chance on a new one, especially if it offers something different or unique.

Although RedDragon is a smaller Chinese brand, its keyboards are quite popular due to the fact that they have decent build quality and don’t cost anything close to more premium ones. There are also plenty of different models to choose from and you don’t need to sign up for a group buy to get your hands on one.

While scrolling through the Amazon app a few weeks ago, a particular RedDragon keyboard caught my eye due to the fact that it was a low-profile keyboard for just over $50. Out of curiosity I decided to pick up the RedDragon Elise Pro ($54, Amazon) just to see how this budget keyboard brand has improved over the years. 

For the most part, I was fairly impressed but the keyboard has one fatal flaw that detracts from what otherwise could be a great budget or even a starter mechanical keyboard.

Perfect for laptop users

If you enjoy the experience of typing on one of the best laptops and don’t want a large, chunky keyboard, then a low-profile mechanical keyboard just might be for you.

Unlike standard keyboards which are taller and less portable, low-profile keyboards, as the name suggests, are much more compact. They’re shorter in height overall and the smaller mechanical keyboard switches they use don’t need to be pushed down as far.

Essentially, low-profile keyboards came about from keyboard makers trying to bring the best aspects of laptop keyboards to mechanical keyboards. While they were somewhat novel only a few years ago, as you can see from the $50 price point of the RedDragon Elise Pro, they’ve become much more mainstream in recent years.

RedDragon Elise Pro overhead view

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Although you’ll likely end up using a low-profile mechanical keyboard with a desktop computer, their compact size and thinner design also make them perfect for using on top of a laptop — great for when you have a few dead keys but aren’t quite ready to upgrade just yet.

Mechanical keyboards used to be kind of niche and only hardcore typists and gamers were willing to go the extra mile for a vastly improved experience. Low-profile keyboards have done a lot to help change this, since they make the transition from a membrane keyboard to a mechanical one much smoother for laptop users.

Surprisingly customizable

RedDragon Elise Pro accessories

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

So what did the $50 I spent on Amazon for the RedDrago Elise Pro get me? Quite a lot actually. Despite being a budget mechanical keyboard brand, the company has begun including an extra set of keycaps with many of its keyboards. They also threw in a few extra switches along with a switch puller and a keycap puller. The non-braided USB-C cable did leave something to be desired though.

As for the keyboard itself, it has 63 keys with flat keycaps, an aluminum case, RGB backlighting, a USB-C port, hot-swappable red switches and can connect to your computer, tablet or phone over USB, Bluetooth or by using the included 2.4 GHz dongle. Not bad for just over $50.

RedDragon Elise Pro with a tablet

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

After swapping out some of the black keycaps for the white ones the RedDrago Elise Pro arrived with, it gave this budget keyboard a more premium look. However, the white keycaps don’t have the secondary function of their keys printed on them, so you might have to refer back to the manual. Still, I really like how it looks with white keys for the letters and black ones for everything else.

I can’t believe I missed this one fatal flaw

When it came to using the RedDragon Elise Pro, I really liked the short travel distance of its keys and just how much thinner it is compared to my other mechanical keyboards. However, the odd placement of the keyboard’s right shift key entirely threw me off and made typing more of a chore than something I enjoyed.

RedDragon Elise Pro keys up close

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Normally on smaller 65% and 75% keyboards — which are more compact since they don’t have numpad — the right shift key is to the left of the arrow keys. However, RedDragon did something I’ve never seen before by putting it on the right side of the arrow keys instead. 

Besides making typing feel unnatural, this really affected my typing experience when using the RedDragon Elise Pro. Since this shift key is all the way at the right side of the keyboard, pressing it made the entire keyboard lift up slightly — even when on a completely flat surface. Fortunately, the RedDragon Elise Pro has keyboard feet on the bottom; flipping them out to have the keyboard at an angle fixed this problem.

Remapping didn't work

One of the great things about mechanical keyboards is that many of them are reprogrammable. While some mechanical keyboards have DIP switches on the back that let you manually change what certain keys do, others come with software that allow you to remap individual keys on your computer.

As the RedDragon Elise Pro is certainly a budget mechanical keyboard, I didn’t think there would be any software as the company didn’t make a note of it on Amazon. After a bit of searching though, I found that RedDragon does provide customization software for many of its keyboards.

RedDragon Elise Pro software

(Image credit: RedDragon/Tom's Guide)

After installing the program, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did allow me to remap the keys on my keyboard. To make typing on the Elise Pro feel more natural, I tried swapping the forward slash and the right shift key. I was able to change the right shift key but when I went to swap the forward slash with the shift key, I kept getting an error message which read “Please select a function.” So much for that quick fix.

Not bad for a budget keyboard but there are better options

All in all, the Elise Pro isn’t bad for a low-profile mechanical keyboard at its price. It would have made more sense to make it a 60% keyboard (with no arrow keys) instead of a 65% one, as this would have fixed my biggest gripe with it. Going this route would require you to press the function key along with WASD to access the arrow keys but at least you’d have a full sized right shift key in the correct position.

Samsung M7 Smart Monitor with a monitor stand

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re in the market for a low-profile keyboard and are willing to spend a bit more, you’d be better off going with the NuPhy Air75 ($130, Amazon) instead. Likewise, if you want to save a few bucks or are short on desk space, the NuPhy Air60 ($120, Amazon) is another viable alternative.

Part of my work at Tom’s Guide involves testing all sorts of gadgets so that you don’t have to. This way, you can buy the right product the first time around without having to take a chance like I did. Still, I’m glad I finally had a chance to see if RedDragon and its affordable mechanical keyboards live up to the hype.

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Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.