I got started in the latter half of 2017 with this guy:
“TOMOKO Water Resistant Mechanical Keyboard” - also known as the EasternTimes Tech I-500, according to the label on it. I think the logo on the top is associated with VictSing.
I got this on Amazon for ~$35 IIRC - since then I’ve seen them as low as $26, though lately I haven’t seen the model for sale at all - not that there’s any shortage of similar ones. Anyway - I first decided to get a mechanical keyboard and see what the fuss was all about after purchasing a dome keyboard so bad I couldn’t tolerate it for daily use. Mind you I’d pretty much always been using dome boards - this was was especially bad.
Anyway. Some youtuber led me to this board, touting it as one of the cheapest on the market at the time while still being decent. Five seconds with the thing and I knew it was leagues better than any keyboard I’d ever owned, and I immediately appreciated that floppy hot garbage mucous-membrane for setting me down this path.
As for the actual board, it’s a pretty thick sheet of aluminum with two short bends making the front and back of the case. The sides and underside are plastic. Thanks to the thickness and bends that run the length, the top-shell / plate is super-duper rigid, meaning the keyboard has near zero flex. It’s got flip-out feet and stays planted on the desk with a decent weight.
My original example shipped with SwitchMaster blues - that particular keyboard has gone on to inspire at least two other subsequent owners to get on the mechanical keeb train, and has gone from one coast to the other in the process.
I got a second one that came with Outemu blues, which I customized with blue and yellow TaiHao caps and donated to the Best Buy where I was working at the time. I later decided I wanted one in my collection for nostalgia, and so that’s what you see in the photo. That one shipped with Jixian blues and much, much better keycaps than the first one, which were extra bad.
One last thing I’ll say about this great value little TKL - it’s crazy loud even among clicky keebs. The extra-rigid outboard style plate makes this board a veritable cacophony all but guaranteed to destroy work and personal relationships alike… but boy is it satisfying to clack away on.