Choosing a comfortable keyboard is important because of the numerous interactions we have with a computer to get a task done. In addition to the tasks on a computer that already require your keyboard, there are many tasks these days that are moving digital such as communicating with others online rather than writing mail with a pen and paper, typing spreadsheets, creating presentations and many more typing-intensive tasks.
If you use a laptop then you do not have to limit yourself to the keyboard that comes with it if you are not satisfied with it. You can buy an external keyboard that fits your needs, therefore, this post will definitely benefit you as well.
Finding a keyboard that fits your needs can help you type more efficiently. Below I have included tips on what you should look for when picking out your next keyboard.
1. Keyboard Switches
The buttons or electronic switches on your keyboard typically come as a rubber dome or being mechanical. Rubber Dome switches can last 5-10 million keystrokes and require to be press all the way down for the button to register or actuate. Mechanical switches made for a mechanical keyboard may last up to 50 million keystrokes and do not require a button to be fully pressed to actuate.
Mechanical keyboards can be more beneficial because it puts less stress on your hands and arms when typing and can last a long time before your keys run out. Since it can be pricey and a bit of a hassle to replace laptop keyboards, it can be beneficial to have an external keyboard to use whenever you get the chance. Depending on the type of mechanical switch you go with, it can be noisy compared to membrane switches but the noise is one of many reasons why some people are attracted to them.
There are numerous types of mechanical keyboard switches. There are switches that are beneficial for everyday work and switches primarily for gaming. One of the most popular lines of switches is the Cherry MX suite, where each type of switch is distinguishable by color.
In the Cherry MX suite, there are three different types of switches which are linear, tactile and clicky. A linear switch means that the more force you apply to the switch, the more it will press down. A tactile switch means that when the switch actuates, you will notice bumpy feedback. A clicky switch makes a clicky sound as you press on it.
|Switch||Type||Loud and Clicky||Actuation Force||Distance to Actuate||Bottom-Out Distance|
|Cherry MX Red||Linear||No||45g||2mm||4mm|
|Cherry MX Black||Linear||No||60g||2mm||4mm|
|Cherry MX Blue||Clicky||Yes||60g||2mm||4mm|
|Cherry MX Green||Clicky||Yes||80g||2mm||4mm|
|Cherry MX Brown||Tactile||No||45g||2mm||4mm|
|Cherry MX Clear||Tactile||No||60g||2mm||4mm|
Cherry MX Red
This switch is great for gaming because when your half way through clicking the button it actuates, therefore, it registers your click at this point. Bottoming out on this switch takes less time since it is a tactile switch which is why it is enjoyable by gamers but it can also be used by other computer users who enjoy this typing experience.
Cherry MX Black
The Cherry MX Black switch requires slightly more force to actuate and bottom out. Depending on your preference you may enjoy pressing harder on your keys but just know that it can fatigue your hands and wrists. This switch is recommended for gamers.
Cherry MX Blue
This switch clicks as it actuates. The noise is enjoyable by some users but others may not like it, especially if you are surrounded by others who do not want to hear a loud click noise. It can still be a relaxing sound if you enjoy this type of sound while typing. This variant does not require as much force to click and is recommended for typing tasks.
Cherry MX Green
The Cherry MX Green requires more force than the Cherry MX Blue’s and also comes with a clicky noise. It is recommended for typing tasks and if you find that regular keys are too sensitive to the touch.
Cherry MX Brown
The Cherry MX Brown is recommended for typing tasks. It is possible to use this switch without always bottoming out because it is tactile and supplies the tactile feedback as you are typing. This switch also does not requires less force to completely actuate.
Cherry MX Clear
The Cherry MX Clear switch is similar to its Brown counterpart except that it requires more force to actuate. If you are someone who often presses keys you did not mean to press then maybe the additional force might be what you are looking force. This switch is recommended for typing tasks.
2. Keyboard Layout
Keyboards typically come with character keys, modifier keys, system command keys, editing keys, navigation keys and function keys.
A common keyboard layout is the QWERTY key layout. 32% of the keystrokes are in the home row and this layout is considered to be left-hand dominant. The DVORAK key layout was created with 70% of the keystrokes within the home row and to be a right hand dominant key layout.
The layout between a keyboard meant for a Windows computer and a Mac computer differs by a few keys.Mac keyboards typically have one or two command keys, and one or two option keys. The function keys will also be labeled with the special screen manipulations that can be done. Windows keyboards will have one or two window keys, and one or two alt keys.
Manufacturers do create keyboards that come with adjustable keys that can be configured for whether you are using a Mac or Windows computer/laptop.
3. Choose A Design
The common keyboard design is the standard design with the QWERTY key layout. This is the layout typically shipped with laptops and used with computers. This design comes with character keys, modifier keys, system command keys, editing keys, navigation keys and function keys. It may or may not include a number pad. The advantage of going with this design is that you are most likely familiar with it therefore able to be effective sooner.
Ergonomic keyboards are designed to make typing a more comfortable task. Some people find that standard keyboards are not comfortable for them, therefore, opting for an ergonomic keyboard may be a good choice. Ergonomic keyboards are designed with the key layout at an angle that is supposed to be more natural for people to type.
Compact keyboards are small in size and lighter. They do not include a keypad, have fewer or no function keys and do not have duplicate keys where they can. The keyboard decreases the distance between keycaps to save room on the keyboard. The advantage to this keyboard is that it gives your mouse more room to travel on your desk because of the fewer keys it has on it.
4. Wireless vs. Wired
Wireless Keyboards connect to your computer through Bluetooth and you need to make sure it is sufficiently charged. Wired Keyboards require a wire but typically have better responsiveness.
The advantage of a wireless keyboard is that you can be a further distance from your computer setup and do not have to worry about extra wires.
The disadvantage though is that wireless technology can have a delay in responding to your computer, which can put you at a disadvantage if you are a gamer. This does depend on the version of Bluetooth your computer and your keyboard is using though because each new version of Bluetooth improves the responsiveness. You need to make sure that both the wireless keyboard and your computer are using the latest version of Bluetooth to get the advantages.
Another disadvantage is that wireless keyboards rely on a battery source so you need to make sure you are paying attention to its battery power. These keyboards typically come with a USB wire that can be used to connect to your computer or another compatible source for battery power.
5. Gaming Keyboard
Gaming keyboards are designed to increase the response time between when you click a key on your keyboard and when your computer registers it. This response time can be milliseconds faster and can be difficult to notice by someone who uses their computer casually. This is why if you use your computer for casual browsing or you are an office worker then spending the extra money on a gaming keyboard may not be necessary.
Gaming keyboards come with or without a number pad. It is up to personal preference for whether you want a number pad but if you decide to go with it then there will be less space for you to move your mouse around on your desk.
Some noticeable features on a gaming keyboard are RGB/LED backlights, wrist support, interchangeable keys, and programmable keys. They usually come as mechanical keyboards.
6. Travel Keyboards
Keyboards meant for traveling come in different forms. They are generally wireless and some models are foldable, which makes them easier to fit in a travel bag. To also save space these keyboards have fewer function keys and lack a number pad. The cons of this keyboard are that you are going to need to worry about keeping it charged and accept that it comes with fewer keys than other keyboards.
7. Function Keys
The more you can keep your hands on your keyboard, the faster you can navigate through your computer. Function keys have shortcuts on them, such as controlling the brightness and volume of your operating system, to increase the time your hands stay on your keyboard. Keep this in mind when searching for a keyboard because there are certain compact models that do not include function keys.
If you are using an application that has its own built-in functionalities for the function keys and you want to use them then you can navigate to the settings within your operating system and turn off the default function keys. When you do this in order to activate the functions native to your computer you will need to hold the function button (fn) and then press the desired function key.
8. Keyboard Accessories
If you find that your wrists are resting in an uncomfortable then maybe wrist support could help. They can help improve your typing posture and lead to less fatigue to your hand while typing. I have seen them cost around $10 depending on the brand you go with.
Another accessory to consider is the USB wire that connects to your laptop. Devices are moving towards USB type C from USB type A and other older connectors. There are companies that make custom USB connectors at each end. Therefore you can have USB type A so that it can connect into the keyboard and USB type C on the other hand so that it can connect into your computer/laptop.
Keyboards can get pretty expensive which is why setting a budget for them is worth it. There are cheaper keyboards out there and if you are not in front of a computer that often then a keyboard under $50 may be what you are looking for. Cheaper keyboards can break more often though and in the long run, you may end up paying more than a high-end keyboard because of having to repeatedly replace the cheap keyboard.
Whether your an office worker, casual computer user or gamer a high-end keyboard can cost over $150. These type of keyboards include mechanical keyboards with the switch of your choice and may include backlighting. Gaming keyboards at this price typically come with RGB backlighting but there is some variation of high-end keyboards that do not come with backlight at all.