For those of us who spend a fair amount of time at our computers every day, choosing the right keyboard is extremely important.
With a mouse, this is the accessory that we use to interact with the computer, after all. However, even this tool may break.
While keyboards are mainly used for typing, they can do so much more. There are different form factors, layouts, features that can be a little bit confusing for many people.
For everyone who needs advice on buying a computer keyboard, we create this ultimate guide.
So, if you’re looking for a new keyboard, but you’re not sure what to get, here is all the information you need to choose the right one.
Let’s start with ergonomics. One of the most important features of your keyboard. Yes, you can buy a standard shaped keyboard, but this isn’t perfect for everyone.
If you are going to use your keyboard for hours every day, you have to get an ergonomic one. They are specially designed to position your hands naturally and to offer a proper wrist rest and maximal comfort.
In simple words, the true ergonomic keyboards are designed to reduce the strain placed on your hands while you type.
Size Of The Keyboard
Of course, size does matter. At least when we talk about keyboards. In fact, there are many different sizes you can choose from, where the smallest once come only with the necessary amount of keys.
Let us explain it: The keyboard’s physical shape and size and the number of keys is called form factor. And here are the most popular: Full-size, Tenkeyless, 75%, 65%, and 60%. For detailed information, you should read our guide to keyboard sizes, but if you prefer a short explanation, then:
Full-size keyboard: Comes with 104, 105 or 108 keys depending on ANSI (USA), ISO (EU), or JIS (Japan) layouts. These keyboards have an alphanumeric, navigational cluster and number pad separated, with the F keys running along the top.
Tenkeyless: A compact keyboard layout, similar to the full-size keyboard without the number pad on the right side.
75% keyboard: The 75% form factor has the same functionality as the Tenkeyless, but without wasted space between different areas of the keyboard.
65% keyboard: The 65% keyboard has a mini layout with arrow keys.
60% keyboard: The 60% keyboard removes anything right of the Enter key. And the function keys too.
Keyboards come with different kinds of key switches, that determine how typing on a keyboard feels to the user. In fact, the switches make all the difference in comfort, audio feedback, or sensitivity.
A good idea is to test how the keys feel. Because a keyboard that feels good to one user might feel terrible to another
Wired vs Wireless
Whether or not to buy a wired or wireless keyboard is a personal preference. And both types have pros and cons. Wireless keyboards allow you to type anywhere, they cut the cord, because this type of keyboard is using either a USB dongle or Bluetooth to connect to the computer. However, they are battery-powered, so you need to charge them and they have a slight delay in communication.
On the other hand, wired keyboards give you better response time when compared to wireless once, because they use a cable which is plugged into the computer. But with the cable, you are limited in portability.
As with many other products, the market is full of different variations which serve a different purpose. So, before you buy a keyboard, you should decide what kind of work you will be doing with it.
There are keyboards specially designed for gaming. They have great response time, no connectivity issues, usually, come with RGB backlights and have special gaming keys to help to play games. For typing, you should get a keyboard with an ergonomic design that will help you work for a longer time and give you a comfortable typing experience.
If you only need a basic portable keyboard you can easily pack in your luggage, go for a small form factor wireless keyboard (65% or 60%).
The Basic PC Keyboard Layout
Just for an illustration, we decided to show you how a standard 104 keys PC keyboard layout looks like.
NOTE: The keyboard layout is the arrangement of the keys on a computer keyboard.
A standard PC keyboard layout has 104 keys separated into 4 sections: function keys, number keys, control keys, and typewriter keys.
Function keys: You can find these keys on the top row of the keyboard (F1, F2, etc.)
Typewriter keys: The alphanumeric section is the main part of the keyboard and is where most of the keyboard variation occurs. Here you can find letters, numbers, and punctuation symbols.
Cursor-control keys: This section has two parts, on the lower part of the keyboard you will find arrow keys, and above them are six others: Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down.
Numeric keypad: This is an area on the right side where you can find calculator-like keys.
Main photo by Walter Randlehoff