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The best keyboards: Find the right keyboard for you
A good keyboard can make a world of difference. Yet, nowadays there are so many options that finding the best keyboard for you can be complicated. There are mechanical keyboards, cheap no-frills keyboards, RBG-lit gaming keyboards, ergonomic keyboards, and even projection keyboards with no physical keys at all!
Read also: How to set up your home office
To help clear up the confusion and find the right choice for you, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the best keyboards on the market. First, we’ll explain the key differences between membrane and mechanical switches, then we’ll outline some of the best options from each category.
Membrane vs mechanical
Before we get into specific models, it’s important to learn about the two major categories of keyboards. Virtually all the best keyboards (except for projection keyboards, which we’ll get to in a moment) fall into one of two categories: membrane or mechanical.
This refers to the way the keyboard registers each keypress. Choosing one or the other will have a big effect on your typing experience. Ideally, you should try both before committing, but here is a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of each.
Membrane keyboards: Pros and cons
If you’re someone who had no idea there were different types of keyboards, you’ve probably only used membrane keyboards. These are the most common keyboards on the market, and they are generally much cheaper than mechanical keyboards.
The reason they’re called membrane keyboards is that beneath the keys there is a single membrane across the entire keyboard. The keycaps (the part you see) can be removed and replaced, but the switches cannot. It’s essentially one solid piece beneath the keys. If one key breaks, you may need to replace the entire keyboard.
Membrane keyboards are generally cheaper and quieter than other options.
Membrane keyboards are typically cheaper, but they can lack appropriate tactile response. You need to fully bottom out each press for the key to register. There’s nothing worse than a “mushy” keyboard, but higher quality membrane keyboards have soft, pleasant resistance that enables quick typing. They’re also quiet, which is good for busy office environments.
Most modern keyboards use a hybrid membrane setup with some kind of metal switch to improve tactile feedback. This is what most good laptops and chiclet-style keyboards use. Still, membrane keyboards of any kind will lack the customization and durability of mechanical options, and represent a one-size-fits-all approach to consumer electronics that might not appeal to the enthusiast.
Mechanical keyboards: Pros and cons
Mechanical keyboards, or mechanical-switch keyboards, have an individual mechanical switch beneath every key. These switches last much longer than their membrane counterparts — often for 50, 60, or even 100 million clicks per switch. And unlike membrane alternatives, individual mechanical switches can be replaced with ease.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to switching to a mechanical keyboard is tactile feedback. Depending on the type of switch installed, each keypress is met with a certain amount of physical resistance and often an audible click. Switches can be harder, softer, louder, or quieter depending on your preferences.
Mechanical keyboards last much longer and can be customized to suit your preferences.
Nowadays there aren’t too many switch manufacturers still in operation, but one of the most popular lines is the Cherry Mx series. You can get a relatively inexpensive mechanical switch tester kit to try out the feel (and noise) of each switch before pulling the trigger on an expensive mechanical keyboard.
Ultimately though, both membrane and mechanical keyboards can be great. It’s more of a personal preference than anything, although most keyboard enthusiasts tend to prefer mechanical keyboards (if they can afford them).
See more: Mechanical keyboards explained
As mentioned above, there is a third type of keyboard that doesn’t use any switches at all. Projection keyboards are a relatively new category, and they have a few distinct benefits beyond feeling like you’re in a cool sci-fi movie.
Sometimes called virtual or laser keyboards, projection keyboards emit light onto a surface in the shape of a keyboard. The device registers taps on these virtual keys as if they were normal keystrokes. There’s no tactile feedback, but the projection device itself is very small.
There are a few other benefits to projection keyboards, like easily customizable key layouts, low-light visibility, and mobility, but ultimately they’re difficult to recommend over traditional options. It’s still a niche product with more cons than pros.
That said, they can be fun to use to send quick messages or emails on a smartphone or tablet, as long as you get something from a reputable brand. We recommend the AGS Wireless Laser Projection keyboard. It connects via Bluetooth and is compatible with PCs, iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.
Read more: Laptop keyboard not working? Try these fixes
For programmers, writers, and anyone else who spends a lot of time typing on a keyboard, wrist pain can be a serious issue. Keeping your hands in an unnatural position over a keyboard for hours a day will take its toll eventually.
Ergonomic keyboards are designed to help alleviate this pain or prevent any damage from happening in the first place. They feature a split or curved design so your arm, wrist, and hands rest in a more natural position. They can take some getting used to, but once you’ve adjusted you can match the same typing speed you’re used to on a standard layout.
We have a full article with the best ergonomic keyboards you can buy, but here are our top three picks to give you an idea of what to expect.
Microsoft Surface Ergonomic
Slim, stylish, and pricey, this option from Microsoft is one of the best ergonomic keyboards on the market. It features a split, curved design with a double-cushioned palm rest and chiclet-style keys that should be an easy adjustment for those used to laptop keyboards.
It doesn’t skimp on productivity features either, with a full numpad included. The keys themselves are quiet and durable, rated for 10 million actuations. Overall it’s a fantastic wireless keyboard — with the major caveat that it only works on Windows devices. Microsoft also sells another keyboard called the Microsoft Sculpt with a similar, but more affordable, design.
The Kinesis Freestyle2 ditches the curved look for a fully split design that’s linked by a nine-inch cable. This allows you to position the two sides however you want for added comfort and usability. The model linked here is a hybrid membrane keyboard, but there are also RGB and mechanical versions, as well.
It connects with a simple plug-and-play USB interface, but only on Windows and Linux computers. There are driverless hotkeys for the most common typing shortcuts, but you’ll have to pay extra for accessories like a pads and tenting attachments.
Logitech K350 Wireless Keyboard
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Logitech K350 is a solid choice. It’s still an ergonomic keyboard, but it isn’t a radical change from standard layouts that frequent typists are used to. There’s even a full number pad and customizable shortcut buttons for added functionality.
Connecting via Logitech’s 2.4 GHz Unifying receiver, it promises up to three years of battery life. If you can live with the dated design, it’s a great affordable ergonomic keyboard that will help keep your wrists healthy and pain-free.
Gaming keyboards are another variant that offer a few specific benefits for hardcore gamers. Things like faster key actuation, macro button programming, high durability, and yes, RGB lighting, are all features that will enhance your gaming experience. They can even improve your performance in-game.
Although gaming keyboards can cost hundreds of dollars, there are some excellent options that won’t cost an arm and a leg. We’ve listed the best of both below.
SteelSeries Apex Pro
SteelSeries is one of the most trusted names in gaming peripherals, and for good reason. The SteelSeries Apex Pro is our pick for the best gaming keyboard money can buy, with a supreme build quality and excellent OmniPoint Switches with adjustable actuation points.
Minimal response time can be decisive when gaming online, but it can also throw off everyday typing. Thankfully you can quickly switch between different profiles, making this an extremely versatile product as well. It isn’t cheap, but with switches rated for 100 million keypresses, it could be the last keyboard you ever need to buy.
Razer Huntsman Elite
Razer is yet another well-known gaming brand, and its top-of-the-line gaming keyboard is one of the best on the market. The Razer Huntsman Elite uses Razer’s own opto-mechanical switches, which offer ultra-fast response time and the clicky feel that many gamers love.
Read also: The best Razer laptops you can buy right now
The version linked below is a full keyboard with numpad and wrist rest, but Razer also sells a tournament edition that’s smaller (and significantly cheaper). Both are backlit with Razer’s trademark Chroma system with 16.8 million color options on individually backlit keys.
Razer Cynosa Chroma
Razer also makes affordable gaming gear, and the Razer Cynosa Chroma offers much of the same great performance for a third of the price. It features the same individually-backlit keys and customization of the model above, but loses the mechanical switches for a soft and cushioned membrane.
This might sound like a disadvantage, but it many ways it actually makes the keyboard more comfortable for typing. It also makes it much quieter so you don’t have to feel self-conscious when using it around other people (except for the blinking lights, of course).
For those looking for a more tactile feel, nothing beats a great mechanical keyboard. Full key travel, tactile feedback on every keypress, full registration of keys, and more make it an experience that just can’t be matched by membrane alternatives.
Additionally, many mechanical keyboards can be fully customized. You can change the switches to offer more or less resistance and sound or change the keycaps to something that better fits your style. We’ve highlighted a few mechanical keyboards already, but here are a few more options that might better fit your budget or needs. If you want even more choice, check out our full list of the best mechanical keyboards.
All of the mechanical options we’ve listed so far have been quite pricey, but this one is much easier on the wallet at just under $40. At that price, you might expect a pretty junky device, but this one really delivers. Its switches emulate the popular Cherry MX blues or reds depending on the model.
Obviously some corners have been cut here, starting with the design. It isn’t the most stylish keyboard on the market, but it can be a great introduction to the world of mechanical keyboards. Just don’t expect it to last nearly as long as another option that’s three times the price.
Logitech G613 Lightspeed
Not everyone wants a gaudy light up keyboard, which is where this great option from Logitech comes in. The Logitech G613 Lightspeed is has Romer G mechanical switches (similar to Cherry Mx browns) for quiet, speedy, and long-lasting performance. It’s a full keyboard with a number pad and six programmable macro keys for added functionality.
Unlike most mechanical keyboards, this option is also fully wireless. It connects via bluetooth or 2.4 GHz wireless, so you can free your desk of messy cables. Grab his one if you’re looking for a stylish and subdued mechanical keyboard to use at home or in the office.
Razer Huntsman Mini
LAN parties might not be as popular as they once were, but there are still occasions where you might want your keyboard to be a bit more mobile. The streamlined Razer Huntsman Mini is perfect for this. Ditching all unnecessary keys to reduce the footprint by 60%, it still delivers the same amazing performance fans have come to expect from Razer. It even has a detachable cable for more portability.
It uses the same great light-based mechanical switches (clicky or linear) found on Razer’s more expensive keyboards. Plus, of course, the trademark Chroma RGB look.
Fewer keys is one way to reduce the footprint of a keyboard, but if you truly want portability you need a rollup keyboard. These roll (or fold) into small packages that can easily be stored in a backpack or coat pocket.
Due to their size, they don’t always offer the best typing experience. Nevertheless, they’re great for connecting to your phone or tablet in a coffee shop or while traveling to reply to a few emails. Here are some of the best rollup keyboards currently on the market.
Sungwoo Foldable Silicone Keyboard
Most truly rollable options are complete junk. However, this silicone keyboard from Sungwoo is one of the few good ones. It connects via plug-and-play USB, with a full numpad and function keys included. Typing is silent and manageable, but it won’t live up to more robust products.
The key here is that when rolled up it’s roughly the size of a computer mouse. It’s also waterproof and dustproof and comes in at less than $20. Just don’t be too rough on it if you want it to last.
Typing on the touch screen of a tablet can be a pain, especially when it’s too large to comfortably hold with two hands. Sure, you can get a branded case with an integrated keyboard like what’s pictured above, but these can cost a lot of money and won’t work with any other devices.
Mini keyboards can offer an even better typing experience than case models. Even though they’re not as portable as foldables, they’re a lot more durable. They typically have a flat profile that fits easily inside a bag or purse. Here are a few of the best devices on the market right now.
Logitech K480 tablet keyboard
For typing on a tablet, nothing beats the Logitech K480. It has a very compact design, measuring at just 12-inches wide. It has a built-in slot to hold your phone or tablet as you type. If placed vertically, it can even hold both devices, which is perfect since it also has multi-device compatibility.
Just connect to all of your devices via Bluetooth and use the small toggle to switch between each one. The model has been around for a while now, but it’s still one of the best on the market.
Arteck HB030B Universal Slim Portable Wireless
The option above is great, but it’s a bit on the heavy side. For something smaller and lighter, this Arteck model is a solid choice. It weighs less than half a pound and measures less than a quarter-inch thick, making it perfect to slip into any bag.
It’s compatible with a wide variety of devices, and the battery can last for months at a time. There are even three preset backlighting options so you can comfortably use it in the dark.
We’ve already highlighted many wireless keyboards, whether they be mechanical, membrane, folding, or otherwise. However, if you’re looking for something more basic you might still not have found the best product for you.
These last few options are guaranteed to offer a great typing experience and extended battery life. Grab one of these if you don’t want to do much research and just want a plain old keyboard that works well.
At its heart, the Logitech Craft is a basic wireless full-key keyboard. It has a slim profile and special spherical keys to help improve your typing accuracy. You can even connect up to three different devices and switch between them without fumbling with any cables.
Beyond this, the Craft also has a few bonus features for creatives. There is a dial on a the upper right that can serve different functions depending on the app you’re using. For example, it can help fine-tune color settings in Photoshop or Lightroom, quickly scroll between tabs in Chrome, or even just turn the volume up or down.
Apple Magic Keyboard
Not to be confused with the new iPad Pro-specific device, the Apple Magic Keyboard is still the best keyboard for Mac users. It’s also compatible with iPhones, iPads, and even Windows devices (although with somewhat limited functionality).
The latest model kicks things up a notch, with a Touch ID sensor thrown in. You still get two versions, one with Touch ID and Numpad, and one without both. The former one is a great option if you own a Mac to go along with it. These keyboards still have the Lightning port, but the in-box cable is USB-C to Lightning now, instead of USB-A.
Logitech K780 Wireless Keyboard
The last device we’ll feature on our guide to the best keyboards is one of Logitech’s newest, and it combines many of the features from the company’s other great keyboards. The Logitech K780 Wireless Keyboard supports connecting up to three different devices at once, and it includes a tray at the top of the keyboard to slot in a tablet, phone, or both.
Another notable thing about this wireless keyboard is the shape of the keys. Like Google’s ill-fated Pixel Slate, it features rounded keys with full spacing to help improve your typing. However, be aware that the tray makes it quite heavy, so don’t expect this one to leave your desk any time soon.
Learn more about the best PC peripherals: