Many of us spend a fair amount of time in front of the computer, typing away on our keyboards (the most-used computer peripheral). Whether for gaming, working, or completing an assignment. A large part of these centres around our keyboards, which significantly impacts our overall computing experience.
Hence, finding the right keyboard can improve your typing experience and provide less fatigue. Sometimes, the keyboard that comes with your computer or laptop may not necessarily be the best, especially when you’re working at a 9-5 job.
Below we will be discussing some of the factors that you can consider when looking to upgrade your keyboard or to purchase one for the first time to aid in all your computing needs.
First, you will need to decide what kind of work you will be doing with your new keyboard. Will you be using it for gaming or purely for work purposes? Knowing the answer to this will help you determine the type of keyboard to opt for. This will also help you save money as you won’t be wasting it on the wrong kind of keyboard. With so many keyboards in the market, each will have its distinct features that may cater to your needs.
Let’s take a look at some of the types of users below.
Gamer: If you want to purchase a keyboard for gaming reasons, you will most likely look for a set of features that can enhance your gameplay experience and provide any other benefits. Such features include integrated LCDs, backlighting, programmable keys, and hot-swappable keycaps. Some gaming keyboards also come equipped with special macrokeys that assist in your computer games.
Look for keyboards that are specifically designed for gaming purposes. You may come across a higher price point, but most gamers will tell you that it’s worth the splurge.
Office Worker/Home Office User: Depending on the type of job you’re tasked with, such as data entry or content creation (like me) for prolonged periods hunched over your keyboard, we highly recommend investing in an ergonomic keyboard. We also suggest doing your research beforehand or test out the keyboards at your local store as some manufacturers claim their keyboards to be ergonomic. Still, it may not necessarily be the case most of the time.
Try searching for keyboards with curved keys and elevated wrist rests, as they would help relieve pressure on your wrists and avoid developing severe problems over time. Or, you can also opt for 60% keyboards to save on desk space.
Traveller: If you’re someone who travels overseas often for business purposes or heads back to your hometown during the weekends, definitely go for a keyboard that is compact, lightweight, and travel friendly. Some people might be so accustomed to their macros that going somewhere without it feels empty.
Consider purchasing a truncated keyboard as they are marketed as lightweight and, occasionally, foldable. Keyboards like these usually forgo the number pads on the right to save on space and may not have many media keys. However, bear in mind that just because these keyboards are small, they may not be the cheapest.
Keyboard Switches (Keystrokes)
Every keyboard comes with different key mechanisms, also known as switches. These switches determine how typing on a keyboard feels to the user whenever a key is pressed and registered. Like many other devices, everyone has their preferences. Hence, a keyboard that may feel enjoyable to one person may not necessarily be the same.
Manufacturers of keyboard switches come in different forms and types, but the most common ones are as follows.
Silicone Dome Switches
These are the most common, modern, and inexpensive keyboard types - a hybrid type that combines elements of both membrane and mechanical keyboards. They use two rubber membranes formed into “domes” that are depressed whenever a key gets pressed, connecting the two circuit traces and completing the connection that sends a signal to the PC. This type of switch is quiet and varies in feel. Some produce a mushier and less precise feeling, while others are more tactile with a bump above the actuation point.
Source: The Verge
These are the type of keyboards that utilise a metal spring underneath each key that is depressed whenever the users press a key. Mechanical keyboards have different types of switches, and depending on the type, they can have various responses and travel times. Mechanical keyboards are popular amongst gamers and heavy typists due to their precise response and less travel time to register a keypress.
Mechanical switches also have three common types of switches: Linear, Tactile, and Clicky switches.
Linear Switches have the most straightforward operation. They have no tactile feedback or clicking noise whenever you press a key. They feel the same from the moment you press the key without bottoming out. Hence, the smooth and simple operation allows room for more actuation, which most gamers would prefer.
Tactile Switches provides tactile feedback when hitting a key. When pressed, you will notice a bump in the middle, letting you know that your key press has been registered successfully.
Conversely, Clicky Switches work similarly to tactile switches, but they have a distinct “click” sound when hitting the actuation point, indicating that it is activated. One noticeable advantage of clicky switches is that you don’t have to press the key all the way down. Once you received the feedback, you can release the key.
A few popular mechanical keyboard switches are Cherry MX, Kailh, Gateron, Outemu, and more!
These keyboards include two plastic pieces that create a scissor mechanism for dome designs. The keys are attached to the keyboard using those plastic pieces that interlock together in an X shape, kind of like a pair of scissors. They are then connected to the keycaps and allow for shorter key travel and thus lower-profile keyboards. Most modern notebooks are equipped with scissor switches which provide more precision, less force, and quieter.
Most scissor switches keyboards are usually found in the more premium laptops, such as the infamous Apple MacBooks.
Although most keyboards were built with the same keys, some are designed to be portable, letting you easily pack it away when it’s not in use.
Smaller keyboards tend to forgo the number pads on the right to save space and may even have shorter keys with lesser space in between them. Consider getting smaller ones as they are handy when using a tablet or having an ergonomic workspace and are always on the go.
Larger keyboards, or rather, standard keyboards, would be the most common type of keyboards you’ll see everywhere. They come equipped with multimedia and hotkeys beside the standard set of 104 keys. If you’re going to be using your keyboard for gaming with media buttons, USB ports, and other features, getting a bigger keyboard would be the best option.
Fun Fact #1: If you didn’t already know (I only found out not too long ago), there are various sizes and layouts of mechanical keyboards, including 100%, 80%, 75%, 70%, 65%, 60%, 40% and dumb pads. If you’re curious to read more, you can read about them here.
Fun Fact #2: Dumb pads work similarly to num pads, but you can set different macros for each key, and they can be any key you want! For example, the number “1” can be set to copy. Dumb pads also have a rotary dial for you to customise, such as the volume levels. How cool is that?
As with other computer peripherals, such as your mouse or headphones, whether you opt for a wired or wireless configured keyboard is entirely up to your personal preference. And both types will have their benefits and drawbacks.
Generally speaking, wired keyboards are a safer bet if you don’t want any input lag or risk of interference while working on something important. It is also the preferred option for most gamers as they want to avoid any sudden lags during their gameplay. Although they limit your distance range, you won’t have to worry about your keyboard running out of battery and remembering that you have to charge it.
On the other hand, if you prefer a clean and neat workspace without the cables getting tangled with the rest, wireless keyboards are the way to go. Wireless keyboards are compact and portable. Though they are usually battery-powered, so you will need to charge them frequently. They may also have connection mishaps occasionally, especially with other peripherals around them.
If you want a keyboard that includes the best of both worlds, try going for a keyboard that supports wired and wireless configurations.
If you’re going to spend hours upon hours repeatedly typing away on your keyboard, it’s best to invest in an ergonomic keyboard. This will ensure that you get the most comfortable keyboard and typing experiences that support your wrists from any long-term physical problems to arise, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis.
Ergonomic keyboards come in various forms. Some have their keys split to let your hands and wrist rest in a “V” shape, while others are motorised or have curves. There’s always a learning curve to this. It may feel strange at first, but as soon as your hands adjust and relearn how to move across the keyboards, your wrists will thank you.
Proper ergonomic keyboards are designed in a way that aims to position your hands naturally and to reduce any unnecessary strain on your wrists. Hence, some even come with a wrist rest pre-installed or offered as a gift. Ergonomic keyboards may also be on the pricier side, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
If you want to know more about ergonomics and how it can help you, read our article about it here (insert link when it’s up).
Keyboards of all shapes and sizes all come at different price points, depending on the features it includes. The more features it has, the more expensive it is. There are different levels of keyboards too. Some are budget-friendly, mid-tier, and premium range, which, again, comes down to your preference.
Pro Tip: Only purchase a keyboard that meets your requirements and budget, don’t overspend on additional features that you may not get full use out of.
It can be challenging to find the right keyboard that suits your needs, especially with many choices available on the market. The right or wrong keyboard can affect your overall computing experience, so be sure to select carefully and do some extra research when you deem necessary.
We hope some of these factors will help you choose the perfect keyboard to take home that lets you have an enjoyable computing experience!