5 Things to Consider When Buying a Keyboard

What to look for in a keyboard like size and comfort

The keyboard is one of the most-used computer peripherals. If you're shopping for a keyboard, consider a few critical features before settling on one, especially if you want to move it between multiple devices.

Hands tying on a keyboard
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5 Things to Consider When Buying a Keyboard

There are hundreds of keyboards on the market and many ways to connect and use them. We thought it should be easier to figure out, so we've compiled this guide to help you navigate basic keyboard activities, understand upkeep issues, and help you decide which keyboard is best for you.

We've outlined the most important things you should consider before purchasing a keyboard.

  • Cost
  • Ergonomics
  • Wired or Wireless?
  • Hotkeys and Media Keys
  • Keyboard Size

How Much Should a Keyboard Cost?

If you need a keyboard for basic typing, you can probably get away with spending as little as $10. However, the more you want from your keyboard, the more you'll have to shell out because built-in lighting, aluminum frames, and multiple key functions cost extra. There are many options, and you'll need to find something that fits your needs and budget.

Price Range What You Can Expect
$10-$50 It's the simplest and most basic price tier, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to find something useful. Regular sized and travel sized keyboards are available around this price point, including some foldable waterproof options (they're made of silicone). Wired, wireless, and Bluetooth models can also be found for around this price.
$50-$100 Options tend to include more wireless functions and compatibility with a broader variety of devices for each keyboard. Home to more ergonomic options, and some other potential hardware extras like built-in touchpads, backlights, and non-silicone foldable models. You're also more likely to find gaming keyboards here.
$100-$200 More of everything (travel keyboards, foldable, wireless, gaming, etc), along with more mechanical key options for a more tactile feeling while typing.
$200+ Often includes more than just a keyboard, although the keyboard itself is likely to include a lot of premium functions and options. Can sometimes come with extra ergonomic accessories, or even a portable monitor.

Ergonomics

If you spend hours upon hours typing on your new keyboard, it's best to get one with at least basic ergonomic features.

hands typing on ergonomic keyboard
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While ergonomics can take on various forms, since some keyboards split the keys, have curves, and are even motorized, you should anticipate a learning curve. Expect that typing will feel strange, even uncomfortable, at first while your hands adjust and relearn how to move across the keyboard. But, your wrists and hands will thank you in the end since ergonomic keyboards reduce the amount of stress placed on them while you type.

Ergonomic keyboards might also include wrist rests and the ability to raise or lower the device.

Wired or Wireless?

As with mice, whether or not your keyboard is wired or wireless is a personal preference, and each type has its pros and cons.

Wired keyboards limit your distance range, but you’ll never search for batteries or have to worry much about connection mishaps. Wireless keyboards let you type while lounging on the couch, and you’ll never get tangled in that pesky cord.

Most keyboards use either USB or Bluetooth technology for wireless connectivity. If you're going the Bluetooth route, ensure your device has built-in Bluetooth compatibility. You will need to pick up a Bluetooth receiver and pair the device if it doesn't.

Logitech has a solar-powered keyboard on the market, but you can expect to pay an up-front premium for this technology. You can recoup the cost by never again needing to purchase batteries.

Hotkeys and Media Keys

Most keyboards come with various hotkeys and media keys except travel keyboards. Similar to keyboard shortcuts, these keys allow you to perform tasks quickly.

Media keys, which include tasks like volume and video control, are invaluable if you use your keyboard in the living room to control your media system.

Hotkeys let you complete specific tasks by pressing a combination of buttons, and many keyboards replace these combinations with one-touch buttons. If you’re a desk jockey, these hotkeys can save you time.

Size of the Keyboard

Smaller keyboards typically remove the number pad and may even have shorter keys or no spaces between the buttons. These are useful if the keyboard is for a tablet or you're constantly moving it from place to place.

Directly Above Shot Of Person Hands Typing On small Computer Keyboard
Wathanyu Kanthawong / Getty Images

Larger keyboards go hand-in-hand with ones that have more hotkeys and media keys. If you want a gaming keyboard with many media buttons, USB ports, etc., you'll opt for a larger one by default.

Keyboard Variables

Backlit Keyboards

Backlit keyboards are the same as any other keyboard, except they emit light from behind the keys. They look cool but do also offer some usefulness. Backlit keyboards tend to make the keys easier to see, and some offer custom light settings that you can use to color-code different areas for various tasks.

Dvorak keyboards

A Dvorak keyboard is an acquired taste as its layout is quite different from what you're probably used to (QWERTY, named after the order of the keys). The purpose of a Dvorak keyboard is to increase typing speed and reduce motion and strain on your hands, and its design lends itself to a more straightforward, faster motion.

Flexible Keyboards

If you want one you can easily roll up (yes, roll) and carry, that's what flexible keyboards are all about. These wobbly keyboards are typically made out of silicone, so they're very easy to clean, are very durable, can usually withstand minor spills with no problem, and are portable.

Magic Keyboards

Apple's special branded hardware, Magic Keyboards, work best with Mac computers—both mechanically and aesthetically. Aside from the sleek look, the Magic Keyboard is also wireless and rechargeable, although it allows for a physical USB-C to Lightning cable connection.

Membrane Keyboards

Membrane keyboards are usually less expensive than other types due to their materials, and their construction makes them comparably quiet, too. The individual keys are pressure-sensitive, and there's no space between the keys.

Mechanical Keyboards

Most mechanical keyboards are designed to look like, or at least feel like, a classic typewriter. They often produce a more tactile and audible click as you type,

Numeric Keyboard

These tiny add-on keyboards often resemble a calculator but without the display. Their purpose is to add a numeric pad to your setup if your keyboard doesn't already have one.

Who Should Buy a Keyboard?

People use keyboards in different ways. Gamers look for advanced features that an office worker, for example, doesn't need or want. Determine why you need a keyboard, and you'll be able to narrow down the choices more quickly.

Gamer

Gamers typically require integrated LCDs, programmable keys, backlighting, and changeable number pads to increase their benefits and enhance the gaming experience.

Gamer keyboard

Getty Images / EKKAPHAN CHIMPALEE

If you're a gamer, look for keyboards labeled as gaming keyboards. You can expect to pay a higher price for these features, but most serious gamers will tell you they're worth the cost.​

Media User

You're the type of person with all their music and movies stored on or streamed to their computer. When choosing a keyboard, look for media-key features, such as a volume-control knob, track skipping, and play/pause buttons.

If you use your laptop for storing movies but have it hooked up to your TV for when you watch them, a wireless keyboard will be more comfortable. This way, you can fast-forward and rewind from the comfort of your couch. You can find mini keyboards designed specifically for media users; they resemble large remote controllers.​

Office Worker or Home Office User

Whether you do data entry or desktop publishing, you spend hours hunched over your computer. Do yourself—and your wrists—a favor and invest in an ergonomic keyboard.

Ergonomics isn't a one-size-fits-all science, and some keyboards claim to be ergonomic when they are not. If you can, test out a friend's ergonomic keyboard before you buy it. While there will probably be an initial learning curve, you should be able to tell pretty quickly if it's comfortable for you.

If this isn't an option, look for features like curved keys, and elevated wrist rests. Some keyboards even separate so you can customize how far apart you want the left- and right-hand keys.​

Traveler

For whatever reason you might have, you like to throw a keyboard in your carry-on when you travel. Some people get so accustomed to their macros that they can't bear to work in an office without them. Fret not; they make keyboards with truncated key counts just for you.

iClever Portable Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard

Amazon

Typically billed as lightweight—and sometimes even foldable—these portable keyboards usually forgo the right-hand number pad to save space. You probably won't find many media keys on them, although some come with customizable F keys or built-in touchpads. However, just because it's small, don't expect it to be cheaper. Many of these portables will cost you more than your run-of-the-mill wired standard keyboards.

What to Do After You Buy a Keybaord

You'll want to set your keyboard up and try it out once you get it to ensure everything works. If it's wired, plug it in. If it's wireless, sync it up with your computer.

Once it's working, open up a word processing app and start typing. Pay attention to how it feels to use. Is there proper give and resistance with the keys? Is it comfortable? Ensure that it's convenient to pack it up if you plan to carry it around.

More Tips

  • Check for drivers. Chances are pretty high that your keyboard will work out of the box with little to no preparation, so long as you can connect it to your computer. However, depending on the model (and its age), you might need to look for a keyboard driver first.
  • Feel for stickiness. If any of your keys start to stick, something might have gotten inside your keyboard to cause the issue. Many older keyboards have removable keys (don't try to remove your keyboard's keys if you aren't sure they come off!), but it can still happen.
FAQ
  • How do I clean my keyboard?

    You'll want to clean your keyboard fairly regularly, like once or twice per month, with at least a keyboard wipe. A can of compressed air or a soft and damp microfiber cloth will also do the trick.

  • How do I shut down or restart my computer with the keyboard?

    On a Windows PC, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to pull up the Shut Down, Restart, and Sleep options. On a Mac, press Control+Power to pull up the Shut Down, Restart, and Sleep options. You can also select Control+Command+Power to force your Mac to restart immediately.

  • How do I use my keyboard to take a screenshot?

    You can use your keyboard to take a screenshot on PC by pressing the Windows+PrtScn. On a Mac, the screenshot keyboard command is Shift+Command+3.

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