Keyboards matter more than you might think. Sure, they are the most prosaic of peripherals, so we tend to take them for granted. But given the sheer percentage of our lives that we spend hacking away at them, finding the right ones can be surprisingly beneficial – may even smoothing off the rough edges of our daily grind.
When you set out to buy a keyboard, you'll be confronted by a surprising amount of diversity – there are cheap and pricey ones, mechanical and membrane ones, wired and wireless ones, wacky ergonomic ones and downright retro ones on sale. So we've picked out ten of the best, designed to suit multifarious needs and pockets.
How to select the best keyboard
It's worth noting that if you demand the feel and feedback only offered by keyboards with mechanical keys, rather than keys that press a membrane, you might want to peruse our top 10 best gaming keyboards round-up.
Gamers more or less demand mechanical keys, but mechanical keyboards tend to be very noisy, so can be frowned on in office environments – hence the fact that most non-gaming keyboards take the membrane route.
1. Cooler Master NovaTouch TKL
Topre switches with a Cherry MX twist
Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: No | Programmable keys: No
Cooler Master has achieved a number of firsts with the NovaTouch TKL. It's the first affordable keyboard to use topre switches, a hybrid variation that feels halfway between using a membrane and mechanical keyboard. Though linear, rather than tactile, the NovaTouch TKL's keys have a typewriter-like quality and make 'bottoming out' (striking the key so it depresses all the way down) curiously satisfying. It's the first affordable topre keyboard, with other models retailing at twice the price. It's also the first of its type to use stems compatible with Cherry MX keycaps, allowing you to chop and change keycaps at your leisure. We're quite keen on the stock ones, funnily enough, but the choice is great to have.
2. Cherry MX-Board 3.0 Wired Professional Keyboard
One of the best keyboards for long typing sessions
Interface: Wired | Features: Cherry MX Red or Brown switches, low-travel design, Included wrist rest
Some keyboards just ooze class, and the Cherry MX-Board 3.0 is one of them. Its low profile makes it much more suitable for marathon typing sessions than conventional mechanical keyboards, and comfort is increased by the included wrist rest. With Cherry's MX Red or Brown switches under the keycaps, you're given a choice between linear and non-linear offerings with a range of actuation points. It's a poor option for media enthusiasts due to a lack of dedicated keys, and its lack of backlighting is unfortunate. But if those aren't deal-breakers, the MX-Board 3.0 is one of the best keyboards for ardent typists.
3. Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard
A comfortable multi-device keyboard
Interface: Bluetooth | Features: 24-month battery life, LED indicator lights, special keys (Home, Back, App-Switch, Contextual Menu, Easy-Switch), 10m wireless range
These days it's normal for households to own several devices, usually consisting of a combination of laptops, tablets and smartphones. Logitech's K380 solves the conundrum of having to pair different keyboards to different devices, allowing you to switch between three using dedicated "EasySwitch" buttons on the top-left hand side. It makes the keyboard shareable among family members, or convenient if you own multiple devices. The K380 is comfortable to type on thanks to its round buttons, which possess a decent amount of travel and are slightly curved for comfort. Better yet, two AA batteries keep it powered for up to two years.
4. Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard k400 Plus
A competent solution for sofa surfers
Interface: Wireless (with receiver) | Features: 2.4GHz wireless; vertical storage; 3.5-inch trackpad
While it's possible to hook up a wireless keyboard and mouse for surfing the web on the couch, it's not exactly a comfortable experience. Designed to control your media device, the Logitech Wireless Touch k400 Plus is a no-frills solution that pairs a tactile membrane keyboard with a trackpad just big enough for swiping and scrolling. It has two dedicated trackpad keys for issuing left and right clicks, and its three media keys above let you control the volume without having to reach for the remote. Decked in a two-tone grey and yellow, The K400 is easy on the eye and pleasantly lightweight on the lap too.
5. Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard
A compact, Surface-like keyboard
Interface: Bluetooth | Features: Compact, USB charging, works with Android, Windows Phone and iOS
Packing the same key feel as Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 Type Cover, Microsoft's Universal Foldable Keyboard is the most compact offering in our guide. Fold it over and you have one of the most travel-friendly Bluetooth keyboards around, barely bigger than a wallet. Typing on it feels just like bashing away on Microsoft's aforementioned Type Cover, and like that accessory, it isn't too suitable for typing on your lap. Still, its USB charging and easy Bluetooth pairing means it's a much preferable alternative to typing on your device's on-screen keyboard — so long as you have a flat surface handy.
6. Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750
A bright idea
Interface: Wireless | Features: Light-powered, Streamline design, Power monitor app, Six-on-one wireless receiver, 2.4GHz wireless, plug-and-play
If freedom to sit back from your PC and perch your keyboard on your knees, say, is what you seek, a wireless keyboard is ideal. But there's a downside: wireless keyboards are notorious for munching through batteries. However, that's not a problem for this clever effort from Logitech, which has built-in solar panels that can recharge the K750's juice, even under interior lighting. Even though it's a membrane keyboard, it has a decent amount of feel, and the wireless dongle can accommodate other Logitech devices (such as a mouse). Quite keenly priced, too.
7. Cherry G80-3000
Tanks a lot
Interface: Wired | Features: Durable build, Gold Crosspoint contacts (MX Technology), Codset 3 support, High service life of individual keys
As keyboards go, Cherry's G80-3000 is considered to be something of a classic. There's nothing flashy about it whatsoever, but it does use Cherry's own MX mechanical keys, generally held to be the best available (and beloved of the gaming keyboard fraternity). It's fairly compact, despite having a full complement of keys, not offensively ugly, built like an absolute tank and, most importantly, fairly cheap. Will last for years, and shouldn't ever let you down unless you subject it to the most extreme mistreatment.
One for the retro crowd
Interface: Bluetooth | Features: Retro design, mechanical switches, Macro Return Bar, Vintage inspired key caps, Aluminium metal construction, integrated tablet stand, Windows, Mac, iOS and Android support
Qwerkywriter costs a bomb, but if you're into your retro-themed typewriters then you won't care. Its steampunk-style design is enough to catch anyone's eye, but it's the keyboard's squishy mechanical keys, which make a satisfying clackety sound when actuated, that really impress. Qwerkywriter's Macro Returns Bar only adds to its write-a-novel-in-a-dark-room appeal, and if you want to give it the modern touch, its integrated stand lets you slide in (and wirelessly connect) a tablet. It possesses a reassuringly weighty feel, but its rounded keycaps and price tag - which makes it cost more than many decent mechanical keyboards out there - means it's one for retro purists only.
9. Matias Tactile Pro 4
Don't look Mac in anger
Interface: Wired | Features: Aps Mechanical Switches, Mac-friendly keys, Easy symbol reach, Laser etched keys, Sculpted keytops, 3-port Hi-Speed USB 2.0 hub, Anti-Ghosting Circuitry
Matias's Tactile Pro 4 might just be the oddest keyboard money can buy. Although designed exclusively for use with Apple Macs, it has Alps mechanical keys, and is modelled on one of the first Mac keyboards. So if you're a Mac user and feel you must have a mechanical keyboard, it's pretty much the only one that's officially supported. And adding a retro touch to a Mac is an interesting idea (although not, we suspect, one that will appeal to all Mac users). Whatever will they think of next? A Mac mouse with more than one button?
10. Logitech Keys-to-Go
The thinnest and lightest keyboard around
Interface: Bluetooth | Features: Works with all iOS devices and devices with Android 4.1/Windows 7 and higher
Keyboards don't come much more portable than Logitech's Keys-to-Go. You aren't going to want to use it as your permanent keyboard due to its extremely shallow keys, which are only slightly more tactile than typing on a touchscreen. However, they allow the keyboard to be ultra-thin and light, making it perfect for taking on the road to pair with an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet - or even your laptop.
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