The best keyboard 2016: top 10 keyboards compared

Mechanical animals and membrane monsters

Best keyboard

Keyboards matter more than you might think. Sure, they are among the most prosaic of peripherals, so we tend to take them for granted. But given the sheer percentage of our lives that we spend clicking away away at them, finding the right ones can be surprisingly beneficial – may even chip away at 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.

Topre Realforce

1. Topre Realforce (45g)

The daddy of mechanical keyboards

Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: No | Switches: Topre ectrostatic capacitive (45 grams, 45 grams variable, 55 grams, 35 grams)

Incredible typing feel
High-quality keycaps
Bulky
Awkward cable position

Made by the Japanese Topre Corporation, the Realforce is, as its name suggests, a force of nature in the keyboard world. It's all down to the Topre switches inside, which contain springs that sit on top of the keyboard's PCB and are enveloped by a rubber dome. In contrast to Cherry's MX switches, which (for the most part) feel much grittier under the fingers, Topre switches are super smooth to type on and are often compared to playing weighted piano keys.

The most popular Topre board sold by distributors such as The Keyboard Company in the UK, which supplied our review sample, the 45-gram version of the RealForce (pictured above in black) offers a great combination of a fluid typing feel with high-quality stock PBT keycaps. It's also available with heavier 55g switches that some swear are superior due to their weightier feel and more reassuring "thock" sound when pressed. For first timers, however, the 45g model is the ideal entry point. Oh, and we should probably mention that neither come cheap.

WhiteFox

2. WhiteFox

Customizable and cute

Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: Yes | Switches: Cherry MX Blue, Brown, Green, Clear, Red, White. Zealio and Gateron options also available.

Highly customizable
Great build quality
Expensive
Limited availability

Keyboards don't come much more exclusive than the WhiteFox. This bushy-tailed mechanical animal is a 65% keyboard, meaning it's compact while retaining those all important arrow keys. The WhiteFox places customization high on the agenda, and is available with four different plate layouts - Vanilla, ISO, Aria and The True Fox - all constructed from aircraft grade aluminum. Its other features are enough to whet the appetite of keyboard enthusiasts: thick PBT Cherry keycaps with dye-sublimated legends, a choice of Cherry MX switches including Blue, Brown, Clear, Green, Red and White, in addition to several Gateron and Zealio options. On the downside, the WhiteFox is only available in limited runs from MassDrop - so don't expect to pick one up with your Amazon shop.

NovaTouch TKL

3. Cooler Master NovaTouch TKL

Topre switches with a Cherry MX twist

Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: No | Programmable keys: No

Topre switches great for typing
Cherry MX compatible keycaps
Compact
Bland design
No backlighting

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.

Logitech K780

4. Logitech K780

A great option for mobile device owners

Interface: Wired | Keyboard backlighting: No

Pairs to three devices
Cradle holds smartphones and tablets
AA, rather than rechargeable battery

According to a government survey, the average British household owned 7.4 internet-connected devices in 2015. Logitech is targeting smartphone and tablet owners who prefer to see their device's display while sat at a computer with its latest keyboard, the K780. If you liked its predecessor, the K380, there's more to love here. (Literally thanks to its added numberpad.)

The K780 can still pair with up to three devices using Bluetooth or wireless, allowing you to chop and change between them, and it features the same comfortable rounded keycaps that remain a pleasure to type on. The star of the show, however, is the keyboard's base, which can hold mobile devices up to 11.3mm thick in an upright position. This places them within arms' reach to make anything from replying to WhatsApp messages or reading a digital magazine easy as pie.

Best keyboard

5. 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

Retro cool
Mechanical keys
Looks a bit weird

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 modeled 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 we can't see it taking off with many of Apple's users).

Whatever will they think of next? A Mac mouse with more than one button?

Cherry MX 3 0

6. 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

Cherry MX switches
Wrist rest included
No media controls
No backlit keys

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.


Best keyboard

7. Cherry G80-3000

A functional, no-nonsense keyboard

Interface: Wired | Features: Durable build, Gold Crosspoint contacts (MX Technology), Codset 3 support, High service life of individual keys

Durable build
Comfortable key press
Compact
Pedestrian design

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).

The G80-3000 is fairly compact, too, despite having a complete arrangement of keys including a number pad. It's not offensively ugly, it's built like an absolute tank and, most importantly, the G80-3000 is fairly cheap. It'll last for years, and shouldn't ever let you down unless you subject it to the most extreme mistreatment.

Logitech

8. 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

Versatile
Long battery life
Very plasticky

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 different pieces of hardware using dedicated "EasySwitch" buttons on the top-left hand side. Naturally, this 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.

Logitech k400 Plus

9. 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

Comfortable keyboard
Lightweight
Media keys
Plasticky touchpad

While it's possible to hook up a wireless keyboard and mouse to your TV for surfing the web from 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 signaling 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.

MS Foldable Keyboard

10. Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard

A compact, Surface-like keyboard

Interface: Bluetooth | Features: Compact, USB charging, works with Android, Windows Phone and iOS

Compact
Comfortable keys
Unsuitable for laps

Like a Surface Pro 3 Type Cover that can convert to a tent, Microsoft's Universal Foldable Keyboard is among the most "fun-sized" on our list. Fold it closed and you have one of the most travel-friendly Bluetooth keyboards around, barely larger than a pack of cards.

Also reminiscent of the Type Cover, the Universal Foldable Keyboard is equally uncomfortable for typing on your lap (then again, most keyboards are). Nevertheless, USB charging and simple Bluetooth syncing makes the Universal Foldable Keyboard a preferred option over touchscreen display inputs – so long as you have a flat surface handy.

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