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. 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.
2. 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.
3. Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Interface: Wired | Features: Ergonomic design, Zoom Slider, Customizable Hot Keys, Number pad, Device Stage buttons, Taskbar favourites buttons, Email and Internet hot keys, Multimedia keys, Lockable F key, Integrated palm rest
Famously, the QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow typists down so that they didn't get ahead of the mechanicals of early typewriters. But despite that no longer being a problem, the design seems to have stuck, and the main problems those who spend prolonged periods typing these days face are repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Microsoft's Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, as the name suggests, takes a sculpted approach in order to place your hands and wrists at more natural angles, in an attempt to minimise the risks of developing RSI. Sure, it looks odd (although it's a conversation piece), and it's pretty massive, but it has some useful features like assignable hot-keys and a zoon-roller, and – surprisingly for a Microsoft product – is available in an Apple Mac layout.
4. 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?
5. Logitech Washable Keyboard K310
Clean keys forever
Interface: Wired | Features: Washable, Laser printed and UV coated keys, F-keys and number pad
Some of us are just plain clumsy – there's no denying it -- while others find themselves working in environments in which coffee-cup-toppling is more or less inevitable (if, say, there are toddlers tearing around the place). So if you've ever had to replace a keyboard due to spillage, you might want to consider Logitech's Washable Keyboard K310. Its most notable feature is a set of drainage holes that allow you to put it into the sink and simply wash off all traces of anything that has been spilt on it. As a keyboard, it's basic, but functional nevertheless.
6. Goldtouch Go!2
Interface: Bluetooth Features: Folds, 2.7mm key travel, 40-45g average actuation force, Typical battery life 32 hours, Charging time approx 4 hours (USB cord provided), Windows and Mac compatible
If you're seeking a keyboard to use with a portable device such as a tablet, none ticks more boxes than Goldtouch's Go!2. It's ultra-portable thanks to being not only tiny but split in two. However, the main reason it is split in two is ergonomic: a clever pivoting device allows you, after unfolding it, to angle the two halves away from each other, giving you a typing position which is less conducive to inducing RSI (the principle is the same as that employed by Microsoft's Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, although it isn't so sculpted). The only drawback is that it's rather pricey, but it's the best portable keyboard out there.
7. Recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum
Interface: Bluetooth Features: Rubber keys, Includes Chuckie Egg and Sinclair BASIC game bundle, Online games through web app
As keyboards go, they don't get more iconic than this loving facsimile of the much-adored early-80s Sinclair ZX Spectrum. And yes, it is a (Bluetooth) keyboard, although it comes with a free Android emulation of the ZX Spectrum, and several iconic ZX Spectrum games, including Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy and Chucky Egg (which you can play via the web). As a keyboard, it makes most sense with portable devices, since it's pretty small. And for those of a certain age, it will generate an irresistible feeling of nostalgia whenever they use it. We would venture that it's the only keyboard with the power to do that.
8. Logitech Wireless All-In-One Keyboard TK820
Interface: Bluetooth Features: Keyboard with built-in touchpad, Large touch surface, Space-saving design, Logitech PerfectStroke key system with incurve keys, Logitech Unifying receiver with 2.4GHz wireless
Hate mice? There's no shame in that – we all have different tastes. And Logitech has created a keyboard especially for the rodent-phobic: its TK820 has a built-in touch-pad, which is notably larger than the ones found on laptops, so it gives you more control over fine-tuning sensitivity. Plus it supports tablet-style gestures. The TK820 is wireless, and thanks to its low-travel membrane keys is nice and quiet in an office environment. It's handsome, too, but won't suit typists who demand clicky, long-travel keys.
9. Cherry G84-4100
A tiny mechanical animal
Interface: Wired Features: Cherry mechanical switches, Individual keys with Gold Crosspoint contacts (ML technology), Designed for more than 20 million presses per key
If space is at a premium in your working environment, Cherry's G84-4100 could prove handy. It's tiny (a trick achieved by omitting the numeric keypad), yet still sports Cherry's famed mechanical keys for all the feel that a super-fast typist could desire. Other than that, it's pretty basic and functional. But like all Cherry's keyboards, it's built like a tank, so should be able to withstand all the rigours of office life.
10. Logitech Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480
Works with smartphones and tablets
Interface: Bluetooth Features: Windows, Mac, Android, Chrome OS and iOS support, Integrated cradle, 2-year battery life, Battery life indicator light, Comes in black or white
What could be more 21st-century than a digital life lived out on several devices at the same time? Logitech's K480 is specifically designed for people who tend to have a PC, tablet and maybe a smartphone or media server on the go at the same time. It's Bluetooth, and can be synched with up to three devices, which you can switch between by simply twisting a big round knob. Plus it has a clever cradle for accommodating tablets and smartphones – indeed, it's big enough to hold a tablet and a smartphone simultaneously. It's equally at home controlling devices that run Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android, and has a clever dual-Windows/Mac layout. A thoroughly modern keyboard.