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.
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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 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.
Read the full review: Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard
2. 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.
Read the full review: Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard
3. 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.
4. 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.
6. 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?
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.