Indispensable to the operation of a computer, the keyboard is today a peripheral with multiple uses. There are some for all activities, from office automation to gaming. The design, comfort, and functionality of a keyboard can vary considerably from one model to another. If you don’t know which keyboard to choose to accompany your PC, this guide is for you.
The different types of keyboard
Wired or wireless?
A wireless keyboard offers more convenience than a wired keyboard. It eliminates cable clutter and allows typing away from the monitor. To connect to a PC, it requires a Bluetooth connection or a USB dongle. Like any portable equipment, it uses a battery or batteries to be supplied with electricity.
A multi-platform wireless keyboard has the advantage of being able to be connected to a PC, a Mac, a tablet, a smartphone, or even a video game console by simply pressing a dedicated key. On the other hand, a wireless keyboard offers a lower response time than a wired keyboard, which is why it is not recommended for hardcore PC gamers.
Mechanics, membranes, or chiclets?
Membrane keyboards, known as “soft keyboards”, have keys covered with multiple layers of polyester or a flexible rubber coating. Perfect for office use, they have the advantage of being extremely quiet and of offering a certain seal. Thanks to their simple design, membrane keyboards are generally less expensive than mechanical keyboards and chiclet keyboards. On the other hand, they have a low return speed when pressing the key, a short lifespan, and are not suitable for exclusively gaming use.
Chiclet keyboards, known as “gum keyboards,” have rounded corners with large, flat keys that are spaced well apart. Conversely, classic keyboards have beveled edges and side-by-side keys. Recommended for word processing, they mainly equip laptop computers. They operate similarly to membrane keyboards except that the keys are held by a switch, called “scissors”, for a shorter stroke. On the other hand, they are less precise and slower than mechanical keyboards.
Mechanical keyboards have keys that are independent of each other, unlike membrane keyboards and chiclet keyboards. It is not necessary to press the keys for them to be taken into account, it is enough to press them lightly so that they react thanks to an electric switch. Known for their excellent responsiveness, mechanical keyboards are highly recommended for PC gamers who like to chain actions without wasting time. Although they have the longest lifespan, mechanical keyboards are the loudest on the market.
With or without backlight?
A backlit keypad helps guide the user in low light or very dark environments. Many laptops like the MacBook Pro include one as standard. As aesthetic as it is practical, a backlit keyboard is more suitable for people who type by sight rather than those who type by touch.
On the other hand, it costs more and consumes more battery than a non-backlit keyboard. Many gaming keyboards are backlit with RGB LEDs and their colors can be customized with the manufacturer’s software.
With or without a numeric keypad?
A keyboard with a numeric keypad presents all the keys of a classic keyboard and a section that groups together all the numbers from 0 to 9 as well as the basic arithmetic symbols. Located on the right side of the keyboard, the numeric keypad offers considerable time saving since it is accessible with one hand. A keyboard with a numeric keypad is recommended for people who are used to entering data into spreadsheets such as Excel software.
A keyboard without a numeric keypad is more compact and more economical than a keyboard that has one. The lack of a numeric keypad saves a lot of space on a desk but presents a waste of time for people who work with numbers.
TKL (TenKeyLess) keyboard is a type of keyboard without a numeric keypad designed for PC gamers. It is possible to buy an external numeric keypad separately to complete its keyboard and save money.
Classic, multimedia, or ergonomic keyboard?
A classic keyboard designates in everyday language a membrane keyboard that includes all the essential keys:
- the 26 letters of the alphabet,
- special characters,
- function keys,
- numbers from 0 to 9,
- the directional keys.
A classic keyboard appears at the entry-level with a price that varies from 10 to 30 dollars. It is more than enough for office use, but it is not the keyboard that offers the best comfort conditions.
An ergonomic keyboard adopts a very different layout from a traditional keyboard. It is characterized by a separation of the keys into two distinct groups, one for each hand. Focused on comfort of use, it is designed to prevent injuries to the wrists, hands, and forearms while typing data. Due to the special positioning of the keys, an ergonomic keyboard can take some getting used to.
A multimedia keyboard includes the keys of a classic keyboard as well as new shortcuts dedicated to managing the audio player:
- volume control, etc.
Thanks to its versatility, it avoids using your mouse and saves time when viewing content. Given its additional features, a multimedia keyboard has a higher price than a conventional keyboard, from 30 to 150 dollars.
Which keyboard is compatible with its operating system?
The layout and role of the keys on a keyboard can change significantly from one operating system to another. While PC and Mac keyboards look alike, they have a few major differences. For example, “option” and “command” replace the “alt” and “ctrl” keys on macOS. To take a screenshot with Windows, just press the print screen key while it is necessary to do a combination on macOS.
Chromebook keyboards borrow the same layout as PC keyboards with a few extra features like the “Search” key. You should choose a keyboard adapted to its operating system to benefit from a better experience.
Which gaming keyboard to choose?
There is a wide choice of gaming keyboards with prices from 50 to more than 100 dollars. The most important thing is to choose a model that meets the needs of the user. Membrane keyboards and chiclet keyboards are suitable for casual gamers, while mechanical keyboards are ideal for hardcore gamers thanks to their feedback speed. Electrical switches guarantee the speed of the keys. Cherry MX switches are among the most popular on the market due to their robustness and responsiveness.
The more features a gaming keyboard has, the more popular it is with PC gamers. In particular, anti-ghosting makes it possible to perform several actions simultaneously and quickly. Conversely, a keyboard without anti-ghosting is unable to take into account so many keys at once. This can really ruin a game. To save precious time, it is also possible to choose a keyboard with Macro keys. These are additional buttons you can configure to your preference.
The aesthetics of a gaming keyboard is another element to consider. Some players will prefer a sober model, while others will prefer an RGB LED gaming keyboard to have spectacular backlighting during a gaming session. To avoid fatigue during a long session, choose a gaming keyboard with wrist rests. To save space on your desk, it may be worth opting for a gaming keyboard with USB ports to connect additional peripherals.
Which keyboard to choose to work?
For telework, it is wise to opt for a membrane keyboard or a chiclet keyboard thanks to their silent keys. A numeric keypad is ideal for people who use numbers daily. A backlit keyboard can be a plus for those who work in low-light conditions. A cross-platform keyboard such as the Logitech MX Key Plus is a great choice for those who like to switch between devices. Thanks to its Bluetooth connection, versatility, and ease of transport, a user can start work on a PC or Mac and finish it on an Android smartphone or iPhone.