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A few years ago, purchasing a keyboard was as simple as going to the nearest mall and choosing between four or five options. You wanted to find one that felt good to the touch, that you liked aesthetically or that fit your budget. Who among us didn’t have a white Logitech on his desk?
Then came the wireless keyboard revolution and now the multitude of options to choose the perfect keyboard from has skyrocketed. We can differentiate them between mechanical and membrane ones, with or without cables, RGB lighting and other features to consider.
Before we list the models we recommend to you, we would like to review everything you need to know about keyboards. Let’s start!
How a PC keyboard works, everything you need to know
A keyboard consists of two parts: a set of keys that are pushed in sequence by the user, and an encoder that identifies each key pressed and generates a code that uniquely identifies that key. The set of keys includes the standard alphanumeric keys found on old typewriters and some additional ones, such as cursor keys, navigation and function keys, Apple or Windows keys, and a numeric keypad.
The encoder is a microprocessor that detects when each key is pressed and released. To do this, the encoder maintains a set of signals in a grid of intersecting rows and columns. When the user presses a key, a connection is established in the grid. If, for example, the connection is in the first row and the third column, the encoder immediately identifies the pressed key and sends a special signal, called “scan code”, to the PC. The PC translates the scan code into the appropriate binary code and displays the character on the monitor so that the user can verify that the correct key was pressed.
The keyboard lights (for caps lock, number lock, scroll lock, etc.) are controlled by the PC, not the keyboard. For example, when the user presses the Caps Lock key, the keypad sends the code of the Caps Lock key to the PC that in turn turns on the keyboard light.
The PC keyboard is based on the design of the first typewriters. Until the end of the 19th century, a typewriter’s keys were arranged in alphabetical order. In 1872, Christopher Latham Sholes (1819–1890) developed the first typewriter which featured the QWERTY keyboard (pronounced “kwer-tee”), named after the first six letters near the top left of the keyboard. The new design improved writing speed by placing the keys less likely to be hit in rapid succession on opposite sides of the typewriter. This was done so that the machine was less likely to get stuck.
This fix solved the interference problem but created two others. First, many common letters are not located in the center row, also called the “start row”. Second, some of the most common letters are concentrated on the left side, favoring left-handed typists.
The QWERTY key set continues to appear on the vast majority of keyboards, although the reason for its creation, ceased to be relevant since the invention of electric typewriters and the advent of the PC.
August Dvorak, a professor at the University of Washington, patented an alternative design in 1936. According to him, his design could accelerate typing by approximately 35 percent. The Dvorak keyboard is considered by some to be a more efficient design because it places the most used keys in the central row of the keyboard. In addition, Dvorak one-handed designs are available for users who use only the right or left hand.
Ergonomic keyboards were developed to treat common hand, wrist and arm ailments among typists. An uncomfortable wrist position can cause muscle, tendon and nerve injuries in the wrists and forearms, due to the decreased blood supply, or compression caused by inflamed tendons.
Ergonomic keyboards are intended to reduce the incidence of repetitive strain injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, by placing the keys of each hand in a more natural position for the arms, wrists, and hands of the typist. Ergonomic keyboards include wavy, split and separate keyboards. Keyboard operators must also pay special attention to all ergonomic factors in their work environment. The chair and keyboard should be positioned so that the typist can sit up straight with his feet flat on the floor and both arms can move freely without hitting the armrests or feeling fatigued.
Membrane vs mechanical keyboard
Let’s start with the first type of keyboard called membrane, these use 3 different layers in their design. The first layer is called the upper membrane, under which we find a conductive trace. When a key is pressed, it moves through the holed second layer and makes contact with the conductive trace on the upper part of the lower membrane.
There are two types of designs that are used. One is the flat-key design, which is commonly used in microwave ovens. The keys are printed directly on the pressure pad, but since it doesn’t provide much feedback it is difficult to use on a computer keyboard.
The other type, called the dome switch keyboard, uses rubber or silicone domes as the top layer of the membrane. When the domes are pressed down, they collapse, and the graphite under the dome completes the circuit under the membrane pad, thus sending the signal of a pressed key.
Advantages of membrane keyboards:
- Low price
- Light and portable
- Very quiet during operation
Disadvantages of membrane keyboards:
- Low durability
- It is easy for the keystrokes not to reach the activation point
Mechanical keyboards use mechanical switches. There is more than one type of switches, each with different performance. Each key has its own switch, which comes with a base, a spring, and a stem. The most common switches are the Cherry MX Blue, Red and Brown.
Advantages of mechanical keyboards:
- Very high durability
- Available in a wide variety of types
- They offer a much smoother and more pleasant operation
Disadvantages of mechanical keyboards:
- They are much heavier and less portable
- They are usually much louder than membrane ones
- The price can be five times that of a membrane keyboard
Types of mechanical switches
Cherry is the leading manufacturer of mechanical switches for keyboards and below we summarize the most outstanding features of its most used models.
Cherry MX Blue: it is the most common clicky switch, and it was first made available on Filco keyboards in 2007. Blue switches are preferred by typists because of their tactile bump and audible click but are less suitable for gaming since they require a greater activation force of 50cN and they render double-tapping more difficult since the release point is above the actuation point. Blue switches are noticeably louder than other mechanical switches, so these switches can be a bit disturbing in the workspace.
Cherry MX Brown: this is the most popular switch with no audible click. This switch was introduced in 1994 as a special “ergo soft” switch, but it has quickly become one of the most popular switches ever. Today, many keyboards are equipped with Brown switches, since they are the middle of the road, suitable for both typing and gaming. They are also ideal for writing in office environments, where a Blue switch might bothersome.
Cherry MX Red: they were introduced in 2008. They have a low activation force of just 45cN, just like the Brown ones. The red switches have been marketed as a gaming switch since they are faster than most and have become increasingly common in gaming keyboards.
Cherry MX White: They are very similar to the Brown ones, but with an activation force of 55cN, so they are somewhat harder to push. Today they are hardly ever used.
Cherry MX Black: they were introduced in 1984, which makes them one of the oldest Cherry MX switches. They have a high actuation force, of 60cN, which means they are the hardest to push. They are generally not considered ideal for typing. Their harder spring also means that they bounce faster, which means that they can be operated quite quickly with sufficient force, although fatigue may become a more important factor than with other switches.
Cherry MX Speed or Silver: they are Cherry’s newest switch, with a low actuation force of 45cN. Its main feature is that the activation point is only 1.2mm away, compared to the 2mm for the rest of the Cherry MX switches. This makes them the fastest switch on the market and ideal for competitive games.
Cherry MX Silent: These switches stand out for being the quietest of the Cherry MX lineup, something that is achieved by placing a piece of rubber inside the mechanism to cushion the impact between the different pieces that form it. This makes them ideal for offices and work environments.
Keyboard sizes: Standard, TKL, 60%…
In the market, we can also find keyboards that differ in size. The most common is the full keyboard, which includes a Numpad on the right, although the TKL format is also very common and eliminates the Numpad in order to be more compact. There are also other formats such as 70% and 60%, which manage to be even smaller by eliminating system keys and F keys.
Roccat Vulcan 120 Aimo: best for gaming
If you are looking for something a little more premium than the Roccat Horde Aimo, then look no further than the Vulcan 120 Aimo (Check on Amazon.com). It is the premium model of the latest range of Roccat keyboards, with a premium design that would work well at home or in the office and with features that we would love to find in other gaming keyboards.
The Vulcan 120 Aimo has an anodized aluminum top plate that is robust and fingerprint resistant. This is combined with embossed keys, which give the keyboard a unique design while facilitating the cleaning of dust and food debris that tend to accumulate under them. However, this is not its most impressive feature.
The main feature of the Vulcan 120 Aimo is the Titan Switch, a new switch developed by Roccat exclusively for its keyboards. This switch provides faster response times – up to 20 percent faster according to Roccat – without having to apply more pressure on the key.
The switch is encased in a transparent housing that allows the individual LED lights to shine through. While the lighting on the Roccat Horde Aimo left much to be desired, the lighting on the Vulcan 120 Aimo is much more stunning.
The keyboard has several built-in lighting modes, all of them adjustable using the dedicated FX button and the dial located on the top right of the keyboard. The dial has several uses, from adjusting the volume to modifying the color pattern of the keyboard, and can be customized for other uses using the Swarm software.
Our only complaint? We would have liked the inclusion of dedicated macro keys for more advanced gamers.
Logitech G513: best overall
Keyboards with mechanical switches have enjoyed great popularity with gamers and prolific writers for some time. Logitech’s (Check on Amazon.com) proprietary Romer G switches, manufactured by Omron, are a valid alternative.
Logitech says that its Romer G switches have “a 25 percent faster response time than conventional mechanical switches”. This is achieved thanks to the shorter actuation point compared to typical Cherry MX switches. The Cherry MX Red, for example, has a 2 millimeters travel, while the Romer G just 1.5 millimeters.
According to our experience with both of them, there are no observable advantages of using one or the other. Key entry feels a little different with the Romer-G switches but no more precise or better than with the Cherry MX ones. Due to the shorter travel, typing at the beginning seems a bit “harsher” than usual but which variant is better is ultimately a matter of taste.
Linear switches have the reputation of being particularly well suited for gaming, as they allow for faster input. We believe that this is also a matter of personal preference. In this respect, the new linear Romer G-switch is a useful addition, but no better or worse.
The only tangible plus with the Romer-G switches is that they are a bit quieter than the classic Cherry MX ones. Last but not least, they are also a little bit sturdier since they are guaranteed for 70 million clicks when the Cherry MX ones advertise just 50 million.
Corsair K83 Wireless: best for multimedia
Best known for its mechanical gaming keyboards, Corsair attempts a new foray into living room keyboards with its K83 Wireless (Check on Amazon.com). A backlit model with an integrated touchpad that highlights the brand’s expertise while maintaining a gaming side.
Corsair has already made a foray into the living room via its massive Lapdog (Check on Amazon.com), designed to accommodate both a keyboard and mouse, back in 2016 and more recently with the K63 Wireless Lapboard (Check on Amazon.com). An effective solution, but not very elegant. This is the reason for the K83 Wireless, a wireless keyboard that winks at some Logitech models, like the K830 (Check on Amazon.com).
The K83 Wireless sports a beautiful dark gray anodized aluminum plate, fixed on a grainy plastic frame of good quality. The finish is impeccable and the rigidity is spot on.
It is equipped with chiclet type keys, similar to those used on laptops. Underneath we find scissor switches, that are pleasant to the touch and allow for fast and relatively quiet typing.
The K83 Wireless is a beautiful multimedia keyboard that offers great versatility for use on a desk, in the living room, for work, to watch a movie or even play.
Corsair K95 RGB Platinum: best splurge
If you want to have the best of the best, it is difficult to find a better keyboard than the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum (Check on Amazon.com). It is huge and it might require you to clean up your desk before placing it comfortably. But as for the features, it has it all. Dedicated macro and media controls, a USB port, a metal volume wheel, and RGB lighting. While it is expensive, you do get what you pay for and during 2019 we have observed that the price keeps falling constantly, so you can find it at a great discount right now.
We also love its detachable wrist support, which makes things super comfortable for long gaming sessions (this keyboard is great for Strategy and MMO games). The rubber pad is magnetically held in place and has two textures: a smooth side and a rougher one.
This mechanical keyboard of unparalleled build quality is equipped with Cherry MX Brown or Cherry MX Speed switches. You will also receive two sets of alternative keycaps and a keycap remover.
During our tests, we observed an excellent key response, a satisfactory tactile click on each press, and wonderful dimpled keycaps to help you rest your fingers while you’re not typing. While all this seems quite obvious, it shows that the K95 gets the basic things done right, in addition to including some very handy extra features, and this is why it is the best keyboard on this list.
The build quality is simply excellent. The frame is made of durable aluminum. In addition, it sports RGB lighting, which is not limited to the keys. For example, the Corsair logo is also illuminated and a stylish RGB strip has been added to the top of the keyboard. The K95 Platinum is the most beautiful keyboard I have ever seen.
It also supports the Corsair Utility Engine, the software that allows you to adjust the function or background lighting of each individual key. The CUE software is not only used for this mechanical keyboard, but also with all other Corsair peripherals. If you have an RGB mouse or headset from Corsair, you can synchronize the LEDs with each other.
The Corsair K95 RGB Platinum is in my opinion the best mechanical gaming keyboard ever made.
Das Keyboard Prime 13: best all-round
The Das Keyboard Prime 13 (Check on Amazon.com) is the solution for those looking for a clean looking keyboard. The keyboard offers no fancy features but focuses on the essentials. It focuses on being a solid typing device by using high-quality materials and simple design.
It is manufactured with an anodized aluminum base and equipped with the popular Cherry MX Brown switches characterized by an activation force of just 45cN, actuation travel of 2mm, a lifespan of 50 million keystrokes while providing tactile feedback.
But that doesn’t mean that the Prime 13 doesn’t sport some neat extras. The keyboard comes with full N-Key rollover, USB passthrough and the option of multimedia controls via the function keys. In addition, it is the first Das Keyboard that is equipped with a backlight…
The keyboard is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS, and Linux.
Logitech Craft: best for productivity
Logitech’s Craft (Check on Amazon.com) is an instant classic and offers almost everything you could want from a desktop keyboard. The chiclet-style keys are a bit unusual, with standard square caps but with a considerably rounded dimple in the center, but once you get used to them, it is a breeze to write, with your fingertips clicking dead center every time.
It is as good as Microsoft’s Surface, being comfortable but with a solid weight. It also sports some smart solutions that make this keyboard work for both Macs and PCs, while the backlight is bright enough to be effective without blinding.
You can also connect it with up to three different devices using the USB dongle or Bluetooth connectivity, and then switch between them with the press of a button.
Last but not least we have the Crown, the round dial on the upper left corner. You can use this to make fine analog adjustments in a variety of applications, such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator and InDesign, and many other photo editing, drawing, painting, and video applications. It’s even useful for Office applications and browsers. It’s not cheap, but this could be the best keyboard for creatives.
Logitech K780: the most portable
Are you looking for a keyboard that can handle all of your devices? Look no further than the Logitech K780 (Check on Amazon.com). Connect it using the included wireless adapter or via Bluetooth and it will work with your PC, Mac, Android, and iOS device and also switch on the fly between the three of them. In addition, there is a built-in base that will hold your mobile devices.
Of course, none of this would matter if the writing experience was bad, but Logitech has all its bases covered. The round keys may seem peculiar, but you get used to them surprisingly fast, and although they have a short travel, they feel crisp, light and very fast. The only design quirk is the strange integration of the navigational keys with the Numpad, along with the decision to move the Delete button to the top row next to the F keys.
None of these is a deal-breaker though, and the battery can last for two years, with a pair of AAA batteries. In addition, the keys are very quiet, which is always nice and the build quality is remarkable.
In short, an excellent keyboard, a bit expensive, but functionality and quality don’t come cheap!
Microsoft Modern Keyboard With Fingerprint ID: the most secure
When we think about Microsoft, two of the company’s products immediately come to mind: Windows and Xbox. However, there is another line of products that the company produces.
Think about its Surface devices or other lesser-known ones that seek to help people suffering from Parkinson’s.
Called the Microsoft Modern Keyboard With Fingerprint ID (Check on Amazon.com), the latest Redmond peripheral is an excellent alternative for those looking for a modern, quality keyboard, with a feature that sets it apart from others.
Although there are many devices nowadays that use a fingerprint scanner, integrating it directly into the keyboard is most practical.
Thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity you can use it wirelessly and it sports a rechargeable battery capable of lasting up to two months on a single charge.
Razer Huntsman Elite: the fastest
Razer has established itself as a major player in the PC and peripherals arena, offering high-quality products ranging from gaming laptops to RGB illuminated mouse pads.
The Razer Huntsman Elite (Check on Amazon.com) has a remarkable design. It sports a faux leather wrist wrest that magnetically attaches to the keyboard and offers excellent ergonomics. Each key is equipped with stabilizers that reduce wobble. Also, the dedicated media buttons, located in the upper right corner are a welcome addition and are individually lit like the primary keys.
Razer’s software suite, called Synapse, has dramatically improved since its introduction and is no longer a piece of awkward bloatware, instead, it feels like a well thought and extremely useful application.
The only drawback is that it has no USB or audio pass-through and no dedicated macro buttons.
The Huntsman Elite costs (Check on Amazon.com) but it’s worth every dollar since it’s one of the best mechanical keyboards I’ve ever used.
Also read: BEST KEYBOARDS
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