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Buyers' Guide: Keyboards

The humble keyboard is often the forgotten component of a computer system, but, after the display, it’s the most important part. A good keyboard offers a more comfortable way to type, not to mention more advanced ergonomics, wireless capabilities and special keys to make whiling away the hours at a computer screen that little bit more bearable.

If you’re a frequent laptop user a separate keyboard and mouse can decrease your risk of RSI and straining your wrists. It also helps to be able to put your laptop at eye level, with a keyboard at the height of your arms, to avoid straining your neck or hands.

Here are some features to look out for when shopping for a new computer keyboard:

Keyboard features

Design and ergonomics

Choosing the perfect keyboard style is purely down to personal preference. Perhaps you’d like a timelessly chic black or gunmetal grey, or maybe a statement pink or illuminated keyboard to liven up your workspace? Computer keyboards come in a huge array of colours, designs and finished so you’re guaranteed to find one to suit your style.

Check the ergonomics of your selected keyboard to make sure it’ll be a comfortable experience using it. The more ergonomically advanced the keyboard the better it’ll be for your health in the long run. Here are some features to look out for:

  • Curved shape
  • Split keyboard
  • Thin
  • Legs for rear of keyboard
  • Laptop-style keys
  • Cushioned rest for wrists

Key layout

Some manufacturers alter the layout of keys for design reasons, or for cross-platform compatibility, so check the layout of your shortlisted computer keyboards.

If you’re a touch typist or don’t fancy a change from your old style keyboard be sure to check the positioning of keys, particularly function keys. It’s also worth checking the return policy on your selected independent retailer’s site before you buy, just in case you try the keyboard and don’t like it.

Bare in mind that most modern keyboards will be designed for use with both Macs and Windows PCs, meaning that shortcut keys such as Mac command and option buttons are replaced by Windows keys. You’ll need to adjust your settings in your Mac preference pane to configure these keys.

Other things to consider

Backlit keys - brilliant for keen gamers, or for those nocturnal amongst us who work in darkness. 
Noise level – is there anything more irritating for those around you than a computer with infuriatingly noisy keys? It may be worth investing in a more expensive keyboard to avoid that annoying tap-tap-tap of keys.
Solar panels – if you’re after a really fancy keyboard you can show off to your friends! 

And for something even fancier…

  • iPad docks - a keyboard with ipad docks allows you to, funnily enough, plug in your ipad and type directly onto it
  • Touch pads - touchpad keyboards are designed so that the user can ether use no mouse at all, or a pointing device. It's easier on your wrists and using one can become second nature if you regularly use a laptop
  • Programmable keys - allows you to programme certain keys to perform actions

Gaming keyboards

These keyboards are designed specifically for gamers and often have added features such as programmable buttons, special macro keys, LCD displays and backlit keys.

USB keyboards

The standard keyboard connects to your computer via a USB cable. A USB computer keyboard has the advantage of not needing any batteries, though the clutter of a cable and the fact it uses up one of your USB ports is a downside.

Wireless keyboards

Wireless keyboards make a great alternative to the standard USB keyboard. They use Bluetooth or radio-frequency to connect to your laptop or computer.

Keyboards with radio-frequency work using a dongle that plugs into your USB port to recognize your keyboard. RF keyboards can be used instantly and don’t need to be ‘set up’ as such. They also connect quicker and more efficiently on start up.

Bluetooth keyboards only work with laptops or computers with in-built Bluetooth (most modern models do).

Bluetooth keyboards are a little more fiddly, requiring you to set up a bluetooth connection between your keyboard and any computing device you wish to use it with. On the other hand they’re convenient, don’t take up a USB port and don’t need a separate dongle, like a radio-frequency keyboard.

What next?

It’s time to start comparing deals and offers over on our shopping and comparison pages!

Use the filters on the left hand side to narrow down your search, and if any prices take your fancy simply click the deal and you’ll be taken to the site of your selected independent retailer. Check out the specs and features on your selected computer keyboard and click and buy, or continue perusing our huge array of deals and offers to make sure you get the best for your budget.