Crowdstorm’s buyer’s guide to keyboards
Welcome to Crowdstorm’s page dedicated to comparing electronic keyboards. The humble QWERTY is often an overlooked 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 added extras such as more advanced ergonomics, wireless capabilities and special keys to make whiling away the hours at the computer screen that little bit more bearable – both for work and pleasure.
If you’re a frequent laptop user, for example, 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.
And increasingly consumers are finding other reasons to grab a new keyboard: everything from connecting up their smallest screen (their mobile or table, perhaps via a WiFi keyboard) to their television (ever tried searching YouTube via your TV remote…?).
Keyboard 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
- 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.
Bear in mind most modern keyboards will be designed for use with both Macs and Windows PCs, meaning 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.
PC keyboards features
While design and ergonomics are important, there’s a lot more to the modern keyboard nowadays – but not everyone cares about all the extra available bells and whistles. Here are some of the most common (and popular) keyboard extras you might want to consider:
- Backlit keyboard: Brilliant for keen gamers, or those nocturnal souls who like to work at night, some keyboards have backlit keys that let you easily type in gloomy conditions.
- 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, and fancy saving energy in the process, these can make a real statement – while saving you a bit of battery life on your laptop!
- iPad/iPhone/iPod 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.
For anyone working on a small desk, a compact keyboard can be a godsend. These mini keyboards do away with the extra number pad and direction keys to the right of the main area. Any required elements are added as shortcuts on other keys, freeing up a large area of deskspace - so more room for notes, coffees etc!
What is a gaming keyboard?
These keyboards are designed specifically for gamers (you guessed that bit, right?) and tend to feature several of the features above as standard.
Programmable buttons and special macro keys are considered a must, adding an extra set of keys to the keyboard that can be programmed to react to specific in-game commands. LCD displays can be super useful for chat or showing what tune you’re playing, while backlit keys are a must for that immersive, dark room movie/game atmosphere.
Wireless keyboards (Bluetooth)
Wireless keyboards make a great alternative to the standard USB keyboard. They use Bluetooth or radio-frequency to connect up 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).
They’re sometimes a little fiddlier, 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 is a WiFi keyboard?
With Wi-Fi such a common commodity now, it’s no surprise some WiFi keyboards have hit the market. Largely used for connecting tablets, much like Bluetooth keyboards they have the advantage of not needing a USB port to connect them – simply find your device on your WiFi devices list (although you’ll usually need to connect via USB once to get them set up).
It's also worth looking out for package deals. If you're settingup a new machine, for example, you can often save a few pounds by getting a keyboard-mouse pack.
I’ve found the best keyboard: What do I do next?
Once you’ve found your perfect new keyboard, the next step is easy: simply click on the deal to be taken directly to the UK high street or online retailer of your choice.
Crowdstorm isn’t itself a retailer, but we have advertising deals in place with all the biggest and most trusted names in the business. This means you can compare all the deals here, while we don’t need to add any kind of commission to your purchase – so it’s win-win. Happy typing!