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7 best keyboards for quick and easy typing

That there are so many types of keyboard, and so many more individual keyboards within each category, speaks an essential truth about computer use: almost no one is using the best keyboard.

Keyboards range from the membrane ones practically given away with office-type PCs to noisy gaming keyboards with mechanical switches under each key. There are multitudes in-between, with keys that travel or that hardly move, wired or wireless connections, and things like USB and audio hubs built-in.

There are also a variety of sizes, with full-size (the traditional keyboard with a numeric keypad), tenkeyless (which loses the numeric keypad) and 60 per cent (which drops the key count down much lower) being the most common. Other sizes are available, however, and if the most common ones don’t appeal you can trawl Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites until you find something being custom made that looks like a perfect fit.

That’s the thing about keyboards: they’re intensely personal. You can be sat using one of them all day, so along with the rest of your home office setup, you need to make sure it suits you. Not only can the right keyboard make working from home a more pleasurable experience, it can increase your typing speed too.

Gamers, of course, are well used to the idea that the right mechanical or even electro-optical switches under their keycaps can make them into some sort of gaming deity, having seen the remarkable feats of keyboard mastery from Korean StarCraft players, but even more pedestrian games can benefit from the extra precision of knowing exactly where on its downward travel a key will activate. Mechanical keyboards don’t have to sound like a herd of wild horses going over a bridge, although they certainly can if that’s what you want.

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How we tested

We replaced the keyboard on a PC used for a bit of everything, from office work to gaming, and used it every day until we’d got a feel for it.

The best keyboards for 2021 are:

Das keyboard 4 professional

Best: overall

Mechanical keyboards don’t have to be brightly coloured monstrosities designed to appeal to those who’ve had too many energy drinks. If you’re someone who types a lot, you may appreciate the softer feel of a key that travels even just a few millimetres before getting its actuation point.

Das Keyboard might sound like a German engineering approach to keyboard design, but the company is actually from Austin, Texas, and the German for “the keyboard” is actually “die Tastatur”. The professional range from Das has an important feature – the key caps have letters printed on them rather than being blank. Blank keycaps supposedly help develop touch-typing skills, but we find them just a little forbidding, as if a barrier has been erected between us and the computer.

Take down that barrier, and you get a mechanical keyboard of robust construction with gold-plated switches (Cherry MX, with a choice of clicky blue or softer brown) that should last for 50 million keystrokes. The top of the keyboard is aluminium, you get a set of media keys including a volume dial, and there’s a two-port USB 3.0 hub tucked away around the back that’s just perfect for plugging in flash drives or charging your phone. The wrist rest, which is usually the least interesting part of a keyboard, doubles as a ruler. We’ve not come across a compelling use case for this yet, but we’re glad it’s there nonetheless.

Razer huntsman V2 analog

Best: Gaming keyboard

Expensive, but worth it if you want to feel like you’re using a real luxury keyboard, the huntsman V2 analog features an aluminium top-plate from which the keycaps and their associated RGB lighting stand out proudly.

They’re sat on Razor’s own switches, which might take a little getting used to if you’re already a user of the more common Cherry switches, but they’re worth it for the adjustable actuation depth, which can be locked off between 1.5mm and 3.6mm, depending on how much travel you like in your keys.

The other interesting thing about the switches is their ability to register two different presses if the switch is depressed to different levels. For gaming actions such as readying then throwing a grenade this is a huge speed increase, as two key actuations essentially become one. Elsewhere, there’s a comfortable magnetic wrist rest, media controls, and as much RGB lighting as your eyes could possibly cope with. Getting the best gaming keyboard will really cost you, but if you need its features you’ll know there’s no alternative. And sometimes just wanting something can be as powerful as needing it.

Logitech MX keys

Best: Wireless keyboard

Offering a wireless USB dongle and Bluetooth connectivity, plus the ability to pair with up to three devices, Logitech’s MX keys is an excellent backlit wireless keyboard. The slenderness of Apple’s wireless keyboards is forcing a lot of competitors to make their own models as slim as possible, but while the MX keys is, as a membrane keyboard, fairly flat, it’s also got a chunky heft that reassures you that your finger isn’t going to go straight through it.

Perhaps it’s the colour. The MX keys is descended from the MX craft (£179, Logitech.com), a keyboard with lovely rounded corners and a volume dial that could be pressed into service differently depending on which app you were using via the excellent Logitech Options software. It came in the kind of charcoal grey – or graphite black – that makes any gadget feel chunkier, and has passed this on to the MX keys, which only lacks the volume dial in its fullsize incarnation. There’s a tenkeyless version, the MX keys mini (£99, Logitech.com), and they both retain the ability to pair with three devices, essential if you’re the kind of person with multiple PCs and an iPad on their desk. It’s also available in pink and silver.

The keys themselves are squares with rounded corners, a circular dip in the centre that your fingertip nestles in and just enough travel to make it perfectly clear that the key has been pressed. If you’ve got a Logitech mouse, they can share a USB dongle too.

Corsair K70 RGB TKL

Best: Tenkeyless keyboard

There have been a lot of keyboards from Corsair called the K70, but this one brings together the small form factor of tenkeyless and a full RGB lighting deployment and mechanical switches. The beauty of the tenkeyless keyboard is that, if you don’t use the numeric keypad on the right hand side and are content to do all your number inputs via the row at the top, just below the function keys, it can save space on your desk. This can be because you have other things you need access to, such as a graphics tablet, or because your desk just isn’t that big to begin with.

Corsair’s approach to the tenkeyless involves plenty of programmable keys, so you can take a ruthlessly efficient approach to always hitting the right key. It’s highly customisable, with a row of media keys and a volume roller along the top, and software that lets you change the lighting behind keys individually.

The keys themselves are PBT plastic, though a set of textured ABS replacements for commonly used gaming keys (WASD, etc) is included to make them stand out. They sit on a choice of Cherry switches (standard reds, XM speed silver, or MX silent red) all of which activate with the same 45g of force but have different travel distances and sounds.

Happy Hacking professional hybrid

Best: 60 per cent keyboard

A 60 per cent keyboard is one that looks at the tenkeyless and immediately starts trying to chop more bits off. You lose function keys, media controls, navigation keys, and any large gaps. They should have 62 keys, but it’s not uncommon to find a few more. Working with a 60 per cent keyboard means mastering (and memorising) the use of modifier keys to get back lost functionality. The other thing about such small boards is that they tend to be wired. Would wirelessness not save more space and be tidier? You’d think so.

Happy Hacking’s professional hybrid keyboard is wireless, and a rather beautiful rectangle of Japanese-designed symmetrical minimalism too. You can get one that has completely blank keycaps if you want to, but that’s perhaps taking things a little far. The keys have modified functions printed on them to remind you what’s what, but the big difference is in the position of the CTRL key – it’s moved to where caps lock would be on a full-size keyboard. This is meant to increase usability, once you’ve retrained your muscle memory, and the layout means your fingers never have to leave the home row, increasing speed and reducing wrist fatigue.

Each key sits on a spring-loaded Topre switch, but these are client membrane switches rather than clacky mechanical ones. The Bluetooth connection can pair with up to four devices, and there are DIP switches on the back to enable support for different operating systems.

Razer pro type ultra

Best: Office keyboard

If what you want to do is type, you want something designed for it – oddly, plenty of keyboards don’t seem to be aimed at people who type all day. To avoid all sorts of wrist-based nastiness, you don’t want to be pounding away at something with too much resistance. Razer is best known for its clacky gaming keyboards festooned with more RGB than Blackpool, but the company knows how to make a really good keyboard, and this is a great example. The keys are raised on their switches (Razer’s own linear yellow design) which are silent yet tactile with sound-dampening foam inserts, the backlight is a soft white glow (and can be switched off), and there’s a soft-touch coating to the keys.

The keyboard is full size and wireless, and can pair with four devices at once. There’s a USB Type-C port on the back for charging, and for providing a wired connection too, and rather like the Huntsman above, it comes with a magnetic wrist rest that can be easily removed or repositioned. The Pro Type Ultra is in some ways Razer at its best – by holding back from its usual kitchen sink approach to sound and light it has created something that looks good and feels great to use.

Microsoft surface ergonomic keyboard

Best: Ergonomic keyboard

Designed for comfort and ease of use above all things, an ergonomic keyboard should almost feel like it’s not there, reducing the effort required to reach commonly used keys and without your hands feeling like they’ve been through the wringer at the end of the day. So why don’t we all use ergonomic keyboards? Maybe we should, but one person’s comfort is another’s torture, and straight, rectangular keyboards are a one-size-fits-all solution.

Ergonomic keyboards come in all kinds of shapes, but tend to have a few design choices in common. There’s the split, which parts the keyboard down the middle and makes sure each hand stays on its designated side. There’s the contour, which puts a wave through the middle of the keyboard, scattering keys to its left and right, and there’s the angle, which slopes the keyboard to keep wrists straight and hands in a cupped posture.

Microsoft’s surface ergonomic keyboard takes the contour approach, a ripple passing between the G and H keys and cleaving the space bar in half. This has the effect of changing the angles of many keys, which are laid out in gently curving lines instead of being on parade in straight rows. The keys nearest to the gap caused by the wave are larger, so it takes less of a stretch to hit them.

It’s a comfortable design that, after a short period of adjustment, becomes second nature to type on. The fabric-coated wrist rest is also extremely nice to use, though it’s disappointing to see that the Bluetooth-powered wireless connection requires two AAA batteries rather than being rechargeable. Battery life is, however, excellent.

The verdict: Keyboards

We chose the Das keyboard 4 professional as our overall winner because it’s a complete package without feeling too “gamey”. Gaming keyboards such as the huntsman, and similar products from Corsair and other manufacturers, tend to go too far toward lighting up like a Christmas tree. A subtle white backlight is a useful thing, however, so the MX keys, pro type ultra and Das keyboard 4 get it right.

The small USB hub on the Das keyboard is also one of the most useful things we’ve come across. Gaming keyboards sometimes have audio passthrough for plugging in headsets, but this pair of USB 3.0 ports is beyond useful if you often find yourself reaching behind your PC to plug something in. There’s a tenkeyless version of the DK 4 professional, which unfortunately does away with the media keys, and there are some RGB keyboards in the same range too, including one with enormous programmability through macros. It’s the DK 4 professional, however, which for us strikes the best balance of usability, restraint, features and price.

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