The best keyboards for 2017
The right keyboard can make you more productive, improve your gaming, or save you from wrist pain. Check out our recommendations for the best keyboards.
By Christopher Minasians | 3 mins ago
Keyboards these days come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, and people’s preferences tend to be just as varied. Do you want wired or wireless?
Portable or bulky? Low-profile laptop-style keys or chunkier desktop versions? Does it need to be mechanical?
Do you need a numpad? Do you want LEDs, custom hotkeys, USB pass-through, and other typical gaming features? We break down the features you need to consider in our keyboard buying advice, but if you prefer you can skip straight to our keyboard reviews.
Keyboard buying advice
A lot of the considerations in buying a keyboard are pretty self-explanatory.
Whether you prefer high or low-profile keys is mostly a matter of preference, how bulky you mind it being depends on desk space and if you need it to be portable, and dropping the numpad saves some space at the cost of a little functionality. One major consideration is whether you want to go wired or wireless. The latter gives you less clutter and added portability, but does mean you suddenly have to start worrying about battery life.
If you’re looking at wireless, you should also consider whether you want a Bluetooth keyboard that’s compatible with Android or iOS, so that you can also use it to turn your phone or tablet into a productive work device.
Mechanical or membrane?
The biggest decision in buying a keyboard is probably the choice between mechanical or membrane key-switches. Membrane keyboards use a layer of conductive plastic underneath the keys which forms an electrical contact when pressed. Mechanical keyboards on the other hand use physical switches underneath each key, which are actuated when pressed.
Mechanical keyboards are generally said to be more crisp and responsive, and keyboards using the high-quality Cherry MX mechanical switches are a particular favourite. The principal downsides of mechanical keyboards are that they are generally more expensive, bulky, and noisy than their membrane counterparts. Mechanical keyboards are especially popular among PC gamers because of their superior responsiveness, and are common in gaming keyboards.
They also often include features like LED backlighting, pass-through USB ports, and customisable hotkeys and macros for more efficient gaming. If you like the sound of that, take a look at our full guide to the best gaming keyboards.
- RRP: ?60, US£100
Looking for the holy grail of typing? A mechanical switch is what you’re looking for.
Not only are they more accurate with each key press, but they can also provide a unique typewriter-feel. This is what the Cherry MX Blue switch brings to the plate: a loud, clicky-by-nature switch that’s super light (50g to actuation) to type on. The Cherry MX Blue switches can be found on a whole host of different keyboard and we just happen to have chosen the Cherry G80-3000.
This is because of its very affordable ?60 price for a fully mechanical keyboard that uses Cherry MX switches. The Cherry G80-3000 comes in different variants, and can be found in both UK and US layouts, among others. If you’re going to be typing in an office environment, just make sure your work colleagues don’t mind the loud nature of the MX Blue switches.
- RRP: ?79.99, US£99.50
Swedish company Penclic has made it its mission to take on RSI in the workplace, and the KB3 is its latest attempt. That means that ergonomics have come first in the design here, which features a subtle gradient, comfortable keys, and a compact enough size that you won’t have to strain and stretch to hit different key combinations. Despite the size, the KB3 still boasts full-size keys, housed in a reassuringly sturdy aluminium body.
As for the look, there’s a nice balance between the simple black body and the flashes of colourful orange and blue used to pick out different functions. The KB3 can be used either wired or wirelessly over Bluetooth, and comes with a USB-to-Micro-USB cable included. It’s small and lightweight enough to be a great portable keyboard, but the full-size keys mean it’s perfectly comfortable as a day-to-day desktop keyboard too.
It’s compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, and you can use the Fn key to quickly switch between the different modes, with specific layouts and functions for each OS. At ?80/£99 the KB3 isn’t cheap, but it’s built to last, runs on just about every platform, and could be the only keyboard you ever need.
G.Skill RipJaws KM780 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
- RRP: ?150, US£150
Looking for an all-in-one keyboard that has a fantastic build quality and one of the best mechanical switches you can find on the market? Cherry MX, the legendary German manufacturers of mechanical switches have teamed up with G.Skill to provide a fully customisable RGB lightshow.
The reason we chose the KM780 for our round up is its versatility. The keyboard can be found in the Cherry MX Brown (tactile), MX Red (soft) and MX Blue (clicky) variants and, if you’re not a fan of the RGB colours, you can save yourself some money and buy the non-RGB variant. The KM780’s package contents and software is impressive.
You get a wrist rest, an additional 10 gaming keycaps (which are red in colour and have a texture on them) alongside a key puller. The software works flawlessly and allows you to fully customise the keyboard with custom macros and keystrokes. Better still, the KM780 has dedicated media keys on the right-hand side, a live volume LED slider, three programmable profiles and six dedicated macro keys.
The keyboard doesn’t stop there – it has an additional USB port and headphone/mic jacks so that you can plug your flash drive or headset directly into the keyboard, rather than at the back of your PC – a nifty feature!
SpeedLink Ultor Illuminated Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
- RRP: ?94.99, US£136
If you don’t use your numeberpad and want to close down the distance from your keyboard and mouse, a TKL (Tenkeyless) keyboard is the way forward. Some professional gamers often rotate their full-sized keyboards for that exact reason – to reduce the gap between mouse and keyboard, in order to make it more comfortable on your shoulders. It all really comes down to your posture and comfort while using your mouse and keyboard.
To that end, Speedlink designed the Ultor mechanical keyboard. It features the Kailh red switches, which require an actuation force of 50g (5g more than the similar Cherry MX Reds). The keyboard comes with software that allows you to customise macros and adjust the light intensity.
The build quality of the Ultor is very good, with a full aluminium construction and blue backlit keys. Due to the form factor there are no dedicated buttons, but you can change the USB response rate, have media controls, six macro keys and enable gaming mode by interacting with certain keys alongside the ‘Fn’ key.
Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 Plus
- RRP: ?34.99, ?39.99
Having the ability to type away at distance is always useful, but what if you could have a compact keyboard that’s light, has a long battery life and, better still, has a small integrated trackpad so that you can browse around without a mouse? This is where the Logitech K400 Plus (and K400) offers a full host of functionalities on multiple different platforms.
Through its small USB dongle, the keyboard can be used on Windows, Android TV, Chrome OS and even with an OTG Android phone (extremely useful if you want to take notes on a phone). The keyboard offers a great way to navigate a media PC with its customisable trackpad controls. We also like the discrete look of the keyboard and the silent-typing experience – a great asset when you’re browsing your media PC in the living room and don’t want to disturb your partner or friends.
Sumvision LED Gaming Keyboard Wraith
Some of us don’t have ?80 to spend on a mechanical keyboard, nor do we want a small wireless version which lacks a numeric pad.
This is where the cheap and cheerful Sumvision Wraith keyboard offers a fantastic gaming and media experience. Despite being aimed at gamers, the keyboard can be used for a whole host of different users. Over your standard keyboard, the Wraith offers dedicated media keys, quick-shortcut buttons to your default email and browser, and seven single-LED colour choices!
The keyboard is wired by a braided cable, has a mini-wrist rest and, most importantly, is easy to type on through its membrane keys.
We also found the keyboard to be soft on-touch, which made it easy to type on and also great for gaming.
Given the keyboard’s price and overall build quality, it’s hard to find another keyboard that can offer such a host of functionalities at a ridiculously cheap price!
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