Shopping for wireless keyboards is a lot more complicated than you’d expect. But between all the weird and wild wireless keyboards, there’s one that’ll suit your needs. Here’s how to find the wireless keyboard that’s right for you.
What Will You Use Your Keyboard For?
Wireless keyboards come in all shapes and sizes. Some are great for gaming, while others are meant to work with tablets and phones. So it’s best to think about why you need a wireless keyboard before shopping for one. That way, you know what features and form factors to look for.
Here are a few common uses for wireless keyboards:
- Desk Use: If you plan to keep a wireless keyboard at your desk, then you should probably focus on ergonomics and style. You may also want to look at extra features like RGB lighting or Logitech Flow (a platform that allows you to use a keyboard on three devices at once).
- Portable Use: If you need a wireless keyboard for use with your tablet or laptop, then you should focus on slim form factors. You may even consider a tablet keyboard case.
- On the Couch: Smart TVs or media centers that are hooked up to computers practically need a wireless keyboard. In this case, we suggest using a wireless keyboard with a built-in trackpad.
- Gaming: Most hardcore PC gamers use a mechanical keyboard, sometimes with programmable keys and RGB customization.
Once you know why you need a wireless keyboard, it’s time to start honing in on what kind of keyboard you need. We’ll start with the basics (membrane vs. mechanical) and work our way toward the details (ergonomics and special features).
The Basics: Keyboard and Connection Type
There are two main keyboard types: membrane and mechanical. They’re very different from one another, and the form that you decide on will dictate what kind of keyboard you can buy (a portable keyboard, an ergonomic keyboard, etc.).
Here are some of the qualities of membrane and mechanical keyboards:
- Membrane: Most modern keyboards are membrane keyboards. They’re slim and quiet, but they don’t have a lot of physical feedback. In other words, they feel more like the buttons on your TV remote than the keys on a typewriter (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing). These keyboards are best for general use and portability, and you’re probably using one right now.
- Mechanical: Mechanical keyboards are modeled on the old chunky keyboards of yesteryear. They provide a lot of physical feedback, and they’re easy to type fast on, but they also make loud clicking sounds. Mechanical keyboards have removable keys (so they can be cleaned and customized), and they’re most popular among gamers, writers, and computer nerds. They also tend to have a better lifespan than membrane keyboards (because they can be taken apart), but they’re also more expensive.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of keyboard you’re looking for, you should also take a second to think about connection types. Bluetooth is an excellent option for wireless keyboards (it doesn’t waste USB ports), it’s worth looking for a keyboard that includes a USB dongle if you’d prefer to stick with what you know. (If your computer isn’t Bluetooth-capable, you could always buy a Bluetooth USB adapter).
It’s also worth mentioning that some wireless keyboards have rechargeable batteries. These rechargeable batteries don’t last as long as AA-batteries, but they’re essential in backlit keyboards that can eat through a set of batteries relatively quickly.
CORSAIR K57 RGB Wireless Gaming Keyboard - <1ms response time with Slipstream Wireless - Connect with USB dongle, Bluetooth or wired - Individually Backlit RGB Keys, Black
The CORSAIR K57 is a solid wireless mechanical keyboard with built-in RGB controls, a rechargeable battery, customizable keys, and an ergonomic design.
Think About Ergonomics
People assume that ergonomics only matters if you spend all day at the computer, but that’s not entirely true. An ergonomic keyboard forces you to maintain your posture, which is essential for any typing session—even if its a short typing session.
But what kind of ergonomic design should you look for in a keyboard? Do you have to buy an ugly monstrosity to reap the benefits of an ergonomic design, or can you get away with something more low-key?
Well, let’s start by talking about ergonomic keyboard design. We’ll begin with non-ergonomic design and work our way up to butt-ugly ergonomic keyboard design:
- Flat Keyboards: Some keyboards lay flat on the tablet. This puts a lot of strain on your wrists and makes typing difficult. Unless you’re committed to a tablet keyboard case or a portable keyboard, we suggest avoiding flat keyboards.
- Slanted Keyboards: Most keyboards are slightly tilted or have built-in kickstands. A good slant is probably all that you need from a keyboard, even if you spend all day typing (provided you can keep your wrists straight).
- Wrist Wrests: A keyboard with built-in wrist rests can keep your wrists straight throughout the day. Of course, you can also buy wrist rests to go with any keyboard.
- All-Out Ugly: Super-ergonomic keyboards look ridiculous, but they force you to use great wrist posture. Most are robust and chunky, although some are relatively normal looking. These keyboards are great for people who type all day, for people who have bad wrist posture, or for people who really want to avoid wrist problems.
Again, most people should work with a slanted keyboard, but you can choose to get a keyboard with wrist wrests or an ergonomic form if you’re concerned about your wrist posture.
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business (5KV-00001 )
The Microsoft Sculpt ergonomic keyboard is one of our favorite ergonomic keyboards. It feels great, it doesn't have a bunch of extra buttons, and it looks much cleaner than its competition.
What Extra Features Do You Need?
Once you know what type of keyboard you’re looking for, it’s time to start worrying about the extra features and details. Most of these features are very practical, and they lend themselves to different typing situations (at the couch, writing, gaming, etc.).
First, let’s start with portable features. These features make keyboards easier to take away from home, which is great if you’re using a laptop or a tablet (just keep in mind that ridiculously thin keyboards aren’t always ergonomic):
- Slim Keyboards: Ultra-slim membrane keyboards are great for on-the-go use, but you can also buy a portable mechanical keyboard for when you want to type as loud as possible in public.
- Tablet Keyboards: You can use just about any Bluetooth keyboard with a tablet, but we suggest using a keyboard case or a keyboard with a tablet kickstand.
- Foldables and Rollables: Foldable and rollable keyboards seem a bit gimmicky, but they’re extremely portable. Just keep in mind that they feel like toys when compared to actual keyboards.
Alright, now let’s move on to special features. These features aren’t always necessary, but they can make odd computer setups (gaming setups, multi-computer setups, etc.) a bit easier or more fun to work with:
- Multi-Device Keyboards: Some keyboards can quick-switch between devices at the push of a button. This feature is the most robust in keyboards that support Logitech Flow, as the connection is maintained in real-time and carries clipboard content across devices.
- Couch Keyboards: Some wireless keyboards have built-in touchpads. These are most useful for portable laptop or tablet setups, but they’re also great for smart TVs or media centers (like a computer hooked up to your TV).
- Backlights and RGB: Backlights can add a futuristic touch to your keyboard (or help you type in the dark). And of course, RBG-enabled keyboards can be customized to match the color of your entire computer rig.
- Customizable Keys: Some gaming keyboards have customizable macro keys. These keys are great for performing complicated commands in-game, but they’re also useful as general shortcut keys while writing, programming, or browsing the web.
Logitech K780 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard for Computer, Phone and Tablet – FLOW Cross-Computer Control Compatible
The Logitech K780 is one of our absolute favorite wireless keyboards. It's slim, it feels great, it has a tablet kickstand built-in, and it uses Logitech Flow to control up to three devices at a time.
It should be a bit easier to shop for a wireless keyboard now that you know what you’re looking for. But if you get stuck or you run into anything strange, remember that a keyboard’s form factor and features will determine how you can use it. If a keyboard feature doesn’t line up for how you’d like to use it (gaming, portable use, etc.), then it’s not worth buying.