Five Best Desktop Keyboards

Picking the ideal keyboard for your needs can be tough. Everyone has differing opinions and needs, but a few models stand out above the rest. This week we're going to look at five of the best keyboards, based on your nominations.

Photo by Barney Livingston.

Granted, the keyboard you think is the best will depend heavily on what you use it for. Your needs will vary if you're a productivity ninja who needs programmable options, if you're more concerned with music playback, or if you're after a portable option. Keyboards are definitely a category where you should try before you buy -- if you don't like the feel of a particular keyboard, no amount of special features will make up for it. One annoying thing about keyboards: in many cases, the Australia tax is very evident in the official RRP, so shop around online and you may well find a better deal.

Apple Wired and Wireless Keyboards

The Apple Wired ($55) and Wireless Keyboards ($75) have both drawn praise for their space-saving design, built-in USB hub (on the wired model), and quiet scissor keys that make typing for hours on end a breeze without being loud and distracting. They're so popular that apps have appeared to make them easier to use in Windows, and they even work in many flavours of Linux. The wireless model gets great range, takes up a tiny area on your desk, and is portable enough to go with you in your laptop bag. It doesn't sport the numeric keypad and full arrow keys that the wired model does, but both options work well and are relatively affordable.

Microsoft Natural Keyboard Series

Microsoft's Natural series of keyboards, including the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 (around $60) and the wireless Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 (around $150), score high marks for being affordable, comfortable and functional split-design keyboards that protect your wrist and hand health while simultaneously making it easy to work or game for long periods. Both models feature media and function keys, adjustable feet to change the keyboard level, and a prominent hump in the centre of the keyboard where the keys split so it's easier to rest your hands. Both models are full keyboards with complete numeric keypads and arrow keys, and feature standard membrane keys that offer quiet typing but firm feedback.

Logitech G Series (G19/G110/G510)

Logitech's G series keyboards are particularly popular with the gaming crowd. When Logitech unveiled the first G15 (around $70), gamers raved over the flip-up LCD display that showed stats from their favourite games, the backlighting and the media keys that could control volume or media playback in music players even when another app had focus. Next up the line, the G19 ($399.95) added an embedded OLED colour display and special apps that can be used on the built-in display -- solid enhancements, but rather more expensive. The G510 ($199.95) is a mid-priced option incorporating many of the features of its two predecessors, while budget gamers can go for the G110 ($129.95). While the Logitech G series keyboards have plenty to offer for gamers, productivity junkies will still find a lot to like about the membrane, quiet-click keys and buttons that can be programmed for Excel macros as easily as they can be for World of Warcraft.

Das Keyboard

Fans of mechanical keyboards will tell you that the trend towards scissor keys and soft-touch membrane keys are a plague, and that efficient typists need real mechanical keyboards that let you know when you've pressed a key so you don't just slide over them. The Das Keyboard (around $140) is one of the most popular mechanical models, and for good reason. It's definitely satisfying to use, comes in labelled and unlabeled varieties for those of you who like typing like a ninja, and the latest Das Keyboard model even sports media keys. There's also an Apple-friendly version (around $150) that works like a charm with your Mac or Macbook. Each model sports a USB hub and a slim profile that doesn't take up too much space on your desk surface. If you dig mechanical keyboards, it's worth a look.

Logitech K Series (K750/K800)

Logitech's K series are focused on productivity and general use, unlike the G series games keyboards mentioned earlier. There are a lot of models in the range, including the K750 and the K750 for Mac (both officially $150, though the Mac model is on sale right now), the wireless K800 ($180) and the super-affordable K120 ($25) and K270 ($40). The K800 was especially popular with our readers, while Mac users enjoyed the K750's combination of a full keyboard with wireless access. If you want a keyboard that's great for work and play but has more focus on saving space than bells and whistles, these are for you.

Our honourable mention this week goes out to the venerable IBM Model M, perhaps the original mechanical keyboard. Despite its age, it's still available from select retailers and hobbists who have hacked it to work via USB (although you do have to hunt around a little bit.) They work just as you may remember -- strong mechanical keys with distinct clicking keypresses. The Model M will definitely take up some space on your desk, and good luck getting fancy features like wireless support or USB hubs, but it's a great keyboard.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to give support to your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Make your case for your favourite -- or alternative -- in the discussions below.


    No Razer, Cooler Master or Ducky boards. The readers have nominated rubbish.

      Indeed, if you're going to limit your list to 5 keyboards, they're all going to be mechanical or you're doing it wrong. My ducky is typing this itself, it's just that good.

        Exactly, my Ducky 9008 Shine with Cherry Blue switches is easily better then any on this list...

          Love my Ducky 9008, white LED's and cherry brown switches. expensive but far better than any of these.

      "Rah Rah Rah how dare others have differing tastes and opinions to me". The keyboards listed above are fine for general consumers. I wouldn't touch any Razer or G series keyboard even if it were given to me.

    The Apple wireless is the best I've used.

      I take mine to uni to take notes on with my iPad.

        Sounds like more effort than just taking a laptop.

          Just posting to like your comment :) Surely a small laptop is more portable, powerful and useful?

            you dont understand cool

            But the swoon factor!!! *SWOOOOOOOOOOON*

          This implies that a person needs to (or should) own both. Most students would be fine with one or the other. My iPad is great for most study applications, especially all the reading. I only use my laptop when I need multitasking or plan on doing a lot of copy/paste operations (also the iPad doesn't play nice with endnote). For a student on a budget having only an iPad is really a viable option.

        Despite the good natured ribbing, the iPad/Keyboard combo is less heavy & cumbersome, more versatile and longer lasting (you don't need to desperatley find a power point during he day). It's less effort than a laptop and perfect for uni and many (but, of course, not *every*) work environments.

    I dumped my MS ergonomic keyboard after about a month. It died for some reason, but the angled keys were just too annoying anyway so I wasn't too sad. The bendy kb is fine if that's the only one you use but when you also have to occasionally use a 'straight' k, you have to keep readjusting and thinking about the kb rather than what you're writing. I got the Logitech wireless MK710 and M700 mouse bundle and they have worked flawlessly. I can't remember the price but it's my first wireless desktop so I didn't want to spend too much. I always worried about having to replace batteries every couple of weeks and reliability, but both aspects are great.

      It just takes a little while to adjust to it is all. I grabbed one years back to use at work and now I've got four or five of them, struggle to use anything else because it's so comfortable.

        I switch regular between different keyboards all the time and don't find it a problem.
        The MS keyboard forces you to type correctly, and to me that's a benefit.
        If you can't touch type you are going to find it hard to use.

    Why is there no TypeMatrix on this list?
    Like their site will tell you, the staggered design of keyboards is inferior to vertical columns. If you have RSI, it's the way to go.

    I'm loving my Microsoft Arc at the moment. The 4-way arrow button can be slightly finicky, but the slight curve makes typing on it much more pleasant than the Apple wireless keyboard.

      I bought one of these - I hated it! Horrible size, shape, and feel. Now replaced with a Das Silent, which is approximately 9000% better than the MS keyboard.

      List in article is a farce - no way known Apple keyboards should be there unless mainstream 'cool' factor is taken into account.

        My Apple Wireless is the nicest I've used (and I've used a lot). For my typing it's certainly the fastest. I'm about as immune to cool as a still-breathing human can get. Have you considered the possibility that people may have different preferences?

    Would have thought the MS Sidewinder X6 would get a mention. Love the fact that I can move the numpad to the left side. :)

      +1 for the Microsoft X6. moving the numeric pad to the left or removing it makes more room for my mouse.
      I also use an Apple mini wired keyboard on windows. It takes up so little space. However it was a hassle to set up the drivers and get all the keys mapped.

        +1 for Microsoft x6, except I find I often the cPSLOCK KEY INSTEd of the 'a' key sometimes.

    Has anyone ever observed someone using a new keyboard with a slightly new layout before? It's almost always a universal repulsion. People don't like change. Unlike many others, I find that I could like 80% of keyboards on the market...maybe I'm just adaptable.

    I find Apple keyboards rubbish. I miss just as many key presses on them as on my Zenbook, which everyone acknowledges has a bad keyboard. And contrary to the belief you can type away for hours, I find my fingertips get quite sore after a while. Maybe that's because I hit the keys hard but it hasn't ever been an issue with any other keyboard I've used regularly. When I had my own MacPro at work last year, I ended up bringing an old keyboard in from home.

    I've had some great Logitech and MS keyboards over the years and I really couldn't pick a favourite, although I would rate the keyboard on my Dell M4400 as the best feeling keyboard I have ever used. I use an MS Arc keyboard now because I am tight for space. I thought I'd miss the numeric keys but it's not been an issue at all. It's been really good but not really my favourite because of the Function keys, which are like mobile phone buttons and require a positive press, not like keyboard keys that just need a tap. Battery life on it is ridiculous - easily more than a year on two AAAs, getting an average of around 6 hours use a day..

      The Apple keyboards take a lot of getting used to, it's like typing on a calculator.
      But it's worth it because they look good :)

        Except for the Apple keyboards at my old uni, which were brown after 6 months of use...

          Yeah, white is a pretty bad colour for keys. For home and work it's fine since you can easily clean them when needed, but in more of a public context at a university or library it's disastrous.

    The Model M doesn't need to be 'hacked' to work via USB. It works just fine via a PS/2 to USB adaptor as long as you get the right one (sometimes called the 'blue cube' because of its design, its an adaptor made by Belkin if memory serves).

    The other thing to consider is that if you have a desktop computer, the vast majority of them still have a PS/2 port anyway, and Model M keyboards work just fine plugged in to these.

    No, the hardest part of Model M ownership is usually finding one at a reasonable price.

    Typed from a Model M keyboard plugged in to a 6 month old computer.

    Apple wireless is the best. As someone that does data entry as a job the apple keyboards have the shortest distance of travel to activate the keys as well as requiring the softest touch to activate. Other keyboars feel like a type writer.

    Apple wireless is great for my Mac. For my windows machine I live my Lenovo USB keyboard with track point. By fr the quickest way to use my machine as you never have to take your fingers away from the keyboard to move and use the mouse pointer.

    *love. Infuriatingly autocorrected by my phone keyboard. Physical keys >> virtual keys

    I dont get all the apple love on lifehacker.... they're products are terrible and over marketed.

    You sit down with an apple person, give them two devices that do the same job different ways, they tell you both are good in their ways.

    You slap an apple tag on one, suddenly its better.......

    Dear god, no. The crappy Apple chiclet style keyboards are an abomination. How anyone can be happy using one is completely beyond comprehension.

    I love my Logitech DiNovo for Notebooks. Sleek, fast and great typing action. When I noticed they were going out of production I hunted around for a spare and one for the wife. if you can find one, buy it.

    Fans of mechanical keyboards will tell you to buy a Filco, or go home. Sure the Model M is a significant upgrade over your traditional keyboard, but when the Filco can be had for the same price and is also available in a tenkeyless design why wouldn't you?

    Now that I've mentioned tenkeyless keyboards, the only reason I can think of getting one of those horrible Apple keyboards over one of these is because a) You have a mac, and b) You type so little that you don't mind the occasional inconvenience of having to type on such a bad Keyboard...

      Hmm, having owned Filco, Leopold and various 'cheaper' cherry switch based mechanical boards (KBC, PLU, Choc mini etc). I'll answer your post:

      -A Model M doesn't have to be expensive. Sure, some 'collectors' pay over $100 for them but to me that's crazy. I have several and none of them cost me more than $60 (I was even given one for free).

      -A Model M will out last a Filco. From the plastics used to the keyswitch design, they are built to last. I have, for example, a 1988 Model M that works as well today as the day it was made.

      -Tenkeyless isn't for eveyone.- I know I'd really miss my numpad.

      Don't get me wrong, Filco are great, but I still prefer my Model M

        I'm a fan of mechanical keyboards - buy a Das or go home.

          Umm yes. Thanks for your thoughtful and considered advice.

            Sorry, was replying to the comment above yours and misled by LifeHacker's novel "reply" button location.

    Filco>Everything Else

    I really like my Corsair K60. It's a pretty good mix of Gaming and non-gaming functionality, and features a cool set of media keys. Being that I play music all day long while working (and occasionally answering phone calls as well as calls from the wife) good media keys are a must for me!

    I have an Apple Keyboard for my iMac, can't say I'm a huge fan personally.

      I'm loving my Corsair K60 too - great for typing and great on the price tag too. The function keys and the keys on the Home block are non-mechanical - saving on price. Th e only key that I find frustrating is the DELETE key - as it's one that I use regularly when typing and it's jarring jumping from mechanical to non-mechanical while typing.

    Filco. There is no substitute. :-)

    What about the Kinesis Freestyle. Expensive but a great Split keyboard for those who can touch type and what to resolve the design issues with a standard keyboard.

    I used to have a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse set. Both died after about 18 months. I was in urgent need of a new keyboard, because I hated using this old wired Lenovo. I eventually got a Logitech MK50 (I think). Anyway, it's very good. I've also got a Logitech M305 wireless mouse. There's a review of it on my YouTube channel -

    filco ninja, standing by

    I'd say the old BBC Micro keyboard wasn't bad either (in the top photo)

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