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.
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'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'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.
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'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.