What Is The Best Keyboard?

April 26, 2009

in computer hardware

by David Hakala

Whether you spilled coffee on your keyboard or it’s so full of crumbs it sounds like a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, sooner or later you will want a new keyboard. You want the “best” keyboard, of course. Here are a few guidelines for buying a new keyboard.

Get a keyboard that “clicks” when you depress a key. That’s called “tactile and auditory feedback” and it helps you type faster and more accurately. Most keyboards that come with computers have membrane switches under the keys that just squish and don’t tell you they’ve been fully depressed. You want a keyboard with a spring under each key. There is one such keyboard that I will call “best.”

The IBM Model M keyboard, about $70, is practically hallowed among heavy typists such as writers and programmers. You can’t find a Model M in retail stores because it is cheap, never breaks, and therefore is not profitable enough. IBM began making the Model M in 1984 and some of that first year’s production run are still in daily use! Its case is powder-coated steel, not flimsy plastic. There are legends of Model Ms that have been dropped several stories or run over by trucks and suffered no damage. You can clean a Model M by running it through a dishwasher. I’m not kidding; I’ve done it. The model M is still made by Unicomp, but any used unit found on Craigslist, eBay, etc., will be the best investment you ever made in computer peripherals.

A modern keyboard may come with a USB or PS/2 connector. If your computer has a PS/2 port, you may as well use it and keep a USB port free for other devices. Otherwise, just make sure you can connect the keyboard to whatever ports are available on your computer.

If you’re a gamer, look for a keyboard with programmable keys and software designed specifically for game play. Make sure the software is compatible with your operating system.

You will see “ergonomically designed” keyboards in fantastic shapes; keyboards that fold in the middle; membrane keyboards that roll up like paper. If you look hard enough you can find a keyboard that is nothing more than light, an image of a keyboard projected onto any flat surface. The most common quirky keyboard is the Dvorak key layout, which many writers claim is faster and easier on the wrists the standard QWERTY layout. If you’re daring, test drive exotic keyboards before you buy. Remember to look for tactile and auditory feedback.

Bundled keyboard-and-mouse packages are a good way to save money. But the mouse should fit your hand and computing habits just as well as the keyboard.

Wireless keyboards have pros and cons identical to those discussed in the Tiplet Wireless Mouse.

A new keyboard should make typing easier, no matter what type of typing you do.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dhakala