When picking a keyboard for writing, there are no shortages of choices. In this article, we’re going to look into some factors to consider when choosing a keyboard.
The keyboard you use can significantly affect how quickly and accurately you type. The best keyboards should be ergonomic, soft to the touch, and have responsive keys that don’t require much force when typing.
Factors like mechanical or membrane, extras like backlighting, ergonomic keyboards versus rectangular keyboards and keyboards at different price points. Let’s get started.
Here are our top picks for Keyboards for Writers
- Das Keyboard 4 Clicky
- Roccat Vulcan
- Microsoft Sculpt
- Logitech K780
- Azio Retro Bluetooth Artisan
- Razor Huntsman Elite
- Microsoft Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard
- Corsair K68
- Corsair K95 RGB Platinum Mechanical Keyboard
- Apple Magic Keyboard
- Arteck HB030B Universal Slim Keyboard
- Microsoft Wireless Desktop 900
- HyperX Alloy FPS RGB Mechanical Keyboard
This list comes from research of what other best-off guides have recommended and Amazon bestseller lists.
There are two types of keyboards on the market today, mechanical and membrane.
Not surprisingly, mechanical is the original. When computers first appeared in the market (think like the original Commodore 64 they had a mechanical keyboard. This was remarked upon as one of the best keyboards, as other popular home computers like the Atari 400 and Sinclair used a cheaper membrane computer keyboard. Other home computers like the Apple 2 and IBM PC also used mechanical keyboards. At the time, a bit of trivia was called a “Keyboard computer” due to the computer itself being under the keyboard.
The main disadvantages of a mechanical keyboard are price, weight and noise. Some users will insist that the noise and weight are the features that make them desirable as the noise provides audible feedback, and the weight makes them feel more solid. If you’re a writer or a gamer, these are their choice for computer keyboards.
What is a Membrane Keyboard?
A membrane keyboard is a design where the keys are printed on a flexible layer, usually plastic. This is the part the user presses on. Below it is two layers, a membrane with holes where the keys are that, when pressed, make contact with the third conductive layer. This design’s advantage is they are very durable and easy to clean, as the only exposed part is just a plastic sheet. Today this makes the design popular for applications like toys or outdoor equipment, where a rugged keyboard is needed, whether it’s the elements or overactive pre-schoolers. Also, the cost of manufacturing them is less than a traditional keyboard, which was one reason many of the first generations of home computers, like the Sinclair ZX81 and Atari 400, used them.
While a membrane keyboard isn’t the best choice for writers, technology has improved since the 1980s, so there are several good membrane keyboards for gaming, and general use is still available.
What are the disadvantages of a Membrane Keyboard?
- Key Rollover. A fast typist can type too quickly, causing keys not to register a hit as they weren’t pressed far enough down.
- Feedback. The membrane keyboard doesn’t have much feedback (or “travel distance” as the movement of the key is called) when a user presses on keys, so touch typing is not as easy.
- Cleaning. It’s harder to clean a membrane keyboard as the keycaps are usually not removable.
- Lifespan. Membrane keyboards wear out quicker than a mechanical keyboard, and as they do, the feedback becomes less until it fails. If you’re choosing a gaming keyboard, keep this in mind too.
On the other hand, the advantages of Membrane keyboards include
- Relatively Quiet. While typing on any keyboard with a high speed can be loud, a membrane keyboard has a better reputation than mechanical keyboards when typing sound volume.
- Lighter and More Portable. Membrane keyboards are usually made of plastic, making them lighter than a mechanical keyboard.
- Cost. Membrane keyboards are a mature technology made from standard parts, so they are usually more affordable than a mechanical keyboard with the same features.
What is a mechanical keyboard?
The term is used for any keyboard consisting of separate keys, including monoblock designs. Earlier computers used keyboards with a mechanical switch under every key, and this mechanical action is what gave them a satisfying click sound when struck. Think of any movie with an old newspaper office, and you can hear that sound of mechanical keyboards being used. The distance the key moved (called “Travel Distance”) as it was pressed down gives the user more feedback, and this tactile feedback makes for a better typing experience than many writers find.
To cut costs, “monoblock” style keyboards appeared later. These replaced the individual switch under each key with a single electrical circuit that ran under all the keys to detect key presses. As you can guess, this was cheaper to manufacture and became the industry standard for all personal computers.
Monoblock keyboards work in a similar way to a touch screen cell phone. There’s a single switch under all the keys, which relies more on sensitivity than a mechanical keyboard. Once one key wears out, the keyboard is dead.
What are the advantages of a mechanical keyboard?
- The distinct feel of the keys. The number one advantage is the feedback of the keys clicking as you type.
- Solid feel from real keys. The individual key switches give a much more “solid” feel, making touch-typing a breeze.
- Customization. You can buy custom keycaps online because the keys are separate pieces.
What are the disadvantages of a mechanical keyboard?
- Price, because they contain more parts, they’re going to cost more.
- Noise, because of the moving parts, will make a bit of noise. This audible feedback is kind of the point like a sports car.
- Weight. Again, usually have a bit more heft than a cheaper keyboard, but this usually means they’re built more durable and should last you longer and won’t bounce around if hitting keys faster. For this reason, they’re popular as gaming keyboards too.
- Not waterproof. Liquids don’t mix well with electronic devices, including a pricy keyboard.
For more tips on keeping your keyboard in good shape, see this article for more things you shouldn’t do to your keyboard.
Other features to look for
Do you do a lot of data entry? Consider a keyboard with a number pad. Some stand-alone numeric keypads are also available, handy if you’re on the road a lot and need to enter data onto your laptop.
Also, if you spend a lot of time at the keyboard, try an ergonomic keyboard. These look a bit strange (and take up a bit more desk room) but are designed to support and put your hands and wrists in a healthier position.
Are there mechanical keyboards for laptops?
Yes, there are two designs, one called a “Butterfly” mechanism, and another called a Scissor. The problem with both is it’s a low-travel switch, so you lose one of the essential features of authentic mechanical keyboards. Some gaming brands like MSI, Gigabyte, and Acer have released fully mechanical laptop options, but they’re pricy.
How do you connect to your computer?
The most common connections these days are USB or Bluetooth. If you’re using an iPad or another tablet or don’t like more cord clutter than needed, then look for a Bluetooth wireless keyboard.
In case you’re wondering about range, Bluetooth (both the original and LE work over 100m – that’s much further than most people can read a screen from). There are also mouse and keyboard combos available for even less cord-clutter.
Do you need backlighting?
These days, it’s a standard feature that most manufacturers have. A backlit keyboard contains a light underneath the keys, illuminating the letters to make them visible in low-light environments. If you’re a touch typist, you probably don’t need it as your hands know where to go. Backlit keyboards are also found on many desktops, including many of the keyboards listed at the start of this article. Check the specs for which ones include it.
Most recent Macbook models have backlighting. You can check if your Mac’s keyboard has backlighting in the settings.
Hopefully, this article has helped you find some options for the best keyboard for writers. Many writers and gamers prefer a mechanical keyboard for computers, typing experience, and tactile feedback, and they are usually recommended as the best keyboards for writers.
However, if that’s out of your budget, quality membrane keyboards are also available. Here’s to finding your best keyboard.