To reduce cord clutter and for other benefits, we generally recommend short-range wireless input devices. Corded mice, in particular, get caught up on the edges of desks and the items on them. That's not efficient for working quickly — go wireless!
Three significant exceptions to this advice to consider wireless input devices are:
- When setting up the computer's BIOS — it is sometimes difficult to enter a computer's BIOS without a corded keyboard (cordless keyboard radios generally do not initialize quickly enough, regardless whether they use Bluetooth or proprietary “dongles”). You should therefore always have a wired keyboard on hand for setup considerations as described above.
- If you generally type a lot — or frequently for long periods at night, you may want a top-notch “mechanical” keyboard with backlighting. For these two characteristics, you will have to choose a wired device. Since dedicated typing workstations generally have keyboards in a fixed location, a wired keyboard is not often an impediment (i.e. the mouse moves, but the keyboard — generally — does not).
- (additional) wired keyboards are also great to have on hand for backup purposes (i.e. broken wireless KB or depleted battery, etc.). Unless it is a “headless” server, without a functioning keyboard your computer is completely useless!
USB “Dongle” Wireless Keyboards
These keyboards offer consistently trouble-free operation and are perfect in situations where USB ports are numerous.
Bluetooth Wireless Keyboards
These bluetooth keyboards are perfect for mobile considerations (i.e. tablets, phones, laptops). When mobile, you probably have fewer available USB ports — or maybe none at all.
Bluetooth Wireless Folding Keyboards
no current recommendation
Most wired keyboards which come with computers nowadays use cheap rubber dome type “switches.” These generally do not provide great tactile feedback and are prone to fairly early failure due to (among other possibilities) the rubber membrane cracking or ripping due to repetitive stress and/or environmental conditions.
If you want the highest possible keyboard quality, a “mechanical” switch keyboard is what you need. Fortunately, production levels are up and with increased availability, prices have been coming down over the past many years. While still much more expensive (4-20x) than the cheap $7 keyboard which come with most computers, these are worth every penny.
Many of these keyboards are described as “gaming” keyboards. One reason for this is that gamers often have high expectations of their hardware. With appropriate switches (for example Cherry MX “Blue” or “Green”) such a “gaming” keyboard becomes the perfect long-form typing companion. Because the vast majority of our readers focus on office environments, we link here almost exclusively to Cherry MX “Blue” or “Green” keyboards. In virtually all cases you can further select the switch type by paying close attention to the options on the corresponding product page. [Gamers would typically prefer Cherry MX “Brown” or “Red” due to the differing actuation profile in these switches allowing for “easier” key-holds and rapid re-presses as well as their non-clicky nature (i.e. less keyboard sound to “compete” with a games sound).]
A good primer as to what mechanical switches are all about is available at the Keyboard Company. Two good YouTube videos also illustrate the differences:
Wired keyboards with backlighting
- Redragon K551 VARA — 4 variants (one variant is not backlit)
At approximately $50, these are the computing deals of the decade. On the K551-RBG the backlight of each key can be individually set on this keyboard.* Both K551-R and K551-RBG can also “respond” with light to your typing or play light “shows” (i.e. changing colors and so forth).
With mechanical switches, these keyboards will likely last for decades and is optimal for those who insist on the best typing experience. The housing is metal and while in some variants the cord is not covered in a braided sheath, it is a very pliable material (like rubber), not prone to kinking. Both attributes should serve to lengthen the product’s life expectancy.
These Redragon VARA keyboards are extremely compact for full size keyboards. They do not have wrist rests and no top bezel. Multimedia keys are accessed by pressing a function key and an F-key.
Please keep in mind, with “Cherry MX Green equivalent” switches, these keyboards are quite “clicky.” [Notwithstanding the manufacturers attempt to clone a particular product, the switches are actually a lot more like Cherry MX Blue, which require a lighter press than the Greens.]
Redragon K551-N VARA (no backlight!)
Redragon K551 VARA (red backlight only)
Redragon K551-R VARA (rainbow colored backlights)
Redragon K551-RBG VARA (programmable, individually colored backlights) (we strongly recommend this one as it is the most customizable and only negligibly more expensive)
These are the keyboards we typically use here at MOST.Guru
* Setting individual key colors is a bit “fiddly” and takes some time for extensive customization. However, it does not require special drivers (and is therefore completely OS-platform agnostic).
- E-Element Mechanical Eagle Z-77 RGB LED Backlit Chroma Dimmable Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
As above, the backlight of each key can be individually set on this keyboard. Wrist rest included.
Cherry MX Blue “equivalent” switches: this keyboard is quite “clicky.”
- AZIO RGB Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
As above, the backlight of each key can be individually set on this keyboard and there are a couple dedicated media keys much like the significantly more expensive Corsair K95 below. Wrist rest included.
Cherry MX Blue “equivalent” switches (Kailh Blue): this keyboard is quite “clicky.”
- Corsair RGB K95 Mechanical Keyboard, Backlit Multicolor LED
This keyboard is very similar to the two above but includes a couple dedicated media keys, 18 dedicated macro keys, a wrist rest and (arguably) a “cleaner” look. It is supplied by an internationally known manufacturer which might be a requirement for some purchasing departments. It uses “real” Cherry MX Red switches and will therefore not be “clicky” like the above. Unfortunately, it costs about 3.5x as much as the Redragon!
Even though it is a “gaming” keyboard, it is still a pleasure to type on, especially if you want a more quiet (but mechanical switch) keyboard.
- Corsair Gaming STRAFE Mechanical Keyboard, Backlit Multicolor LED
This keyboard is almost identical to the the Corsair K95 but removes the dedicated macro and media keys and uses “real” Cherry MX Blue switches and will therefore be “clicky.” It is also available in “gaming” variants: non-clicky Cherry MX Brown switch or non-clicky Cherry MX Red switch.
Less expensive than the K95, it is still almost 2.5x as much as the Redragon. If you need something other than “blue” switches, this is a good option, however.
- Corsair K70 LUX Mechanical Keyboard, Backlit (red light only)
The backlight on this keyboard is red only. This may help better preserve vision in dark environments, especially if coupled with screen-dimming (and blue-light removing) display software.
This keyboard is otherwise very similar to the Corsair RBG K95 and much less expensive. It uses Cherry MX Blue switches.
- Logitech Backlit Keyboard (K740 — wired)
This is not a mechanical switch keyboard, but still quite good.
Inexpensive wired keyboards
These keyboards do not have mechanical switches, but they try to mimic the feel of such. They are significantly less expensive, although in the last case not that much less than the Redragon above.
- Rii RK100 3-LED Colors Large Size Backlit usb Wired Mechanical Feeling Multimedia Gaming Keyboard
At approximately $17, this 3-color backlit keyboard is almost too good to be true.
An ISO layout, the keyboard has a "tall" enter key which is preferred by some.
This makes for a great, inexpensive backup keyboard, particularly if you know you might need to work in the dark.
- DBPOWER DB-A8 Wired LED Gaming Keyboard - Water resistant
Just $8 more than the Rii, this adds water resistance!
- MageGee K1 Backlit Metal Panel Gaming Keyboard for PC and Laptop, USB Wired Keyboard with Water-Resistant Design
At approximately $37, this 3-color backlit keyboard has full metal top and back panels and is very substantial.
An ANSI layout, the keyboard has the "wide" enter key most US users have come to expect.
Inexpensive alternative to backlit keyboards!
Sinywon Flexible Mini USB LED Light (3-pack)
Can’t see your keyboard in the dark but also don’t want to shell out for a backlit keyboard or new laptop with a backlit keyboard? Try this inexpensive solution. It uses very low power, so any USB port should work just fine. Comes in a handy 3-pack so you can give your friends one, too!
Page Last Edited: Sunday, July 30, 2017
Page First Published: July 23, 2015