Buying a new keyboard – What to look for

A keyboard is crucial computer peripheral – however, many people ignore this and settle for a poor-quality unit as they are cheap.

While it may appear to be largely inconsequential what keyboard you use, there are benefits to having a high-quality unit.

One of these benefits is ergonomics – if your keyboard is poor quality, you put yourself at increased risk of typing-relating ailments such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Other benefits include reliability, ease of typing, and useful features such as media controls or wrist stands.

If you are buying a new keyboard, these are the key considerations to take into account.

Mechanical vs Membrane

Membrane keyboards are the most common type of keyboard, and most cheap keyboards use this technology.

This technology has the user press down the key onto a silicone or rubber dome, and when the key is pressed down sufficiently, a circuit is completed – telling your computer that you have pressed a key.

Mechanical keyboards, in contrast, use a physical switch to register the pressed button.

Generally, mechanical keyboards are perceived to be of a higher quality than membrane keyboards.

However, they are also significantly louder because of the fact that the user is pressing down onto a physical switch.

The physical nature of mechanical keyboards mean they offer superior feedback when pressing buttons, and also tend to be more accurate and reliable.

If noise is a concern at home or work, you will need to use a membrane keyboard – however, you should otherwise consider investing in a mechanical keyboard, especially if you are a PC gamer.

Reason for purchasing

Different keyboards are designed for specific uses.

If you are a gamer, you will want a keyboard that is designed to assist gamers perform optimally.

If you are only typing, you will have different needs.

One way of choosing the right keyboard is to look at the switch type. This is only applicable to mechanical keyboards.

There are three predominant switch types on the market:

  • Red switches are known as linear switches, and move up and down relatively quietly and with minimal tactile feedback. This makes them easier to press at a faster pace – therefore making them great for gamers.
  • Brown switches are known as tactile switches, and provide noticeable feedback when pressed down. This makes them ideal for typing since you don’t have to press the key further down than it needs to go.
  • Blue switches are known as clicky switches, and are similar to brown switches except they also make a particularly distinct “click” noise – which is preferred by certain users.

There are also Green switches, which are essentially heavier versions of Blue switches, and are often used for the space bar in mechanical keyboards as they offer a more pronounced physical feel.

Wired vs Wireless

Choosing a keyboard also includes deciding whether you will choose a wired or wireless keyboard.

The decision here is fairly simple – wireless keyboards are more convenient, whereas wired keyboards generally offer lower lag.

Therefore, in a work environment, wireless keyboards are often preferred, whereas gamers looking for increased performance tend to prefer wired keyboards.

Design

Design is an important consideration – particularly in the workplace, because picking a keyboard with an unsuitable design can cause issues.

If you are in a work environment and purchase a flashy gaming keyboard for yourself, your employers may not be pleased – even if it looks great.

Generally, you would look for a more subdued design for work, whereas gamers may be interested in features such as RGB lighting for use at home.

One feature that is great on a work keyboard are media buttons – particularly if you listen to music while you work.

Now read: Buying a “refurbished” laptop in South Africa – Here is what you need to know

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Buying a new keyboard – What to look for