Keyboards- Strong builtBuying Guides in Keyboards

The computer keyboard is a very important part needed to use any computer. If someone thinks that all keyboards are just keyboards and are pretty much the same, then they are mistaken. There are all different kinds of keyboards, and it is important that you pick the right one for yourself. Buying a keyboard or mouse, to most people, does not seem like an important consideration; however, there are several options to help relieve stress as well as to enhance the overall performance.

Below is a listing of considerations to look at and think about before purchasing the keyboard:

Keys

Keys are the most basic component of any keyboard, but they differ widely between models. Desktop keyboards have traditionally used dome-style key switches; such keys are thicker and require more travel (the distance the key must move to register as a keystroke), and sometimes more force, when we press them than laptop keys. Laptop keyboards tend to use scissor-style key switches, which offer a lower profile and require less travel. However, over the past five years or so, many desktop keyboards have adopted laptop-style key mechanisms, in large part because of the increased popularity of these types of keys.

Design and ergonomics

Keyboard vendors often try to differentiate their products using unique designs or appearances. Some offer different colors, others offer stylish, metal or glossy-plastic finishes. On a practical design level, keyboards also differ in their ergonomics-more-ergonomic designs offer better comfort and safety over long-term use. For example, some manufacturers make thinner keyboards that don't require your wrists to bend unnaturally upward. Similarly, laptop-style keys generally require less effort to press, reducing fatigue.

Key layout

Given the many decades since the invention of the computer, we would think that keyboards would have a standard layout. And when it comes to the standard keys we would find on a typewriter, that's generally true. Still some keyboard designers have tweaked this layout for reasons of design, cross-platform compatibility, or other considerations, and these changes can affect usability. But even if the standard keys are arranged correctly, each keyboard seems to have a few layout oddities when it comes to other keys. For example, some keyboards consolidate the function keys (F-keys) into a single line instead of using the traditional four-key pods, making it difficult for touch typists to differentiate the keys. (Even worse, oftentimes these F-keys are jammed up against the number-0 through 9-row, making it easy to accidentally hit an F-key when trying to press a number, or vice versa.) Many keyboards have numeric keypads with odd layouts, and more than a few place keys in unconventional locations, further frustrating touch typists. The gist of all this is that before choosing a keyboard, we should try it out to make sure its particular layout compromises won't compromise our productivity. If we can't try it out before buying, we should be sure to buy from a retailer with a good return policy.

Connection type

Keyboards connect to our computer either via a USB cable or wirelessly. Wireless keyboards help us avoid cable clutter and, if necessary, let us move farther from our computer. However, since they don't get power via USB, they require batteries of some sort. Wireless keyboards use either radio-frequency (RF) or Bluetooth technology. RF devices connect to our computer using a small receiver that plugs into a USB port. Bluetooth devices require either a computer with built-in Bluetooth or a USB-based Bluetooth dongle. Connecting a Bluetooth input device requires us to pair it with our computer, a process that's a bit more complicated than simply plugging in a cable or dongle; however, once we've set up such a pairing, the mouse or keyboard should maintain that connection unless we intentionally delete the pairing.
Because it's newer, many people assume Bluetooth is better, but each technology has its advantages. Bluetooth is convenient if our Mac has built-in Bluetooth-as all current Macs do-since we don't have to keep track of a USB dongle and we don't sacrifice a USB port. On the other hand, many of today's USB dongles are so small they barely protrude from our USB port, and RF offers instant plug-and-play use. It's also easier to use an RF mouse or keyboard with multiple computers; we just move the USB dongle. Finally, both technologies are susceptible to interference from nearby wireless signals and electronics; one or the other may perform better in our particular home or office.

Portability

Some keyboards are designed for portable use, fitting into the slimmest laptop bags and weighing a pound or less. Portable keyboards are also great for use on our lap with a Mac connected to a home-entertainment system. However, to achieve this portability, many portable keyboards lack a numeric keypad, host smaller-than-normal keys, or use non-standard layouts. So "try before you buy" is especially important here.

Special features

Manufacturers often add unique features to increase the functionality of a keyboard. The most common such features are special keys for controlling media playback or quickly launching common programs; some keyboards even include dedicated programmable keys that can perform complex macros or other actions. (Note that most keyboards with such keys require us to install special software drivers for full functionality.) Other keyboards include touch pads, iPod docks, and speakers, to name a few other out-of-the ordinary additions.