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How To Select A Good Keyboard For Fast Typing

What should you look for when buying a new keyboard? In this article, we will tackle this question by defining the requirements based on the need for fast typing. This could mean typing long articles, office documents, emails, worksheets, etc. This is to get you started to define your own requirements, so you are expected to modify to suit your needs. For Section B, we focused on the key press because that is the most important part of the keyboard.

Target Design Specifications

We will split the design requirements into two areas. First are the basic requirements, which are subjected to individual preferences and can be modified depending on your needs. We have identified the following as quite a standard checklist based on today’s specifications.

A. Basic Requirements (Selection)

Firstly, we review basic requirements which will pretty much narrow down the list of keyboards that will meet our needs.

    • Full sized keyboard
      It shall be based on the familiar full-sized keyboard layout, regardless if its Windows or Mac. The reason is that a full-sized keyboards would have all the keys you need for every typing scenario to let you do things faster. Anything less means you would have lesser “options” at your disposal. For example, some gaming keyboards removed the “Numeric Keypads”. It will be fine for gaming but if you are working on a long excel sheet, data entry of numbers will be very cumbersome.
      full keyboard layout
      Typical full keyboard layout (Source: Microsoft)

      For those who do not need a full sized keyboard, or have limited desk space, you may choose to have compact keyboards which may come in different configurations. We will discuss this in another article.

  • Mac or Windows
    The keys are slightly different on the bottom left and right side for “Windows” and the “Command” key for Mac. Some keyboards are designed for both.

  • Multiple Device Capability
    This function was introduced by Logitech several years back, and is now appearing in more keyboards on other brands as well. This function allow the keyboard to switch between 3 devices, e.g. desktop, TV and IPad/Notebook. Logitech’s keyboard has a patented Flow technology which can magically move files between seemingly disconnected devices, by simply cut and paste.

  • Backlit Keys
    In the past, only notebooks require backlit keys because we may need to move and use it in dimly lit places. Today this has changed as wireless keyboards multi-device connection are becoming a norm in mid to high ranged keyboards. There will be situations where backlit keyboards come in handy for both office and home use.

  • Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity
    The latest keyboard should have Bluetooth 4.0 which comes with BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), which may help the keyboard to have a longer battery life.

    On the other hand, we do not require the extended range of the Bluetooth 5.0. Not unless you have a big house, and you need to type on a big screen that is 40 meters away.

  • Rechargeable Internal Battery
    For use at home or in office, the keyboard can be attached to a charging cable all the time at the your main desk or primary location. When it needs to be moved to say, the dining area with your IPad, then unplug the charging cable.

  • Battery Life
    At least 7 days battery life should be adequate if the keyboard is constantly plugged in at the primary location. We do not foresee this as important as the need to keep notebooks or mobile phone charged.

  • Budget
    Based on the above, you might be still be able to get a reasonably good keyboard at a mid-ranged price. However, the above are not the critical requirements that determine the quality of the keyboard.

B. Critical Requirements (Testing)

After selecting the keyboards based on the basic requirements in Section A, the next thing you will need to do is to test the keys. The keys are the most important part of the keyboard, as you will be hitting them thousands of time almost everyday. You will need to find a working sample of the keyboard from Section A, to perform the following tests:

  • The keys shall have minimal lateral play in the normal position (i.e. keys not pressed).
    Test this by placing your finger over a key, and try to “slide” the key sideways without pressing it down. There should be minimal lateral (side) movements.

  • Key actuation distance shall be instant or as short as possible, preferably chiclet keyboards.
    What this means is that how much do you need to press down the key before it is registered.
    • For mechanical keyboard, it is typically about 2mm actuation distance, meaning if you press the key “a” it will be registered after pressing 2mm down. Then there is another 2mm travel after that, making a total of 4mm full travel.

    • For chiclet keyboard (scissors switch), the feeling could be instantaneous. You can test this by resting your finger on a chiclet keyboard of a notebook, and the keys will not move because of the spring holding up your fingers’ weight.

      When you press a little harder, it will goes down all the way by 1.8-2mm or so. Although the feeling is instantaneous, the actuation is actually about 1.4-1.5mm mark based on the Logitech MX Keys or Craft Keyboards.

      So if you are looking at shorter keypress, chiclet keyboard is better.

  • The key press shall be smooth without binding, rubbing or sticky feeling.
    This is the ultimate test for the key press which will differentiate the cheap from a good quality keyboard. If you need to type thousands of words everyday, you definitely do not want to feel the stickiness in every key press.

  • The key actuation should have a positive, tactile feedback and not “mushy” feeling.
    To explain it clearer, it should not feel as if you are pressing down on some sponge below the keyboard. The key press has to be (1) firm, (2) short distance, (3) smooth, and (4) give positive feedback. The chiclet keyboard provide that tactile feel the moment you press the key to overcome the spring in the scissors switch during actuation.

  • The key press should be quiet.
    Normally chiclet keyboards are quite quiet, so this should not be any issue. For mechanical keyboards, look for Cherry MX Brown switches.

  • Actuation Force (AF) shall be light

    The actuation force (AF) is the finger pressure required to push the button down, overcome the tactile “bump” and activate the key switch. This pressure has to be designed as light as possible at more than 40-45 gf (grams force) or 40-45 cn (centi-newton). This similar to mechanical keyboards and chiclet with the softest keys.

After testing the keyboards, we hope that you can finally get decide which of the keyboards you found under Section A, will meet your needs. Please feel free to comment or suggest any new ways to check the keyboard.

For gamers, some may prefer to buy a gaming keyboard for both work and play.

In our case, we have found the following keyboards to meet the above requirements very well. We have tested and purchased both models, one for home and another for the office.

Both keyboards are very sturdy and the quality of the keys are the best that we have ever tried. After using for almost 2 years, we do not have any issues with them except that we felt the prices were high when first deciding whether to buy. They are still working perfectly, and we enjoyed using them to type the articles in this website.

So naturally, we have designed our requirements around MX Keys, as that is the best in the market now. This is one of the way to specify a requirement – by using one of the best keyboards as a reference.

 

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