If you’re not on a laptop or a phone look down at your keyboard. It’s probably the one that came with your PC. Maybe IT handed it over as they explained the no porn policy at the big company you work for. However you acquired it (and you almost certainly didn’t pay for it), there’s a very good chance it’s a hot piece of garbage. That isn’t your fault! The keyboards that ship with most towers and all-in-ones these days are not great. The same goes for the cheap $10 specials you pick up on Amazon. You need something better. You need a good keyboard.
The problem is when you talk to someone in-the-know about keyboards they tend to point you towards...expensive ones. I know this because I have definitely suggested friends spend more than $200 on a keyboard before.
But it doesn’t have to—it shouldn’t—be that way. There’s a middle-ground between the luxury models that keyboard nerds like myself adore and the absolute garbage that came with your computer or you spent the equivalent of two coffees on.
So let’s go over what you should know when buying a decent keyboard.
First: You don’t have to drop a whole pile of money on one, but you should plan to spend more than $50. Keyboards that cost less, as a rule, are lower quality devices with inferior key switches. The switch is the mechanism you press down on when typing (you can read more about specific key switches here). In many senses, it’s the heart of the keyboard and as you spend more money that’s the first thing to improve.
Supremely budget keyboards (think $50 and under) tend to have mushy membrane keys or super shallow and unreliable mechanical keys. They’re usually not pleasant to type on, they’re not durable, and the keyboards themselves tend to be wobbly and poorly made.
Once you go above the $50 mark you’ll find a leap in quality, especially if you choose mechanical keyboards, which can be louder to type on but tend to be much more durable. At this price range, avoid big box stores and Amazon. Instead check out Massdrop or look into Mechanical Keyboards. The latter is a great place to find an inexpensive, but quality boards. It also sells key switch testers for as little as $10. These testers have a wide variety of switches on them so you can check out each kind of switch and figure out your favorite type.
If you’re willing to spend a little more money—think $70 to $100—you can go back over to Amazon or your local Best Buy. There you’ll find solid keyboards from people like Razer and Logitech. They may not be as attractive (they’ll almost certainly be black and have a plethora of LEDs), but they’ll still feel great to type on, they’ll be fairly customizable via apps on your computer, and they should last a while.
Once you go past the $70-to-$100 range, your best bet is to return to Massdrop, Mechanical Keyboards, or seek out smaller keyboard makers on Amazon and eBay (Leopold, Filco, and Vortex are nice choices). These keyboards are a much higher quality with a wider range of options as far as key switches go.
Should you splurge?
But should you really go past that $100 price-range for the nicer keyboards. For most people? Nah.
Dropping $50 to $100 will get you a perfectly fine mechanical keyboard (or higher quality membrane keyboard) that feels good to type on, has a stable base, and will last a good, long while. Spending more than that is necessary only if you have the money and really, really care about key switches or appearance.