Keyboards Buying Guide
Introduction: Keyboards are an integral part of the com...
Keyboards Buying Guide
Keyboards are an integral part of the computing experience, a basic keyboard comes standard with any computer that you purchase, but of course you can upgrade or find a keyboard that is better suited to your needs if you wish.
The type and style of keyboard that you may wish to purchase depends greatly on the user of the computer and the tasks they are doing with their systems. You can purchase a keyboard that features buttons specific to office applications, image manipulation, media centered of even gaming specific, but not all keyboards are the same.
One problem I've found with keyboards is that they are not all created equal, and personally I've gone through several keyboards to find one that I am comfortable with. There are many manufacturers of keyboards out there today, and generally I've found that it's worth spending the extra money for a quality keyboard instead of purchasing a lesser known brand.
If your occupation consists mainly of using a computer for long periods of time and specifically using a keyboard, using one that is not right for you can make the experience not a good one overall. Using the wrong keyboard can lead to lowered productivity, and possibly even bodily injuries that could require surgery to fix i.e. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Repetitive Stress Injury.
Types of Keyboards:
There are many types of keyboards on the market today, what type is right for you will depend on what it is you mainly do with your computer. You can find keyboards today with upwards of 130 keys on them depending on the style of type of keyboard you select, gone are the days of the standard 101 key keyboard.
Standard Keyboards are just the basic no frills keyboard, there are no special buttons just commonly used keys, numbers and function keys, most people are familiar with these.
Specialty Keyboards are manufactured and targeted to specialized applications such as graphic designers, computer aided drafting, audio and video editing, and word processing. These keyboards usually have color coded keys or have keys that are labeled with shortcuts that are specific to the applications being used. These keyboards are made specifically for these types of applications and help increase productivity along with making things a bit easier. These types of keyboards can be very expensive costing upwards of thousands of dollars sometimes.
Multimedia Keyboards are becoming very popular since we now use our computers for more and more media related things like music, movies and TV. These types of keyboard usually include additional buttons either on the side or on the top of keyboard to launch and control these media applications, some even include a volume control knob as well. Wireless versions of multimedia keyboards are available to be used with HTPC systems so you can type and control your system from the comfort of your couch. Some of these styles even include a built-in trackball or touch pad to eliminate the need for a mouse.
Gaming Keyboards are also a very popular keyboard segment, there are companies that just specifically create keyboards just for gaming. These types can be just a simple keyboard with improved quality components such as gold contacts to improve the reaction time and life of the keyboard. There are specialized gaming keyboards as well that look nothing like a standard keyboard where you can get overlays for certain popular games on the market today, these styles have keys that are color coded, shaped differently and just look nothing like a keyboard at all. Gaming Keyboards have the ability to be used as a specialized keyboard as well since they are usually programmable, you can program them to your own specific application needs with shortcuts or key combinations.
Novelty Keyboards are those types that really don't fit into any other category, you can find keyboards out there today that will fit in the palm of your hand, that you can roll up to carry with you, those that are water proof and even transparent keyboards with lights to add a bit of color or style to you desktop. There are many types of oddball keyboards out there today, and honestly they aren't very useful for any kind of productivity, they are more for looks or just to be different. While some of these types of keyboards are actually meant to be useful in the end they fail as most are useless really.
Wireless Keyboards have become very popular and you can find any style or type of keyboard in a wireless version. These types have become more common with the growing popularity of home theater PCs, and of course our need to be free of wires and the clutter that comes with them. Primarily there are three types of wireless keyboards, infrared, RF (radio frequency) and bluetooth. Bluetooth and RF are the better of the three because infrared requires line-of-sight to be used, meaning that the transmitter and receiver need to see each other to be able to communicate between the two devices.
Note about Wireless Keyboards:
RF does have the drawback of possibly being hacked and allowing someone to eavesdrop on what you are typing, recording your keystrokes and potentially gaining access to your personal data or information. When choosing a wireless keyboard of this type make sure there is some sort of encryption built into the devices, this is usually standard on higher end keyboards, but it is becoming more common place on all wireless keyboards as security is a universal concern.
The QWERTY keyboard layout has been around since the 1860's, starting in the form of a typewriter, but there are other options available, but just not as common place.
The Dvorak keyboard layout is actually the second most common keyboard layout available today, it was patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak as an attempt to create a better keyboard by addressing problems of fatigue and inefficiency, but the QWERTY style layout is so ingrained into world culture that it has had a hard time gaining a foothold. The main reason for the Dvorak keyboard not being used is that not many people know about it, and those that do are just are not willing to re-learn how to type.
The Grid Layout is another alternative style layout, it uses the basic QWERTY layout but the keys are aligned in a grid and not offset as on a standard keyboard. This style of layout is supposed to be more ergonomic, help prevent typing related injuries and actually help or reduce existing symptoms from said injuries.
Others have tried to re-invent the keyboard but have not had luck with it, you can find many, types of keyboards on the market today besides the standard QWERTY layout.
There are many styles and types of keyboards on the market today, in the end you'll need to determine what best suits your needs and quite possibly you'll have to purchase several until you find the one that is right for you. My advice would have to be research them through product reviews and recommendations, don't just buy a keyboard because it looks good, if possible test a keyboard before buying it, some brick and mortar stores have keyboard on display that allow people to type on them or even test them with a computer before purchasing, at least this way you'll have some idea of what you are buying.
Most people take keyboards for granted as just something that is there, something that we type on and never really give it a second thought, but having the right keyboard can make your computing experience much more enjoyable, increase your productivity and even fun.
It took me quite a while to find one that I'm happy and comfortable with using all the time. So do yourself a favor and don't just buy any old keyboard, do some research and take the time to decide what is right for you personally, you'll be thankful that you did.
Author: Kristofer Brozio
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