Keyboards these days come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, and people's preferences tend to be just as varied.
Do you want wired or wireless? Portable or bulky? Low-profile laptop-style keys or chunkier desktop versions? Does it need to be mechanical? Do you need a numpad? Do you want LEDs, custom hotkeys, USB pass-through, and other typical gaming features?
We streamline the process of choosing the perfect option by outlining what we know to be the best keyboards available in 2020 and offering buying advice for those new to the market too.
1. Logitech Craft
Logitech’s Craft keyboard is amongst the greatest wireless options on the market, providing a truly premium experience for both PC and Mac users.
It’s sleek, and boasts impressive key stability that you can really feel under your fingers when typing, and the spherical key imprint makes it easier to orient your fingers. These combined provide a near-perfect typing experience, but that’s not all the Craft has to offer.
It’s backlit, like many other keyboards on the market at the moment, but there’s a twist – the keyboard will only light up when it detects your hands. It’s admittedly a small feature, but it helps improve battery life and really does show the level of detail that Logitech went to when designing the Craft.
But while the keys are impressive, that’s not the highlight of the Craft. In the top-left of the keyboard, you’ll notice a dial. What makes the dial impressive is that the controls it offers are contextual and change depending on the app you’re using at the time.
You can adjust your brush size in Photoshop, zoom in on a Word document or turn up the volume in Spotify with the same dial. It’s touch-enabled as well as rotatable, and users can use Logitech Options to create custom shortcuts for it too.
In a market full of similar-looking keyboards, the Logitech Craft really does offer something unique.
2. Hexgears Venture
The Hexgears Venture has a simple goal: to be the best low-profile mechanical keyboard in the world. Simple, but ambitious - but the Venture just about pulls it off.
The Venture uses Kailh Choc mechanical switches, with a choice of red (linear), brown (tactile & smooth), or white (clicky AF). Our review unit came with the white switches, and while they do make a proper clatter, they're satisfying as hell for it. The brown should run quieter if you're more worried about noise in an office, while the red are recommended for gaming.
Speaking of which, the Venture is designed to suit both gaming and productivity equally well. I've mostly used it in the office, where the sleek, compact, and minimalist design is welcome. But whack on the (optional) RGB lighting and suddenly you've got a flashy gaming board, with both per-key lighting and a light ring, all configurable from the keyboard itself.
The low-profile keys mean that typing on this falls somewhere between a laptop and a classic mechanical - essentially ideal for anyone (like me) who loves mechanical keyboards but has ruined their muscle memory through years of typing on low-travel laptop keys.
The board comes with rechargeable AA batteries, charged over USB-C (a welcome bit of future-proofing). Battery life is variable - Hexgears claims it'll last four weeks on two-three hours' usage a day, but that's without the RGB lights. Switch the lighting on and the company estimates 16 hours of use, which is roughly what I've seen, and in practice means plugging it in once every few days.
You can of course use it wired while it's charging, or wirelessly over Bluetooth, with support for hot-switching between up to four devices. Hexgears even throws in a few Mac keycaps just in case, though since these weren't included in my review sample I can't comment on them (but, y'know, they're keycaps, so I'm sure they're fine).
3. Logitech MX Keys
If you’re looking for something a little cheaper than Logitech’s Craft keyboard without compromising on quality or experience, look no further than the MX Keys.
The MX Keys is a full-size wireless keyboard with a tidy design. It boasts an improved key feel compared to other office-focused Logitech products, featuring slightly concaved keycaps that guide your fingers towards the centre when typing.
The backlighting is intelligent thanks to built-in proximity sensors, lighting up whenever you bring your hands near the keyboard and turning the lights off when you’re away from your desk to conserve battery life. Rather uniquely, it can also adjust the brightness of the backlighting based on ambient light levels in your environment.
The issue is that even with intelligent lighting, the backlit keys can have a negative effect on battery life. The MX Keys, with 8hrs of use a day, can last around five months with backlighting disabled, but that drops down to only 10 days if you turn the lighting on.
Keys aside, the MX Keys feels solid and that’s thanks, in part, to the metal sheet at the core of the body and is improved further by a grippy strip to stop the keyboard from skating across the desk while typing – even during the most intense email arguments.
You’ve got compatibility with Logitech Flow on offer too, allowing you to connect to up to three devices at once, and thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, that includes mobile devices and tablets too.
For less than £100, you can’t really go wrong with the Logitech MX Keys.
4. Razer Huntsman Mini
Though Razer's new 60% keyboard is arguably aimed more at gamers, it provides a satisfying typing experience that office workers could benefit from, and it takes up an incredibly small amount of space on the desk too.
The Razer Huntsman Mini keyboard is roughly 60% the size of a standard keyboard, dropping not only the numpad like other keyboards in our chart, but also the directional keys and shortcuts that traditionally live to the right of the main keyboard. Well, they're not gone persay, but you'll have to hold the Function button and hit the J, I, K and L keys to move your cursor around on-screen, for example.
That's the one downside of the 60% keyboard in terms of productivity, but if it's not something you find yourself using too often, the keyboard could be the perfect compact option for your desk. It's also rather understated in design, with per-key RGB lighting that isn't as in-your-face as some keyboards on the market.
That lighting can be customised or turned off completely via Razer Synapse for PC, but Mac users are out of luck, as there's no macOS counterpart - though why a Mac user would want a PC keyboard is beyond us.
Being a Razer product, you should expect high-quality mechanical switches on offer. The review unit we were supplied with sports Razer's clicky optical switch, providing crisp, tactile feedback with every keypress, making it a joy (if not a loud one) to type all day long. It's also available with Razer's second-gen linear optical switches, which provide less of a tactile click and quicker response time on the gaming side of things.
If you game and work on the same PC and don't want to use two separate keyboards, the Huntsman Mini could be a great-looking, compact option.
5. Cherry DW 9000 Slim
If you're a fan of flatter laptop-style chiclet keyboards then you're in safe hands with Cherry, one of the most well known and trusted keyboard manufacturers.
The DW 9000 Slim is an excellent wireless keyboard which has a top-notch typing experience – and we love it in the black colour with bronze highlights that frame each key. So it's stylish as well as practical, available in silver if you prefer.
We love the typing experience here thanks to a high-quality scissor mechanism combined with a low key stroke. The keys offer just enough movement with a nice crisp action. It's also very quiet if you don't want a loud keyboard.
The device is very flat as standard but what might look like spare keys in the box are actually optional rubber feet to raise the back up.
The DW 9000 Slim is compact yet offers a separate number pad as well as a few extra keys like volume, calculator, and windows lock. Handy LEDs in caps lock, scroll and num pad double up as a battery indicator, flashing faster the lower the battery level.
You needn't use a USB dongle for the keyboard either as Bluetooth is also an option and it charges via a Micro-USB port on the back meaning you can carry on using it while plugged in. Either way, information is sent with AES-128 encryption.
The 9000 Slim also comes with a matching wireless mouse.
6. Apple Magic Keyboard
This is the wireless keyboard that comes with all iMacs but you can buy it separately. It’s one of our favourite Apple products full stop – excellent minimal design, ridiculously long battery life and very functional.
A full-size layout is smartly fit into a small surface area so it’s great for space saving as well as looking good on a desk. We’ve used it with a Mac and as a keyboard for a MacBook plugged into a monitor and it’s ideal for either.
The keys have quite shallow travel, but not as low as the oft-maligned butterfly keyboards on the latest MacBooks. We find it extremely comfortable to type on as the wedge design gives it a raised angle, rather than lying flat.
It’s incredibly quiet too which is good for offices and shared work spaces. Pairing via Bluetooth to Macs is very easy, and it even works with all modern iPads and iPhones. You could use it with a PC, but with the Mac layout and command buttons it’s a less than ideal move.
The standard keyboard doesn’t have a numpad and the directional arrows are condensed. If you prefer there is a numpad version that you can get in a slick space grey or the standard white.
7. Penclic KB3
Swedish company Penclic has made it its mission to take on RSI in the workplace, and the KB3 is its latest attempt.
That means that ergonomics have come first in the design here, which features a subtle gradient, comfortable keys, and a compact enough size that you won't have to strain and stretch to hit different key combinations.
Despite the size, the KB3 still boasts full-size keys, housed in a reassuringly sturdy aluminium body. As for the look, there's a nice balance between the simple black body and the flashes of colourful orange and blue used to pick out different functions.
The KB3 can be used either wired or wirelessly over Bluetooth, and comes with a USB-to-Micro-USB cable included. It's small and lightweight enough to be a great portable keyboard, but the full-size keys mean it's perfectly comfortable as a day-to-day desktop keyboard too.
It's compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, and you can use the Fn key to quickly switch between the different modes, with specific layouts and functions for each OS.
At £80/$99 the KB3 isn't cheap, but it's built to last, runs on just about every platform, and could be the only keyboard you ever need.
8. Microsoft Sculpt Comfort
The Sculpt Comfort offers a great half-way house between the rather full-on approach of separating the keyboard into two halves (as the Sculpt Ergonomic does) and the traditional straight arrangement of most keyboards.
Although the wrist rest easily detaches, you’ll want to use it as it’s both comfortable and also includes feet to raise it up. Yes: instead of the usual feet at the rear, the Sculpt tips the opposite way, but although it sounds strange, it lives up to its Comfort name.
And once you’ve spent a few days cursing the fact that you can’t instantly touch-type on it after moving from a standard rectangular keyboard, you’ll really begin to appreciate the 3D contoured design and that it’s much better for your poor wrists, especially if you spend all day typing.
The mouse in this Desktop set is also nicely designed with a handy Windows button that – as you’d expect – mirrors the function of the same key on the keyboard. But you can customise it to start OneNote, Cortana, Task View or Virtual Desktops.
The top row of the keyboard includes an array of shortcuts for Windows, and there’s a physical switch which enables them, or makes them work as the normal function keys.
The fact they’re wireless keeps your desk tidy and we had absolutely no issues with connectivity or responsiveness, and the keys and mouse clicks were nice and quiet. All in all, it’s great value at this price.
Keyboard buying advice
A lot of the considerations in buying a keyboard are pretty self-explanatory. Whether you prefer high or low-profile keys is mostly a matter of preference, how bulky you mind it being depends on desk space and if you need it to be portable, and dropping the numpad saves some space at the cost of a little functionality.
One major consideration is whether you want to go wired or wireless. The latter gives you less clutter and added portability, but does mean you suddenly have to start worrying about battery life. If you're looking at wireless, you should also consider whether you want a Bluetooth keyboard that's compatible with Android or iOS, so that you can also use it to turn your phone or tablet into a productive work device.
Mechanical or membrane?
The biggest decision in buying a keyboard is probably the choice between mechanical or membrane key-switches.
Membrane keyboards use a layer of conductive plastic underneath the keys which forms an electrical contact when pressed. Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, use physical switches underneath each key that are actuated when pressed.
Mechanical keyboards are generally said to be more crisp and responsive, and keyboards using the high-quality Cherry MX mechanical switches are a particular favourite. The principal downsides of mechanical keyboards are that they are generally more expensive, bulky, and noisy than their membrane counterparts.
Mechanical keyboards are especially popular among PC gamers because of their superior responsiveness, and are common in gaming keyboards. They also often include features like LED backlighting, pass-through USB ports, and customisable hotkeys and macros for more efficient gaming. If you like the sound of that, take a look at our full guide to the best gaming keyboards.