Best keyboard for 2021: Wireless, mechanical, Mac, Windows, travel options and more – CNET

Whether you need additional keyboards for remote work or school, your current keyboard has seen better days or you simply want a better typing experience beyond a beginner keyboard, this list will have something to meet your needs. Logitech, Microsoft and Apple are some of the big names in the category of best keyboard, but there are plenty of smaller names worth your attention, too. 

Our picks focus on both wired and wireless keyboards designed for productivity, not gaming. (These are the best gaming keyboards we’ve tested.) It also covers models at a variety of prices because, fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot to get a better keyboard.

Also, unlike phones, TVs, laptops and many other tech products, keyboards aren’t updated frequently. There’s a good chance the best keyboard for you might be a model that’s been around for a while. The market is huge, though, and we’ll continue to test new keyboards and update this list. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments. 

Also read: Best cheap gaming keyboards to rev up your WFH experience

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As far as easy use with multiple devices goes, the K780 continues to be one of the best. Larger than the company’s Bluetooth K380 Multi-Device Keyboard, the K780 can connect over Bluetooth or with a wireless USB receiver. The K780 also adds a number pad and — more importantly — a slot at the back of the keyboard to hold your tablet or phone while you type. 

The keyboard also supports Logitech’s Flow software feature. When the keyboard is paired with one of the company’s Flow-enabled mice, you can move your cursor between paired devices on the same network and the keyboard will follow. It’s like having a virtual KVM switch

For travel, the K380 would be the way to go, but the K780 is the better choice if you’re sliding between a phone, tablet and a computer at home or the office. 

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The old-school Mac keyboard and its pleasing scissor-key mechanism is the keyboard to have for most Mac users. It’s a Bluetooth keyboard that connects to MacOS instantly, and a charge of its built-in battery lasts for many months. This standard keyboard is slim, minimal and matches Apple’s hardware perfectly. And it’s available without the numeric keypad, too. 

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If you’re coming from a laptop keyboard or a typical slim office membrane keyboard, the $140 Pro Type mechanical keyboard might take some adjustment. But once you get used to it, you won’t want to type on anything else. Razer’s orange switches are tactile but not clicky, so you feel the actuation but they’re relatively quiet; you’ll just hear a muted clack when the keys bottom out. (You can get an idea of what they sound like on Razer’s site.) With 45 grams of actuation force, they’re not so light that you’ll make mistakes — and the mechanical keys don’t require so much force that your fingers tire out. 

The keycaps have a soft-touch coating, so you won’t be tapping on straight plastic all day. There’s no RGB LED lighting here like the company’s gaming keyboards: The Pro Type has only white LED-backlit keys. With the backlight off, the key legends are easy to read. The same goes for when the LEDs are near or at their brightest and RGB backlighting can be adjusted. In between, however, the legends can be tricky to see. Also, secondary key functions aren’t illuminated, meaning the symbols on the number keys and media controls are difficult to read. Oddly enough, so are the backlight brightness controls. Key functions can be programmed with Razer’s Synapse software, though. 

The keyboard connects via Bluetooth to up to three devices. It can also be used with a 2.4GHz USB receiver. It can’t be used as a wired keyboard, although you can use it while it’s charging and connected wirelessly. Battery life is rated at up to 84 hours over Bluetooth without the backlight, but a mere 12 hours with it on. Basically, don’t leave the backlight on or you’ll be charging it daily. 

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If your office has reopened but you’re not going to be using the same workspace every day, the K3 Bluetooth keyboard is a fantastic option. The slim, compact mechanical keyboard is a 75% size, meaning it doesn’t have a 10-key number pad but still has function and directional keys. The body, which is made from aluminum on top and a plastic on the bottom, is lightweight and sturdy. 

The keyboard is available with Keychron’s own low-profile optical mechanical switches — brown tactile, blue clicky or red linear — with a white LED backlight or Gateron low-profile mechanical switches with an RGB backlight. I tested all of the Keychron switches and preferred the blue switches for their crisp sound and feel but all three options worked well. Also, if you go with the Keychron switch version, the switches are hot-swappable which lets you customize your typing experience simply by pulling out and replacing the switches without any soldering. (A hot-swappable version with an RGB backlight will be available soon.)

Out of the box, it is set up for Mac use, but Windows-related keycaps are in the box, too. A switch on the back left lets you pick between MacOS/iOS or Windows/Android. Another switch lets you toggle between using Bluetooth (it can connect to up to three devices) or a USB-C-to-USB-A cable. Battery life is good, but keeping the backlight on all the time, especially at its higher settings, will drain it fast. 

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Though it doesn’t match the comfort of the Zergotech Freedom, the $130 K860 is a compact, one-piece split, curved, ergonomic keyboard. It’s not unlike others such as the Microsoft Sculpt, but it’s not bulky, clunky or unsightly — or in need of add-ons. It also gives Logitech a full desk setup of ergonomic devices when paired with its MX Vertical mouse or MX Ergo trackball mouse. 

Despite the low-profile design, there’s plenty of key travel and a pleasing, responsive bounce. It’s not backlit, but the gray keys and white markings have enough contrast that they’re visible in low-light conditions, just not in complete darkness. Powered by two AA-size batteries, the K860 can connect to your computer via Bluetooth or Logitech’s USB-A Unifying receiver, which makes it a good option if you need one keyboard that can quickly switch between computers, phones or tablets. 

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The $33 BK10 is a Bluetooth keyboard that can be connected to up to three devices and lets you quickly switch between connections with keys above its numeric keypad. What’s better is the keyboard is set up to work with Windows, MacOS, iOS/iPadOS and Android devices. 

It has a slim, lightweight body with matte-finished stainless steel on the top and sides and ABS plastic on the bottom. It’s available in other finishes, too. The keyboard’s scissor keys give it a responsive key feel, and it will last for up to three months on a single charge. 

While it’s a full keyboard with a number pad, it’s set up more like a laptop keyboard with half-height up and down arrow keys squeezed between two full-size left and right arrow keys tucked below the right Shift key. It’s essentially the same size and layout as Apple’s smaller Magic Keyboard, but with a number pad. One potentially frustrating difference, though: The left-hand Control and Function keys are flipped in position. Otherwise, this is a great pick if you’re in need of a budget-friendly option for your MacOS and iOS devices, your Windows and Android devices or a mix of them all. 

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I’ve tested dozens of gaming and office keyboards — mechanical and membrane — over the past few years, and Varmilo’s Moonlight MA108M (using the company’s own EC Switch V2 switches) is easily one of the best mechanical keyboards available. From its solid build quality to its unbelievably smooth feel and pleasing sound, it offers an amazing typing experience.

It’s a nice-looking keyboard, too. The $150 Moonlight — available in a 110%, 108-key version I tested as well as a smaller, tenkeyless size — is one of several themes that are available with the new switches. Varmilo’s other themed keyboards, from panda- and ocean-inspired designs to more vintage-looking layouts, are also currently available with Cherry MX switches.

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The Freedom, like most ergonomic keyboards, aims to eliminate pain caused by using a traditional office keyboard. Instead of a radical redesign, though, Zergotech took a split ergonomic keyboard and improved it with unique gliding palm rests that let your hands float while you type. Bays below the keyboard allow individual palm rests to slide around so you can reach all the keys while keeping your wrists up and level. The keycaps are also specially designed with an ergonomic curve for more natural finger positioning.

Each half of the keyboard tents up toward the center at a 5-degree angle. But, for more lift in any direction, there are four folding feet underneath to raise the bottom, top, left or right of each side to get the perfect wrist rest positioning for you. 

With the split design, Zergotech also tweaked the key layout to make the rows more symmetrical. That means there will be an adjustment period for most people. It took me a couple of weeks of regular use, but I recommend committing to using it full-time because going back and forth between this computer keyboard and a standard layout seemed to make things worse. (You can use its sliding wrist rests on a desk with a regular keyboard or mouse, though, which helped relieve pain when I wasn’t using the Freedom.)

Also, I liked that no software was needed to program the keyboard for your needs — such as creating shortcut keys, copying or swapping keys or switching from a Windows to MacOS key layout. It’s all done with simple key combos and a text editor like Notepad for the interface. (Check out the PDF guides on its site to get a better idea of how it works.) There’s also a mouse layer you can activate if you’d rather keep your hands on the keyboard all the time.

The overall feel of the keyboard is great thanks to the custom-made Kailh Box mechanical switches that eliminate any scraping or ping from the springs. The result is a smooth actuation with no off-putting sound and no wobble due to the boxed stem design. The Kailh white switches I tested have a pleasing click but might be too loud if you’re sharing space. The company also offers a quieter tactile switch and includes O-rings to dampen clack when the keys bottom out.

Zergotech’s fresh approach to the ergonomic keyboard really works. Since the keyboard layout doesn’t change too much from what you’re likely used to, the adjustment period is relatively short and being able to get the proper positioning for me is much better than the one-size-fits-most approach by others. But it’s the sliding wrist rests that really help get you in the right position to relieve wrist and shoulder pain. At $339, it’s a worthwhile investment covered by a 60-day money-back guarantee and a two-year warranty. 

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Large, wired and designed primarily for Windows users, this is the overstuffed recliner of ergonomic keyboards. At around $50, it’s more affordable than most ergo models, although it’s a full-size keyboard and requires a good bit of desk space. You’re probably better off keeping this on an under-mount keyboard tray and your mouse on your desktop. 

Like most ergonomic keyboards, this one takes a little time to adjust to — partly because of the split keyboard design but also due to its high actuation force. It is comfortable, though, and an attachable lift at the front puts your hands at a negative angle for better positioning.

There are three programmable hotkeys at the top left, followed to the right by a row of media controls and quick-launch buttons for the calculator, screen snips, TaskView to see your open windows, system lock and search. It even has a shortcut button for symbols and emoji. 

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Cherry is best known for its mechanical key switches (including Cherry MX Brown keyboard switches) prized by gamers and typists. They also make a number of office keyboards and mice like the $55 DW 9000 Slim keyboard and mouse set. The keyboard uses the company’s SX scissor keys that give you an excellent typing experience. It feels solid and stable under your fingers. The key legends are laser-inscribed for durability, so you won’t have to worry about them wearing off too soon. 

The keyboard and the included compact mouse can connect by Bluetooth or with the included USB nano receiver. Pop in the receiver and both the keyboard and mouse are instantly connected. (The receiver magnetically stores in the bottom of the mouse when not in use.) Regardless of the connection, the wireless has AES-128 encryption. Both devices have built-in batteries and charge via Micro-USB. 

The 9000 isn’t backlit, which is disappointing. Also, because the keyboard is designed to be used flat, there are no flip-down legs at the rear to adjust your typing angle. Instead, Cherry includes a couple of pairs of adhesive feet — an odd solution for a keyboard with an otherwise high-end look and feel. Heavy number pad users might want to skip this keyboard, too, because Cherry put a Backspace key where you’d typically find the Minus. 

The included Cherry Keys software lets you easily reprogram the function keys and a handful of others to do things like open files, folders or a web page, run a program or control media, or you can set up a macro. You can use it for the mouse’s buttons as well. 

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Lightweight, thin and with long battery life, the $20 HB030B is a thrifty solution to adding a Bluetooth keyboard to a phone, tablet or computer. Despite the small size, its layout doesn’t take much time to adjust to, and while I expected it to feel like I was typing on a tabletop, the keys are actually comfortable with a fair amount of travel considering its thin body. Arteck even managed to give it a backlight that can be changed to one of seven colors, which is something far pricier keyboards don’t have. 

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