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Best keyboard for 2021 – CNET

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Whether your current keyboard has seen better days, you need additional keyboards for remote working or school, 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, but there are plenty of smaller names worth your attention, too. 

This list focuses 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 regularly 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 work-from-home experience

Josh Goldman/CNET

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 it 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. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

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 they 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 corded, 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. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

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 $157 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.

Josh Goldman/CNET

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. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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. It’s slim, it’s minimal and matches Apple’s hardware perfectly. And it’s available without the numeric keypad, too. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

If you like multimedia controls and hotkeys, this slim keyboard has you covered. Nearly the entire top row has an extra function attached to it — 19 in all, from search and settings to volume and notifications. For a flat, island-style keyboard, the keys have a fair amount of travel and are quiet. It’s basically like typing on a good laptop keyboard. Both the keyboard and the included mouse are paired to a tiny USB-A receiver. (It stores in the mouse when not in use.) Just plug the receiver into an empty USB port on your computer and you’re ready to start typing. Well, at least you will be once you put in two AAA batteries (not included). 

The bundled mouse gets the job done. The buttons are quiet, which is nice if you’re sharing a workspace (or your home office is also a shared bedroom). It’s no programmable and there are no back and forward buttons on the side. But there is a button on top for changing DPI settings — 800, 1,200 and 1,600 — making it easier to move across larger displays with less hand movement. It’s powered by a single AA battery (also not included). If you already have a good mouse, you probably won’t swap out for this one, but it’s nice to have a backup and again, it’s paired to the receiver so it’s instantly ready to work. Also, while this combo sells for $37, there is usually a coupon available on the Amazon page for $5 off.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

The $36 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. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

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. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

If you need a desk set and only have $25, this keyboard and mouse combo gets the job done. They are incredibly basic as you might expect for the price — they don’t even have power buttons — but the keyboard is comfortable and the mouse is responsive. Just plug in the included USB receiver (it stores in the mouse’s battery compartment when not in use) and you’re ready to work. The keyboard needs a single AAA battery and the mouse needs one AA battery; neither are included. 

The typing experience is acceptable with a typical soft membrane keyboard feel that can be tiring after a while compared to models with scissor mechanisms. I do like the dimpled keys, though, and the key legends are large and easy to read, making this a good choice for typists who are still hunting and pecking — and it’s water-resistant. Also, both the keyboard and mouse are quiet, so if they’re unlikely to disturb others you work in a shared space.

Josh Goldman/CNET

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. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

A reasonable facsimile of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, Macally’s keyboard is also a slim, low-profile wireless keyboard with a battery that will last you months on a single charge. It also uses a scissor-key mechanism that provides a comfortable typing experience. You can also connect it to up to three Apple devices and switch between them on the fly. One thing about the design I didn’t care for is the brushed-metal finish. It is shiny, which can lead to eye-tiring glare from lights or your screen if the keyboard is sitting close enough. But, priced around $50, it’s considerably less expensive than Apple’s. 

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