There are many that think that a keyboard is just a keyboard; a way to type in what you want to type in and that’s all it does. That could not be further from the truth. Keyboards certainly do that and do it well, but there is so much more functionality that can come out of a keyboard that it would take a whole article to cover.
Thankfully, this is that article and by the end of it, you will have a far better understanding of the different types of keyboard/mouse combos, what they can do, and what scenarios are best suited for their use. You will never think of keyboards quite the same again.
Let’s start with the basics:
Different types of mouse/keyboard
There are a variety of mouse and keyboard types to take into consideration. These are just a few of them; don’t think for a second that there is not a huge variety of others.
Meet the most popular variation. Technology, in general, is moving towards wireless functionality these days because it makes any computer setup far cleaner and more convenient to use. For a long, long time, there were long cables that needed to be corralled and tamed, lest they run wild on your setup.
But with wireless variations, especially with mouse/keyboard combos, all you need is a single USB dongle. These plug into one of your USB slots, the software will automatically install the drivers, and you can begin using your new devices within seconds.
Gone are the days of having to find the right port in the back of your computer, weaving the cables into a neat line, securing them, and then having to dread taking it all apart should you have to move anything. Wireless makes everything more convenient, from top to bottom.
These are very similar to the wireless counterparts, though they are capable of using no computer ports at all. Of course, your computer needs Bluetooth capability to use this kind of keyboard/mouse, but that feature is becoming standard on laptops and desktops.
Really, the only difference between the Bluetooth and wireless options is that with the former, you don’t need to even bother with one USB port thanks to the Bluetooth connectivity. For most of us, this is probably not a big deal. If you find yourself using up a lot of your USB ports on your computer, that is where the Bluetooth functionality might come in handy.
Both the Bluetooth and wireless functions allow for a cleaner, more fluid setup that allows greater flexibility when it comes to moving things around at a moment’s notice. No more having to deal with huge tangles of cords when you can cut at least two of them out of the equation.
All keyboards might seem the same and while they certainly have the same functionality goal, they are definitely not all the same. For a gaming keyboard, the key here is performance. Gamers want quicker response times from their keys as well as quicker bounce-back.
This is where the gaming keyboard stands out. With mechanical keys, the bounce-back is quite quick, and the depression of each key requires less force. In the gaming world, it is all about response time and even being able to shave off a fraction of a second can make a huge difference.
The second feature of gaming keyboards is the backlighting. I know what you’re thinking: it’s cool, but who cares about lighting? Well, it’s not that simple. There are a number of different activation weights for the keys based on their color. For gamers, this is the difference in those response times. You might want to find something that takes a lighter depression level, allowing you to hit more keys more often.
For gamers, these are massive differences that might not seem huge to others until you are in the virtual pit, battling it out.
These are most likely to be the priciest of the bunch, but the advantages of using an ergonomic keyboard have been proven, though it takes some getting used to at first. Generally speaking, an ergonomic keyboard can come across like a disabled keyboard. It kind of resembles the letter “V”, but many companies use them to make for greater comfort for two-handed users.
Here’s where the benefits come into play: ergonomic keyboards have been shown to greatly reduce muscle strain and even help cut down on the risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which can be incredibly painful to deal with.
Also, while you may type slower at first, it can help to dramatically increase your typing speed. Ultimately, the price is far greater than other types of keyboards, but the long-term benefits are there if you are willing to front the cost.
These are also known as “virtual keyboards” which are more common in peripheral devices such as touchpads. There is also a virtual keyboard function available on some newer touch-screen laptops and PCs; ultimately it can help keep your setup minimalistic, especially if you aren’t a fan of using the traditional keyboard.
The biggest issue with this, at least from users, is that there is no “feel” to them. You have to develop a bit of intuition regarding the location of the keys, whereas you can develop muscle memory on a traditional keyboard by striking the keys over a long period of time.
This one comes down to personal preference. Some prefer the feel of the keys beneath their fingers while others prefer a cleaner, minimalistic approach as well as the functionality of a touchscreen in every way.
As mentioned briefly above, sets are becoming commonplace. This means that you can find keyboard and mouse combinations that come packaged together, oftentimes with the use of one single USB dongle to keep your ports free for other usages.
The cost can vary greatly depending on the functionality of the devices that you are purchasing and there are definitely instances where you might not want to pair the two. This is a great pick for a workplace setting or for users who aren’t going for maximum customization with their mouse and keyboard.
Our Gaming Keyboard Selection: Redragon’s LED Backlit Wired Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Aluminum Base, 104 Standard Keys
Our Best Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Set: Jelly Comb’s 2.4GHz Ultra Slim Full Size Rechargeable Wireless Keyboard and Mouse Combo for Windows, Laptop, Notebook, PC, Desktop, Computer (Black)* Paid Links from Amazon Associates Program
Key features of mouse/keyboards
For the mouse, they are clearly less comprehensive than your standard keyboard, so it is a bit easier to narrow down what you are looking for. When it comes to the mouse, the most important aspect is in the tracking technology.
The mouse is used for navigating the pointer on the screen and traversing through scrollable sections far more quickly than using the keyboard. With a good tracking technology built into the mouse, this can be seamless or clunky.
There used to be a time where a rubberized ball was in the body of the mouse that contacted gears which then communicated with the device’s drivers. But now, everything is optical which removes the need to clean that rollerball.
With the introduction of glass laser mice as well as dual-laser options, even the need for a mouse pad has been greatly reduced over the years. Mice have become clean, efficient, and very cost-effective on their own or as a part of a set.
Features of a keyboard
There are quite a few things to look at, but we are going to focus on the five most important factors: connectivity, portability, practicality, functionality, and ergonomics.
This was touched on a bit above, but the overall connectivity of these peripheral devices has migrated to the wireless/Bluetooth arena. Anyone who gives even moderate care about their computer setup today does not want wires. They are messy, in the way, and difficult to move on a whim.
With the wireless/Bluetooth functionality, you can now connect to any computer in a matter of moments with a setup that is as clean as possible and uses minimal (or none for Bluetooth) ports on your workstation.
Simply put, wireless/Bluetooth makes using your devices seamless and easy as well as cleaner in your setup than ever before.
This generally refers to two things about your keyboard: ease of transport and compatibility with other peripheral devices. The former is relatively straightforward now since everything is wireless/Bluetooth. You can bring your laptop with you anywhere you desire and connect it to any desktop or laptop in a matter of seconds.
As far as peripheral input devices, there are quite a few and your keyboard can interact with these devices. Things like character readers, light pens, and so on can be connected either to your workstation or, depending on your keyboard, through that avenue.
The more expensive keyboards will offer this functionality, but it is definitely not common. Really, this is only imperative if you need maximum portability and connectivity for your devices, but the best bet is to get more ports added to the workstation itself.
When choosing a keyboard, what you need to decide is just what you plan on using your keyboard for. If you are using it for work, you might not want to spend to get a gaming keyboard where the emphasis is on speed and depression rate of the keys. Those are things that you just wouldn’t need.
Think about what you need. This can help not only save you a ton of money but some frustration as well when you try to implement features that you just don’t need. As stated above and throughout: not all keyboards are the same, so don’t treat them that way.
Consider carefully the desired purpose of your keyboard and that will be a huge, important first step towards finding the keyboard that you need to achieve your desires.
There is an old saying “you get what you pay for” and while more expensive doesn’t always equate to “better”, you can safely assume that if you go for the cheapest option possible that it won’t deliver high-end functionality.
For more basic users, the desires are minimal: you just need something to convey the words that you need. But for someone like a gamer, there is far more involved. Deciding what kind of functionality you need out of your device is the first step.
From there, try out a few different keyboards to see which best suits your needs. The functionality of a low-end keyboard can differ greatly from a high-end gaming keyboard. Don’t make the wrong choice because it could greatly affect the performance of the keyboard that you choose.
If you tend to use your keyboard quite a bit, this might be a function worth looking into. Ergonomics, as stated above, make it much more friendly on your fingers, hands, and wrists and will help to cut down on your chances of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Save yourself the pain by getting an ergonomic keyboard.
For those who do a lot of typing, it might be a great idea in terms of bumping up your productivity, too. After an initial introduction phase, you should see an increase in your typing speed, upping your productivity by default.
How do I choose the right keyboard/mouse for me?
As stated previously, it depends greatly on what you are looking to use it for. If you just use it for browsing the web and some light typing, any type of keyboard will likely do the job although wireless/Bluetooth is highly recommended simply for a cleaner setup.
For those who want to get a bit more out of their computers, look for a more specific keyboard. Gamers will notice the difference between the standard keyboard and a gaming version simply in response time and the ease of which keys compress and bounce back. Those split seconds can make a world of difference and can mean defeat or victory.
There are so many different types of keyboards and mouse out there that it can feel a bit confusing to make sure that you choose the right one. And keep in mind that while cost certainly has an impact, it isn't everything. Opting for the most expensive doesn't mean that you will get the level of comfort and functionality that you desire in a keyboard. Do your homework and you will be able to select the keyboard that will serve you well.
At the end of the day, however, whatever you want is what you should get. If you desire something with backlighting and ergonomic design despite infrequent use, then that is what is best for your setup. Just keep in mind the benefits and costs of each type and weigh that into your final decision-making process when choosing a new keyboard and mouse.
Our Preferred Ergonomic Mouse Selection: Vertical Wireless Mouse - By LEKVE RY. Rechargeable 2.4GHz Optical Vertical Mice : 3 Adjustable DPI 800/1200/1600 Levels 6 Buttons, for Laptop, PC, Computer, Desktop or Notebook
Our Must-Have, Most Recommended Keyboard Set: PICTEK’s Backlit Keyboard and Mouse Combo, LED Wired Gaming Keyboard, Ergonomic Keyboard, Wrist Rest Keyboard with Efficient Multimedia Keys, Programmable Gaming Mouse for Mac, PC, Laptop Gamers* Paid Links from Amazon Associates Program