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The Many Different Types of Keyboards - Your Choices

written by: Halahblue•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/28/2012

There is a wide variety of keyboards on the market today. This guide will familiarize you with the main options available, including some of the newest, at times strangest types of keyboards.

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    Wireless Keyboards

    There are two basic types wireless keyboards. One type is infrared and the other is radio frequency. This refers to how they connect, but can affect how they work for you. Infrared keyboards must have a constant connection with the receiver. Radio Frequency keyboards offer a bit more mobility. Most of these require batteries for power. Others use USB cables to stay charged.

    Bluetooth is another type of connectivity used for wireless keyboards. There is huge variety among Bluetooth wireless keyboards. This Apple keyboard is ultra-slim and super small. iGo created this one for use with a smartphone or PDA. It folds up, comes with a carry case and little stand for your PDA. Connection times, keyboard durability, and support can vary widely between these products. The Optical Desktop Elite from Microsoft also offers Bluetooth connectivity.

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    While this category is becoming a thing of the past, some people still prefer wired keyboards. They don’t need to be charged up, and thus won’t die unexpectedly. Also, if you use a desktop computer, there are rarely times when you need to walk 30 feet away from it and still use your keyboard. Keyboards used to use AT connectors. They are a round plug with prongs at the bottom. Some desktops still require this connection, some have one included in case you have an older keyboard, and other brand new desktops may not have one at all. ATX keyboards use PS/2 connectors. To the average person, the plug looks almost exactly the same as an AT connector. However, this connector is much more commonly used. The most common connection for wired keyboards now is USB. The cord plugs into any standard USB port on any computer. Many of them are plug and play, so you don’t have to waste any time, while other come with some pretty extensive software to install for all the fun, special buttons available on many keyboards now.

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    Over a number of years keyboards seem to keep getting bigger and bigger. More special keys and programmable keys appeared, almost all included a separate number key area, and the introduction of ergonomic keyboards expanded the area taken up even more. There has been a trend toward more compact keyboards in recent years. Some are slim, most exclude a numeric keypad, and some are basically just a rubber pad. Some compact keyboards include a touchpad either built in or separate to eliminate having a big mouse on your work space. This mini keyboard by A4 is under $20. Crystal Visions makes this mini keyboard with optional touchpad. Adesso created a mini multi-media keyboard you can check out here. Another compact keyboard is the roll up keyboard. This keyboard is not exactly small in the surface area department. It is very light and rolls up for easy travel or storage.

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    Ergonomic keyboards can be simple as the Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 or Logitech Cordless Desktop Wave or as complicated as this Comfort Keyboard from Fentek-Ind. The primary purpose of ergonomic keyboards is to keep your hands and wrists in a natural, comfortable position to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and aid in preventing problems due to poor posture. Most ergonomic keyboards have a split center that separates the keys and are indented slightly where the letter keys are. This Microsoft 4000 has a gentle split and can be tilted from the front to keep your wrists raised. Others, like this one, have a slightly more intense split.

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    Special Keyboards

    As technology continues to advance, more and more keyboards are developed. While most are QWERTY style, good old plastic keyboards, they are aimed at specific users with specific needs or wants.

    Gaming Keyboards

    The Logitech G15, feature keys specifically designed with gamers in mind. They include programmable keys, backlighting, LCD panels, and volume and media control buttons, so gamers have all the control they need right on their keyboards. Ideazon offers some very impressive looking gamer keyboards here.


    Internet keyboards were designed with Internet use in mind. However, most standard keyboards have incorporated Internet keyboard ideas as standard now. Internet keyboards have programmable hotkeys, homepage and email keys, and keys for your favorites menu. Each differs in its options. This Microsoft Internet Keyboard is a good example, but is no longer available from Microsoft.


    Multi-media keyboards can be standard, ergonomic, wireless or wired. They may be aimed at gamers, audiophiles, or the average user. You can pay anywhere from $30 to $200 or more for a multi-media keyboard. All of them include keys targeted at media control, like volume keys, play and pause keys, and mute keys. A basic multi-media keyboard, like the Digital Media Keyboard 3000 has keys for commonly used commands. The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 offers a lot more features aimed specifically at multi-media control.


    The Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 from Microsoft is actually a combination of types of keyboards. It’s rechargeable, backlit, and media-focused. It also has Bluetooth, a navigation pad, and its curved like their ergonomic natural line. Many backlit keyboards are aimed at gamers, but they could prove helpful for anyone. Saitek creates backlit keyboards aimed at any user including the Eclipse II. The Deck82 and Deck Legend keyboards are backlit, but with a normal, no-frills design.


    Membrane keyboards are composed of a single membrane and usually do not have separate keys, just sensors beneath the letters. They’re great for homes with small children and are used often in hospital settings because they can be washed off. They’re made with materials that are resistant to many chemicals, water, oil and other substances that can ruin the average keyboard. The Intrinsic 109 is one example, but membrane keyboards do have a little variety between them.

    Virtual Keyboards

    This type of keyboard is projected onto any surface. There are no keys, just light. Some virtual keyboards are available for your desktop, but manufacturers are currently focused on the smartphone and PDA market. They expect to make quite an impact in the near future too. This Virtual Laser Keyboard by i.Tech is quite impressive.