written by: Austin•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 7/9/2011
In the battle of Bluetooth vs. pack-in, most people tend to just stick with that which they were given. Some people, however, would prefer a totally separate keyboard for their laptops, but which is truly better? Here's a comparison so you can decide what's right for you.
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If you're unsure what I'm talking about in this debate article, I'll be dealing with the comparisons between laptop keyboards (ie, the keyboards that come built into the bottom section of your laptop) and Bluetooth keyboards (a separate wireless keyboard you can buy). Many people are debating whether they should go out and search for one of the latter, because they feel like it may do them better over what they already have, and I'm here to pass a verdict on that. I won't be looking at anything specific (if you want a specific comparison of keyboard to keyboard, leave a comment) but rather will just take a generalized look at the idea of external keyboards vs. the idea of wireless external options.
Let the battle begin!
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Built In: The Pros and Cons
The reasons why people stick with the keyboards that are on their laptops to begin with are numerous, and not the least of the reasons is that it's cheaper. No need to go out and buy another keyboard, taking precious dollars away from more important things, and no need to worry that you'll buy a keyboard that doesn't work with your computer; whatever comes with a laptop is going to work with a laptop.
Additionally, you save space too. Since you won't need to carry around a whole other piece of hardware, you can casually slide your laptop into your backpack or laptop bag without fear of squashing anything.
Buying a laptop is a pretty remarkable investment. Within one device you're getting a computer, a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, speakers, and a battery to make it all portable. On top of that, you often get things like a webcam, and pack-in software to sweeten the deal. But all of these things have a downside: If you don't like them, they're stuck to the computer. You can't just swap it out like you could an external piece of hardware. If it breaks it's much more expensive and time-consuming to replace, often requiring professional intervention if you're aren't an experienced computer technician.
Also, the keys on laptops can often feel flimsy and cause your fingers to slip while typing if you aren't an experienced typist.
On the aesthetic side of things, remember that the keyboard is stuck to the monitor, meaning you can't sit back and relax or back away from the monitor while typing if your eyes get tired. Your hands have to go where the computer goes and vice versa.
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External: Pros and Cons
External keyboards are sturdier, more flexible, and feel nicer to type on; that's all there is to it. No matter how hard you try, it's extremely hard to actually break an external keyboard, even if you do something drastic like spill a drink all over it. Not to mention that if you want to move around, the wireless Bluetooth capabilities will allow you that privilege. It's almost like your laptop can serve as a monitor that you can put all the way across the room if you so desire.
Now, this doesn't have much in the way of practical application, but it is possible that it could come quite in handy if you're often doing presentations in front of people and need to be able to type without having a laptop sitting in front of you. Take, for instance, a scenario where you'd be in front of a group of people showing off a power point, and you want to be able to control it from a podium. You certainly can't have a whole laptop in front of you (that would be unprofessional, at best!) so what can you do? Get a Bluetooth keyboard!
Unfortunately, in order to get a Bluetooth keyboard, you'll need to shell out some extra money. For a keyboard compatible with Macintosh computers you could be spending upwards of $80, and around $30 on Windows usable devices. Do you really want to spend that kind of money? Also, think about the size of your laptop bag: Do you have the extra space to be lugging around a giant keyboard on top of your laptop, power cord, and anything else you plan on bringing with you?
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When it comes down to my experience with my laptop keyboard and my external keyboards, I can't help but hand it to the built-in side of the battle. When I bring my laptop places for two reasons: Portability and place-ability. What I mean by the latter of these two is that I want to be able to place the computer anywhere and use it without having to worry about juggling multiple devices on my lap and then pack them up again without breaking anything.
On top of that, it's worth noting that there really isn't anything wrong with the stickiness of laptop keyboards. Take the keyboard most recently used on the 15" Macbook Pros. Compared to older laptops and many Windows laptops, this mimics the feel and resistance of many of the higher end external keyboards, but doesn't take up the extra space or cost the extra money.
There really isn't much a reason to go with an external Bluetooth keyboard over the laptop keyboards of today. Most of the latter are equally as comfortable, provide equal support, and are equally as sturdy - not to mention the lower price. You won't need to deal with setting up Bluetooth connections or worry about it when things go wrong. The bottom line here is that in the battle of Bluetooth keyboard vs. laptop keyboard, the laptop keyboard won.