If you spend most of your working days or nights at a desk in front of a computer, then a decent keyboard is an absolute must. Even if you work on a laptop you should at least consider an external keyboard, which will help you get in a more comfortable working position and save you some minor aches and pains. That goes double if you invest in an ergonomic keyboard.
These are designed to encourage better posture, support your palms and wrists, and push you towards good typing habits that could help you avoid some serious issues aggravated by poor keyboard use.
The dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome might not be one of them – numerous studies have found that the mouse is a more likely culprit – but keyboard mis-use can increase the risk of RSI and tendonitis, while contributing to painful inflammation in the elbows, shoulders, neck and back.
If you’re prone to arthritis, excessive use of an uncomfortable keyboard isn’t likely to help that, either. Switching to an ergonomic keyboard can help you reduce these risks.
How to choose the best ergonomic keyboard for you
What should you look for in an ergonomic keyboard?
Ergonomic keyboards are built to support your hands while typing and encourage a good posture, often through a split design. Many feature an integral wrist or palm support, and have keys that have been engineered to give plenty of feedback without requiring excess force to activate.
The split design doesn’t work for everyone. The theory is that it stops you hunching so much over the keyboard and encourages your shoulders and elbows to adopt a natural posture, while your hands and wrists are supported by the curved design and built-in supports. Ideally, every key is in easy reach of a finger so you can touch type with the minimum of movement from your hands. However, some people find the split layout confusing, and it’s often worse if you rely on two or three fingers and a thumb to type or have what some call a ‘hunt and peck’ style.
The best way around this is just to commit and let your fingers and brain adjust over a week or so, but if that’s a struggle then there are still some great ergonomic keyboards that don’t use a split layout, and focus more on wrist or palm support and the action of the keys.
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Wired or wireless?
As with mice and headsets, there’s a trend towards wireless over wired keyboards from the leading manufacturers. Given that you usually don’t move an ergonomic keyboard too much this is more a nice-to-have than a must-have, but it means one fewer cable stretching across your desk. What’s more, you can often share a USB dongle with a mouse from the same manufacturer, and battery life tends to be good: a pair of AA or AAA batteries will usually cover you for a year or more. Finally, Bluetooth wireless keyboards can often be shared between a few devices – some even feature easy one-button switching – so that you can use the same ergonomic keyboard across, say, a laptop, desktop or convertible PC.
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Traditional or flat?
As with conventional desktop and laptop keyboards, ergonomic keyboards are drifting more towards the flat, chiclet style, for a lighter keypress with less travel that requires less weight or power to actuate. However, you can still find some great ergonomic models that use a more traditional keycap and either a membrane or mechanical switch. So, if you want to longer travel, louder clicks and more feedback, that’s definitely an option.
Is there anything else worth looking out for?
Keyboards may not be a major factor in carpal tunnel syndrome, but a comfortable wrist or palm rest that takes the pressure off your wrists is a definite plus. As with any keyboard, you might also find a numeric keypad or extra function or macro keys useful, depending on the applications you use and the kind of work you might be doing every day.
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The best ergonomic keyboards to buy in 2021
1. Logitech Ergo K860: The best ergonomic keyboard
Price: £109 | Buy now from Amazon
Logitech’s K860 takes the classic split design but goes all out on adding extra comfort everywhere it can. The layout is split down the middle and humped to promote a neutral typing position, and this combined with the light but wonderfully responsive key action make it easy on the elbows and the shoulders and an absolute treat for the fingers – at least, once you’ve acclimatised. Your wrists aren’t left out, either, with a deep, memory foam wrist rest sitting inside a knitted fabric cover, which gives you a luxurious feeling of support.
The Ergo K860 can pair with up to three devices at once, switching between them at a key tap, and if you use a Logitech mouse and Logitech’s Flow software, you can flick from one compatible computer to the other by mousing over to the next screen. It’s one party trick you’ll never tire of. It’s an expensive keyboard, but nothing else feels quite like it. Only the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic, with its space-saving separate numeric keypad, comes close.
Key specs – Type: Split-key chiclet; Special features: Customisable function keys, Logitech Flow; Connections: 2.4GHz USB dongle, Bluetooth; Dimensions: 456 x 233 x 48mm; Weight: 1.16kg
£107.58 Buy now
2. Kensington Pro Fit Ergo: The best budget ergonomic keyboard
Price: £60 | Buy now from Amazon
The Pro Fit Ergo is a slightly cheaper alternative to the Microsoft and Logitech split keyboards, and can be purchased solo or in a bundle with the matching Pro Fit Ergo mouse. It’s a very decent effort, with a slightly less pronounced hump where the keys split, but still plenty of support for a good working posture and a comfortably padded wrist rest. As a bonus, both the wrist rest and the keys themselves are spill-resistant and wipe clean, so there’s no need to panic if you tip over your coffee or your beverage fizzes out from the can.
There’s much to like here, including the choice of Bluetooth and 2.4GHz connections and being able to switch between them with a flick of a switch. The USB receiver can be replaced if lost or damaged, and it’ll run from a pair of AAA batteries for up to two years over the 2.4GHz connection and a further six months if you stick to Bluetooth. In fact, the only grumble is that, while there’s plenty of travel, the feel is soft and loose. On its own it’s far from bad, but it doesn’t quite hit the same mark of quality as the Microsoft and Logitech competition.
Key specs – Type: Split-key chiclet; Special features: Spill-proof and wipe clean; Connections: 2.4GHz USB don