| Till Simon Nagel |
BERLIN (dpa) – Anyone diving into the world of shopping for computer keyboards faces the risk of drowning in unfamiliar new terms and concepts.
Take heart, there are ways to navigate the confusion.
Most shoppers see the keyboard as little more than a tool that doesn’t really need any bells or whistles.
Few think about how the keys register the taps and pass the signal to the computer, or that there are various technologies to do this.
There are three basic ways a keyboard can work, which will help decide the suitability of what you buy.
In a membrane keyboard, there are no keys, just pressure pads that have outlines and symbols printed on a flat, flexible surface.
It’s affordable, but doesn’t offer much in the way of a tactile typing experience. They also wear out quickly.
Scissor-switch keyboards aren’t much better. They rely on a collapsible apparatus underneath the key that closes an electrical circuit when depressed, allowing signals to be sent to the computer.
They don’t wear out as quickly.
Also known as chiclet keyboards, their keys don’t have to be pushed down as deeply as with a traditional mechanical-switch keyboards, the type that has the longest life-spans. There are a variety of these.
Some mechanical-switch key-boards have keys that require a lot of pressure. Some require only a little. Others are designed for gamers, with options like keys that can be held down, for example, if an action has to be repeated multiple times.
But which is right for you?
“You should figure out what you currently do the most (with your keyboard) and try to figure out what you don’t like about your current keyboard,” says Gerald Himmelein, an expert on keyboards and mouses at German computer magazine c’t.
After all, it’s ultimately a question of personal taste.
“If you have low expectations, then one of the better membrane keyboards will do,” says Himmelein. Good models are available starting at 40 euros (US$50).
“But people who often type need a better device. Gamers need keyboards with solid, mechanical keys that don’t stick,” he said.
Switching to mechanical-switch technology will mean starting at about 60 euros. However, top-end models with lights in multiple-colours and other extras can quickly reach 300 euros.
To figure out what you like best, just go and type, type, type. Invest at least 10 minutes typing before making a purchase and think about whether working with that keyboard is comfortable, he advises.
Anyone who makes regular use of command keys needs to see if function buttons are an option. These allow certain commands to be recorded and then executed with the push of a single button.
Anyone who works at a desk regularly is fine with a model with a cord.
“Cordless models always run out of power at the least opportune moments,” he says.
On top of that, you save money on batteries.
Be sure when you make the purchase to make returns are possible.
Himmelein says it’s not unusual for people to grow disenchanted with their new device after working with it for a few days.
Think about how comfortable the keyboard is to use when making your choice.
Hartmut Wandke of Berlin’s Humboldt University recom-mends flatter models with keys that are easy to reach and that slowly build in resistance the deeper they’re pressed down.
They should curve slightly inward to make it harder for fingers to slip off or have a slightly rough surface, recommends the ergonomics expert.
It’s best if the slant of the keyboard can be adjusted for the individual user.
Keyboards have been in use in one way or another for 140 years, which meant ergonomics wasn’t built in when they were first designed.
“If you work the whole day, then an ergonomic keyboard is recommended,” says Wandke. These are split in the middle and designed to accommodate the natural way a person’s hands and lower arms rest.
It can be hard to get used to these, which is why Wandke recommends trying out models where the gap between the two sides can be ratcheted upward, so people can start with the halves close together and then get used to them as they move apart.
“That way you can slowly get used to it until you can comfortably type,” he said.