There are alot of options these days when it comes to choosing the right keyboard. You have everything from wired, to wireless, to hybrid to mechanical and even solar powered keyboards.
As a programmer who sits in front of a computer for hours at a time, here are a few of the things that I mainly look for when picking one up.
- Well spaced keys
- Long travel distance
- Decent sound signature (or silent)
- Variable backlight settings (off, on, mid)
- Programmable keys and macros
I've used a fair number of keyboards in my time, and I can state that finding a keyboard to match all of those requirement is not an easy task.
There are also less important properties that you can look for in keyboards as well. Though not as vital, these make the typing experience overall better for the user:
- Wireless keyboard
- Optical switches
- Compact design (more portable)
- Low latency
So after much use and after much research, I've compiled a list of the top 3 coding keyboards that you can pick up right now. These aren't exclusively for programming (though some are), but anyone that sits down for hours at a time to shell out line after line of code will definitely find these useful.
Read until the end to find my personal favorite.
Code V3 104-Key Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard
The Code V3 keyboard is made by WASD Keyboards and it is legitimately one of those most thought out pieces of typing hardware that you will find currently on the market. Almost every aspect of what makes for a decent typing experience has been thought out and cleverly crafted by the designers.
To highlight a few of the standout features:
- Well constructed using a steel backplate
- 7 level backlit design
- Small bezel design
- Onboard macros and keymaps
- Key remapping
- 2lb weight
- Cherry MX keyswitches
The V3 really is for that particular person that has very specific typing needs and that favors a clean design and strong construction over anything else.
The V3 also comes with onboard memory, meaning that it can save your lighting preferences wherever you go. The keyboard itself is fully programmable on the hardware itself, meaning that you won't have to install anything in order to customize it.
And lastly, you can get the V3 with Cherry MX Clear mechanical keyswitches. What's so special about these keyswitches you may ask? Well, for one, they have a 4.0mm travel distance with no clickity sound. They are as silent as the night.
Some people like their mechanical keyboards loud and full of clicks. But when you work in an environment with people all around you, or if you're like me and sometimes start the day at 4am, you want to be as stealthy as possible.
In which case, you might also want to stock up on switch lubricant, such as the Tribosys 3203, to keep your key presses smooth for the long run.
The MX Clear switches are also not easy to come by these days. So if you want to take them for a test drive, the Code V3 might be one of ways to do so.
And lastly, WASD gives you the option to customize the keyboard however you wish when ordering. They have an online design tool that allows you to select the color pattern that makes the most sense to you.
You can also browse through their maker library in order to see what other keyboard enthusiasts are busy designing as well.
Though not wireless, it is definitely something that I can overlook due to the other standout features.
You can find the Code V3 for around $170 on Amazon.
Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad
While I am an avid Windows user (and have been for some time now), I must give credit where credit is due. Because Apple does indeed make high quality electronics of all kinds.
And their keyboard is no different. The Apple Magic Keyboard is a wireless keyboard will a full number pad and document navigation controls.
And most importantly of course, if you are a programmer that relies on iOS and Mac's, this keyboard is obviously designed for your needs. And that's important to point out, because there aren't too many wireless high quality keyboards currently that are targeting Mac users.
The one potential downside is that the Apple Magic Keyboard does not have backlit keys. That might not be a deal-breaker though, particular if you are an adept touch typist already. I currently have a backlit keyboard, however, it stays off for 90% of the time as it can be distracting.
A big upside with the Magic Keyboard however is that it is estimated to have a battery life of 30 days with general usage. That's highly impressive for a wireless full-sized keyboard and something that you won't easily find elsewhere.
You can find the Apple Magic Keyboard for around $136 on Amazon when on sale.
Keychron K2 Wireless Bluetooth/USB Wired Gaming Mechanical Keyboard
The Keychron K2 wireless keyboard just looks like it belongs on a programmer's desk. It's small, it has a clean design, it's wireless and it is RGB backlit as well. Though you might not even want to configure the backlight as it looks pretty fantastic the way it is.
The K2 features an 84-key layout without a number pad, however it does retain shortcut and arrow keys. I don't typically find many programmer's making use of the number pad, so giving it up in order to get a more portable layout is a worthy trade off in my book.
The K2 also features an aluminum frame construction and can connect to up to 3 devices using Bluetooth 5.1. However, it also features a wired mode using an included USB-Type C cable.
The battery life on the K2 is definitely one of the best that I have seen so far for a mechanical keyboard coming in at around 72 hours of typing, which is equivalent to around 7 days of standard use. The stated capacity for the battery is at around 4000mah.
And lastly, the K2 uses Gateron mechanical switches with a 50 million keystroke lifespan, pretty much ensuring that you will have many years of reliable use out of it. You can order the K2 in a variety of switch configurations, such as Gateron Red, Brown or Blue for varying degrees of sound and pressure sensitivity.
You can typically find the Keychron K2 for under $100 on Amazon.com.
Think of your keyboard as an investment that will pay for itself in the long run. Particularly as it is something that you are going to rely on every single day to do your job. You want something that will last you for years, is mobile, works on multiple devices and most importantly, something that is genuinely fun to use every single time you get on it.
I've used cheaply constructed keyboards in the past (I won't name names), but I've paid the price for it in terms of lack of motivation to work and in frustration as the cheap plastic key's don't offer enough feedback to determine if they are pressed or not. This can lead to more frequent typos or even worse hard to catch bugs in your code.
You only need one keyboard, so make sure it's the one that you will enjoy using for the long haul. So what's my pick for best coding keyboard on this list?
I would have to go with the Keychron K2 on this one. I'm a fan of the compact size, it's wireless and it uses mechanical keys. And it's also the most affordable on the list. You definitely get alot for the price point.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.
Stay up to date
Sign up for my FREE newsletter. Get informed of the latest happenings in the programming world.