The best laptop keyboards and touchpads help you work faster. Make fewer mistakes. And get you more wins in your favorite PC games by providing good ergonomics.
When evaluating a laptop’s keyboard, it should resemble a full-size desktop keyboard in look and feel. It should offer solid, tactile feedback. Plenty of key travel. And enough space between the keys for a spacious typing experience.
Being saddled with a layout that leaves your fingers all twisted in knots is a pain. Especially with a deadline approaching. But it’s difficult to determine keyboard quality from a spec sheet.
Which is why we recommend going down to your local laptop dealer to see how comfortable the keyboard and trackpad is by looking at brands with a similar keyboard arrangement.
But if this simply isn’t a possibility. How can you determine the best laptop keyboards?
Best Laptop Keyboards and Touchpads
Mechanical, Membrane and Chiclet Style Keyboards
Mechanical style keyboards have become more popular recently; especially among gamers and coders. A mechanical keyboard can help you type more quickly and accurately. And will last way longer than most laptop keyboards.
Each key in this type of keyboard has a metal actuator that depresses on a stroke. It returns to its un-pressed state after a strike. The keyboard registers a strike when the key is only halfway down instead of when its completely depressed.
Mechanical keyboards offer the most variety in actuation for your typing style because of the different types of switches used for the keys.
Membrane style keyboards use three flexible layers instead of separate keys with their own moving parts like other keyboard styles. Electrical contact between the membranes register strikes.
Under the top membrane are pressure pads with a conductive trace. When a key is pressed. The pressure moves through these membranes to register a strike.
Home computers adapted this keyboard style in the early 80’s. They also enjoyed a wide adoption in consumer electronics because they are inexpensive to mass produce. As well as more resistant to liquids and dirt than other keyboards.
Lack of feedback makes error-free typing challenging, however.
Chiclet style keyboards (also referred to as island-style keyboards) were first introduced in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. They derive their name from the rectangular-shaped “Chiclets” brand chewing gum which they resemble.
The keys are square shaped. And elevated from the keyboard deck. With rounded corners and straight sides. They were synonymous for cheap quality. And delivered a poor user experience.
But after over 20 years of limited popularity. They’ve been redesigned with a low-profile scissor-switch and flat shaped keys, which provide low-travel and are cheap to replace.
Apple MacBooks and Asus laptops widely use these keyboards.
The Best Laptop Keyboards
As you can see. Not all keyboards are made the same. Additionally, not all will cater to the same user. And a slight difference can make a big difference in comfort.
The size of the laptop screen will determine the size of the keyboard. As laptops shrink to become more light weight. So do their keyboards as well as how far the keys can travel.
Since the smaller the laptop, the more creative manufacturers must be with key size and placement. A laptop with a small screen is not likely to have a full-sized keyboard.
Instead, to save space. Keys sit flush against the keyboard deck, resulting in a shallow feel as you type. This space saving may also result in some missing shortcut keys.
You may find that the best laptop keyboards on larger laptops. They have a full-size keyboard with a number pad on the right side, just like a standard keyboard. Here is where you’ll be able to find laptops with mechanical keys.
For a more accurate typing experience. And to provide adequate travel on the downstroke. The keys on these laptops are raised slightly from the keyboard deck.
Be advised that laptops with mechanical keyboards are heavier and bulkier than most laptops. These are generally bigger desktop replacements, which won’t make the best travel companions.
To find the best laptop keyboards:
- The arrow keys should be well spaced.
- Pay close attention to the space bar, shift, Ctrl and Backspace/Delete keys.
- Be sure there’s adequate spacing between keys for your hand size and typing style.
- And if possible, be sure the laptop has full-sized keys that provide a comfortable feel as you type.
Are They Called Trackpads, or Touchpads?
There’s virtually no difference between a trackpad and touchpad. Both provide the same functions as a mouse. They are made of various materials. And offer a wide spectrum of capabilities depending on the manufacturer and model.
Performance depends on where the touchpad was sourced from, and the software involved. It’s difficult to gauge how good a trackpad feels without trying it for yourself.
But Apple’s trackpads are class leaders. Made of glass, they can recognize a list of “gestures”. Windows touchpads are still catching up. But every new generation offers most of the same features as Apple trackpads. Unfortunately, the execution and responsiveness just isn’t there yet.
If you’re buying a business class laptop. The best laptop keyboards will have a ‘nub’ or pointing stick nestled between the G and H keys. They help you navigate around the desktop efficiently by not forcing you to lift your fingers off the keyboard’s home row.
Be forewarned, however, that the precision in these little joy stick is lacking. And they can wear down over time, requiring replacement.
The best laptop keyboards have touchpads with:
- integrated buttons
- support two-finger scrolling
- have accurate movements without the cursor being jumpy
- and respond consistently to multitouch gestures, like pinch-to-zoom.
This concludes the Buying a Laptop series. We hope that you will use all this information as a resource that helps you find the laptop of your dreams with all the bells and whistles. At a price that won’t break the bank.
Is there anything we forgot to mention about getting the best laptop keyboards? We’d love to hear from you. Please let us know in the comment section below.