If you’re a programmer (or you have aspirations of being a programmer), a good keyboard is one of the most critical tools in your kit. It’s your main means of interfacing with your computer, and the difference between a decent programming keyboard and the best keyboard for programming can save you a lot of hassle when it comes time to compile your code. An artist is only as good as their tools after all, and HotRate is here to help you understand not just what the best programming keyboards are but also what qualities make a great one.
That’s why we haven’t just compiled reviews for the 10 best keyboards for programming in 2020. We’ve also created a dedicated guide to influence your shopping process.
Quick Look: 10 Best Keyboards for Programming
- Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard
- Das Keyboard 4 Professional Cherry MX Brown
- Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business
- Logitech G513 RGB with Backlighting
- Das Keyboard Model S Professional
- Razer Huntsman Elite
- CORSAIR K63 Wireless
- USA Filco Ninja Majestouch-2
- Cooler Master SGB-3040 Keyboard
- Fujitsu Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional2
1. Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard
Chances are that you've never seen a keyboard as unique as the Kinesis Advantage2 in your life, but its affordable price makes it an appealing prospect if you're looking to try something new. And while it may take some time to get accustomed to the concave dips in which the keys are situated, the ergonomic design is built from the ground up to ease tension on your fingers and prevent cramping.
But there's more than just ergonomics here. All of the keys can be reprogrammed with new macros and custom layouts using the free compatible software. If you want a keyboard that will still feel good after hours tethered in front of the computer and capable of being fully customized to suit your needs, the Advantage2 may be the best programmer keyboard for you.
2. Das Keyboard 4 Professional Cherry MX Brown
You'd have to look far and wide to find a coding keyboard with better business sense than the Das Keyboard 4. While it's not cheap, it offers some serious features that power coders will love. That includes reliable anti-ghosting with N-key rollover and a detachable magnetic footboard. But the coolest inclusion here is undoubtedly the two port USB hub that can facilitate speeds of up to 5 Gbps. Beyond that, the build here is simply phenomenal.
The sturdy aluminum frame of this mechanical keyboard combines with some top shelf brown Cherry MX switches for a keyboard that's tactile, accurate, and built to really withstand some damage.
3. Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business
Microsoft may be best known for their software and Windows operating system these days, but they've been continuing to churn out some smartly designed and modern hardware over the years too. The Microsoft Sculpt sports an ergonomic design that will feel as good on your eyes as it will on your wrists, creating some of the most comfortable positioning you'll find anywhere.
And the standalone number pad allows you to scale your keyboard setup to suit your professional needs. This may not be a keyboard absolutely packed with features, but it's one of the best looking and most comfortable options for a programmer.
4. Logitech G513 RGB with Backlighting
The slick RGB coloring off Logitech's keyboard may be its most obvious selling point, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not paying attention to the solid fundamentals built into this gaming model. The brushed aluminum frame looks slick while also providing an intense level of durability to the keyboard overall, while the USB passthrough is a thoughtful addition that will help you neatly set up a mouse or other peripherals without ending up with a rat's nest of cables.
And then there's the high-quality Romer G mechanical keys that come with an incredibly satisfying level of tactile response and solid actualization feedback.
5. Das Keyboard Model S Professional
If you like the professional sensibilities of the Das Keyboard 4 but find it to be a little rich for your blood, you should take a peek at the Das Keyboard Model S. It comes in at about two thirds of the price and still offers a high-end professional experience in an unassuming design. Whether you're looking for the silent operation of the Cherry MX blue or the more satisfyingly clicky blue, you can find mechanical switches that are perfectly tailored to your preferences.
And the two port USB hub makes it incredibly easy to sync or charge a mouse or a wide variety of different devices straight through this keyboard. Just keep in mind that this is specifically a Mac mechanical keyboard, so you should look for the appropriate variant if you're running a Linux or Windows machine.
6. Razer Huntsman Elite
The Huntsman Elite may be a keyboard for gamers, but if there's one thing that Razer is known for, it's the quality of their gaming peripherals. And while the bright and programmable RGB lighting may come across as showy, the fundamentals here are well suited to accommodate the needs of programmers.
Razer has designed a new opto-mechanical switch for their mechanical keys, and while it might not have the reputation of the best in class Cherry MX mechanical, it's still a very good switch that feels great to the touch and more silent than most equivalent keys on the market. There's even an ergonomic wrist rest to help with the state of your health.
7. CORSAIR K63 Wireless
Corsair has made a keyboard that's a clear contender for best programming keyboard in its price range with the K63. Razer keyboards are still the best option around when you're looking for customizable lighting, but this model still offers an expansive choice of coloring options that offer nearly limitless combinations.
There are also some great programming features built into this keyboard, especially considering that you can pick up this keyboard for right around $100. That includes a USB passthrough port for a dedicated mouse or headset as well as the ability to store up to three different macro and lighting profiles directly onto the memory of this keyboard.
8. USA Filco Ninja Majestouch-2
If you like the sound of a solidly built keyboard that eschews the showy extravagance of gaming keyboards like those made by Razer, you'll want to review the value of the USA Filco Ninja Majestouch-2. This keyboard may not come from a big name manufacturer, but it deserves your attention right away.
There's not a whole lot of special features here, but this is a keyboard that earns its value by offering some of the best and most fundamentally sound build designs on the market today. Blue, red, black and brown Cherry MX switches are all available, so you can get a version of this keyboard that matches your own typing preferences whatever they may be.
9. Cooler Master SGB-3040 Keyboard
If you're looking for the best keyboard on a budget, there's a strong argument to be made in favor of the SGB-3040-KKMF1-US. Cooler Masters has undercover been one of the most reliable mechanical keyboard manufacturers around, and this can suit your needs for under a hundred bucks whether you're looking for a mechanical key type Mac or Windows.
It supports 26 key anti ghosting as well as on the fly controls. And while it may not offer the key by key lighting options you'd find in the best gaming keyboard, it does offer a respectable amount of flexibility with its six zones
10. Fujitsu Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional2
A lot of the best programming keyboards are designed for the needs of gamers first and can be retrofitted to meet the unique demands of writing code, but the Happy Hacking keyboard was designed by programmers to meet their specific needs, and that makes it an undoubted contender for the best model.
The electrostatic capacitive switch is designed to offer the best of mechanical and membrane keyboards by offering a satisfying sense of response while still minimizing sound more than a mechanical keyboard typically does. And it manages to squeeze all the functionality of a 101 key keyboard into a 60 key model. It may be simple in design and execution, but that's absolutely the point.
Programming Keyboard Buyer’s Guide
So what separates the best coding keyboard from a more traditional one? Best is always going to be a subjective thing, and the best coding keyboard will often happen to be made for gaming or professional work first and foremost. Keep reading to learn about the qualities that make a great coding keyboard and how you can find the right choice for your career. We’ll cover the important specs and also share answers to the most frequently asked questions.
There are two main types of keyboards to consider when shopping for a coding keyboard: mechanical and membrane. A mechanical keyboard is going to be the best choice for most programmers, but that doesn’t mean that membranes don’t have their own advantage. We’ll walk you through the basics of both so you have a better understanding of how they work.
Mechanical keyboards are highly analog. Each key sits atop a switch which when pressed physically transmits the signal with each key press. In that regard, they’re similar to typewriters. There’s a greater sense of tactile response when working with a mechanical keyboard which many people love, and the switch-based design is well suited to fast typists because you don’t have to press the key all the way, and you’re less prone to a key press not being registered. That’s especially important for coders given that a single minor error can be a pain to identify. Mechanical keyboards also promise heavier and sturdier build quality.
The lightweight design of membrane keyboards will definitely appeal to some people. They’re far more portable and a great choice if you find yourself wanting to work from anywhere. They also tend to be more affordable, and they’re significantly quieter than the satisfying but loud clicking that comes from most mechanical keyboards. But they have shorter lifespans, and the comparatively poor key rollover means that they occasionally don’t register a key press, creating the risk for frustrating error.
If you’re getting a mechanical keyboard, you have a number of different switches to choose from. The most popular mechanical switches are the Cherry RX brand. While there are a few other alternatives out there, we’ll focus on the different varieties of MX since they appear most prominently in our review list and are generally regarded as the industry’s best models. Many keyboards let you choose the switches you want included in your keyboard too.
- Cherry MX Blue is the most “mechanical” of the mechanical keys. They’re very loud and require the most force to register. But that results in a satisfyingly tactile typing experience that feels most like writing on a keyboard.
- The MX Brown is the middle of the road between blue and black, and it’s going to be the best choice for a lot of people who write code. There’s a smooth sense of responsiveness that feels pretty similar to typing on a membrane keyboard, but it still offers the accuracy advantages of a mechanical keyboard.
- Falling between the MX Brown and Black is the Cherry MX Red. We review it as the best switch for coders, but it will all depend on your personal style. Cherry Red switches feel light to the touch, but they also tend to cost more than the other switches produced by Cherry MX.
- The MX Black has the slightest counter-force and is the least noisy of mechanical switches. They’re good for both high and low speed typing. This makes them the ideal choice for quick action video games, but they’re a bit less suited to writing code.
Coders spend most of their time in front of a keyboard, so it’s important to make sure that the keyboard feels good when typing for long periods of time. Both the Kinesis Advantage2 and the Microsoft Sculpt sport very innovative designs that provide great ergonomics. Barring that, look for keyboards that come with wrist rests and other features that can take the pressure off your wrists and hands.
Gamers and coders share a lot of the same needs, and there are two features in particular to keep an eye on that are popular in the gaming community. The first is backlighting. Good backlighting allows you to type more accurately at night and in other dark situations, and they just happen to look very cool doing it. Many keyboards allow you to customize your coloring based on zones or individual keys.
Many gaming keyboards also come with advanced macro controls. Given the monotony that often comes with coding and the high level of frustration that even simple errors can cause, macros are a great choice. They let you automate some of your most commonly used scripts and navigate complex menus in your IDE with a simple button press.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Programmers Type Fast?
That honestly depends on the programmer, but the fact is that lightning quick typing speeds aren’t necessary for coding. In fact, they can be a liability. Professional typists can typically reach typing speeds of somewhere between 50 and 70 words per minute, and that’s an asset because they’re often transcribing content or recording relatively simple thoughts as they come to their head. A decent typing speed of 40 wpm should be adequate for most coders.
Are Mechanical Keyboards Good For Programming?
Yes! In fact, mechanical keyboards are arguably the best keyboards for programming. That’s because these keyboard switches are designed to have a greater sense of tactile feedback. Since accuracy is more important than speed when coding, having a keyboard that lets you intuitively know that each keystroke is registered when the button is pressed can help prevent missed strokes and prevent you having to hunt down errors later on.
Are Gaming Keyboards Good For Programming?
Gaming keyboards are some of the best options for programmers. The highly accurate keys are a huge asset to both gamers and coders, and the macros that allow professional gamers to perform better can be a huge asset when writing code too. If you’re willing to spend the money, gaming models should be the first place to look when seeking out a programming keyboard.
Is a Numpad Necessary For Programming?
Generally not. That’s not to say that programmers (especially those working with a lot of data) don’t need access to numbers, but the notion of a dedicated numpad is going to be overkill for most programmers. But as with all things, your mileage may vary.
These keyboards we’ve reviewed represent the best of the best models for programmers, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only options available to you. We hope you find what you’re looking for here, but if you want to spread your net a little wider, be sure to check out our guide to the best gaming keyboards of 2020.