The best (and worst) laptop keyboards

Click through to the gallery below to see close-up photos of the best and worst laptop keyboards, plus a handful of honorable mentions.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Dan Ackerman
Scott Stein
2 min read

Chances are you're pretty familiar with the keyboard on your laptop. Despite any design flaws, you've mastered its intricacies and acclimated to its limitations. But when it's time to look for a new laptop, unless you're sticking to essentially the same model, there'll be a whole new keyboard to get used to--and a rash decision could saddle you with a layout that leaves your fingers twisted in a knot.

If only you had access to a couple of experts who regularly try out several new laptops every week. Then they could use their wide-ranging laptop experience to provide some basic ground rules for what to look for, and what to avoid, in laptop keyboards. Even better, they could cook up a brief cheat sheet with some of the best and worst recent examples.

Well, we thought we'd make that dream a reality.

Really, the formula isn't that complicated. Having been groomed on full-size desktop keyboards and their well-established key placement, laptop keyboards can be a challenge for touch-typists or those of us with some form of advanced hunt-and-peck technique. Keyboards that have condensed or oddly placed Enter, Shift, comma, period, or direction-arrow keys are especially frustrating (here's a hint, pay extra attention to the right Shift key).

And though a full-size, well-spaced keyboard is a welcome luxury, the quality of the key construction matters just as much. Classic tapered keys, like the ones that dominated keyboards for decades, have comfortable, cupped surfaces for fingertips and wide bases with good travel. Newer laptop keyboards are made with a wide array of materials, varying key heights and shapes, and quality that can range from crisp to wobbly to fragile, all of which seriously affects the usability of a laptop. After all, the biggest difference between a tablet and a laptop is the presence of a keyboard, so it better be good.

Click through to the gallery belowto see close-up photos of the best and worst laptop keyboards, plus a handful of honorable mentions. This is by no means an all-encompassing list--rather, it's a selection of highlights and lowlights from currently available laptops (most new since the start of 2010). Naturally, we want to hear about your favorite and least-favorite laptop keyboards, so let us know in the comments section below.

The best (and worst) laptop keyboards

See all photos

> See all the latest laptop reviews here.
> More laptop talk every week on the Digital City video podcast.
> Need more? Follow Dan and Scott on Twitter.