What is a Wireless Keyboard: Types and Technology
You may have heard about wireless keyboards and are wondering whether to invest in one or not. Worry not as the technology used makes the wireless keyboards worth every coin!
A wireless keyboard is one that utilizes Radio Frequency (RF), Infrared (IR), or Bluetooth technology to connect to devices such as laptops, tablets, phones, and computers. You don’t use cables rather a transceiver plugged into the USB port of the computer.
Wireless keyboards make you forget about the tangled cords behind your computer and uncomfortable sitting while typing. You can connect to devices at a distance and even type while seated on a couch, from your living room, or a kitchen table. This is not to say the wireless types have it all. Here I’ll address all questions you may have on wireless keyboards while highlighting their advantages and disadvantages so that you can make an informed decision. Read on!
The different types of wireless keyboards
Different types of wireless keyboards are available to help you work in an organized desk free of messy cords. They are categorized based on the technology used to connect the keyboard to the computers. Choosing one, therefore, calls for you to understand them well. Below are the different types to consider:
Bluetooth wireless keyboards
Bluetooth types are the most common wireless keyboards that use Bluetooth protocol to connect and communicate with the paired device. There is a range limit, but the technology allows for secure and faster transmission of data. You can connect easily within a range of 30 feet (approx. 9 meters) as the Bluetooth keyboards do not sync through a direct line of sight.
The Bluetooth keyboards are suitable for office use, where on-desk clutter may be unavoidable due to the reliable connection. However, Bluetooth keyboards can be annoying due to the need to pair it often with the computer.
Unlike the Bluetooth types that do not decommission USB, the RF keyboards use radio frequencies that require a transmitter and transceiver to transmit data to the paired computer. The transceiver is connected to the USB port of the computer while the transmitter is inside the keyboard. The computer then recognizes the keyboard allowing you to type as if they were wired conveniently.
RF technology is the most preferred medium for wireless keyboards due to ease of connection and decreased interference. The standard frequency for these keyboards is 27 MHz, though some models such as Logitech have already introduced 2.4 GHz. With the new peripheral, there is interference-free performance, reliable encryption, and extended battery life.
There is also a greater range of RF compared to their Bluetooth counterpart. Most connect at a range of 33 feet (approx. 10 meters), while some models can work well 100 feet (approx. 30) away from the PC.
Infrared keyboards sync to computers through light waves. The technology is common in wireless devices like remote controls but rare in computer keyboards. Most IR keyboards connect within a range of 33 feet (approx. 10 meters) as long as there is direct line-of-sight.
If there is any obstacle between the computer and the keyboard, then they will not connect. This can be inconveniencing, making some people shy away from the IR types. However, few people still prefer them due to their high rate of data transmission.
How does a wireless keyboard work?
Wireless keyboards have inbuilt transmitters that send information through Bluetooth protocols, radio frequency, or light waves. When using the RF keyboard, you will have to plug in a receiver to the computer’s USB port. The keyboard transmitter will then send commands to the computer through the receiver. This allows you to work as if the keyboard was wired to the computer.
For the Bluetooth keyboard, you will have to pair it with the computer. First, the computer or any other pairing device has to be Bluetooth enabled. This means it has a Bluetooth antenna that receives information sent from protocol in the keyboard. Since computer operating systems are designed to receive and translate the data sent wirelessly, the keyboards’ sent commands will then be interpreted accordingly.
Does a wireless keyboard need Wi-Fi?
The wireless keyboard does not need Wi-Fi to connect to the computer as it uses either the RF receiver or Bluetooth. If you want to free USB port, then consider using the Bluetooth keyboard as long as the PC has an in-built Bluetooth receiver. Note that most devices are Bluetooth enabled and can be paired easily with wireless keyboards.
Do wireless keyboards need batteries?
Yes, the wireless keyboards need batteries to function. Unlike the wired keyboard that receives power from computers, the wireless types do not. You, therefore, need to insert new batteries in their compartment as per the direction indicated. The good thing is that most keyboard batteries would last you for up to three years. Though the period varies based on user experience, replacing the batteries is not something to worry about.
How far do wireless keyboards work?
Most wireless keyboards operate effectively within a range of 30 feet (approx. 9 meters). However, due to interference, you might not be able to achieve a good connection even 10 feet (approx. 3 meters) away.
If you feel there is an issue with the keyboard connectivity range, then you can do the following to try and solve the problem:
- Diagnose what could be causing keyboard range issues. It could be due to the cheap keyboard, old software, or short battery life.
- Check that your keyboard batteries are okay and replace them if the power is running low.
- Work in a clear line of sight to your computer as the wireless receiver might not be too powerful to work effectively through barriers.
- Unplug other USB devices when using the wireless keyboard with the receiver connected to the computer
- As other electronic devices could interfere with the connection, try to keep them away when using the wireless keyboard
- Utilize range extender to achieve the desired range
Wireless vs. wired keyboards: which one is better?
Computer keyboards can either be wired or wireless. The former uses cords to connect to the computer while the latter syncs through RF or Bluetooth. Familiarizing with the advantages and disadvantages of one over the other makes it easy for you to make an informed decision. These are explained below:
Advantages of wireless keyboards over the wired
Getting rid of cords attaching to your computer by using a wireless keyboard comes with its benefits as discussed below:
Wired keyboards are stressful when it comes to dealing with wires that connect to the computer. Using the wireless types will thus come as a relief as the keyboard syncs to the computer without any cables involved. This means that you will work on a more organized table. You also get to type at a distance from the PC.
People are going for a wireless keyboard due to the convenience it brings in terms of mobility. While wired requires you to work close to the computer, you can type using the wireless keyboard while in a bed, on a lap, and travel. Most can connect with the PC 30 feet (approx. 9 meters) away, depending on the technology used. For more flexibility, you may want to consider RF or Bluetooth over IR wireless types, as it does not require a direct line of sight for it to function.
Working on a clear and neat desk makes it easier to position wireless keyboards for a comfortable sitting posture. Unlike the wired that limits you in terms of where it should be placed, the wireless can be set well central to the body to minimize the chances of suffering from injuries, pains, or aches over time.
Disadvantages of wireless keyboards over the wired
The above advantages do not mean the wireless keyboards have it all. Here are its shortcomings:
Lag and latency
There is a fast transmission of information when using wired keyboards, unlike their wireless counterpart. The delayed transmission could be due to poor connection or interference from other electronic devices. When you experience such, it is always good to check that the batteries are still working well. Remove any other device that can interfere with signal transmission.
The wireless keyboard must be powered by either rechargeable or non-rechargeable batteries for them to work. Apart from the batteries adding the cost of maintaining the keyboard, it can be a chore that many tend to forget. This means you might run out of power when you need it the most. In such a case, the wired keyboards take preference as they draw power from the PC.
It takes time to configure
The configuration is needed when using the wireless keyboard for it to connect to the computer. This might take a few seconds, unlike the wired, that work immediately once plugged in. Some users may also find it challenging to set up the wireless keyboard. This gives the wired an upper hand.
Wireless keyboards tend to be pricier than the wired ones. This could be due to the fewer models that reduce the competition. This leaves the consumers at the mercy of manufacturers. Besides, the fact that the wireless utilizes the latest technology makes them relatively expensive. Note that replacing the batteries and buying the chargers could add to the cost in the long run.
Whether to go for wireless keyboards depends on your needs. If you are a gamer, the wireless types can disappoint due to lag and latency. However, for normal use, RF or Bluetooth keyboards are the best. They allow you to work at a well-organized table while giving you the convenience of working at a distance from your PC. Note that when using a wireless keyboard, you will have to ensure it is efficiently powered.