Your keyboard and mouse enable you to browse, navigate and create within your computer’s programs. You might not think to upgrade your keyboard and mouse beyond the standard set that’s bundled with your computer, but wouldn’t you want the two things you touch the most on your computer to be at optimal performance? You’d be surprised how badly a worn-out keyboard and mouse can hinder your ability to operate a computer.
Wireless keyboard and mouse combos are a great way to upgrade your peripherals. Although wired peripherals continue to be an option, they are becoming outdated in today’s wireless world. Integrating a wireless mouse and keyboard is what you need to accomplish 21st century tasks – from delivering an important presentation to dominating in online gaming to accessing home entertainment and media applications. With a wireless mouse and keyboard, you can get rid of bulky cords that clutter up your workspace and keep you trapped at your desk. When you go wireless, you’ll have a tidy workspace and the freedom to roam as you wish.
Best Combo for Heavy Users
The Logitech Wireless Wave Combo MK550 is one of the few ergonomic wireless keyboards and mouse combos that we reviewed for this comparison. If you've never used an ergonomic keyboard before, it can take some getting used to. As you might expect from the name, the Wave Combo's keys ripple across the keyboard, with the G and H keys at the apex. The design looks a little strange at first, but after our reviewers used the keyboard extensively, it was apparent this is among the most comfortable components we tested.
Most Ergonomic Combo
The Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5050 is one of a few ergonomic keyboards in our comparison, and our reviewer group found the wireless mouse and keyboard combo to be among the most comfortable they used throughout our testing. This combo’s unique design helps you stay comfortable and accurate, but it also provides many of the extra features you’d expect from one of the best wireless keyboard and mouse combos.
Best Mouse for Professionals
Thanks to its unconventional design, the Lenovo N700 is one of the more distinctive Bluetooth mice we reviewed. With its features and design, the N700 is a versatile Bluetooth mouse for presentations and lectures. The N700 was among the best Bluetooth mice we tested on laminate and wood surfaces, but it scored an average 85 percent on denim and carpet. In addition, it scored a low 70 percent on marble and completely failed on glass. Overall, it works well enough on most surfaces that aren't glossy.
Best Mouse for Macs
Apple’s flagship wireless mouse benefits from excellent quality and consistent scrolling performance. In our testing, we evaluated the Bluetooth mouse on a variety of surfaces. While the Magic Mouse 2 was a consistent performer on laminate and wood surfaces, it struggled on more reflective or irregular surfaces like marble and carpet, respectively.
Most Portable Combo
With key switches that resemble the chiclet style mostly found on laptops, the HP Wireless Elite Keyboard and Mouse Combo is a low-profile standard-style keyboard. This wireless keyboard and mouse combo is the only one in our lineup that features scissor-style key switches. This makes for more responsive keystrokes and faster typing times.
Best Mouse for All Surfaces
Logitech is a leader in computer accessories, and the MX Master is one of the higher-end additions to its wireless mouse collection. And it's good. It's very good. With excellent laser hardware, it received the highest accuracy scores on every surface we tested. The body is sculpted for a comfortable grip, whether you prefer to hold it with a palm, claw or fingertip grip.
Best Budget Combo
The IOGEAR Long Range 2.4GHz wireless keyboard and mouse combo has one of the most portable and quietest keyboard of any in our comparison. Beyond its low profile and portability, however, this wireless combo does not offer many extra features, so it falls short of being the best recommendation.
Best Budget Bluetooth Mouse
On the surface, the Microsoft Sculpt Comfort looks like a cheap plastic mouse with a traditional curved shape. This couldn’t be further from reality. The body is made of heavy solid plastic with touch-sensitive sensors optimized for Windows 8. The BlueTrack optical sensor proved to be one of the most accurate sensors on every surface we tested it on, and the arced shape makes this mouse an excellent fit for each of the three grip types – palm, fingertip and claw.
General Features to Consider
One of the most important features for a keyboard and mouse is comfort, though this is subjective. Some people prefer a wavy keyboard or one that splits the keys up into definitive left and right sections for each hand. Some prefer a standard keyboard with the rows in straight lines. Most wireless mouse and keyboard combos come in standard layouts, but we also reviewed a couple different styles for users who prefer those.
Keep in mind that key layout and size are not always the same from keyboard to keyboard. Nearly any new keyboard will take some getting used to – a week of use should do the trick.
The wireless mouse should be comfortable to use as well. There are three main grips for a mouse – palm, fingertip and claw. Mice with a large arch are palm grips – your palm generally rests on the arch. Fingertip mice are shaped so only your fingertips touch the mouse. They are generally slender, highly portable devices. Claw grips are shaped so the heel of your palm rests on the back of the mouse. This leaves your fingers hovering over the buttons like a claw.
If you know that you’ll be leaving your keyboard at your desk, size may be less of an issue than if you’re needing to take it with you on the road. Keyboards that are more heavy duty, especially those for gamers, are tall, wide, and laden with extra buttons that control volume and other functions. They may even have mechanical switches for that traditional clicky feedback. But many keyboards nowadays have slim profiles, short buttons and collapsible height adjusters, which all make it easier for you to throw the keyboard into a laptop bag or backpack.
Same goes for mice. Those that are ultra-ergonomic or feature tons of extra buttons are typically best left at your dedicated workspace. Alternatively, those with an adjustable arc or an intentionally thin design won’t take up much space in your bag. Consider your intended use for your keyboard and mouse when looking through your options.
Keyboard Features to Consider
The mechanisms under the keys that send the signal from the keyboard to the computer are called key switches. To the average user, key switches are an afterthought, but the type of key switch directly affects the feel, performance and longevity of your keyboard.
There are three main types of key switches – dome, scissor and mechanical. Rubber-dome, or silicon, key switches are exactly what they sound like – little rubber domes under the keys. These switches make the impact of the key feel soft as you press down and are quiet compared to mechanical switches. The key also has to be pressed down all the way in order for the keystroke to register. For the speed-demon typists, this can lead to fewer words per minute. However, the main problem with rubber-dome keys is longevity. Over time, the soft rubber dome starts to become brittle and will eventually lead to failure.
Scissor switches are synonymous with laptop keyboards and the like – the low-profile chiclet keys. Given the low profile, the key doesn't have to be pressed completely for the key to fire, resulting in speedier typing for most. They also tend to have a longer life than dome key switches.
Most typists consider mechanical switches to have the best key switch design. Mechanical switches come in a handful of different forms – Cherry MX, Black, Red, etc. These spring-loaded switches are more responsive and don't need to be pressed as far as domed switches, which allows for faster typing speeds. The responsiveness can be a blessing and a curse. It can lead to faster typing speeds but more errors due to the sensitivity. Also, mechanical keys can be noisier than the other two switch styles.
In most of the models we reviewed have silicon, rubber dome switches. Only the HP Keyboard and Mouse combo features a scissor key design. This means that these keyboards will not be as responsive as gaming keyboards, but they will be much quieter and softer upon impact.
Mouse Features to Consider
A wireless mouse works best on a wood desktop surface, but since there are no wires attached, it is easy to move your keyboard and mouse around to different surfaces. Students often find themselves working on a carpeted floor, while a traveling business professional might be using their leg as a mousepad. A wireless mouse that is responsive on any type of surface is ideal.
Bluetooth vs. Radio Frequency
There are two wireless mouse technologies – Bluetooth and radio frequency (RF). Functionally, both wireless technologies send signals over the same 2.4GHz frequency. The major difference is the RF mouse requires a USB dongle to communicate with your computer. The advantage of this is that you can use it with any computer that has a USB port. A Bluetooth mouse only works with computers that recognize Bluetooth devices.
Fortunately, most computers and laptops on the market come with Bluetooth compatibility out of the box. Pairing your Bluetooth mouse is typically no more difficult than plugging one in a USB port. The major advantage of Bluetooth mice is their lack of a USB receiver. The USB dongles used by RF mice are the size of a nickel – easy to lose in a computer bag or backpack. If you lose the USB dongle, your RF mouse is no more than a fancy hand rest. In addition, using a Bluetooth mouse opens up a USB port, which enhances the overall functionality of your computer.
Cursor Accuracy & Functionality
A Bluetooth mouse is only as good as its cursor accuracy, which depends on how well the optical sensor reads the surface of whatever you're working on. Since Bluetooth mice are intrinsically portable, you should consider a mouse that is accurate on many types of surfaces. It should work as well on your marble kitchen counters as it does on the table of your favorite coffee shop.
Next, you should consider the functionality of the mouse. Is it portable enough for you, or is it so bulky that it can’t leave your desktop? A portable mouse should easily slip into your pocket. What type of functions do you care about? On the most basic level, a mouse features two buttons and a scroll. If you need more functionality, you can find models with additional buttons or motion sensors that allow you to go back or forward to previous pages while browsing the internet. Some even allow you to customize the functions to your specific needs – like one button for copying text and another for pasting.
Most Bluetooth mice use standard AA or AAA batteries. These batteries often provide between six months and over a year of battery life. However, you may want to consider a rechargeable Bluetooth mouse. The downside is a shorter battery life, typically needing to be recharged once a week. However, the advantage of a rechargeable Bluetooth mouse is that you never have to worry about the batteries dying at an inopportune time because you can simply plug the mouse into a USB port and keep working.
The sensitivity of a mouse depends on the optical resolution of the laser. The higher the resolution, the more responsive the cursor. This makes a mouse excellent for scenarios like creating graphic art. However, high resolutions also result in more lagging when you're moving the mouse quickly across your computer screen. So, for common tasks where cursor accuracy isn't critical to the activity, such as browsing the internet or selecting tiles within Excel, a lower resolution is better. Either way, you can customize the cursor responsiveness to your preferences.
Some Bluetooth mice have additional buttons, often near the thumb rest or the ring finger and pinky rest. These buttons are commonly used for going backward or forward while you're browsing the internet. Sometimes you can program these additional buttons for specific functions like copying and pasting text. For example, you can program one button to copy and another to paste. Additional buttons might be intimidating at first, but they can greatly improve your efficiency.
After surface accuracy and functionality, you should consider your grip comfort. A mouse can feel like it was molded to your hand, but you won't use it for long if it lacks cursor accuracy and functionality. Likewise, a mouse can be very accurate and have lots of functions and buttons, but if it doesn't feel comfortable in your hand, you're not going to use it for long. Comfort is subjective because your hand size is unique. It can be impossible to determine a mouse's comfort before you've put your hand on it. As such, we considered the grip styles that each mouse can comfortably accommodate.
The best way to ensure you find a comfortable Bluetooth mouse is to analyze your grip before you purchase one. Which grip – palm, claw or fingertip – do you prefer? It's common for people to unconsciously transition between different grips, depending on the type of work performed. Most Bluetooth mice are best for one type of grip but can comfortably accommodate other grip styles. However, some ergonomic mice only allow one type of grip, which can be awkward and uncomfortable if the grip is not one you often use.
With a palm grip, your entire palm rests on the mouse with your thumb off to the side and your index and middle fingers over the front. Most of the movement comes from the elbow and shoulder. A mouse designed for this grip is going to provide support to your palm, which means that it has a deep, rounded arch. These mice often incorporate rests that look like fins on the side that allow you to keep your thumb, ring and pinky fingers from dragging on the desktop. The rests often have additional buttons.
When you use a claw grip, the heel of your palm rests on the back of the mouse while the rest of the hand arches over the mouse until only your fingertips touch. This grip is most common with gamers because the arched fingers provide more agility. These mice are smaller with simple curves and no finger rests, and the bulk of the movement comes from the elbow and shoulder.
Only the fingertips touch the mouse when you use a fingertip grip. These Bluetooth mice tend to be thin and small. Often, the wrist and back of the palm rest on the desktop or a padded wrist rest while the fingertips move the mouse. It's also more common for these mice to have touch-sensitive controls.
Whether you simply need a basic keyboard and mouse for occasional use, or you’re a round-the-clock writer or gamer, you can find the right peripherals for your needs. Both keyboards and mice come in a variety of sizes and ergonomic designs, and some have programmable buttons or ones with preset functions. Upgrading your keyboard and mouse makes it easy to work hard and game harder.