5 Differences Between Laptop and Desktop Keyboard

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What are the differences between laptop and desktop keyboard? A desktop computer keyboard is very similar to a typewriter in style, and also in its purpose – to type.

There are different buttons, known as keys, in a specific arrangement. This is how it gets the name ‘keyboard.’

Over time with the decline of paper tape and punch cards, teleprinter-style keyboards became the chief input device for computers to interact with the systems.

A key in a desktop keyboard acts as electronic switches, resembling the mechanical levers of the traditional typewriter.

These keys have different characters printed or engraved on them. When each of these keys are pressed, it normally matches with one single written symbol.

Though most of the keys on the desktop keyboard will represent one specific character or symbol, you may at times need to press and hold a couple of keys together to produce a few specific symbols.

You may need to press and hold these keys either in a sequence or simultaneously.

The keys in the desktop computer keyboard represents:

  • Alphabets
  • Numbers and
  • Signs or characters.

There are also several other keys, called function keys, that perform specific actions or execute specific computing commands.

The main function of a desktop keyboard is to act as a text entry interface. It is used to type texts, symbols, and numbers into:

  • A text editor
  • A word processor or
  • Any other particular program.

Over the years, different developments were made in the design of the desktop keyboards.

In modern computers, a software is generally responsible for controlling the interpretation of key presses.

The software works in a complex way. The computer keyboard first distinguishes each of the physical keys of the keyboard from all the other keys on it and reports the key presses to the software.

A desktop keyboard is typically used to give different commands to the computer’s operating system. For example, the Control-Alt-Delete combination of Windows will bring up the security options of the system on the screen.

Previously, when this combination was used in a pre-Windows 95 Microsoft operating system, it signified a reboot of the system.

On the other hand, there is a command-line interface which is more like a user interface that helps in the navigation by simply using a keyboard. There are also other similar devices that will do such jobs.

There are a few duplicate keys in some specific desktop keyboards. The number of such duplicate keys will however depend on the size of the keyboard. These duplicate keys include:

  • Shift
  • ALT
  • CTL and even
  • One or two separate sets of numeric keyboards.

All these adds to the convenience factor of the users.

Currently, there are different types of computer keyboards available in the market. Each of these desktop keyboards are designed specifically focusing on the particular features included in it so that it is able to meet with the special needs of the users.

These desktop keyboards differ in size and shape. A keyboard that is smaller in size and comes with a fewer number of keys is called a keypad.

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The size, however, will largely depend on the anticipated extent of usage of the particular desktop system and the keyboard.

The type, size and design of the desktop keyboard and its keys also depend on other important factors such as:

  • Whether or not it is required to combine simultaneous or subsequent keystrokes to produce a single action, or
  • Whether or not there is any need for any modifier keys or
  • Whether or not multiple pressing of one single key will be enough and convenient to do that particular job.

Another significant development noticed in the design of the modern desktop keyboards is in the spacing of the buttons, which once again depends on the size of the keyboard.

This is because the size of the keys should be an important and practical consideration when it comes to typing accurately. It should be large enough to ensure that it can be pressed easily by both larger and smaller fingers.

The different type of keyboards available on the market are:

  • Standard alphanumeric keyboards
  • Laptop-size keyboards for notebooks or laptops
  • Handheld or ergonomic keyboards
  • Flexible keyboards
  • Thumb-sized external keyboard and
  • Multifunctional keyboards.

On the other hand, the laptop keyboards are no way different from the desktop keyboards in terms of its function. It also helps in writing texts and commands. However, the difference may be in the layout.

Just like the desktop keyboards, there are also different types of laptop keyboards.

Traditional style laptop keyboards come with keys that are close to one another. The edge of each key is sloping. This ensures more surface area of the keys and at the same time promises a better key travel.

The best part of this type of keyboard is that it entirely sits on a tray that can be replaced easily, as and when required.

An island or chiclet style laptop keyboard is the one that has the keys apparently popping out of the body of the laptop. There are separate cut-outs for every key that are generally flat and the edges are not sloping off.

This creates an illusion that there is more gap between the keys making it easier to see, type and clean as well.

This type of keyboard is replacing the traditional laptop keyboards today because it is more versatile, sleek and thinner in design making it a perfect fit for the lighter and thinner laptops of today.

The mechanical laptop keyboards come with real mechanical switches instead of a membrane under the keycaps. These switches, when pushed, produce a distinct ‘click’ sound.

However, the design of these types of keyboards use more space, the keys travel deeper and last for a long time. Moreover, these keyboards are expensive and therefore may add to the cost of the laptop.

Differences Between Laptop and Desktop Keyboard

Differences between Laptop and Desktop Keyboard

1. Arrangement of Keys

The keys on a laptop keyboard are arranged closely and in a different way than it is on a desktop keyboard. This is done to accommodate the small footprint of the laptop and utilize the smaller real estate to the fullest.

Alternatively, the keys on a desktop keyboard are arranged in a more generous way on a larger space that enables easy typing, and even faster typing at times.

2. Difference in Sizes 

The size of the keys on a desktop keyboard is much larger as compared to the keys of a laptop keyboard. This is because there is no space limitation to accommodate the number of keys.

On the other hand, the chassis of a laptop computer is itself very small in size. It is for this reason there is a difference in size of the laptop keyboards.

This means that the size of the individual keys on a laptop keyboard will be much smaller compared to a desktop keyboard.

3. Built

The desktop keyboard is an external input device attached to the system, just as the mouse.

To use and type on it, the keyboard is attached to the CPU through a cable. However, modern technology allows the desktop keyboards to connect wirelessly as well.

On the other hand, the laptop keyboard is built-in. There is also a touchpad that acts as the mouse.

However, if you are not comfortable in using the built-in keyboard of a laptop, you can also use an external keyboard and mouse, wirelessly connected or otherwise, for your convenience.

4. Function Key

In a laptop keyboard there is a specific ‘Function’ key, often denoted by ‘Fn.’ This ‘Fn’ key is meant to perform some special functions and is normally used simultaneously with other keys.

For example, when you press the ‘Fn’ key along with the up or down arrow key it will increase or decrease the brightness of the screen respectively.

The desktop keyboards will usually not have such special function keys, though some manufactures, like Dell, may have specific desktop keyboards in their product category that comes with a function key.

This is done to make the keyboard look just like a laptop keyboard providing more convenience to the users and ensuring smooth flow when they switch between keyboards.

5. Numeric keypad

There is a numeric keypad on a desktop keyboard. This allows you to input numeric commands to the computer system much easily and quickly.

The laptop keyboard will however not have a dedicated numeric keypad in its design. This is once again done to save space.

Which is Better – Laptop or Desktop Keyboard?

It depends on whichever keyboard you are comfortable to use.

If you are used to typing on a desktop keyboard, which is larger in size and comes with bigger keys, you may find it difficult in using a laptop keyboard, due to the proximity of the individual keys, and maintain accuracy in typing.

If you can adjust, you can use both, but if you cannot, it is better that you stick to your traditional desktop computer.

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Even if you buy a laptop, you can connect a wireless desktop computer and use it for your convenience.

The size, spacing and functions of the different keyboards also matter.

Some users may find typing on a laptop keyboard is much easier compared to a desktop keyboard.

For them, the closeness of the keys is better because it eliminates the chances of missing out a key or pressing one key wrongly.

If you are not comfortable typing on a smaller keyboard, you can use a laptop that comes with an 11.6 inches screen.

This will typically have a full-size keyboard. This will ensure an improved precision of the keystrokes.

If you really want to choose to use a laptop keyboard instead of a desktop keyboard, make sure that:

  • The keys are concave in shape and not flat to ensure that your fingers find the center of the keys easily without having to look down at the keyboard while typing.
  • There are standalone keys such as Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End as that will help you more if you do a lot of typing and text manipulation.
  • There is backlighting to enable you to see the keys clearly in the dark while typing. However, such a choice will depend on your work timing, working requirement and environment.
  • The keys offer greater resistance when you press them. This will ensure a better and higher tactile feedback to your finger. If it doesn’t, you will never know when a key is pressed and released. You will usually have a tendency to re-press it, which is the main reason for typos.
  • The throw of the keys or travel time is not short. It should go far down when you press the keys to make it comfortable to type. Most laptops come with keyboards with shorter travel time due to the slim and sleek frames.

Finally, check the flex on the laptop keyboard. This indicates the bend at the base of the keyboard.

You can check it by pressing the G and H keys in the middle.

If it has a lot of flex, it will bend inwards. This is bad because it will alter the force feedback needlessly which will affect your typing and accuracy with little support from beneath.

Ideally, when you choose a keyboard, you cannot possibly go wrong.

However, which is better among a desktop and a laptop keyboard will entirely depend on your typing style.

Choose one that will enhance your productivity and ensure accuracy in typing while keeping your fingers smiling and painless.


Desktop keyboards and laptop keyboards differ in several aspects apart from the size of each. Irrespective of which type you choose, make sure that you check the travel, functionality, tactility and overall comfort in typing. Remember, what may work for others may not work well for you.