Tue. May 21st, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Stick to Bluetooth and keyboards with 2.4GHz connectivity to avoid cumbersome wired connections.
  • Foldable keyboards are ideal for travelers looking for space-saving options with wireless connectivity.
  • If you don’t like the prospect of a foldable keyboard, consider compact, low-profile keyboards that neatly compliment your Steam Deck’s footprint.

While the Steam Deck is the closest we’ve got to a gaming console out of all handheld PCs, I recommend grabbing a keyboard if you plan to venture out into Desktop Mode or use your Deck docked. Here’s how to pick one, along with a few recommendations if you don’t feel like window shopping online.

Bluetooth Connectivity Is A Must

First and foremost, make sure to get a Bluetooth keyboard, or one that supports 2.4GHz wireless connectivity, because having to hook a wired keyboard to your Deck every time you want to type something is not only a huge pain, but also requires a USB-C dock since the Deck only has a single USB-C port.

Connecting a wired keyboard when docked is an even bigger hassle, especially if you keep your dock next to your TV. I strongly advise every Steam Deck owner to go down the Bluetooth route.

While not perfect and with a higher amount of latency compared to the cable and 2.4G, Bluetooth connectivity is reliable and fast enough for both light and long typing sessions, as well as for playing most single-player games.

Those of you who want to play multiplayer games on your Deck, or titles that require as little latency as possible, such as rhythm games, should aim for a keyboard that supports 2.4GHz wireless connectivity instead. That’s because 2.4GHz offers higher reliability and lower latency than Bluetooth.

While Bluetooth also uses 2.4Ghz radio frequencies, I’m using “2.4Ghz” here as a catch-all for the proprietary wireless technologies used by mouse and keyboard manufacturers, such as Logitech’s Unifying Receiver system.

A Foldable Keyboard Is Great for Steam Deck Owners Who Are Constantly on the Move

If you’re a frequent traveler and want a keyboard that won’t take up lots of space in your bag, check out foldable keyboards. They aren’t the greatest choice for typing and gaming due to their design, but they take much less space than even 60% keyboards, most models are super affordable, and virtually every foldable keyboard supports wireless connectivity.

A foldable keyboard is also a great choice for Steam Deck owners looking for a super-compact and affordable keyboard which they can tuck away in a drawer and take out for an occasional excursion into Desktop Mode to install a new game launcher such as the Epic Games Launcher, install and configure emulators, or just have it lying around while using their Deck docked.

If a Foldable Keyboard Doesn’t fit the Bill, Get Something Compact and Low-Profile

If you don’t like foldable keyboards and want something that’s made for heavy typing, stick to compact and preferably low-profile keyboards. The market is teeming with excellent compact, low-profile keyboards, many of which are mechanical and/or relatively affordable, offering a great typing and gaming experience.

Compact form factors—I’m talking about 75% and smaller—neatly complement the Deck’s footprint, making them great for travel. Besides, TKL (Tenkeyless) and full-sized keyboards take up a ton of space, especially if we’re talking about mechanical keyboards.

If you need a keyboard for typing and easier navigation around Desktop Mode, a great option would be a compact, low-profile keyboard with a built-in touchpad. That way you won’t have to carry a mouse with you when traveling, and can instead use a single device when using your Deck in Desktop Mode or docked.

You Can Use Your Main Keyboard With Your Deck

With all that said, you shouldn’t forget that you can use your main keyboard with your Deck. I’ve been using my Keychron K2 when I’m doing something on my Deck that I can do while sitting at my PC desk. The thing’s great for my typical cases, which include downloading apps and tools, installing and setting up emulators with EmuDeck, or preparing screenshots for guides and transferring them to my PC.

I also have a Vissles LP85 lying around that’s great to have when I’m not sitting at the desk because it’s compact and relatively lightweight; a perfect option to use when my Deck is docked to the TV or when I just want to type something quickly while chilling on the sofa.

Recommendations That Work Great With Steam Deck

If you’ve come to the end of this piece and don’t feel like spending hours on the web looking for a keyboard for your Deck, don’t fret; I’ve got a few recommendations listed below that all work great with the Steam Deck.

Foldable Option: iClever Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard BK03

Iclever Foldable Keyboard

The iClever BK03 is a relatively affordable and very compact foldable keyboard that supports Bluetooth connectivity and is compatible with Steam Deck. It offers a surprisingly decent typing experience, and is compact enough to fit in your pocket, making it a perfect travel companion for your Deck.

On the flip side, some keys are placed awkwardly compared to regular keyboards, and some owners do report issues including keys stopping working after some time, relatively poor battery life, and low traction on slippery surfaces. If you want something with a built-in touchpad, check out the OMOTON Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard with Touchpad.

Low Profile Mechanical Option: Nuphy Air60 V2

Nuphy Air60 keyboard.

While not the absolute best low-profile mechanical keyboard around, the Nuphy Air60 V2 offers a lot for the money. Excellent typing experience with a ton of different switches and keycap sets to choose from, lengthy battery life, Bluetooth and 2.4GHz connectivity, double-shot PBT keycaps, pretty solid typing sound for a low-profile mechanical keyboard, QMK and VIA support for full key customization, sturdy build quality, and lightweight design that’s perfect for travel.

Talking about negatives, the keyboard features a tiny right Shift key and its lightweight design might turn off hardcore mechanical keyboard fans. The Redragon K652 is a pretty solid alternative that’s lighter on the wallet. On the other hand, the Lowfree Flow is a high-end option made for typists that has one of the best typing sounds you can find in a low-profile mechanical keyboard.

Logitech K400 keyboard.

The Logitech K400 Plus is a super affordable wireless keyboard, and a great choice for the Steam Deck. You’ve got a trackpad, media keys, a serviceable typing experience, a price of less than $30, and an extremely long battery life.

That said, the K400 Plus doesn’t offer the best typing experience, the build quality could’ve been better, and the keyboard only supports 2.4GHz connectivity via a USB dongle. I recommend it to Steam Deck owners who are ready to reserve one USB port on their dock for the 2.4GHz dongle. The foldable OMOTON Bluetooth keyboard is a decent alternative if you want something as affordable as the K400 Plus, but with Bluetooth.

While the Steam Deck is at its best when using it as a gaming system having a small keyboard up your sleeve (or wherever you can fit it) will open a whole new world of possibilities for your hefty handheld PC.

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By John P.

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