If you want to save cables at your desk, you have two options for wireless keyboards: wireless and Bluetooth. Although the underlying technology is the same for both, it makes significant differences in what you choose.
For this article, we will not go into too much detail in terms of technical intricacies – the whole matter is, of course, a little more complex than presented here. Our primary goal here is to work out what helps home users make a purchase decision.
Bluetooth and wireless keyboards: basically not very different
Bluetooth and radio signals are strictly the same: high-frequency radio waves. Bluetooth is, after all, just one type of radio signal: a standardized protocol designed to create great compatibility between as many devices like a mouse, Bluetooth earphone, as possible.
The Bluetooth logo – this will tell you if your device supports Bluetooth
For a device to be “Bluetooth-enabled”, it must meet the requirements of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) – this ensures that wherever “Bluetooth” is on it, there is also a device that is compatible with other Bluetooth devices.
All Bluetooth signals have in common that they spark in the range of 2.4gHz. At the same time, this is also the frequency that virtually all wireless keyboards and mice use. Wi-Fi and even microwaves also work in the 2.4gHz range.
Whether Bluetooth or radio depends on your requirements
The mode of transmission – 2.4gHz radio waves – is the same for Bluetooth and “ordinary” wireless keyboards (also RF keyboards for radio frequency). Neither is definitely superior to the other and what really matters when you decide between the two are, as is often the case, your individual requirements and what you want to use the keyboard for.
Pure desktop/notebook users drive better with radio
If you are looking for a desktop-only keyboard for a Laptop, we think it’s best to take care of RF keyboards.
Desktop PCs, in particular, are rarely equipped with Bluetooth cards ex-works. At the same time, Bluetooth keyboards are delivered in virtually all cases without a Bluetooth dongle. In the worst case, you also need to purchase a separate Bluetooth adapter when you buy a Bluetooth keyboard.
Another advantage of wireless keyboards is that manufacturers do not have to comply with the Bluetooth SIG guidelines and can optimize their USB receivers better on the respective devices.
This is particularly noticeable when setting up radio keyboards. Everything runs according to the motto Plug & Play: if you connect the USB dongle to the PC, the necessary drivers are installed, and the keyboard is ready for immediate use. A search and pairing, as with Bluetooth keyboards, is not necessary.
Two-in-one dongles keep USB slots free.
Many manufacturers now also offer dongles that can connect to multiple devices. The best option is a combination of a wireless keyboard and mouse – both of which require only one USB port.
The great sample student of this discipline is Logitech with its Unifying dongles, to which you can connect up to 6 Logitech peripheral devices.
Working on multiple computers: not quite as practical
USB dongles have one disadvantage: without them, the associated keyboards are also useless.
However, you will only know the anger about a forgotten dongle if you use wireless keyboards on the go and different computers. Although many manufacturers have already installed a small transport cow for the dongle in the keyboard, you still run the risk of falling victim to your own forgetfulness and leaving it in the USB slot.
Bluetooth keyboards are essential for writing on mobile devices
If the device you want to connect the keyboard to has Bluetooth, you don’t need to connect dongles to Bluetooth keyboards.
This makes them particularly useful if you want to connect them to your smartphone or tablet. B – you can only get a USB receiver connected in the most cumbersome way. Bluetooth connectivity also includes virtually all tablets and smartphones.
Slightly less practical are Bluetooth keyboards on desktop PCs. If the connection breaks once, you often have to pair again – the PC and keyboard have to “find each other” before you have to enter a code that appears on the screen before the connection is back.
Bluetooth keyboards in BIOS: not always ready for use
If you often have to make settings in your PC’s BIOS, you should always have a replacement keyboard (USB or PS2) at hand: in many cases, Bluetooth is not ready for use before starting the actual operating system.
Bluetooth adapters are a way to work on older PCs.
If you have to connect to a PC without Bluetooth, you can connect a standard USB Bluetooth adapter. This works largely as with a dongle, which is also used with an ordinary radio keyboard; however, the connection is still via Bluetooth.