Woman hitting a key on a touchscreen

This might be the Smartlife blog, but we admit we were all a bit stupid by being born 20 years too early for direct neural links with our computers. (Though not as stupid as our whippersnapper grandkids, who’ll use the ultimate fusion of man and machine to play CyberSolitaire).

Input is still the worst bottleneck in working with machines, where the most complicated creative processor in existence (you) is connected to a global information network through a few dozen squares of clicky plastic. Saving a few clicks here and there might not seem like much, but the speed (and psychological) advantages of replacing repetitive tasks with a single keypress add up over the day, especially when you’ve got thousands of those days ahead.

We’ve found five keypads to intelligently upgrade your input and, just as importantly, feel cool.

1. FrogPad

Most people think they don’t need extra equipment because they’re not data-entry workers. So only those with the worst keyboard job in the world should have good hardware? The FrogPad is an example of an intelligent alternative which isn’t all about quantity. Instead of helping you type faster, it helps you work more easily.

FrogPad

FrogPad Keyboard

The one-handed keyboard is an ancient internet joke (and an incorrect one, since most people use a mouse while exercising their ability to see images online, among other things) but also an important idea. If you ever have to read material for your job, be they books or printouts, the FrogPad allows you to review and write at the same time. The one-handed typing system gives you access to every letter (you hold the green button to access the second half of the alphabet, and it’s designed to have the most common letters easily accessible.) With a week’s practice, you’ll be dashing off notes without even realizing it, instead of propping paper against your monitor and craning your neck to see what you’re meant to be doing.

2. Warrior King

If you work hard, you should play hard. Otherwise, what’s the point? The Warrior Gamepad is the Frog’s fun cousin, the one who turns up for parties and shoots everyone (because that’s acceptable behavior in games). Instead of offering a full keyboard, the Warrior Gamepad rranges as many keys as possible around the core WASD group. And if you don’t know about the holy WASD (sometimes WSAD), understand that it’s the most sacred word in the religion of videogaming. It means “moving forward, back, left and right.”

Warrior Gamepad Keyboard

Warrior Gamepad Keyboard

While regular keyboards restrict players to a few awkwardly placed keys around this core group, the Warrior King arranges all the numbers and Function keys in literally handy circles. It also has the most comfortable space bar since someone served drinks in the International Space Station, as well as chunkily separated buttons for functions like “reload” and “grenade” (which are much more fun than “Bold Text” and “Spellcheck”).

3. Razer Naga

Behold!

Razer Naga MMO Laser Gaming Mouse

Razer Naga MMO Laser Gaming Mouse

That’s fantastic. Razer leapt over the battle to cram as many buttons on a single mouse as possible in the most ridiculously practical way possible. There’s an entire keypad under your thumb! While you wouldn’t use that for calculations, and it’s obviously designed for MMORPG games (so you now have the perfect present for the World of Warcraft player you somehow still know), it’s cunningly crafted for the worker as well. A switch allows you to set the buttons as the regular number keys or the NUMPAD, meaning you can connect them to macros while still having access to all the regular digits.

4. Real Retro Style

This isn’t practical, but it is smart and utterly beautiful. Plus, even knowing about it is going to make you a better person.

Old School Calculator

Old School Calculator

In the 70s, even desktop calculators were fantastically expensive (this was before the 80s, remember, when credit card calculators became cheaper to print and more numerous than actual credit cards), which is why one engineer decided to build his own instead. This gorgeous chunk of computerized retro-style isn’t retro-styled at all: it’s sincerely wood-paneled because that’s how they built things back then. The user had to design and build several of the circuit boards, including the inputs and the output display systems, himself. And he did it all to save himself the bother of multiplying things. So think of that the next time you don’t want to take a few minutes to streamline your work flow.

5. Optimus Aux

We’re back to things you can buy (though only barely) with the magnificent Optimus Aux. Optimus (at least the Prime version) isn’t just the greatest semi-truck of all time; it’s also the king of ludicrously expensive keyboards. The Optimus Maximus is infamously amazing, costing $1,600 dollars for a full keyboard where every button is an OLED screen. This is really making it worse than useless, because you’re spending approximately $1,600 for a keyboard full of tiny TV screens which, if you’re any good at tying at all, you’ll never look at.

Optimus Maximus OLED Keyboard

Even if it's pretty.

Which is why we’re impressed with the Optimus Aux instead.

Optimus Aux Keypad

Optimus Aux Keypad

The Aux applies the same design to an extra keypad, suddenly rendering the obscene techno-luxury useful. The buttons can be programmed to display their current function for whichever program you’re using, turning it into the sexiest secondary control system since Dr. Holly Goodhead helped Bond steer that space shuttle.

Dr. Holly Goodhead

Dr. Holly Goodhead

Image credit: caracterdesign / iStockphoto

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