In the world of musical instruments many times there can be confusion concerning the categorization of an instrument, or even or an entire style or genre of music. Such is the case with the distinction between two instruments, keyboards and digital pianos, a distinction many people actually fail to realize exists. Many people believe digital pianos and keyboards are the same thing, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Once the distinction has been established, it is almost as if a rift is created between the two sides, and a battle for dominance one over the other ensues. Which is the better instrument? Before that question can be answered, the differences between the instruments must be uncovered.
The argument of digital pianos vs keyboards are pivotal, not only in terms of definition but for many consumers trying to make an informed purchase. Each musical instrument serves a unique purpose, and it would detrimental to any buyer to purchase and instrument only to find out later it is not what they were looking for. This is what happens to many customers, some being fooled by the outward appearance and thus making the wrong decision.
Piano Buying Guide
Below, compare the Korg SP170s to the Casio PX-860 and many other best selling pianos and keyboards in categories like weight, price, and even customer reviews from Amazon.com.
$ = $500 or less | $$ = $500 – $1,000 | $$$ = $1,000 and up
|Yamaha P-115||88||26 lbs.||$$||4.7/5|
|Casio AP-250||88||87 lbs.||$$||4.6/5|
|Casio PX-160||88||24.2 lbs.||$||5.0/5|
|Casio PX-860||88||78.26 lbs.||$$$||4.9/5|
|Yamaha YDP-V240||88||108 lbs.||$$$||4.6/5|
|Yamaha P-45||88||25 lbs.||$||4.8/5|
|Williams Legato||88||18.7 lbs.||$||4.2/5|
Digital Piano vs Keyboard: Characteristics
There are a number of characteristics that separate digital pianos and keyboards. Some of those characteristics can be separated into categories like size, keys and sensitivity, voices and song banks, and ultimately the price.
The size of a digital piano vs keyboard is the first recognizable difference. Keyboards are usually known for being lightweight, compact, and portable. It’s rare that a consumer will find a portable keyboard that weighs more than twenty-five pounds. The size is also dependent on the number of keys contained on the keyboard, and most keyboards usually only have 61 or 49 keys, allowing them to be much smaller than digital pianos. Digital pianos on the other hand are mostly 61 keys at the least, most having more than that in 76 or 88 keys. Digital pianos are also built to replicate the size and feel of real acoustic pianos, so they accommodate much more. They usually weigh 25 pounds at the least, and can weigh up to 60 pounds or more. Digital pianos also have more size since they come with custom-built stands, while keyboards sit on simple surfaces or general x-style keyboard stands.
The keys and their sensitivity set digital pianos and keyboards apart as well. Keyboards are known for having plastic looking and feeling keys, which don’t have much resistance to them, and certainly don’t have any kind of graded hammer action. A lot of keyboards also don’t have any touch sensitivity, meaning that each time you play a note it will be the same velocity every time. Digital pianos are much different, which some manufacturers going as far as to make real wooden keys, or at least give them an ebony and ivory texture to add realism. Most of them are weighted and have graded hammer action technology, which replicates the action of a real hammer key on a piano striking the string. The keys are also graded, meaning keys toward the bass have a heavier touch than keys toward the treble, just like a real acoustic.
With voices, sometimes the differences between digital pianos and keyboards can be very drastic, and sometimes not. Many keyboards can have hundreds and even thousands of sounds, along with rhythms, songs, and other features. Much of the times these sounds can seem cheap and even phony. Many digital pianos came with far fewer sounds, but focus on the quality of each staple voice, such as grand pianos, electric pianos, strings, basses and organs. Because of many of these differences digital piano prices and keyboard prices can be very different with most keyboards going for $50-$500, and digital pianos going from around $400-$5,000, and some hybrids even up to $20,000.
Below, please take a look at our top picks for the best keyboards and digital pianos available on today’s market:
Best Selling Digital Pianos
The Casio Privia PX-850 (which has been replaced by the Casio PX-860) is the flagship bearer of Casio’s Privia line of digital pianos, and represents some of the very best they have to offer. It showcases Casio’s AiR sound sourcing system, along with a 4-lid simulation system that mimics the opening of a real acoustic piano lid. It boasts a Tri-sensor scaled hammer action keybed along with ebony and ivory textured keys. This has a price range of $900-$1,100.
- NOTE: The Casio PX-850 has been replaced by the Casio PX-860, which we have reviewed here.
The Yamaha P-105 (which has been replaced by the Yamaha P-115) is one of Yamaha’s bestselling digital pianos, and greatly combines size, compatibility, and class engineering. It has 88 keys and uses Yamaha’s Graded Hammer Standard keybed technology in conjunction with 128-note polyphony. For the quality, $600-$700 is one of the better digital piano prices on the market.
- NOTE: The Yamaha P-105 has been replaced by the Yamaha P-115, which we have reviewed here.
The Casio Celviano AP-420 is a shining star for Casio’s Celviano line, which showcases the best in upright digital pianos and digital console pianos alike. This piano has a booming sound system to support its 88 scaled weighted hammer action keys and 128-note polyphony. The AP-420 can be found for anywhere from $900-$1,100.
Best Selling Portable Keyboards
The Yamaha Piaggero NP-31 is specifically built and designed to accommodate those looking for exceptional portability and size, hence the name ‘Piaggero,’ a mixture of Italian words for ‘light’ and ‘piano.’ This piano has 76 keys but still gives the consumer touch sensitivity without the weight of a hammer action system. Its price range is around $280.
- NOTE: The Yamaha NP-32 has been replaced by the Yamaha NP-32, which we have reviewed here.
The Yamaha YPT-230 (the YPT-240 is the newer instrument) is one of Yamaha’s bestselling keyboards. It has 61 keys and features 385 voices, 100 rhythms, and over 100 built in songs. It supports all of this with a quality sounds system and an education assistant that helps the user learn to play the piano. Its price range is from $100-$160.
The Yamaha Piaggero NP-11 is the miniature version of the NP-31. Some see it as a beginner digital piano. It showcases more of the same portability and size, and lowers the keybed from 76 keys to 61, with Advanced Wave Memory Sampling and Battery Power mode. This piano can be found from $160-$260 with a bundle package.
- NOTE: The Yamaha NP-12 has been replaced by the Yamaha NP-12, which we have reviewed here.
We Think You’ll Enjoy the Following:
- What Are the Best Digital Pianos Under $1,000?
- What Are the Best Keyboards for Beginners?
- The Ultimate Digital Piano Buying Guide
- What’s the Best Digital Piano for Beginners?
- What’s the Best Way to Learn Piano at Home?