In this guide, we’re looking at portable keyboards and pianos that can be the ideal companion to take to piano practice or a gig, a well as taking up less space around the home. There are lots of different options and choosing the ideal model of the keyboard for you can be difficult. How many keys do you need? What features are required? What will give the piano sound an authentic feel?
We explore a lot of the key features to help you decide which portable keyboard is the ideal choice. People have different needs and priorities. Some will want a keyboard or digital piano that mimics the feel of an acoustic piano, others will just want a small keyboard they can use to trigger a few notes on stage.
In a Hurry? Here Are the Best Portable Keyboard Pianos
Keyboard or Digital Piano?
These two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are definitions that separate digital pianos from portable keyboard pianos. A digital piano is designed to mimic the sound and feel of an acoustic piano such as a grand piano or an upright piano.
If someone wants to become a classically trained pianist but doesn’t have a piano, a digital piano could be a good choice. Digital pianos tend to be “full-sized”. This doesn’t mean that they take up the same space as a piano, but that the keys themselves are equivalent.
This means that the electronics need to be small and lightweight if the digital piano is still going to be portable.
A keyboard may be smaller and more lightweight in design. Keyboard piano designs don’t necessarily have 88 keys (this constitutes a full-sized piano). The keys may also be smaller, and sometimes more flimsy. Keyboards do often have the benefit of other tech features and multiple sounds being inbuilt. These days, they are commonly similar to synthesizers in some ways, with lots of synth sounds built into the sound engine, these can be used as well as orchestral instrument sounds and lots of other voices.
What Makes a Keyboard Feel Like a Piano?
Some musicians are looking for a digital piano that feels like a piano, whereas others don’t mind. If you’re playing electronic music and want something to sound and feel electronic then it isn’t the key priority, but if you want to play along to classical music and are looking for a piano that really feels like an acoustic model, you might find that certain features are essential.
Weighted keys are probably the most important thing in terms of the way a digital piano feels. These have a hammer action, and this is designed to mimic the way tiny hammers generate the sound in an acoustic piano. There are other methods of weighted keys, and these are designed to feel like a “real” keyboard.
Obviously, the sound plays a big part here, too. Having a piano that sounds natural is a big bonus, especially if you are looking for the best portable model to play compositions that are traditionally piano songs, rather than songs involving synthesized, “keyboard” sounds.
When looking for the best portable keyboard pianos, it may not be the number one priority for it to feel exactly like a grand piano, for example. You might have a piano at home and be looking for a portable keyboard to play when out and about. However, weighted keys are a big plus point. Most musicians find that the feeling that a weighted key gives can make for a more authentic experience.
Tech Features of Portable Keyboard Pianos
One of the best things about portable keyboard piano designs is the fact that they can give a lot of additional tech features when compared to pianos. A keyboard can include a lot of added extras that make it an attractive proposition for musicians and composers. Some examples include:
- Huge soundbanks including hundreds of sounds in some scenarios. Keyboard piano models may have far more than just piano sound options.
- MIDI and USB compatibility. Most modern portable keyboard designs allow you to link to a computer or even a tablet and control software.
- Recording and playback. Some portable keyboard pianos have inbuilt recording features, this can help when composing music or just listening to your practice.
- Multiple playing modes. Some include modes like “split” and “layer”. Some also have additional learning modes to help beginners.
- Bluetooth or aux inputs. Sometimes additional inputs can be more helpful than the outputs on a keyboard. An input is a way to link other devices, and allow you to play music through the speakers that are built into your piano. This can allow you to play along with your favorite songs.
The tech features of keyboard pianos are the way manufacturers tend to try and outdo one another. Some models introduce new and exciting technological features such as inbuilt lessons and app control, or USB compatibility to save and import songs.
Some people will prioritize the tech features, whereas others are looking for a piano sound that is authentic, with a sound engine that provides a realistic sound. It’s a matter of personal preference. We have mentioned portable keyboard piano options with both.
A Quick Word on Price
A lot of people looking to buy piano keyboards are unsure of how much they are going to cost. The truth is, there aren’t many musical instruments that have such a huge range of prices. A keyboard can be bought for under $50, especially if someone just wants the best small keyboard. A large digital piano with weighted keys and a variety of different tech features can cost thousands of dollars.
We’ve included the best portable keyboard piano options at a range of different pricing points. This should make it easier to find a cheap option or an elite option, depending on what is required.
Portable Keyboard Piano Reviews
1. Casio Privia PX-160BK 88-Key Full-Size Digital Piano – Best Portable Full-Size Digital Piano
People who are looking for the best portable keyboard pianos may still need 88-keys in order to be able to play a full range of songs, and not make any compromises. The Casio Privia PX-160BK allows people to do exactly this. It has a simple design and is relatively lightweight, making it easier to carry from one place to another.
In terms of price, this keyboard is somewhere in the mid-range. While we wouldn’t go so far as to call it a cheap keyboard, there are a lot of features on offer for the price, especially considering the fact that has all 88-keys that would be found on an acoustic model.
- Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action gives a realistic feel and mimics an acoustic piano.
- Two quality 8W speakers provide a decent sound, meaning you don’t need to plug this into an amp or PA, even when playing it on the go.
- String sounds and other tones to go with the piano sounds that are built-in.
- A two-track recorder is also inbuilt, allowing help with composing and listening back to practices.
- Still pretty bulky as most 88-key models are. It’s not the smallest digital keyboard.
- The keys are supposed to feel like ebony and ivory, but fall a little bit short in this regard.
Generally, for the best option of piano for those who want something with the full range of a traditional piano, the Casio Privia PX-160 could be a good choice. It’s bigger than some options, but it has plenty of playing possibilities.
2. Costzon 61-Key Portable Touch Sensitive Keys Digital Piano – Best 61-Key Portable Keyboard
You can see from the design of the Costzon that the manufacturers have not included anything that isn’t required in terms of taking up space on the design. It fits the bill of being a portable keyboard piano as it comes with a case and is simple to pack up and sling in the back of your car or take to gigs.
Even though the design is a bit smaller, it’s a 61-key design which means that in a lot of situations, you can play two-handed. This means it isn’t too much of a restriction, but it is a good way to cut down on space needed for your piano.
The tech features are very modern, and this keyboard has some features that we don’t expect, considering the affordable price tag. While a lot of keyboards have the option to use battery power, this has an inbuilt, rechargeable battery to give up to 12 hours of playing time without being plugged in. It can charge via USB.
- Includes metronome and recording mode.
- 128 Rhythms, 128 tones for lots of different choices on how you play your music.
- Small and lightweight, with no added extras taking up space on the keyboard design.
- Touch sensitivity, though this is not a hammer-action keyboard.
- Touch sensitivity does not work when linking to a computer and recording MIDI, for instance.
- Speakers could do with being a bit more powerful.
Considering how affordable this model is, and the fact it has some impressive functions that aren’t expected from such a cheap portable keyboard, this can provide a good option for all sorts of musicians. It’s both lightweight and versatile.
3. Akai Professional MPK Mini Play – Best Mini Keyboard and USB Controller
It might be the case that a tiny keyboard is all you need. This 25-key option can be a good choice for playing one-handed, and also has a lot of extra features that can help with live performance and composing. For the laptop musician, this could be the perfect little companion. You won’t be playing full symphonies on it, but you might be able to play simple songs, and the tech features are great for linking up to music software. Akai provides companion software that you can use.
This controller easily links to a wide range of software and lets you control a DAW, but it also has inbuilt sounds. Not just piano and keyboards, either, there are sounds like drums that can be played on the pads that are inbuilt.
- Loads of inbuilt effects meaning you can alter the sounds you are playing.
- Both inbuilt sounds and tones and the option to control other software such as virtual instruments.
- Drum pads are assignable, ideal for triggering sounds during live performances.
- Totally portable and can even be powered by 3 x AA batteries if needed. No need for a power adapter.
- Though velocity-sensitive (impacted by how hard you hit the keys), there is no hammer action, so it doesn’t have a realistic feel like a lot of the other keyboards on the list.
- A lot of controls are packed into a small space, so it can be tough to totally understand all of them.
The Akai is small, with only 25 keys, but it works brilliantly as a MIDI controller and an aid to playing live, especially when you can use the effects and link the keyboard to other music software. This can be the basis of a whole live recording. If you are looking for digital pianos that have a similar feel to an upright or grand piano then this is well wide of the mark, but for performing and playing on the go, the Akai Professional MPK Mini Play is a great portable keyboard piano.
4. Casio CTK-2550 61-Key Portable Keyboard – Best App Integration
Casio has made a range of keyboard pianos that can link to applications, with some very good tech features that make them an attractive choice for both beginners and experienced musicians. This is one of the best keyboards for people who want to use an iPad or tablet to help control their playing and learning.
The CTK-2550 has 61 keys, so it is a decent option for playing two-handed. Unless you are playing complex compositions, this keyboard piano should give you plenty of space, pop and rock songs are not out of the question.
- Chordata play app integration for learning your favorite songs.
- Easy to learn how to play with a step-up lesson system.
- An incredible 400 different tones to choose from.
- LCD display for easy controls.
- The piano tones that are built-in are not ultra high quality, the engine is good, but not amazing, meaning high-fidelity audio is not really available.
- Only a 48-note polyphony.
This is another great Casio option. The brand is well-known and they manufacture a lot of different keyboard pianos including many of the best portable options. This is relatively affordable and easy to use, and 400 tones mean a world of opportunities.
As you can see from the list of products we’ve put together, there are lots of different choices, and it is important to work out what features and functions are needed. People who want an 88-key keyboard may look to the Casio Privia PX-160BK, a realistic feeling, and a great sounding keyboard.
The most portable option is the tiny, 25-key Akai Professional MPK Mini Play keyboard. It has some great tech features but may not be ideal for playing intricate and detailed songs.