It’s not a nice feeling…
You leave your home and you can’t take your piano with you.
Or maybe you’re like so many others:
You want to play the piano at home, but you just don’t have room for an acoustic or large digital piano.
Thankfully, there are electronic keyboards available that are very portable and compact, but still sound great.
We have researched quite a few and want to highlight 5 of the best portable piano keyboards on the market today.
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How To Choose a Portable Piano Keyboard
There is quite a bit of confusion surrounding digital pianos and electric keyboards. The two are even used to mean the other, but they are hardly the same thing.
A pianist who buys a keyboard misleadingly sold as a digital piano will feel cheated after quickly realizing it lacks features a digital piano must have.
If you are like most people, your choice for a portable piano keyboard will primarily be based on how light and compact it is to take with you when you travel, or if your space is very limited.
Yet the assumption is also that the keyboard already meets certain minimum benchmarks for its primary function - to produce music.
And that is perhaps where we ought to start.
What Features are Important To You?
What will suffice for a pop or electronic dance musician will differ markedly from the expectations of someone harboring aspirations for a career as a classical pianist.
Other than portability, these people do not look for the same things when they go shopping for a portable keyboard.
There is a whole bunch of features that determine how light and compact a keyboard is. How portable your chosen keyboard is will depend on which of these features you are prepared to sacrifice.
The best portable keyboard really depends on which features are more important to you, and which aren’t.
What are Your Musical Goals?
However way you look at it, a piano keyboard represents a downgrade for one used to an acoustic piano, or even a digital piano.
Unless you are a beginner looking to gently whet your feet before deciding if piano is the right instrument for you, a keyboard isn’t always an ideal instrument.
For a classical pianist, a 25 or 49-key keyboard with unweighted keys and no touch sensitivity is not much use, despite how portable it may be.
A pop musician though may find it good enough to jam with.
The Number of Keys Determines the Size of a Keyboard
A keyboard can have as little as 25 keys, and as many as 88. The number of keys on a keyboard is a pointer to its width, bulk, and weight.
The wider the keyboard is, the heavier, bulkier, and less portable it is.
This will be one of the first tradeoffs you will have to contend with when you go shopping for a portable keyboard.
However, 49-key keyboards should probably be the lowest you should go if you are looking for a keyboard of acceptable action and sound quality.
A keyboard with 49 keys would be cheap and have great portability, but you will be sacrificing a lot of the better features. And a lot of the features you do get will likely be of poor quality.
As we have determined, a wider keyboard logically points to a heavier keyboard. But there is another dimension to it.
The best keyboards have weighted keys made to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano. This gives classical pianists a smaller practice piano whose action isn’t too different from that of a real acoustic piano.
But this extra weight on the keys adds more pounds to the overall weight of a keyboard.
You will have to contend with a heavier keyboard, if weighted keys isn’t a feature you are prepared to forgo.
Voices and Polyphony
Expecting acoustic sound quality from a 49-key keyboard just isn’t reasonable.
But a keyboard with lousy timbre and a low note polyphony will produce music that’s as flat as a pancake. You will bore whoever is listening to tears.
You will certainly have to make a concession with polyphony as most of the keyboards on the market have either too little or none at all.
However, most keyboards come with a wonderfully expansive selection of voices, songs, and rhythms.
It is the quality of the sounds that you will have to mindful of. The sound coming off the cheaper models isn’t that great.
Does the Keyboard Take a Battery?
It is a fair assumption that a person out shopping for a portable keyboard must travel and play outdoors a lot. This means they will not always have a readily available source of power.
Makes sense then that they will likely insist on a keyboard that takes batteries.
Decide if this is you, as not all portable pianos are designed to take batteries. You can always hook up a battery to an inverter as a workaround.
But this will mean an extra cost.
Best Portable Keyboard Reviews
You will discover we have chosen not to include portable keyboards with less than 61 keys.
For true portability, decent sound, and playability, you are better off sticking to the 61 and 73-key range.
An 88-key keyboard will usually be too heavy and is almost always rightly sold as a digital piano.
And anything with less than 61 keys, though quite portable, will usually be of poor quality, have unweighted keys, and lack touch sensitivity.
Those keyboards are cheap and your young child may find them stimulating and adequately entertaining.
But mature beginner learners should look past them and opt for something that will challenge them and enrich their learning experience.
Yamaha YPG-235 76-Key Portable Grand Piano
Yamaha is the biggest name in digital pianos and keyboards. It has a solid reputation for building high quality pianos.
If there is an instruments maker who's completely in tune with the needs of piano players, it would be Yamaha.
The brand has shown this awareness by producing keyboards for all skill levels and budgets. The Yamaha YPG-235 is part of Yamaha’s expansive range of keyboards.
Pro and Con List:
- Priced at an absolute steal for its range of features
- Weighing 26 pounds, the keyboard has decent portability
- Piano style keys with graded soft touch that enable more expressive playing
- Not quite full size digital piano, but with 76 keys it is the closest you will get
- Comes with the Yamaha Education Suite, which learners will find particularly handy
- Large library of voices, styles, and pre-set songs, as well as an in-built recording functionality
- Has a stand included, which is very convenient
- A retro-style, larger headphone jack. You may need an adapter to connect better quality headphones
- The keys are not weighted, which may be a deal breaker for people used to playing acoustic pianos
- Many buyers have complained about the keyboard being shipped without a power adapter
Casio CTK2400 PPK 61-Key Portable Keyboard Package
Casio has more than proven itself as a maker of quality musical instruments.
So it is no surprise one of its keyboards should routinely make the best portable keyboards lists.
It is interesting though, none of its portable keyboards have more than 61 keys.
The Casio CTK 2400 weighs in at 19.5 pounds, which is remarkably light.
The keyboard does not have any features that stand out, but it is a good quality option for beginners, especially with its integrated Step-Up learning system.
Pro and Con List:
- 700 built-in sounds, including 15 piano voices
- Touch sensitive, which is an absolute must for piano players
- 48 note polyphony isn’t much but is significant considering some keyboards don’t come with any
- The keys have good action and mimic a real acoustic piano fairly well
- An intuitive sampling function, an in-built microphone, and 400 tones to choose from
- A height adjustable, heavy-duty steel stand
- Headphone jack and headphones for late night playing
- Can run on batteries, which is convenient when playing outdoors
- No keyboard splitting capability, which is a feature beginners find helpful
- The grand piano voice doesn’t sound very authentic
- Speakers aren’t loud enough, even at full volume
- User interface is rudimentary, with a dull LCD screen and hard-to-read lettering
Yamaha PSR E253 Portable Keyboard
Being a Yamaha product, the quality of this keyboard is predictably good. It is also remarkably light.
With its compact design, the Yamaha PSR E253 thus has excellent portability.
But being the brand’s entry level keyboard, it is not fancy and will not do much that other keyboards in its class won’t do.
Still, the keyboard has sold fairly well, and its positive reviews by buyers suggest the keyboard does what it promises.
That it won’t punch any holes in your pocket also means it is fair value.
Beginner pianists and hobbyist musicians will find it good enough to learn and practice with.
That said, with just 61 keys and no touch sensitivity, the keyboard is not a viable substitute for an acoustic piano.
Pro and Con List:
- 385 voices, including piano, guitar, and drums
- Yamaha Education Suite, with a 9-step lesson program for beginners
- Accompaniment styles, which provides backup sounds for richer performances
- An AUX IN jack that allows you to connect your MP3 player and play your music through the keyboard’s speakers
- Keyboard splitting functionality, which makes it easy to jam or practice with a partner
- A headphone jack helps to mute speakers and play without annoying your neighbours with all the noise
- Comes with a stand, but it’s poor quality and tricky to assemble
- Not velocity sensitive, meaning it won’t help train your technique for acoustic piano
- Could have done with better quality speakers
Casio WK 6600 76-Key Workstation Keyboard
Clearly not the most portable keyboard out there. The 24 pounds is five or six pounds heavier than most people would consider to be suitably portable.
But you would struggle to get a 76-key keyboard with the Casio WK 6600’s level of quality and pricing.
Admittedly, the action is not acoustic piano quality and the action will feel a little mediocre if all you have played before is a Steinway grand.
But, honestly, if you are going to be shopping for a 76-key keyboard with weighted keys and a net weight lighter than 24 pounds, your quest is going to be a long one.
Pro and Con List:
- 48 note polyphony, which ensures an acceptably dynamic sound
- Touch sensitive, piano style keys for a more expressive playing experience
- 700 tones, digital effects, 210 rhythms, rhythm editor, and 16 song sequencer, which is enough to tinker around with and stimulate your creative senses
- Comes with rechargeable batteries, perfect for the times you have no access to electricity
- Multi-track recording capabilities
- SD card slot and USB/MIDI compatibility so you can hook up your computer and other accessories
- The black keys are a little narrow, which may be a problem for people with larger fingers
- The headphone jack is an old-style large hole which won’t fit modern headphones
- Would have done better with a pedal for resonance control
Nord Electro 5D 73-Key Semi-Weighted Waterfall Keyboard
The keyboards we have reviewed so far are all fairly inexpensive. That means they also don’t have any cutting edge features.
Neither will they win any prizes in the aesthetics’ stakes.
Yet not all keyboard buyers are motivated by a low price.
Yes, they will want portability. But they may also be prepared to pay top dollar if they can find anything with matching quality and features.
The keyboard does not need to have an acoustic sound and action. Indeed some electronic artists may not care much for all that.
Pro and Con List:
- At 20.3 pounds, the keyboard is light and luggable
- 61 weighted hammer action piano-style keys with decent action that can help train your acoustic piano technique
- A user friendly interface with a large LED display
- 6 LED-indicated split points that are handy if you sometimes play with a partner
- Large, 1 GIG piano library and 256 MB of sample songs
- A truly fantastic keybed
- Even at $2.200, which is cheap in Nord terms, it is still quite expensive
And Our Pick Is…
Deciding which one is the best portable keyboard isn’t easy. They are clearly not made to have the best of every feature.
Yamaha will always give you the best piano sounds.
But I feel they do not have a keyboard that’s adequately portable and has enough of the fancier features.
Yes, their keyboards are good functional machines. But they seem to care more about making affordable keyboards, including only the basic features and using cheap, third party accessories.
The Nord Electro 5D is a quality, feature-rich, portable, and typically good looking keyboard that is a dream to perform with.
It is a tempting option. But at over $2,500, it is perhaps too high-end for a keyboard.
For me the Casio WK 6600 has the right balance between key action, features, sound quality, and portability.
At around $300, it is also a fairly inexpensive option.
You may not choose it for a large open air concert, but it should be good enough for a church service and small gigs.
Portable Keyboards are Not Meant to Be Perfect
It is fair to say not many keyboard manufacturers are motivated to produce a keyboard of acceptable portability and real quality.
Maybe their own market intelligence informs them there isn’t a profitable market for high end portable keyboards.
After all, most have several digital keyboards already selling for prices an average quality or high end portable keyboard would probably sell at.
If you want a better keyboard, the manufacturers have decided, you will have to add a few hundred dollars and get a digital piano instead. It will be a less portable option, but still an upgrade.
If you can handle a heavier keyboard, the digital pianos we have reviewed here may be worth considering.