If you’re considering purchasing a mechanical keyboard, one essential factor to keep in mind is the size. Sizes can vary across different mechanical keyboards, and each size offers unique features and benefits that may cater to your specific needs. Let’s explore the various sizes of mechanical keyboards to help you find the perfect match for your requirements.
Mechanical keyboards come in several sizes, including Full-Sized (104 key), TKL (87 key), and 60% (68 key). These are the most common sizes you’ll come across, each offering a distinct set of features. Full-size keyboards provide a wide range of keys, while smaller sizes like TKL and 60% remove certain elements such as the number pad, function row, or arrow keys to save space. It’s essential to understand the differences between these sizes to select the one that best suits your preferences and workspace.
Several less common mechanical keyboard sizes cater to niche preferences or unique requirements. Some examples are the 75%, 65%, and 40% mechanical keyboards. Each of these sizes removes additional keys or rearranges them in such a way that may require a learning curve, but could ultimately lead to a more enjoyable typing experience. Ultimately, your choice of mechanical keyboard size should be based on your priorities, typing habits, and desk space.
Basics of Mechanical Keyboard Sizes
Mechanical keyboards come in various sizes to suit different preferences and needs. In this section, we will explore the most common mechanical keyboard sizes and their unique features.
TL;DR Mechanical Keyboard Sizes Options Chart
|Keyboard Size||Number of Keys||Number Pad||Home Cluster||Function Row||Arrow Keys||Number Keys||Volume Knob|
Full-size keyboards are the standard size, featuring a complete set of keys, which usually range from 104 to 108 keys. These include the function keys, navigation cluster, arrow keys, and a separate number pad. This option is perfect if you want access to all the keys and value easy-to-find keycaps.
The 1800 Compact keyboard is similar to a full-size keyboard but with a more space-efficient layout. It combines the main keys, number pad, and navigation keys into a more compact design without sacrificing functionality. If you need the number pad but want to save some desk space, this option might be right for you.
Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards maintain most of the full-size keyboard features but remove the number pad. This design still provides access to navigation keys and function keys, creating a balance between functionality and space-saving that many typists and gamers appreciate.
75% keyboards are a more condensed version of TKL keyboards. They include the same keys but compact the layout by removing the spaces between the function keys, navigation cluster, and arrow keys. The 75% keyboard is a great option if you need most of the standard keys but are looking to save even more space.
A 65% keyboard excludes the function keys and contains approximately 66-68 keys. This layout retains the arrow keys, navigation keys, and alpha-numeric keys but reduces the number of keys by melding the traditional layout with a compact design. This option is a popular choice for those looking for a minimalistic setup.
60% keyboards are even smaller than 65% versions, typically having 61 keys. These keyboards remove the arrow keys, navigation cluster, and function keys, but the keys’ functionality can be accessed through function layers.
The 40% keyboard is one of the smallest standard layouts available, often containing around 47 keys. These ultra-compact keyboards remove the number row, arrow keys, function keys, and navigation cluster. The missing keys can be accessed through function layers, making this option ideal for minimalist users who value portability.
A standalone number pad, also known as a numeric keypad, provides the number pad functionality without the additional keys from full-size or TKL keyboards. This option is an excellent choice for users who require only the number pad and want to save desk space.
A macro pad is a small auxiliary keyboard that usually contains 6-24 keys, designed for users who want additional input options. They are often used for productivity tasks, custom key mapping, or gaming functions and can be paired with other keyboard sizes for added versatility.
Understanding Keyboard Layouts
When choosing a mechanical keyboard, it’s essential to understand the different layouts available. These layouts can have an impact on usability, aesthetics, and productivity. In this section, we’ll discuss various keyboard components, including the Numpad, Function Row, Arrow Keys, and Navigation Cluster.
The Numpad, also known as the numeric keypad, is a dedicated section of the keyboard used primarily for entering numbers. It consists of 17 keys, including numbers 0-9, arithmetic symbols (+, -, *, /), and some navigation keys. The Numpad is commonly found on full-sized keyboards but is omitted in smaller layouts like Tenkeyless (TKL) and 60% keyboards to save space. If you frequently work with numbers, a keyboard with a Numpad may be ideal for you.
The Function Row, located across the top of the keyboard, includes keys labeled F1-F12. These keys serve as shortcuts for specific functions when combined with the Fn (Function) key, which varies depending on the keyboard and operating system. For example, pressing Fn+F5 might refresh your browser, while Fn+F12 could toggle airplane mode. Some smaller keyboards, like the 60% layout, remove these dedicated function keys and require users to access them using the function layer, which is achieved by holding down the Fn key and pressing the corresponding key on the main layout.
Arrow keys are typically arranged in an inverted “T” shape and include Up, Down, Left, and Right arrows. These keys are used for navigation, text selection, and gaming. The presence of dedicated arrow keys can be essential for people who work with text editors or play games that require precise movements. Many smaller keyboard layouts, like the 60% and 65%, integrate the arrow keys into the main layout or require a combination of keys to access them.
The Navigation Cluster comprises a group of keys used for quick navigation and editing actions, such as Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, Insert, and Delete. These keys are found on full-sized and TKL keyboards, usually located between the main keyboard layout and the Numpad. Users who regularly work with documents and spreadsheets might find these keys helpful for greater efficiency. Smaller keyboard layouts often remove the dedicated navigation keys, integrating them into the function layer instead.
Design Options for Mechanical Keyboards
Compact keyboards offer space-saving benefits, making them ideal for those with limited desk space or who frequently travel with their keyboard. These smaller keyboards come in various sizes such as Tenkeyless (TKL), which omits the number pad, and 60% keyboards, which remove even more keys like navigation and function rows. By utilizing function layers, you can still access all the keys on a standard full-size keyboard, just with fewer keys physically present.
Ergonomic keyboards focus on comfort and reducing strain during long typing sessions. They achieve this by incorporating features such as:
- A curved key layout that follows the natural shape of your hands
- A tented design that angles the keyboard halves to reduce wrist strain
- Adjustable tilt or palm rests to accommodate your typing posture
By using an ergonomic keyboard, you can improve your overall typing experience and potentially reduce the risk of developing issues related to repetitive strain injuries.
Split keyboards take the ergonomic benefits even further by dividing the keyboard into two separate pieces. This allows you to position each half independently, optimizing your hand placement and reducing strain on your wrists and shoulders. Some popular examples of split keyboards are the ErgoDox and Kinesis Freestyle Edge.
For those who want a truly unique typing experience, custom keyboards offer endless possibilities. From group buys that allow you to purchase exclusive designs and keycap sets to completely custom builds, you can create a keyboard that reflects your personal taste and decor. Customization options include:
- Switch types and colors
- Keycap material (ABS, PBT) and profile (DSA, SA, Cherry)
- LED backlighting or underglow
- Custom-function programmability
With custom keyboards, you have the opportunity to tailor the form, function, and aesthetics to fit your preferences.
Portability and Space Efficiency
When considering a mechanical keyboard, you should weigh the importance of portability and space efficiency in your decision. Smaller keyboard sizes offer increased portability, allowing you to easily transport your keyboard between work and home, or to events like gaming tournaments. With less desk space required for the keyboard, you can benefit from a more ergonomic setup, giving your mouse more room for movement and reducing the strain on your wrists and shoulders.
Functionality is another critical factor to consider when selecting a keyboard size. Smaller keyboard layouts like the 60% and 75% models provide space-saving benefits without sacrificing essential keys that you rely on daily. While they may not have a numpad or dedicated function keys, these keyboards often utilize a combination of Fn keys and layers to access additional functionality, making them efficient in terms of space.
Here’s a quick comparison of popular mechanical keyboard sizes:
- Full-size keyboards: Feature a numpad and dedicated function keys, great for professionals who frequently work with numbers, but take up more desk space.
- Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards: Remove the numpad while retaining the dedicated function keys, offering a more compact option without sacrificing too much functionality.
- 75% keyboards: A balance between portability and functionality, these keyboards closely resemble TKL layouts but have the keys packed more tightly together.
- 60% keyboards: The ultimate option in portability, these keyboards eliminate the numpad, function keys, and other extra keys, focusing on the essentials and saving the most space on your desk.
Choosing the right mechanical keyboard size depends on your priorities in terms of portability, functionality, and desk space. Whether you value a compact design for on-the-go use or you need a full-size keyboard for number-crunching tasks, it’s essential to find the right balance that meets your needs while maximizing space efficiency.