How to Choose the RIGHT Keyboard Size (60%, 65%, TKL, 100%)
Have you ever wondered how many keyboards size types exist and why? Today we are going to discuss each size type, why they are awesome or maybe not, so you can buy the right keyboard next time. And to make this fun, every time I write the world keyboard you have to do a pushup, good luck!
Let’s begin with a full-sized chunker known as the 100% keyboard or the full-size keyboard. It has the full number pad, home cluster, F keys up top, arrow keys, and etcetera. The main advantage of this size to me are the options since it is by far the most popular keyboard size and probably the most sold too. It’s great for data entry because of the numpad, especially for keyboards that have the numpad on the left side.
There is so much variety in design, and if you are looking for unique features, interesting designs, they generally come to full-sized keyboards first. This may include digital dials or detachable macro clusters, insanely high polling rate, USB and audio passthroughs, proximity sensors for illumination, and every switch and existence you can imagine is most likely available. Also since many full-size keyboards are not worried about being compact, many gaming keyboards have the macro columns on the left side for that additional functionality.
Many also come with a wrist rest, but I have yet to stumble upon a full-size keyboard with a removable cable, so apparently that is reserved for the smaller keyboards. Chances are your very first mechanical keyboard was full-size because sometimes buying a smaller keyboard feels like a compromise because of the missing keys. If you are worried about the gaming space there is still hope for a properly aggressive slant with a full-sized chunker, so you can still manage to have enough room for your mouse to maneuver. Full-size keyboards are not for me because I never really use the numpad and prefer the much better ergonomics for typing with a smaller keyboard on my desk.
Moving to the next size category we have this strange downsize of a full-size keyboard. The 1800 compact classification has the same number of keys but without the dividing spaces making the body a little bit more compact. It offers all the same advantages of a standard full-size keyboard, but just with a slightly less chunky frame. This is the version where all the keys are in the same row offering a very unique look, but a more common form of the 1800 compact form factor is the type with the lower position arrow keys and the slightly closer numpad. Personally, I don’t see many reasons for this form factor to exist aside from the slightly different look that you might expect from a full-size keyboard.
Ten Key Less (TKL)
Now let’s move on to my favorite category of TKL, which stands for Ten Key Less, but in reality it’s more like 17 keyless. Imagine just cutting off the numpad to the right of the arrow keys and that’s your TKL keyboard. You still have the dedicated F keys and the handy home cluster. Just like what full-size I would say that there is plenty of variety in this form factor, both from the mainstream sector and lots of entry enthusiast options that focus on TKL. Many gaming brands focus on TKL sales because it’s the perfect compromise between comfort and usable keys with lots of new available space for mouse movement after you properly angled the keyboard. That to me is the primary advantage of TKL over full-sized keyboards. Also not only is a great for space conscious setups, but ergonomically it’s just far superior for typing because the alphabet portion is just more centered. My only complaint with TKL is the price, many times it’s more expensive than the full-sized keyboards. Also if you end up getting a custom key cap sets, which normally comes to cover a full-size keyboard, you end up having many unused keycaps.
Moving down the list we no longer have the names for the keyboard sizes, instead they are based on the percentages of a full-size 100% keyboard. The 75% keyboards are becoming more popular, especially with the introduction of the Glorious GMMK Pro. Basically it’s a more compact version of TKL with minimal spaces between the F row and the Home/arrow key cluster. The bottom row on the right of the spacebar shrinks in size, and the Shift key is also smaller to accommodate the Up key. The rest of the keyboard is identical for keycaps swapping and such, which is why it’s reserved for the enthusiast market or the custom community. Since finding key cap replacements for a 75% body is a bit more challenging. Generally it’s not as common as TKL, but functionally it serves basically the same purpose of being compact without losing the F row or the Home cluster or the arrow keys. However, it might not be your style visually because how close the keycaps are to each other.
And that is where the 80% layout comes in, which has all the same keys and basically an identical layout as a 75% keyboard, but the function row is separated from the numbers row so it’s kind of a hybrid between a TKL and a 75%. They look unique that’s for sure and are generally found in a special colorway design. This is something you might get as your main desktop productivity keyboard if all the other sizes are a bit too generic for you.
The next size down is a 65% keyboard, which is the same layout as the 75%, but without the dedicated functions row which makes the keyboard even smaller depth wise. This means the functions row is now built into the numbers row as secondary controls usually activated with the FN key. This is the smallest keyboard I’m willing to use because it still has the dedicated arrows key, plus that home cluster that is in the single column above. The main advantage here with a 65% keyboard is that it’s a perfect compliment for your notebook. You can travel around with this in your backpack or give you maximum space for mouse movement in an FPS environment. The main disadvantage is the activation of secondary keys like your F row, the Tilda the key, and the home cluster that are all one FN click away. Keycaps swapping for these smaller non-standardized layouts becomes challenging as the secondary controls are not all the same. The bottom row is not standardized especially on the right of the space bar on most models, unless you find a keyboard like ROG Falchion, which has basically a standard bottom row because all the slightly shorter space bar. Still if all you care about is the WASD zone for gaming you can go even smaller into the 60% form factor.
These 60% keyboards are quite popular since the keycap layout is mostly standardized across this category. This means your colorway options are plenty. You can see the 60% interior is the same as on a full-size keyboard, and just like with the 65% the functions row is built into the numbers row, but so are the arrow keys and the home cluster that the usually scattered throughout the keyboard and are activated as secondary functions. If you use them enough they become easy to recognize and kind of learn, but it’s definitely an adjustment coming from anything larger.
The biggest benefit is the even smaller size of the keyboard gives you that maximum mouse movement, which is awesome for FPS gaming. But on the other hand I have never been comfortable using a 60% keyboard in any productivity environment since even the Delete key is combined with the backspace and you constantly have to press FN to activate any of the F rows. And even if you put a 60% keyboard right next to a 65% keyboard the size difference is one column of keys, which is quite significant from a usability standpoint and is why the 65% keyboard is the minimum I would recommend even for space saving purposes since you gain so much additional functionality.
An alternative for gaming only are gaming keypads from Razer or Logitech others, but they serve one very specific purpose, are generally quite expensive, and have a layout that you will need to learn to be good with. Now going even smaller we have the highly niche size of 40% keyboards. These only have the full alphabet without the arrow keys, without the functions row, and the purpose is to go as small as possible and as unique as possible as well, while relying on your own configuration of different layers of functionality. It’s a pretty cool concept, and it’s something that I would recommend only if you’re willing to experiment.
And so that is the keyboard sizes explained, if you have a preferred keyboard size let me know in the comments. I realize that full-sized keyboards are still by far the biggest sellers in terms of proportions to anything else that is below it, but TKL is probably going to be the gamers favorites because it’s a really good balance between compact having all the functions still available to you. With anything smaller you kind of have to adapt, but still a 65% keyboard it’s fantastic as long as you don’t really use the functions row. I would love to try a custom built 40% keyboard just for typing with fantastic switches, that would be awesome.