TKL, 60%, or 75% Keyboard? Guide to Keyboard Sizes

Keyboard sizes blog title on Switch and Click

Question and Answer

When I first started looking into mechanical keyboards, I found that there were a bunch of different sizes that I could purchase. I knew that the full-size keyboard wasn’t for me, but what did all these other numbers mean?

I did a bit of research from different resources, and this is what I learned.

A full-size keyboard is 104 keys. It includes everything you can think of, including the function keys and the number pad.

A tenkeyless (also known as TKL) has 87 keys (which makes it an 80% keyboard), all that’s missing is the number pad.

The next smallest size is a 75% keyboard is a TKL keyboard that’s been shoved together to save space. They shrink or remove a few keys, but most of the space difference is from the rearrangement of keys such as the arrow keys and the keys such as Insert, Home, End, Del, PgUp, and PgDn.

The 60% keyboard is another common design layout. It ditches the number pad as well as the function row, the F buttons, at the top. On certain keyboards, they also omit the arrow keys. They can be programmable to have a 2nd layer where the arrow keys can be accessed as well as media controls.

Let’s get even smaller, to the 40% keyboard. This keyboard ditches the number row as well as the function row and number pad. All that’s left are the letters and the modifier keys such as enter, ctrl, shift, alt, caps lock, etc. This is known as the smallest usable keyboard layout and are not commonly sold by companies.

That’s it for the main sizes of keyboards. Let’s dive in deeper into each category.

Ortholinear keyboard that is 40% layout that's been modded.
Ortholinear 40% keyboard that’s been modded.
Full size keyboard
Full size keyboard, Photo by 小谢 on Unsplash

Full-size layout

These keyboards are what you see primarily out there in the general keyboard world. Most membrane keyboards are a full-size layout.

It includes all the modifier keys and the number pad, which makes this keyboard convenient for office jobs where data entry is a key component of their workday.

Imaging having to key in all those numbers while jumping around the number row. It’ll be quite easy to make a mistake and not even know it.

It’s also convenient to have in situations such as helicopter/plane flying in GTA 5. Trust me, I’ve done it without the number pad and it’s horrendous.

If you’re not into GTA 5, then a number pad also comes in handy for flight simulations as well.

tenkeyless keyboard
TKL keyboard, Photo by Gilbert Pellegrom on Unsplash

Tenkeyless (TKL)

This is my keyboard of choice. It saves a lot of space on your desk and makes it ergonomic to access your mouse and keyboard without stretching your arms too wide.

Side note: I am 5’1”, so my arm span is not super long. If your arms are longer, you might not mind having a larger keyboard.

TKL keyboards are available from many mainstream manufacturers. Some examples include the Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition or the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition. We’ve discussed good and bad things about Razer in another post.

These are very common, and there are plenty of Top/Best TKL Keyboards posts out there such as this one from IGN.

Making the switch from a full-size keyboard to the TKL keyboard is easy because not many people use the number pad in the first place. It’s much easier to bring a TKL keyboard in your backpack or briefcase.

Tenkeyless keyboard
Tenkeyless design without the number pad.

75% keyboard

As I’ve said before, these are exactly like the TKL keyboards with shrunken or removed keys. Its primary goal is to save space by taking away space between the arrow keys, space between the Esc button, function row keys, and other modifier keys.

Typically, these come with arrow keys, so you’re not losing too much in the trade here.

These keyboards are pretty and space-efficient.

65%

Moving one step smaller to the 65% keyboard. These are just like the 60% keyboards with some navigation keys and arrow keys.

It is one step-below the 75% keyboards in the sense that the function row is taken away.

These keyboards have about 68 keys.

60%

At 60% keyboards, you start losing some convenient functions such as the arrow keys.

It is possible to program additional layers to bring the functions back using key combos such as pressing the Fn or Fn+Ctrl buttons. Many of these keyboards are QMK-compatible.

These keyboards still have the number pad.

For people with small workspaces, this is super convenient.

60% keyboard
60% Keyboard, Photo by 1AmFcS on Unsplash

Summary

In summary, we’ve discussed the main characteristics of different keyboard size layouts.

For people who use the number pad often, you’ll probably prefer a full-size keyboard. However, if you don’t, you can move to smaller sizes for a minimalist aesthetic, portability, and space saving.

TKL and 60% are very popular sizes when looking at the smaller keyboards.

65% keyboards are the smallest size keyboards that still have the arrow keys.

40% keyboards are the smallest functional keyboards.

Personally, I prefer TKL keyboards. Perhaps I would also enjoy a 65% keyboard if I made a custom-build. For me, arrow keys are a must. You never know when you might be gaming or playing the next Runescape.

It’s super aesthetic on my table, and here’s a plus side. If you go somewhere, you can stow your sweet keeb inside your jacket. Surprise!

If you guys/gals have any additional questions that may be something I haven’t questioned yet while getting into this hobby, feel free to post it down below!

We’d be happy to do the research and summarize it all for you.

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