Ortholinear keyboards are a unique type of keyboard with a die-hard group of followers within the mechanical keyboard community. The non-staggered keys make for an interesting typing experience that is highly sought after.
To help you pick the perfect ortholinear keyboard, we decided to put a list together of the very best ortholinear keyboards currently available. Let’s dive into the list.
The OLKB Planck is one of the most popular ortholinear keyboards currently on the market, designed by Jack Humbert. The keyboard comes in a 40% layout with a 47 or 48 key set-up depending on if you want to have a slightly larger spacebar key to orient everything.
DIY Keyboard Assembly
The Planck will need to be assembled by hand, which includes purchasing the PCB, plate, and PCB separately on the OLKB website. You can mix-and-match the different parts to customize the keyboard case and colors to your liking.
The PCB comes standard as hot-swappable so there is no soldering required. You’ll need to buy the switches, keycaps, and power cable separately.
The case comes in several different designs, so you can decide if you want a floating keycap design or a case with a bezel that comes up to the bottom of the keycaps.
If you’re willing to put in a little work picking out the parts and assembling the keyboard, you can make your very own, super-customized ortholinear keyboard that is sure to impress your friends.
Tons of Community and Software Support
Being the popular keyboard that it is, the Planck has a ton of community support. Being fully programmable with QMK, you can change all of the keys and layers to whatever works best for you.
The small 40% layout will require some keys to be accessed on a lower layer, so by customizing the layers is a must to master the smaller layout size.
You can also find answers to all of your build questions on Reddit and Geekhack if you get stuck during the build process of your Planck keyboard.
You can find the Planck on OLKB.
2. Planck EZ
The Planck EZ uses the framework laid out by Planck, but packages into a instantly-accessible prebuilt design. Instead of building the keyboard yourself, you can order it directly from ErgoDox. The keyboard is in-stock all of the time which makes it super easy to get ahold of.
Even More Software Support
In addition to the QMK software available on the Planck, the EZ comes with Oryx software which interacts with the onboard firmware to make changing up the key layouts a breeze. The software really puts the EZ in the Planck EZ.
You can customize your keys to have dual-function, mouse control and more. The keyboard also comes with fully programmable RGB lighting to get the perfect color aesthetic.
Cherry MX or Kailh Switches
The Planck EZ comes with several different switch options including switches from both Cherry MX and Kailh. You can choose between several different linear, tactile, or clicky switches. All of the different switch options are listed here on their website.
If you’re not a fan of the switches available, you can easily swap them out with the hot-swappable sockets. No soldering required.
Only Available in 47-Key Layout
The only downside to the Planck EZ is it’s only available in the 47-key layout. Unlike the Planck, you can’t choose between 47 or 48-key, but for most that won’t matter much because the larger key in the middle is generally preferred.
You can find the Planck EZ on the ErgoDox website for a good price.
The Preonic is another excellent ortholinear keyboard coming from OLKB. This keyboard is unique because unlike other ortho keyboards, it comes in the 60% layout instead of the usual 40%.
A Larger 60% Size
The larger keyboard size makes the Preonic more accessible to a normal keyboard user and most will find it more comfortable to use. No longer do you need to access the numeric keys on a secondary layer, instead they are instantly accessible.
All the Benefits of the Planck
While being a slightly larger size, the Preonic comes with all of the benefits of the Planck. You get the same QMK software along with hot-swappable switches.
Similar to the Planck, you also need to assemble everything yourself. At this point in time there is no EZ version available of the Preonic, so if you like the layout you’ll need to assemble it yourself.
Extra Features of the Preonic
The Preonic has some additional features that the Planck lacks. For example, the keyboard has pre-installed RGB lights, footprints for expanded functionality, and an integrated dual channel speaker.
Some of the footprints include:
- 4-channel DIP switch
- 2-pin JST-PH
- 4-pin Qwiic JST-SH connector
- Footprint for a clickable rotary encoder
- Footprint for a 6-pin male/female header
You can find the Preonic on OLKB by following this link.
The Moonlander is a new keyboard drop that combines the ortholinear layout with an ergonomic split keyboard. This keyboard is absolutely loaded with features and is one that I’m excited for.
Super-Adjustable Split Keyboard
An ortholinear keyboard is already an excellent option to use because the layout of the keys makes it easier to enter a keystroke without having to stretch your fingers as far, but combining it with the ergonomic nature of a split keyboard takes it to a whole new level.
With the tenting system of the Moonlander, you can tweak the typing angle based on what feels the most comfortable and is the best for your body.
The keyboard is made for large and small hands alike as you can easily adjust the angle to make certain keys closer to avoid stretching your fingers as far.
The Moonlander comes with a wrist rest that is super easy to detach and the angle of the wrist rest adjusts with the keyboard as it is tilted.
Great Software and Firmware Support
Much like the Planck EZ, the Moonlander comes with all of the QMK firmware required to modify the layout and layers to whatever feels the best. In addition, the Oryx software makes it a breeze to change up the firmware.
The Moonlander also comes with typing training to help you overcome the hurdle of typing on a smaller keyboard in the ortholinear layout. The software provided really helps you overcome all of the pain points associated with using this style of keyboard.
Extra Features that Seal the Deal
There are a few extra add-ins which show the attention to detail from when this keyboard was produced. The keyboard comes with a neoprene carry case, which allows you to fold up your keyboard and take it on the go.
The keyboard also has magnetic clips which hold the folded keyboard together when you’re transporting it. Not to mention the super thin design makes the Moonlander even more portable.
The thumb module also tilts with the rest of the keyboard, which from a functionality standpoint, is pure genius.
You can find the Moonlander on the ZSA website, just beware the price is a little intimidating.
5. ErgoDox EZ
The ErgoDox EZ is another ortholinear split keyboard. The keyboard comes pre-assembled and is packed full of useful features.
Slightly Cheaper Split Keyboard
The ErgoDox EZ is very similar to the Moonlander except it comes in at a more budget-friendly price (albeit still a little pricey). The keyboard has a tilting system to adjust the typing angle to avoid wrist and arm pain when typing.
The ergonomic nature makes typing or gaming for a long period of time more enjoyable and less harsh on your body.
RGB Options Available
With several RGB options available, this keyboard can produce a lightshow that would make any gamer blush. You can actually program the lights to show only on the keys that are active on each particular layer.
The lights make it super easy to tell which layer you are currently typing on so you can check which keys you need to press. The side glow is also an awesome feature to mix things up a bit and add a unique lighting element to your setup.
The Firmware and Software Are Impressive
Similar to any other keyboard from ErgoDox, you know the software and firmware will be on-point. Being able to swap out the key locations is super important with an ortholinear keyboard and the ErgoDox EZ is no exception.
You can find the ErgoDox EZ on the ErgoDox website by following this link.
Why Choose an Ortholinear Keyboard?
Ortholinear keyboards are different than the normal staggered keyboard layout. Instead the keys are vertically aligned and are laid out in a grid-like system instead.
Considering how ortholinear keyboards come in a different layout style that will take a little time to adjust to, why do some prefer the vertically aligned keys?
Although it’s not backed by any studies, many claim that since the keys on an ortholinear keyboard are closer and packed together more efficiently, your fingers don’t need to reach quite as far when typing. The closer typing distance is more efficient and can boost typing speeds and improve ergonomics.
Whether that’s true or not is up to you. We would say if you find the layout of an ortholinear keyboard to be more aesthetic or comfortable to type on, you should get one!
The way the keys are laid out is also more space efficient, so if you think saving the little extra space is also worth it, you should try an ortholinear keyboard out.
Grid Layout vs MIT Layout
With 40% ortholinear keyboards there are two main layout styles Grid & MIT. The Grid layout has 48 keys. It is a 4×12 keyboard where the spacebar only takes up one key rather than two.
Some recommend using the Grid Layout because when you’re typing you usually have a single hand that prefers to press the space button, although it may be a little strange to adjust to at first.
For myself, I tend to hit the spacebar with my left hand. So, for a person that prefers one side over the other, it would be easy to put the space key on the side that they use most often. Most space bars are too big, and the entire key isn’t pressed anyways.
The MIT layout has 47 keys. It is a 3×12 keyboard followed by a row with 11 keys, the middle two keys are combined to make a simple spacebar.
A benefit to the MIT layout is that it doesn’t take more than half a second to orient your keyboard. The big key goes on the bottom. Whereas, the Grid layout, you must read the legends (labels, markings, or engravings) on the keyboard and then say, “Oh this side goes up.”
For many, they choose to go Grid and then program the bottom two buttons to be space if need both thumbs to be able to press space.
The board’s programming can be modified through QMK firmware, which is free to use. This will allow you to add more layers to the keyboard and not limiting yourself to only 48 things.
It’s worth noting that prebuilt ortholinear keyboards will usually be stuck with the MIT layout, so if you prefer GRID, purchasing a kit most likely be your best bet.
Ortholinear keyboards, while having a cult following, have a surprising large amount of options available, currently. You can choose between DIY kits, prebuilt options, and even split keyboard variations.
There were a few other ortholinear keyboards that we didn’t include on the list because we felt they weren’t up to par with the rest of the list, so if you’re not satisfied with the options listed here, you can always check out the latest group buys and pre-orders.
Ortholinear keyboards can be a great option for some who prefer the space efficient layout and the pleasing symmetric aesthetic. We highly recommend any of the keyboards listed out in this post.
Credit to ErgoDox for images used.