There a many different keyboard sizes and layouts available, but how do you tell the difference between them all? Today we’ll talk about the different sizes and what makes each of them unique.
The most common keyboard sizes are Full-Sized (104 key), TKL (87 key), and 60% (68 key). Each size is unique with different features. There are other layouts too, some of the less common keyboard sizes are the 75%, 65%, and 40%. As the keyboard gets smaller, the number pad, home cluster, F keys, arrows keys, and numbers are removed.
We’ll go more into detail about each keyboard size and show some example pictures of each layout to help you pick out the perfect size for you!
|Keyboard Size||# of Keys||Number Pad||Home Cluster||F Keys||Arrow Keys||Number Keys (Top Row)||Full Alphabet|
|1800 Compact (96%)||96-104||✔||X (Some might)||✔||✔||✔||✔|
Table Comparing the Differences Between Each Size
Table Comparing the Differences Between Each Size
Full-Sized Keyboard (100%)
Full-sized keyboards are the go-to for people who need to do lots of data entry and require frequent use of the number pad. Full-sized keyboards are standard in offices and is what most people think of when they imagine a keyboard. The full-sized keyboards come standard with a number pad, home cluster, F-keys, and arrow keys. The number pad is typically located on the right, but some keyboards come with it on the left.
Full-size keyboards are great for anyone who needs to have a versatile selection of keys at their disposal, whether it be for gaming, work, or even just browsing the internet. They can offer lots of options for programmable keys and are easy to type on since none of the keys are on a lower layer, except for the standard ones.
It’s important to keep in mind, full-size mechanical keyboards can be a bit more expensive than smaller sizes because they require lots of extra switches and keycaps to complete the build. It may not be feasible to build a custom full-size keyboard due to the cost, but it is possible to find pre-built ones for relatively cheap on Amazon.
Fun fact: For data entry, it’s actually more efficient to have the number pad on the left, so you can place your right hand on the arrow keys, that way you don’t need to lift your hands at all when entering data into Excel. It may feel strange at first, but once you get used to it you’ll notice a difference.
1800 Compact (96%) Keyboard
1800 compact keyboard layouts are similar to a full-sized layout except they smush together the number pad and the rest of the keyboard to save space. These are keyboards are slightly more narrow, so they are slightly smaller and more compact. This makes the keyboard easier to pack up and take with you. Additionally, the compact full-sized layouts doesn’t drop any of the keys, making it extremely easy and comfortable to type on.
Depending on the specific keyboard layout, some keyboards may drop the home cluster keys and others may keep them, it just depends on the specific layout design. Be careful when buying one of these and make sure all the keys you want are there. A lot of times these are made through group-buys although there are a few available online for order.
If you enjoy using a number pad and can’t live without one, the 1800 compact layout is the smallest size keyboard you can go without getting rid of it. Many people find this keyboard to be their “sweet spot” for that reason.
Tenkeyless keyboards typically have 87 keys, the perfect layout to balance size and functionality. Unlike full-sized keyboards, they do not have a number pad which makes the keyboard more compact and easier to take on the go. Most people don’t use the number pad heavily, so they are able to get rid of the extra baggage without it impacting their typing too much.
A more compact keyboard also allows for more desk space, so you’ll be able to more comfortably write notes into a notepad on the side of your keyboard without feeling to constrained by a lack of space. Plus, your mouse will be much closer to your hand when typing, so you’ll have to travel much less to reach for the mouse.
Tenkeyless keyboards still have the arrow keys, home cluster, and F keys, so you should still be able to game and type comfortably. You’ll be able to find a lot of different tenkeyless mechanical keyboards for sale, because usually most keyboards will come with a compact TKL equivalent.
75% keyboards have an interesting design. They are a slightly more compact version of a tenkeyless board, they place the arrow keys and home cluster right next to each other and align the home cluster vertically to save space. This allows for everything to be packed in tight and snug. There are a lot less 75% keyboards on the market, so your options will be limited.
It may take some time to get used to the some of the strange key sizes and placement. For example, the right shift key is typically much smaller than usual and building the muscle memory of where the new home cluster is located will take some time. Fortunately, these keys aren’t used too often anyways, so it should not impact typing too much. If you’re a fan of buying customized keycaps, you may need to do a little extra searching to find a set that works with the 75% layout, due to some of the strange key sizes.
65% keyboards take compactness to a whole new level. Instead of just getting rid of the number pad, these keyboards also drop the function row and the entire home cluster! Who needs those extra keys anyways? This is the smallest keyboard size you can get that will still have arrow keys. Like 75% keyboards, 65% are less common but have a small fan-base in the keyboard community.
These are extremely portable, light, and still incredibly useful. For some people, not having the home cluster or function row can feel like a major handicap, but others may be unfazed without them. It mainly comes down to personal preference. 65% keyboards are still a great size to use for gaming because they have the arrow keys and can be useful for moving around a page whilst typing.
60% keyboards are popular in the gaming and mechanical keyboard enthusiast keyboard community. Not quite a common as TKL or fullsized, but there are a lot of different 60% keyboards available online. Due to their small, compact, and symmetrical shape, they are the most common size for custom keyboard builds.
Because of their smaller size, it can be relatively cheap to buy switches and keycaps for custom builds, plus there are a variety of different PCB layouts and case designs specifically for 60% keyboards. Pre-build keyboards are also quite cheap as well, you can find pretty good deals if you’re willing to drop to the 60% keyboard size.
A 60% keyboard may be outside the comfort zone for most people, the lack of arrow keys, home cluster, number pad, and function row, may make typing feel like a whole new skill to learn. People who buy and use 60% keyboards should know what they are getting into before buying. For some people, it won’t impact their typing experience too much, but fair warning to those who want to try the size out.
40% keyboards are the most barebones keyboard available that you can still type on. On top of everything removed for 60% keyboards (no number pad, function row, arrow keys, home cluster), 40% keyboards also get rid of all the numbers on the top row. That’s right, there are no numbers on this keyboard layout. In addition, you also get rid of all the non-letter keys such as the semi-colon, quotes, etc.
If you want to get proficient typing with a 40% keyboard, you’ll have to get used to frequently changing layers to be able to enter numbers and symbols. This will require lots of time to get used to, but by doing so, you’ll save lots of space on your desk and have a light and compact keyboard to take on the go.
Due to how strange these can be to type on, there is not a very high demand for 40% keyboards, so they are not available from the normal keyboard manufacturers. Instead, you’ll need to buy the parts online and assembly yourself or find a group buy online to get one custom made.
Number pads typically come with 17 keys and come with the same layout found on a full-sized keyboard. You can buy number pads separately if you don’t want to have a full-sized keyboard. This allows you to move the number pad on either side of your keyboard. As mentioned above, this can make data entry more efficient and comfortable. Also, if you’re playing a game that doesn’t require a full keyboard, you can use specifically the number pad instead and save space. This can lower the chances of pressing the wrong key.
Macro pads are quite interesting. These are typically custom made and require the parts to be sourced online through group buys. Macro pads allow you to program all the keys with macros to have shortcuts to make whatever you’re doing more efficient. These can be useful for streamers to change cameras with the push of a button or add a sound effect with ease.
They can also be useful for people who do a lot of repetitive tasks, by mapping the action to a key on the macro pad, they can save lots of time over the long run. Common usages for macro pads are to map keyboard shortcuts such as copy and paste, CTRL-ALT-DELETE, and all of those other fun shortcuts. You can get as complicated as you want with these macros.
Choosing the Right Size for You
You want a keyboard that’s the perfect size for what you need. There are a lot of factors to consider when picking out the layout that will work best for you. If you plan on taking your keyboard on the go, you’ll want a keyboard that’s small, light and portable. Generally, a TKL and smaller is great for portability, but if you get much bigger than that it can be difficult to lug around a big keyboard. If you are using your keyboard for strictly desk usage, you can go full-sized without and consideration for portability.
For those considering a smaller keyboard layout such as 65% or smaller, keep in mind there may be learning curve as you try to figure out how to type efficiently without all of the keys that are usually there. Someone with a 60% keyboard will need to figure out to get around without arrow keys, for example. The smaller your keyboard gets, the more outside your comfort zone you’ll need to go.
There are some awesome benefits to a smaller keyboard, such as more desk space, better portability, and a more aesthetic look. For most people the sweet spot will be the TKL-65% keyboard range. In my experience, once you get rid of the arrow keys, things start to feel quite barebones.
If you’re a true keyboard enthusiast, consider building your keyboard. There are a lot of keyboard kits that make assembly relatively painless. A custom keyboard allows you to pick out the switch that feels best for you and lets you get a layout and size that feel good. You can also customize your keycaps, power cable, case, to the aesthetic look you really want from your desk setup.
There are many different keyboard sizes available ranging all the way from full-sized to a small macro pad. For most people the ideal keyboard will be somewhere in the middle, so take to the time to figure out what will work the best for you. Check out some of our other posts if you’re looking for keyboard recommendations, we do detailed reviews and dive deep into the world of mechanical keyboards.