Low-Profile vs Normal Keyboards: What’s The Difference?


When looking at mechanical keyboards to buy there are 2 options that you should consider. A normal keyboard or low-profile board.

The main difference between low-profile and normal keyboards is the height. The greatly reduced height is achieved by modifications to different parts of the keyboard to make them a significantly lower profile and more ergonomically friendly.

If you are interested in low-profile keyboards, make sure to check out our list of the best low-profile keyboards.

Low-Profile vs Normal Keyboards

Low-Profile KeyboardNormal Keyboard
Lower height Standard height
Shorter switchesNormal mechanical switches
Slimmer keycapsNormal keycaps
More ergonomicLess ergonomic
More portableLess portable
Not popular for enthusiast crowdPopular for enthusiast crowd
Make up minority of marketshareMake up majority of marketshare

The Height

Low-profile keyboards, as the name suggests, are a lower profile or height.

The overall height is far shorter than regular boards through shorter keycaps, switches, and cases. Compared to normal keyboards, low-profile options are 2/3 or even half the height of a regular board.

The height is still significantly higher than an Apple Magic Keyboard but shorter than a regular one. This reduction in height compared to normal keyboards makes low-profile boards smaller and lighter. For many this is incredibly important.

Low-Profile Switches

To achieve this lower height, low profile boards require adapted switches that are also low-profile. These switches are harder to find keycaps for but that may be worth it for the lower height.

These shorter switches have a smaller travel distance and usually sound different compared to their regular switch counterparts. Cherry, for example, has their regular switch line and a low profile switch line which have about half the travel distance and a slightly different sound.

The most popular families of low-profile switches are made by Kailh, Cherry, and Logitech. There are also other options but usually they are manufactured by Kailh.

Kailh Chocolate (Low-Profile) Switches

Kailh has the largest family of low-profile mechanical switch options. They have switch options for dedicated keyboards laptops, and ultrabooks with very thin keyboards.

All their variants function like regular mechanical switches except for one type (the PG1442) which uses a scissor switch design. They all have a much shorter travel distance with linear, tactile, and clicky options.

These switches use a different stem type so they are not compatible with regular keycaps that support the popular cherry stem.

Cherry MX Low-Profile Switches

Cherry, one of the biggest switch manufacturers in the world, has their own family of low-profile switches. The switches are 35% shorter in height with a transparent housing so they support RGB and backlit keyboards.

They only have linear options for their switches in the form of Cherry MX Low Profile Reds and Cherry MX Low Profile Speeds with activation at 1.2mm and 1mm respectively.

The cherry low-profile switches still keep the same Cherry stem, so if you want custom keycaps that are short enough, they will fit. The switches are designed specifically for gamers in mind.

Logitech GL Low-Profile Switches

These switches are proprietary to Logitech keyboards and they do not accept custom keycaps. There are 3 options, linear, tactile, and clicky.

Compared to the 3.2mm travel distance of the Cherry Low-Profile switches these switches have a travel distance of 2.7mm. They all actuate quickly at 1.5mm.

Ergonomics

Since you do not have to raise your hands up as much to type on a low-profile board, they can be far more comfortable.

For long typing or gaming sessions the shorter height results in less strain on your wrists so you are less likely to get carpal tunnel or general wrist pains.

With normal keyboards people often need a wrist rest for comfort but with low-profile boards this is no longer an issue because the angle that your wrists are at is far less intense.

Portability

Low-profile boards are significantly smaller than normal keyboards in height which makes them far more portable.

They are much easier to put into a bag.

Many of these boards are about the thickness of a laptop making them incredibly easy to put into backpack pockets for laptops.

If you travel often on planes but still want to use a dedicated keyboard a low-profile option is portable enough that you can bring it on a plane and use it with your computer.

It is especially good if the board is wireless too further adding how easily the board can be traveled with.

Since low-profile boards are small, they also weigh less which is great because many normal boards are heavy and hard to carry if traveling to a LAN party or to any other event where you might want your keyboard.

The Usage

Although low-profile boards provide many great features over regular keyboard, normal keyboards in the mechanical keyboard segment are vastly more popular.

A lot of people may like the higher profile of regular board or may not want to switch as they don’t want to take the time to adapt to something different. For many the reason to switch isn’t big enough.

Low-profile boards are very popular among mechanical keyboard users who care about comfort but are not ready to invest the time and money into getting an ergonomic board.

Low-profile boards provide a good middle ground for them, with a regular shape and a lower height.

In the gaming market the almost all competitive gamers and pro players still use regular style keyboards.

Even though low-profile boards should be faster due to less travel time and very quick activation a lot of gamers choose to stick with what they are most comfortable using.

If you want to build a custom mechanical keyboard or wish to get invested into the hobby, a normal style board is best for that situation. Low-profile boards allow few if any options for modding making them not an option considered by the enthusiast crowd.

Should You Get A Low-Profile Keyboard?

Low-profile keyboards aren’t always better than normal boards so the answer to this question depends all on your situation and preference.

Many membrane keyboards are the same height as low-profile mechanical keyboards. If you are new to mechanical keyboards and you want the smallest adjustment possible then a low-profile board is the option for you.

Also, for those who want a more minimalistic setup, a low profile board is a great option because they take up less space. Many new low-profile mechanical keyboards are wireless which can further add to the simplicity of your setup.

If you want a more ergonomic experience but you aren’t ready or don’t want to make the switch to an ergonomic board then you should get a low-profile board.

Compared to normal boards there is greatly reduced strain on the wrists resulting in overall better long term comfort and health.

For gamers, low-profile mechanical boards are designed specifically for gamers in mind.

The switches are designed to be activated faster so if you want a more competitive edge, low-profile boards should be something you definitely consider.

For those who like to travel a lot with a dedicated keyboard this is another area where low-profile boards are amazing.

They are extremely portable and can fit in slim pockets in something like a backpack. For situations like this you should get a low-profile board.

For all these situations a low-profile board is something you should consider. If you feel like all these aspects are important to you then getting a low-profile board is a fantastic decision.

Conclusion

Compared to normal keyboards, low-profile boards are significantly shorter. Low-profile boards have more compact switches, cases, and shorter keycaps.

Both normal and low-profile keyboards have benefits for different situations. Regular style boards are more popular for the enthusiast crowd and still are the most popular style as most people tend to stick to what they are comfortable with.

Low-profile boards on the other hand are fantastic for portability and ergonomics, if you don’t want to completely switch to an ergonomic keyboard.

If you think a low-profile style suits your needs and situation there are plenty of great options out there on the market that you can invest into.

Make your choice!

Giacomo Coltorti

Giacomo has been a tech enthusiast throughout his life. He has built over 10 computers and has grown his interest in the different peripherals needed to use a computer. He wants to share his knowledge and experiences with all these subjects to help others enter these hobbies.

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