Ultimate Guide to Mechanical Keyboard Sizes

Thinking about getting a mechanical keyboard but not sure which size to get? From the full-size, commonly recognized keyboard layout to more compact options such as the Tenkeyless and 75% keyboard, we will explore the pros and cons of each size and layout, helping you make a more informed decision on which one is best for you. Whether you’re looking for a versatile selection of keys, portability, or space-saving benefits, this post will provide an in-depth look at the mechanical keyboard sizes available and help you find the perfect fit for your needs.

Keyboard Size Quiz

Keyboard Size Chart: Which Do You Need?

When it comes to mechanical keyboards, there are a variety of sizes and layouts to choose from.

Keyboard Sizes Chart

Keyboard SizeNumber of KeysWidth
Full-Size (100%)104-108 keys42.8 cm
Tenkeyless (TKL – 80%)88 keys34.7 cm
70-75%71-84 keys30.5 cm
65%66-69 keys30.5 cm
60%58-65 keys28.6 cm
40%40-44 keys22.8 cm

Full-Size (100%) Mechanical Keyboard

Full-size keyboards, also known as 100% mechanical keyboards, are the most commonly recognized keyboard layout. They come with a wide range of keys, from 104 to 108. These keyboards are the widest option available, outside of specialty keyboards.

The key layout of a full-size keyboard includes the full spaced out function keys, arrow cluster, navigation, and numpad with separation to easily identify keys. This makes them the perfect choice for people who need to do a lot of data entry and require frequent use of the number pad. They are standard in offices and are what most people think of when they imagine a keyboard.

However, while full-size keyboards are great for anyone who needs to have a versatile selection of keys at their disposal, they can be bulky and take up more space on a desk. Additionally, they can be more expensive than smaller keyboard 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 online.

Overall, if you’re doing a lot of excel or data entry, and you just don’t want to learn new key placements, a 100% keyboard is definitely preferable. On the other hand, if you don’t number crunch a lot, it would be suggested to go for a lower size for the space saving and ergonomic benefits.

Tenkeyless (TKL – 80%) Mechanical Keyboard

Tenkeyless (TKL) mechanical keyboards are a popular choice for many people because of their perfect balance of size and functionality. Unlike full-sized keyboards, TKL keyboards do not have a number pad, making them more compact and easier to take on the go. This can be especially beneficial for those who don’t use the number pad heavily, as it allows them to get rid of the extra baggage without impacting their typing too much.

In addition to being more portable, TKL keyboards also offer a number of other benefits. For one, they take up less space on your desk, allowing you to comfortably write notes or use other accessories alongside your keyboard. Additionally, with the keyboard being more compact, your mouse will be closer to your hand, reducing the distance you need to travel to reach it.

Despite their smaller size, TKL keyboards still come equipped with all the essential keys, such as the arrow keys, home cluster, and function keys. This means you’ll be able to game and type comfortably, just as you would with a full-sized keyboard. With many different TKL mechanical keyboards available on the market, you’re sure to find one that fits your needs and preferences.

70-75% Mechanical Keyboard

75% keyboards are a unique and compact alternative to the traditional tenkeyless (TKL) layout. They feature a layout that is 4 keys fewer than TKL, eliminating the need for the navigation keys and the pause/lock keys. The arrow cluster is now located right next to the right CTRL key, making it more accessible. 

Although 75% keyboards are not as common as TKL or full-sized keyboards, they offer an interesting and space-saving design. However, it may take some time to get used to the new layout, as the keys are placed in a more compact and condensed manner. For example, the right shift key is usually much smaller than usual and finding the new home cluster may take some time. The transition period may be slightly longer than other layouts, but it is worth it for the space-saving benefits. Additionally, those who like to customize their keycaps may have a harder time finding sets that work with the 75% layout due to some of the strange key sizes.

65% Mechanical Keyboard

65% keyboards are a compact option for those who want a smaller keyboard without sacrificing too many keys. These keyboards take compactness to a new level by not only removing the number pad, but also the function row and home cluster on some layouts. This makes them the smallest keyboard size that still includes arrow keys.

While 65% keyboards may not be as common as other keyboard sizes, they have a dedicated fan base within the keyboard community. They are extremely portable and lightweight, making them great for gaming. However, whether or not the lack of a function row and home cluster is a hindrance or not depends on personal preference.

There are usually two different 65% layouts to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics. The first layout, often referred to as the “compressed” layout, features all keys closely located together for an ultra-compact design. The home cluster is laid out vertically and the arrow keys are blended into the rest of the keyboard. The second layout, known as the “decompressed” layout, is slightly wider than the first option and features separate arrow keys and home cluster. This layout is similar to a TKL layout, but without the function row. Ultimately, the choice between layouts comes down to personal preference and how much space you are willing to sacrifice for portability.

60% Mechanical Keyboard

A 60% keyboard is a popular choice in the gaming and mechanical keyboard enthusiast community. They are smaller and more compact than other keyboard sizes, making them perfect for custom builds. Due to their symmetrical shape, they are the most common size for custom keyboard builds. With a smaller size, it can also 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 and can be found at good deals if you’re willing to drop to the 60% keyboard size.

However, it’s important to note that a 60% keyboard may be too small for some users. It lacks arrow keys, home cluster, number pad, and function row, which 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 it’s worth noting that it might not be the best option for those who rely on the F keys or arrow keys a lot during regular usage. If you’re looking for the aesthetic or space-saving aspects of the compact layout, a 60% keyboard might be the right choice for you. However, if you rely on F keys or arrow keys, you may want to consider a different size.

40% Mechanical Keyboard

A 40% keyboard is the smallest type of keyboard that you can still type on. It is considered the most barebones keyboard available, as it removes even more keys than a 60% keyboard. In addition to the lack of a number pad, function row, arrow keys, and home cluster, a 40% keyboard also does not have any numbers on the top row. This means that you will have to frequently change layers to enter numbers and symbols, which can take a long adjustment period to get used to.

Due to the unusual nature of 40% keyboards, they are not widely available from regular keyboard manufacturers. Instead, you will need to either buy the parts online and assemble one yourself, or find a group buy online to get one custom made. Despite the longer learning curve, those who get used to 40% keyboards swear by them and find that the shortcuts become second nature. If you’re looking to optimize your space usage and are willing to put in time to configure your own input layout, a 40% keyboard is a great choice. However, if you’re looking for something that is easy to pick up and use, it may not be the best option for you.

Other Keyboard Types/Sizes

1800 Compact (96%) Mechanical Keyboard

The 1800 Compact keyboard is a unique and hard-to-find keyboard that is the perfect middle ground between a tenkeyless and full-sized keyboard. The layout of the keyboard is similar to a full-sized layout but with the number pad and the rest of the keyboard smushed together to save space. This makes the keyboard more compact and easier to pack up and take with you. Additionally, the compact full-sized layout doesn’t drop any of the keys, making it extremely easy and comfortable to type on.

When buying an 1800 compact keyboard, it is important to be mindful of the specific layout design as some may drop the home cluster keys while others may keep them. These keyboards are often made through group-buys, but 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.

The 1800 keyboard takes the full size layout and squeezes everything in a little tighter horizontally. Due to the unique key cap sizes, 1800 keyboards are rarer and require some more unique key cap sizes, so it is a great choice if you’re looking for something more unique.

Ortholinear Mechanical Keyboard

Ortholinear keyboard build, OLKB DROP Planck.

An ortholinear mechanical keyboard is a type of keyboard that features keys that are distributed in perfectly even rows and columns in a grid. This layout is different from the traditional keyboard layout, which is staggered. The traditional layout is a remnant from the old typewriter days where the keys were physically attached to an arm that slammed ink into paper. To make room for those arms, the keys needed to be spaced apart.

While ortholinear layouts don’t present any unique advantages over a standard layout, they are considered to be a neat alternative. Additionally, there is not a huge learning curve to get used to an ortholinear layout. It is more of a matter of personal preference. Some users find the grid layout to be more comfortable and ergonomic, while others prefer the traditional layout. Ultimately, it is up to the individual user to decide which layout they prefer.

Split/Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard

Split or ergonomic mechanical keyboards are designed to angle the left and right sides of the keyboard to better match the natural resting position of your hands. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who spend long periods of time typing and have ergonomic concerns.

These keyboards come in a variety of designs, including those with a gap in the middle, completely split keyboards, ortholinear, or staggered layouts. They are often considered to be more customized than traditional keyboards.

If you find that your wrists feel fatigued or uncomfortable while typing, switching to an ergonomic or split mechanical keyboard can be a great solution. These keyboards can help to reduce the stress on your wrists, making typing more comfortable and less painful.

Number Pad (Numpad)

A number pad, also known as a numpad, is a separate keyboard component that typically includes 17 keys and is designed with the same layout as a full-sized keyboard. This means that you have the option to purchase a separate numpad if you prefer not to use a full-sized keyboard. This can be a convenient feature for those who need to frequently input numerical data, as it allows you to move the number pad to either side of your keyboard for optimal comfort and efficiency.

Additionally, having a separate numpad can be beneficial for gaming. If you’re playing a game that doesn’t require the use of a full keyboard, you can use just the number pad instead, which can save space and reduce the likelihood of accidentally pressing the wrong key.

Another option for those who need to do heavy numbers editing is a USB numpad. These portable number pads can be connected to your computer when needed, allowing you to use a compact keyboard for day-to-day use and easily switch to a numpad when necessary. This way you can keep your workspace neat and tidy, and have the number functionality when you need it.

Macro Pad

Macro pads are a unique and interesting addition to any setup, allowing you to program all the keys with macros to have shortcuts that make whatever you’re doing more efficient. They are typically custom made and require the parts to be sourced online through group buys.

These pads can be incredibly useful for streamers, allowing them to change cameras or add sound effects with ease. They can also be beneficial 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 include mapping keyboard shortcuts such as copy and paste, CTRL-ALT-DELETE, and other shortcuts. The possibilities are endless, and you can get as complicated as you want with these macros. So, if you want to speed up your repetitive tasks, consider investing in a macro pad.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a keyboard function layer?

A keyboard function layer, also known as the “fn” layer, is a modifier key found on compact keyboards. These keyboards often remove function keys, navigation keys, arrow keys, or number keys, and instead relegate those keys to a function layer. This allows users to access additional functionality without taking up valuable real estate on the keyboard.

When using a keyboard with a function layer, pressing the function key in combination with another key will produce a new input. For example, on a 60% keyboard, pressing the shift key and the number 1 key together will produce an exclamation mark, while pressing the function key and the number 1 key together will produce the F1 function key. Similarly, on most 40% keyboards, pressing the shift key and the letter q together will produce a capital Q, while pressing the function key and the letter q together will produce the number 1, and pressing the function key, shift key and the letter q together will produce an exclamation mark.

Final Thoughts

Mechanical keyboards come in a variety of sizes and layouts, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Full-size (100%) mechanical keyboards are the most commonly recognized layout, but they can be bulky and take up more space on a desk. Tenkeyless (TKL – 80%) mechanical keyboards are a popular choice for many people because of their perfect balance of size and functionality, and they take up less space on a desk. 75% keyboards offer an interesting and space-saving design, but it may take some time to get used to the new layout. 65% keyboards are the most compact option for those who want a smaller keyboard without sacrificing too many keys. Ultimately, the choice of keyboard size and layout will depend on the individual’s needs and preferences.

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