When it comes to typing comfort and productivity, keyboard size is a crucial factor. Whether you’re a gamer, a writer, or a programmer, the right keyboard size can make a big difference in your experience. From 40% to full-size, each size has its pros and cons that you’ll need to weigh against to find the right one for you.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the different keyboard sizes available and help you decide which one is the best fit for you.
Understanding the Different Sizes Available
Before we get into learning how to pick the right keyboard, let’s look at the different sizes keyboards come in.
Full-size Keyboard (100%)
A full-size keyboard is the standard keyboard size. They come with all the keys you would expect, including a full set of letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and function keys, as well as additional keys like dedicated media control keys or extra function keys.
Being the most common type of keyboard available, full size keyboards often offer the most comfortable typing experience, and are typically best for gamers, writers, and programmers who can benefit from having a full set of keys. They take up the most space, and are ideal for stationary desktop setups where keyboard size, comfort, and functionality are the most important factors.
Tenkeyless (TKL – 80%)
A tenkeyless keyboard, also known as a TKL keyboard, is a compact keyboard that lacks the number keypad found on a standard full-size keyboard. By forgoing the number pad, this puts most TKL keyboards at roughly 80% of the size of a full-size keyboard.
However, despite its smaller size, a TKL keyboard still includes all the standard keys found on a full-size keyboard, making it a viable option for most people.
For some gamers who frequently use the number pad, such as lefties who use it as a replacement for the WASD keys, it’s not an ideal option without purchasing a separate number pad. Instead, it’s a good alternative for those who do not use the number pad very frequently, making it ideal for users who have limited desk space, prefer a more minimalist look, or want a more portable option.
Percentage Keyboards (75% or less)
At this point, the keyboard naming conventions drop from descriptive names to a simple percentage correlating to the size of the keyboard relative to a normal keyboard. From here, we have four more types: 75% keyboards, 65% keyboards, 60% keyboards, and 40% keyboards.
We’ll briefly touch on each keyboard below. But first, let’s talk about percentage keyboards a bit. They’re a great option for those who want a compact keyboard and prioritize portability over functionality.
A percentage keyboard can offer a fairly standard typing experience, but gaming is a bit more of a mixed bag, with certain games being practically unplayable without the extra function keys. So you’ll need to keep in mind what you’re playing before settling on a keyboard smaller than a TKL keyboard.
75% Keyboard – As the name implies, this type of keyboard is roughly 75% the size of a standard keyboard, forgoing the number pad, function keys row, and some of the navigation keys to save space.
65% Keyboard – Smaller than a 75% keyboard, this small form factor keyboard sheds more navigation keys for a smaller footprint than its larger cousin.
60% Keyboard – Perhaps the most popular of the four percentage keyboards, a 60% keyboard only includes the alphanumeric keys and a few essential navigation keys. It does not include a numeric keypad, function keys, or navigation keys like arrows and page up/down keys.
40% Keyboard – These ultra-compact keyboards forgo anything resembling fluff, featuring only alphanumeric keys and a select few other special keys. They’re exceptionally difficult to use, often requiring knowledge of built-in keyboard shortcuts and the ability to create macros with a tool like AutoHotkey, making them most appropriate for enthusiasts.
How to Choose the Right Keyboard
When choosing a keyboard, size is an important factor to consider. Ultimately, the right keyboard size depends on your specific needs and preferences. The most common keyboard sizes are full-size, tenkeyless (TKL), and 60% keyboards, though as we’ve covered, there are other sizes.
When considering which keyboard size is right for you, think about how you plan to use your keyboard, and if you’re a gamer, what type of games you plan on playing. Keybind-heavy games, like RTS and MMOs, benefit greatly from the extra keys, meaning keyboards smaller than TKL keyboards are not recommended.
However, if you’re more of a casual gamer, or you play genres like first-person shooters, which rarely make use of the number pad and function keys, you’ll be able to get away with using a smaller keyboard.
Also consider your space and where you plan to use your keyboard. If you’re in a cramped apartment, or you spend your day away from home and need a portable keyboard, a compact percentage keyboard could be a game changer.
And finally, you’ll want to consider comfort. Compact keyboards are great for portability and minimalism, but their small size can be cramped and uncomfortable, and may take some time to get used to. If you’re at your computer for a majority of your day, then you might want to consider a full-size keyboard.