One of the most important elements of any respectable computer setup is a good keyboard. Keyboards are often underestimated, but they bring life to ideas and are the best friends of gamers, writers, programmers, and typists from all over the world. That’s why it’s worth considering learning about the different types of keyboards available and understand their uniqueness.
Some of the most common keyboard sizes are the standard full-sized keyboard (100% keyboard), the Tenkeyless (80% keyboard), and the 60% keyboard. There are also other different types of keyboards between those, some of them more compact or with less keys, for example, the 75%, the 65%, the 60%, and the 40% keyboard.
Before we get into the specific keyboards, it’s important to note that no size is better or worse than another. The keyboard size that you prefer will vary depending on the functionality or aesthetics. And now that you know that, let’s explore the different keyboard forms that you can find and choose the one that’s best for you.
Keyboard Anatomy Explained
But first, let’s dissect a regular keyboard to know their parts. We’ll be using a typical ANSI layout to represent is parts, but we’ll get into the most common keyboard layouts later. This will help you understand better a typical keyboard and its parts.
Different Keyboard Sizes
Like we said before, there are many predetermined forms and sizes that cover most of the world’s keyboards. The physical size of any keyboard will obviously be linked to the number of keys in it and how compact they are arranged.
Smaller keyboards take the standard size as the comparison point. That means that a 40% keyboard will only cover 40% of the total size of a regular full-size keyboard. Here are the most common shapes we can find in the market:
Now let’s explore each individual keyboard to compare them and help you decide which one you should go for.
Full-Size, Standard Keyboard or 100% Keyboard
If you close your eyes and try to imagine what a regular keyboard looks like, this form will probably come to mind. We don’t really need to make a big introduction to understand full-size keyboards. They are literally the most used and common size you can find everywhere from offices to gaming stations.
In terms of keys, they have the whole pack: You can find the numpad, function row, arrows, navigation keys, and modifiers in their natural habitat. And since nothing is left out, this is ideal for people who know that they will use the most of their keyboard.
You can notice that most manufacturers will provide a wide range of customized full-size keyboards. So, when talking about product selection, this size offers the biggest number of options. And since it’s the biggest possible form, it can also be a little more expensive than other options. But like we said, you can check different prices from a wide range of manufacturers and find the right 100% keyboard for your budget.
Some complex games and data entry jobs will force you to use a wide range of keys, and if that’s your case, this size is the best for you.
But if you don’t really depend on the numpad and the function row, or you tend to travel with your keyboard a lot, maybe a smaller keyboard will benefit you. After all, the smaller a keyboard, the easier it is to transport. The best full-size keyboard for you must be one that can adapt to your typing habits and preferences.
The full-sized keyboard is the most common size used by manufacturers, so you can expect to see different models and more variety inside this shape. However, it can be heavy and bulky for some desks.
1800 Keyboard or 1800 Compact
Not all different types of keyboards need to have less keys to be smaller. Some shapes, like the 1800-compact, just takes the standard size and regroups tightly most of the keys. Compact keyboards are another solution for people who want to have more room on their desk without losing any keys.
1800 keyboards move the navigation keys on top of the numeric pad and squish the arrow keys under the Enter key. That rearrangement allows saving a little more space without outright eliminating other keys like the Numpad. So, it might be shorter horizontally, but on vertical terms, it’s a little bigger than any other keyboard size.
Sadly, not too many peripheral sellers use this shape and layout with their products. However, it’s not impossible to find the best 1800 keyboards for you.
The 1800-compact is not a common keyboard size. However, it can be a good option if you want a keyboard that’s horizontally smaller and keeps the numpad.
If you thought 1800 keyboards were difficult to find, here we introduce you to 96% keyboards or 96 key keyboards. 96% keyboards really take very seriously the word compact. They clump almost every key together, only losing a few navigation keys.
Having the keys so close like this can feel weird at first, but if you get used to it, you’ll learn to type without moving your hand too much.
Many keyboard lovers believe that this size is the absolute best compact format in existence. That’s because you can fit as many keys as possible without wasting any kind of space. The best 96% keyboards will give you the most space without sacrificing important keys. But that’s up for you to decide if you want to use this size.
This keyboard layout might feel clumsy at first, but you some people can actually benefit form this. Besides, it’s a great option if you need to save desk space without losing too many keys.
Tenkeyless (TKL), 80% or 87% Keyboard
Tenkeyless, TKL, or 80% keyboards are probably the second most used size after the standard. It’s basically a 100% keyboard without the Numpad. So this is obviously ideal for people who don’t even use the numpad and want to have smaller keyboards. Since the layout is the same as the 100% keyboard, many people incline for this keyboard shape.
TKL keyboards are widely popular and many popular sellers make them, so you have a lot to choose from. Gamers tend to prefer this model over others. Finding the best TKL keyboard for you might be tricky, but not impossible.
You can find TKL keyboards for gaming, wired or wireless, with lights or accessories. So, finding one that suits your style is fairly easy. That is the reason why many people find the perfect balance with a TKL keyboard.
If you’re someone who thinks “who uses the numpad anyways”, then you should go TKL. You get all the benefits from having a keyboard minus the numeric pad. They’re light, travel-friendly, and look really good.
75% keyboards are the condensed version of TKL keyboards. This shape is not as common as others, but there are a few people out there making some of the best 75% keyboards.
It has a somewhat different layout than your average keyboard. It compacts everything together to save some space, placing the arrow keys and home cluster next to each other without extra space around.
This is the smallest you can go with a function row, because smaller models get rid of it.
You can define this size as a 65% keyboard, but with an F row. Ideal for those who love the TKL simplicity but want to make it a little more compact.
Another fantastic and different keyboard size is the 65% keyboard form. Like many unique sizes, this one is hard to find and many manufacturers seem unaware of it. However, it has a very loyal fanbase of keyboard enthusiast that love to hear about the best 65% keyboards.
It looks like a 75% keyboard, but this little guy takes an extra step and eliminates the function row and a few extra keys to make it more compact. As you might’ve guessed, they’re portable and very light.
In simpler terms, it’s a 60% keyboard with the arrow keys or a 75% keyboard, minus the function row. It’s can be your best friend if you can live perfectly with a compact size that forgets about the numpad and the function row.
Another popular from factor it’s the 60% keyboard. We could say that this is one of the most famous shapes after the standard size and the TKL. So, it’s possible for you to go and find more options for the best 60% keyboards.
This shape says goodbye to the numpad, the arrow keys, navigation keys, the function row, and other keys. Many people will find this amazingly helpful, while it can be a total challenge for others.
While the F row isn’t physically there, you can still access them and other keys thanks to function layers. The smaller size also means that cheaper prices are available.
You could say it’s like a TKL keyboard but without the arrows, the navigation keys, and the function row. They can still be accessed through function layers, just in case you miss them. This is one of the cheapest, smallest, and lightest keyboard sizes.
If you thought that keyboards couldn’t be any smaller then allow us to illustrate you. 40% keyboards contain only some modifiers and the alpha keys (without the numerical row). Due to the reduced size, not too many sellers focus on 40% keyboards.
While the reduced space might be helpful, you’ll need to learn how to successfully use the function layers like it or not. But if that’s a challenge worth considering for you, then this keyboard is for you. Some people love the fact that almost every key can be reached easily once you learn how to use function layers. But for some it’s just too much to learn and adapt.
40% keyboards are all about being as small as possible, relying heavily on function layers to access missing keys. Probably the lightest usable layout.
Numpad or Tenkey
Yes, you can find number pads sold separately. This can be good if you don’t want a full-size keyboard, yet sometimes need to use a numpad.
Having a numpad like this can be good because you can place it on either side of your every-day keyboard. Some people find it awkward that the numpad is located on the right side, and with a numpad on the left side, you can feel more comfortable and become more efficient at data entry.
It’s not a bad idea to get yourself a separate numpad if you plan to get yourself a compact keyboard without it. Ideal for data entry.
Are There More Sizes and Shapes? Well, Yes.
While we have covered the most basic sizes, there are also more niche or specific keyboards around. These out-of-the-ordinary keyboards are usually made by enthusiasts and not sold by too many big brands. Therefore, these sizes and layouts are harder to find because of their uniqueness.
Some examples of unusual keyboards are:
- Ortholinear boards: Ortholinear keyboards are non-staggered and completely straight. Every key is perfectly horizontal and in a grid.
- Split keyboards: These types of keyboards use a layout that splits the keyboard in two parts. Sometimes they’re two separate boards, sometimes the keys are split on the same board.
- Macropad: A macropad is the same size as a numpad, but with designated macro keys.
- Southpaw Keyboard: A keyboard with the numpad on the left side. It’s usually sold as a left-handed keyboard.
- Basically, any other keyboard that doesn’t follow regular shapes.
Different Keyboard Layouts
We’ve shown you the different sizes and shapes that keyboards can take. But when it comes to key organization, standard keyboards usually have different layouts. A layout is the shape, size, and location of the keys in it. We used the ANSI layout in most of the keyboards we covered because it’s the most common.
The most famous layouts are the following:
- ANSI / American Standard
- ISO / European Standard
- JIS / Japanese Standard
Most keyboard sellers will make their products with this in mind. The layout they decide to use will depend heavily on the geographic location of their buyers. Maybe you’ve never seen them before, but if you’ve traveled around the world, you may’ve noticed this. We’ve colored the difference between them in order for you to understand better.
ANSI / American Standard
ISO / European Standard
JIS / Japanese Standard
How to Choose the Right Keyboard for You
Choosing the right keyboard for you doesn’t have to be an impossible task! With so many different sizes and layouts, it might feel tricky, but we got you covered. There are some things that you need to take into consideration when choosing one, here are some of the most common aspects:
Some desks are just too small and leave almost no room for both a keyboard and a mouse. Whether talking about a kid’s desk or you just want more mouse freedom especially for games like CS:GO and Valorant, a smaller and more compact keyboard could be the best option for you.
Do you move and travel all the time with your keyboard? If you do so, then bigger sizes can make it difficult for you to do so. TKL, 60%, and 40% keyboards are better in terms of portability.
Looks and Customization
This aspect is very subjective, I know. But smaller keyboards tend to look a little better on most desks. However, the standard size is the most common used keyboard layout, so you can choose one from dozens of different models.
Function Layers Explained
One thing to consider before going for a small keyboard, is that you’ll need to re-learn some things. For example, you’ll need to learn new key positions and understand how function layers work.
Okay, but what are function layers? Well, compact keyboards use function layers to access keys that are missing. For example, laptop users press the “Fn” key to access a different layer of keys that otherwise couldn’t be accessed. And since compact and small keyboards sacrifice some keys, they give you access to various customizable function layers.
As you can see, there are a lot of keyboard layouts and sizes than you might have thought! The days where every keyboard looked the same are completely gone. If you were wondering what were the different keyboard sizes, then now you know the answer. Now you can have a personalized keyboard that adapts to your style, and not the other way around.
Just to let you know, no size or form is better or worse than any other, and that’s because it’s all about personal taste. Some keyboards are specific to certain activities or games, for example, here you can find a list of the best keyboards for CS:GO.
And now that you know about all about the different keyboard shapes, you can make a wise choice and choose the perfect keyboard size for your personal taste.
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