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Different keyboard sizes explained

When it comes to buying a new keyboard, it’s worth considering not only the brand or style of keyboard you want but also the size. Although most keyboards come in full-size with a numpad and a host of function keys, there are smaller, ergonomic, and even split designs worth considering.

Here are all the different keyboard sizes explained to help you pick the right keyboard for you.

Full-size keyboards

ROG Strix Flare II Matrix we reviewed.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The most popular keyboard size is full-size, as it offers everything from function keys to a numpad. This full spectrum of keys makes a full-size board the most practical for all sorts of tasks, whether you’re doing data entry or remapping keys in your favorite RPG. However, there is a downside to using a full-size board, which is the space it takes up. Generally, full-size keyboards will take up over 17 inches of desk space, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough room.

One of our favorite full-size keyboards is the Asus ROG Strix Flare II Animate, which features an LED matrix, a hot-swap PCB, and a polling rate of 8,000Hz — but it retails for $220.

A more affordable full-size option is the Keychron C2, which can be purchased on Amazon for $65. The C2 features a hot-swap PCB, Gateron G Pro switches, and support for Mac or Windows.

Tenkeyless (TKL) keyboards

Razer Huntsman V2 review photo.

Tenkeyless keyboards are simple: A full-size keyboard without a number pad. Over time, tenkeyless boards have become more popular as people have begun to depart from using full-size boards, whether that means switching to using the number row or just wanting to save desk space. The average TKL is around 14 inches, which will allow for more room for your mouse.

Tenkeyless keyboards can also be cheaper and don’t sacrifice functionality in the same way as smaller boards, which strip out far more core functionality to save further space.

For $140, we highly recommend the Razer Huntsman V2 TKL, which has buttery-smooth silent or clicky optical switches.

75% keyboards

Typing on the Keychron Q1 mechanical keyboard.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The 75% keyboard size isn’t as clearly defined as other sizes, as some boards have more keys than others. Since the release of the Glorious GMMK Pro, many 75% boards have included rotary knobs instead of navigation keys, like the Keychron Q1. The majority of 75% boards are mechanical keyboards and range from simplicity, like the Keychron Q1, to overkill, like the Angry Miao Cyberboard R3.

These keyboards offer a much more compact profile than full-size and a slightly smaller footprint than tenkeyless boards, but they still maintain function keys — an important inclusion for many professionals and gamers.

65% keyboards

Keychron Q2 build on my dresser.

The 65% keyboard style isn’t nearly as popular as the sizes that we have mentioned due to practicality. On a 65%, you’re essentially just getting a 60% but with arrow keys. However, we really like the 65% layout because it’s compact enough to travel with, but not too small where you lose arrow keys. You do sacrifice function keys, though, which can make certain more-niche commands a little harder to access in some applications and games.

Keychron has impressed us of late, especially with its release of the Keychron Q2, which some of us here at Digital Trends use every day. The Q2 is also relatively cheap for a gasket-mount keyboard ($170 fully assembled). However, for $85, you could also get a more minimalist Keychron K6, which is another hot-swap 65%.

60% keyboards

Razer Huntsman Mini on a desk.

A smaller yet popular keyboard is the 60%. These boards typically lack arrow, function, and navigation keys but maintain all of the standard QWERTY and number keys. This small design has grown to be extremely popular, especially in competitive gaming. Some noteworthy 60% planks are the Razer Huntsman Mini for all you gamers and the CannonKeys Bakeneko60, a barebones, gasket-mount mechanical keyboard kit that we love.

For those looking for a very streamlined desk space, 60% boards provide all the keys you need for typing and most games while stripping back everything else, giving them an extremely clean look.

40% keyboards

Drop OLKB Planck by Drop.

Imagine using a keyboard without a number line. Seems impossible, right? Well, it isn’t, and it has a cult following. This is where the 40% keyboards come in, and they’re as niche as they are strange. These keyboards have excellent ergonomics and are a perfect travel companion due to their lightweight and compact design, and they have an ortholinear layout (instead of staggered).

Getting used to an ortholinear board on its own has a reputation for being taxing, but owners who can crest that learning curve say it’s well worth the effort.

Alice

Sneakbox Designs Alice Ava keyboard on desk.
Sneak Box Design Ava

The Alice is a trendy layout in the world of mechanical keyboards due to its unique design, which bridges the gap between ergonomic and standard. The Alice was designed by a company called EM7, then brought back to life by TGR. Since then, the resale value of an original TGR Alice goes upwards of $5,000. Fortunately, obtaining an Alice now isn’t as expensive, and companies like Epomaker and Keychron will soon release their own Alice keyboards. If you can’t wait, the Sneakbox Design Alice called Ava is available now.

Split Ergo

Ergodox on my table.

The split ergo design has taken off in popularity in recent years due to the release of the Ergodox. Since the Ergodox is split, this allows you to move each half of the board to make sure that both of your arms are as comfortable as possible. There is a lot of research to suggest that using a keyboard like this can massively reduce your chance of developing RSI and carpal tunnel syndrome.

It has an extreme learning curve and every setup will be different depending on where you place the two halves, but if you can get used to it, the effect is impressive.

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