What are 60 percent keyboards and are they right for you?

60 percent is still passing!

Photo via Colton Deck

With so many keyboard options available, it’s hard to tell which type of keyboard is right for you—especially if you’re new to PC gaming. There’s also been a ton of hype surrounding 60 percent keyboards, but what are they and should you consider picking one up?

The 60 percent keyboards are mechanical keyboards that have 60 percent of the keys that a standard full-size keyboard does. Having fewer keys means that the user inherently has less functionality at hand than a user who owns a full-size keyboard. So, if users lose out on functionality, then what’s the point? The answer to that question is simple: small form factor.

Small form factor refers to the small amount of space any given object may take up on a desk. For instance, a full-size keyboard eats up a significant amount more desk space than a tenkeyless or 60 percent keyboard. Small form factor can also refer to speakers, mousepads, PC case sizes, or any other accessory a player may have on their desk.

Many players get fatigued during long or competitive gaming sessions. Fatigue can be caused by any number of things, but generally speaking, it’s simply that the player’s setup isn’t conducive to their physical well-being. Going with a 60 percent keyboard may help with shoulder and wrist aches because its small form factor allows the user greater freedom to adjust the position of their keyboard.

If you held out a five-pound weight with an outstretched arm, chances are that your arm would become tired faster than if you held the weight closer to your body. The idea is the same here, as a 60 percent keyboard allows the user to keep their arms closer together. Keeping your arms closer together may not seem like a big deal, but consider that most peoples’ arms tend to naturally rest close to the body. Keeping your body as close to its natural resting state is crucial to comfort and a 60 percent keyboard may help keep your body in a more comfortable state while gaming.

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These small form factor keyboards also have the additional bonus of portability. Sure, a user can lug around their full-size keyboard, but for those who live a truly on-the-go lifestyle, the 60 percent keyboard goes a long way in providing unparalleled portability. 60 percent keyboards typically measure around 11.5 inches by 4.25 inches, which is drastically smaller than even a tenkeyless keyboard (TKL). Again, the small form factor comes at the expense of 40 percent of the keys normally found on a full-size keyboard.

With a 60 percent keyboard, the user won’t have access to top row F keys and instead will be smashing that Fn key to get their desired functionality. Additionally, there are no arrow keys on most true 60 percent keyboards, but most have programmed arrow keys that can be accessed by holding the Fn key. For every problem that can arise for a user, the manufacturers have likely already implemented a workaround, which helps the growing pains of adjusting to a lack of functionality.

If you’re looking to explore 60 percent keyboards, the Duck One 2 Mini, Anne Pro 2, and the GMMK Compact are great places to start. The Massdrop Alt is also a great option, although it is not a true 60 percent keyboard due to the inclusion of arrow keys, which come at a premium.

The bottom line is if you’re low on space, having discomfort, or need something with heightened portability then you may want to consider a 60 percent keyboard. The small form factor has as many advantages as it does disadvantages. While these keyboards won’t be perfect for everyone, there’s a massive PC peripheral subculture surrounding the 60 percent keyboard that swears by their performance and comfort.