Keyboard sizes: What size of keyboard is right for you?

Understanding keyboard sizes will help you understand which one is right for you.

Photo via Keychron

Keyboards are one of the most important parts of a gaming or work setup. Alongside gaming mice, keyboards are also one of the most frequently used desk tools, so determining which keyboard is right for your gaming or productivity needs is an important undertaking.

Mechanical keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from traditional full-size keyboards to smaller, custom boards with fewer keys. Each keyboard still gets the job done, but the size can make a significant difference in your productivity and comfort. 

Let’s take a look at the most popular keyboard sizes, examine their differences, and determine which keyboard size is perfect for you. 

Full-size (100 percent) 

Photo via Mechanical Keyboards

A full-size keyboard is the standard keyboard size that most people picture when they think of a keyboard. These boards are usually equipped with a number pad, a row of function keys, a home cluster, and dedicated arrow keys. 

Most offices have full-size keyboards as they are excellent for data entry. However, users who do not need a board for data entry or solely want a keyboard for gaming can likely size down without issue. 

Full-size boards can also be more expensive in some cases and will take up more room on your desk. If you plan on buying a board to customize over time, remember that you will need significantly more keycaps and switches to cover a full-size keyboard. 

Tenkeyless (80 percent)

Photo via Drop

Tenkeyless keyboards are slightly smaller than full-sized keyboards and typically have 87 keys, removing the number pad. This keyboard size is perfect for users who don’t use the number pad often but do not want to lose the function keys, arrow keys, and home cluster. 

These smaller keyboards are one of the most popular styles of mechanical keyboards, meaning you can find plenty of suitable options and styles with ease. 

75 percent 

Photo via Keychron

75-percent keyboards are a niche size that some users prefer. These boards move the home cluster and arrow keys closer to the rest of the keys for a compact verison of a tenkeyless board. 75-percent boards are an excellent option for users who want the same functionality as a tenkeyless board in a compact form. Just remember that this size comes with a short adjustment period as the key placements are slightly different. 

65 percent

Photo via Drop

65-percent boards take things a step further by removing the function keys and, in some cases, the home cluster keys. These boards still have dedicated arrow keys, which is good for users who write often or need to move around spreadsheets with ease. 

If you constantly use the top row of function keys but want this size, just remember that you will need to rely on a function key to activate them. This can be a hurdle for users who are comfortable with their current typing style, but it typically only takes a few weeks to adapt. 

60 percent 

Image via Ducky

60-percent keyboards are among the most popular sizes for gamers but might be too small for use outside of gaming. These boards remove the row of function keys, home cluster, number pad, and arrow keys. However, there are a few benefits to this small size. 

60-percent boards are small, symmetrical, and take up little space on a desk. They are also excellent choices for customization as the lower amount of keys makes it cheaper to replace keycaps or switches. 

However, make sure this size will work for your needs before purchasing, as the lack of keys can be jarring. 

40 percent 

Photo by Vortex via Mechanical Keyboards

40-percent boards are for users that require the bare minimum from their keyboard. This size removes all of the keys a 60 percent does but gets rid of the top row and non-letter keys, which is a massive jump in design and functionality. 

Users will need to adapt to this small size and get comfortable using different layers to access the missing keys. Diving into this size is not recommended if this is your first custom or mechanical keyboard. We suggest starting with a slightly larger keyboard and making your way down as you adjust to the changes. 

Think about your needs before purchasing 

Each keyboard has advantages and disadvantages that can impact your productivity or ease of use. Gamers can get away with smaller keyboards since they typically do not need as many keys, but a working traditional job might make you miss the missing keys. 

Consider what you will use your keyboard for before purchasing, and remember that there is a significant learning curve with smaller keyboards. Also, consider if you want to custom build your board or if you want a prebuilt keyboard. This might impact your options in terms of availability. 

Most users can easily adapt to a mid-size keyboard and work their way down to smaller sizes if they discover that they do not need the extra keys. Just don’t jump directly into a style based on aesthetics, and always keep your needs in mind.