Keyboards are an essential part of a PC’s toolkit. However, depending on the use, some of its myriad of keys tend to be put on the wayside as they’re not used as frequently. So, what do you do? Well, why not get a compact keyboard and save yourself some space?
In this article, we’ll talk about what compact keyboards are, what to look for when buying one, and which ones on the market are the best to get.
What Is a Compact Keyboard?
A compact keyboard is pretty much still a keyboard with several notable things. First off, some of the various keys are missing, they’re taken out to save space. Instead, these key bindings are accessible through a special “Function” key, or “Fn.” We’ll talk more about this later, but the one thing you should remember is that Fn is used to access almost all of the missing keys in a compact keyboard.
There are several iterations of a compact keyboard. These are:
The 1800 Compact option is a full keyboard with the slight caveat of no dividing spaces in between keys. This means all of the keys are there, but the lack of dividing space makes it smaller, and, ergo, more compact. The keyboard offers all the advantages of a normal-sized keyboard but in a more tightly fitted setting.
1800 Compact keyboards don’t look the same, though. Some have smaller arrow keys to add more space. Others, meanwhile, place some keys in different areas. Still, this is a smaller version of a full keyboard, and will still take some space in your PC desk.
Next on the list is the TKL keyboard, or Tenkeyless. This essentially removes the number pad from the keyboard, giving the user more desk space. This keyboard type just removes the number pad and keeps the home cluster with big arrow keys. Also, this should be called Seventeenkeyless, but it doesn’t rhyme as much as Tenkeyless.
There are a lot of TKL keyboards in the market right now for one simple reason: it’s the perfect compromise. At least, for gamers. The TKL keyboard type has most of the things that a gaming keyboard could want: all relevant keys are there, it’s smaller, allowing for better mouse control, and it can be customized according to user preference.
In addition to this, the smaller keyboard makes it incredibly ergonomic when it comes to typing documents due to its tighter alphabet key placement. These, in addition to a pretty stylish look, are the reasons why TKL compact keyboards are very popular today. Sadly though, they’re typically more expensive compared to 1800, and even full-sized keyboards.
Next on this list is the 75% Keyboards, a more compact version of the TKL keyboards with a lot of the spaces in between keys removed. In addition to this, the keys are also smaller, making the keyboard as a whole smaller.
In addition to this, 75% keyboards still have most of their keys at a similar size to standard keyboards. Thus, enthusiasts can swap various keys for other, more decorative ones. There are exceptions to some of them, but overall, the keys in this keyboard size can be swapped at the user’s leisure.
There’s also an 80% Size keyboard, where the function row is separated from the numbers row. Other than this though, same thing as the 75%.
And lastly, there’s the 65% keyboard, which just removes the function keys altogether. Instead, these keys are accessed by pressing the Fn key and a number on the numbers row for easy access. The home cluster which has the usual Delete, Page Up, and Page Down keys are still on a single column beside the direction keys.
The 65% size is good for those on the go with laptops and notebooks as its small size makes it easy to haul along. Its small size is also good for those that want even more space for the mouse to sprint around when playing FPS, RTS, and other mouse-intensive games.
Also Read: How to Build a Custom Keyboard
Compact Keyboard vs Full-Sized Keyboard
Now that we know what compact keyboards are and the differences in sizes, let’s talk about the differences between compact and full-sized keyboards.
Well, this is pretty obvious. Both compact and full-sized keyboards are still keyboards at the end of the day. their main functions don’t change, and you can still type and play with both.
The main difference is the size and the number of keys a keyboard has. Full-sized keyboards have all of the keys for users to press on, from the Home key to the Page Up and Down keys, et cetera. Meanwhile, compact keyboards take away some of these keys to be smaller. The reasons for this vary. It can be that they want to save space. Maybe the keys aren’t used that often. Perhaps the keys in question can be placed on a key binding.
12 Best Compact Keyboard Models
Now that we’ve talked about what to look for when shopping for compact keyboards, let’s go over which ones are the best for purchase. Do note that this list isn’t in any order, and these keyboards have their unique specialties.
The SK621 is Cooler Master’s lighter keyboard variant, with only 1 pound of weight in total. It’s a 60% mechanical gaming keyboard, with a lot of options for those that want to do some serious customization. It can also be a wireless Bluetooth keyboard with RGB lighting. If the user wants to stretch it, they can turn off the RGB lights to extend their wireless operating time to four or five months.
All in all, a solid gaming keyboard for those that want a bit more space on their tables for their mouse. The Cooler Master SK621 is a great compact keyboard for those that want to go on a CS: GO or Valorant killing spree.
The Drop Alt keyboard is for those that want a more relaxing experience compared to no-scoping amateurs on CS:GO but with the same customization options. It’s like a hybrid between the 60% and 75% keyboards with its 68% layout. It does, however, focus more on ergonomics and a sleek, attractive design with the thinking of “less is more.”
Unlike the SK621, the Drop Alt needs to be connected to the PC by a wired USB cable to function. Of course, this means wire management, but the additional space it gives is too good to deny.
Next on this list is the Ducky One 2 SF — a good keyboard that puts the keys people use the most and does away with the ones that don’t get much use. This makes it so that the Ducky One 2 SF hits the ultimate sweet spot between keyboard layout and size.
It’s a solid keyboard that gives its users a great experience when it comes to typing and its keys are clearly labeled for users to see. In addition to this, the keyboard also has customizable RGB backlighting for the RGB fanatics here in this article.
Unfortunately, the keyboard doesn’t have other customizable options other than this, and it’s a USB keyboard, not a wireless one. However, if you want a reliable keyboard to type with, take the Ducky One 2 SF.
For those that use the function key row a lot, you might want to get the Vortex Tab 75. Compared to the Ducky One 2 SF compact keyboard, it has more keys. However, the layout is so good that it takes almost the same space as your usual 65% or 68% keyboard while giving users a good typing experience.
The keyboard is also very customizable, with some of its keys being replaceable with Mac-specific keycaps. In addition to this, it also has Bluetooth functionality, and can also be plugged in by USB.
If you’re looking for a keyboard with a good key layout and switches that you can swap around, try the Keychron K6. It’s not that pricey, with a 65% layout. And if you look at its features, you can expect a lot of bang for your buck.
It can swap between a Bluetooth connection or a USB cable, with a 72-hour battery life with static backlighting. It also has RGB for the RGB fans but doesn’t have any special software. Thus, users who want a fully customized key combination need to do so manually, though instructions are provided.
As for the missing keys, the Keychron K6 has them on various key combinations on the keyboard. In addition, depending on your OS, you can change specific keycaps with either Windows or macOS keycaps to expedite the transition.
The Keychron K6 also has specific options in terms of its looks. There’s a version of either an RGB Backlighting or pure white, blue, red, or brown switches on the board, and hot-swappable or not hot-swappable. There’s also a version with LK Optical switches for gaming, giving gamers lower latency when they play.
Next on the list is the Logitech Pro X Gaming Keyboard that offers gamers the ability to change their switches. In addition to being a really good TKL keyboard for gaming, Logitech allows the user to change between blue, red, and brown tactile switches based on preference. Of course, this choice can be a bit hard for some people, but if you don’t want to choose, you can stay as-is.
The switches need to be changed manually, and so long as you have the right type, it prolongs the keyboard’s lifespan. In addition to this, the TKL design makes it so that users can haul it around with a laptop easily. And lastly, it has a detachable cable for easy storage. Do note that it doesn’t have any macro keys for users, but the function keys are fully customizable.
Those who want to save a few extra Benjamins might want to try the Arteck Bluetooth Keyboard. It is one of the cheaper models on this list with a slim, wireless design that won’t win beauty pageants but will be an effective tool for use.
In addition to this, it’s pretty durable due to the stainless steel backplate and can last for about six months of full charge if only used for two hours a day. This, of course, wouldn’t be the case if used extensively, but you can take a gander at how much battery life it’ll take.
Overall, the Arteck is a good wireless compact keyboard for typing, and you can’t go wrong with it.
Next on the list is the Logitech K380, a wireless Bluetooth keyboard that can be used on any OS. In addition to its versatility, the simple yet compact design allows it to be carried everywhere and can be a really good keyboard for those on the move.
The keyboard runs on two AAA batteries that you can easily procure anywhere, and the ones that the K380 comes with last for two years of extensive usage. For a keyboard that doesn’t use any mechanical switches, the K380 is a good haul. It’s easily one of the best and more affordable options on this list.
All gamers know about Razer. It’s practically a household name by this point due to how innovative it is in gaming hardware. Thus, when you look at the Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chroma v2, you wouldn’t be disappointed with its performance.
The first version of this keyboard has only one flaw: the bulky size. This version, on the other hand, doesn’t have that problem, shrinking the size but still having the same overall quality and feel. Those of the particular variety can choose between three Razer Switches each with its advantages. And last but not the least, the keyboard comes with a removable wrist rest for maximum comfort.
The GK61 is a cheap compact mechanical keyboard that doesn’t skimp on quality. Mechanical keyboards have one distinct disadvantage over other keyboards in that they’re pretty expensive. However, prices have dropped, allowing the GK61 to expand its user range to more users.
It gives a great feel when being used in addition to some cool-looking RGB backlighting that can be customized for user preference. This customization can be done with the keyboard’s software, which may take some time getting used to, but is a useful tool to have.
The keyboard comes in either white or black and has a decent showcase of optical switches to customize it with. Last but not the least, it can also be hot-swappable, but only with specific optical switches.
Next on the list is the Qisan Magicforce, a really good entry-level mechanical keyboard for standard usage. It’s a 65%/68% keyboard layout that’s reminiscent of the Ducky One 2 SF’s. However, it’s a bit wider when compared to it. The Magicforce is, overall, a better experience to type when compared to the Ducky One 2 SF. However, its build quality isn’t comparable to the former, with lower quality keycaps.
Nonetheless, it’s a really good keyboard for those on a budget, and the aluminum backplate gives it extra durability. Lastly, its keycaps are customizable since they’re all standard size.
The Obins Anne Pro 2 is a 60% keyboard with good customization options for those that want a bit of variety. The keyboard’s user-friendly software is a good thing to see for its customization, and the fact that the user can connect through either USB or Bluetooth is a point in its favor. However, the keyboard’s small size makes it so that the arrow keys have practically vanished. This means the user needs to use shortcuts to use these keys.
Still, it’s a good keyboard for typing, with good options for customization. Overall, it is a decent choice for those on the hunt for a compact keyboard.
What to Look Out for When Buying a Compact Keyboard?
Now that we’ve laid down the best options, let’s talk about what people need to look for when choosing one to buy.
The first thing that should be taken into consideration is the price of the keyboard. You don’t want to spend a lot, after all, as every extra dollar can be used to buy something else. There are a few compact keyboards that are pretty expensive on the wallet, some even running up to 200 or even 300 dollars. They do, however, tend to have a few extra things in the functionality and quality segment. But we’ll talk about those in later sections.
Remember, cheaper-priced compact keyboards are easy on the wallet, but they may be built with cheaper materials. Additionally, they may not have as many functions compared to more expensive compact keyboards. All in all, it’s a tradeoff.
Next on the list is the keyboard layout, something which should be a must when it comes to any kind of keyboard. After all, if the keyboard layout is unfamiliar, you wouldn’t be able to acclimate and use it effectively.
This is the reason why keyboards look the same no matter the size or even the brand. Microsoft and Apple PCs both have similar keyboards to help users, with the only differences being some keys and key binds for both of the brands.
As per usual, the quality of your product should be ascertained before committing to any kind of purchase. In terms of keyboards, this means finding out how long it’ll take before the keys don’t function, what the keyboard is made out of, et cetera.
Next on the list is for what reason are you buying the keyboard. Do you want to play games with it? 360 some casual on CS: GO and Valorant? Or are you just using it for work-related purposes? Above all else, always go for a keyboard configuration that jives with what you’re going to do with it.
The next thing to think about is the riveting question of whether to go with wired keyboards or wireless keyboards. Wired keyboards run the risk of tangles and complicated wire placements. Meanwhile, wireless keyboards don’t have that problem, but the user may need to deal with input delays and battery replacements.
All in all, it’s really up to the user which of these inconveniences they want to go for.
And last but not least is what features you want to have on the keyboard. Maybe you only want a normal, TKL keyboard with no other features. Perhaps you want a cool-looking RGB keyboard with additional bells and whistles. Either way, additional features mean that the keyboard in question would be more expensive, and the opposite is true for keyboards with fewer features.
Get Your Own Compact Keyboard Today
As you can probably see, compact keyboards are good for people that are either on the go or want to save space in their workplaces. It’s also good for gamers who want more space for their mouse movement. In addition to this, the smaller size of a compact keyboard makes it so that the travel time between various keys is less, allowing for faster typing.
However, it’s not a good idea to buy a compact keyboard if you want to have the full capacity of a full-sized keyboard. After all, to have a smaller keyboard, some things need to go. The Home cluster is a good example of this as it’s the usual victim for the quest for miniaturization. However, if you’re not looking to use some of the keys in question, then get a compact keyboard. It’s usually a better option for your desk space.