The TKL keyboard layout has been popular these days and we can understand why. It’s more compact, portable, and is cheaper than a full-sized keyboard. However, despite its popularity, it’s not the right keyboard for every desk setup. That said, when is it the best option, and what are its uses? Here’s what you must know about the TKL keyboard before you buy one.
What Is a TKL Keyboard?
Before we get into the use cases, we first have to understand what a TKL keyboard is. After all, there’s so much jargon surrounding keyboard layouts nowadays that it can be confusing. What is a TKL keyboard and how many keys on a TKL keyboard can you find? Is TKL a 75% keyboard or is the percentage different? Let’s find out.
Firstly, the “TKL” in “TKL keyboard” stands for “Tenkeyless.” Now, this doesn’t mean that your keyboard has 10 keys less than a full-sized keyboard. It simply indicates that your keyboard gets rid of the 10-key numeric pad. Through its deletion, a TKL keyboard is smaller and more portable than its full-sized counterparts.
Secondly, the TKL keyboard, whether they’re gaming keyboards or otherwise, is considered 80% or 87% keyboards. This is because they generally have 87 or 88 keys left after chopping off the number pad. That’s 80-87% of the original full-sized ones that have about 104-108 keys, depending on the country. Moreover, TKL keyboards are only roughly 80% to 87% the size of 100% keyboards.
TKL Keyboard vs 1800-Compact Keyboard
While the variety of keyboard layouts is beneficial for keyboard enthusiasts, the number of options can be quite confusing. There are 80%, 75%, 60%, and even 40% keyboards. Moreover, we even occasionally see the 1800-Compact keyboard, which looks and feels full-sized but isn’t. So, what is the difference between this and the TKL keyboard?
Firstly, the 1800-Compact is technically a full-sized keyboard because it has the full layout. Hence, you won’t miss any of the keys that were chopped off of the TKL keyboard. However, what distinguishes the 1800-Compact from the 100% keyboard is that its arrangement is slightly different.
With the 1800-Compact, the arrow keys are closer to the left and are usually under the Enter key. Meanwhile, the navigational keys that are normally above the arrows are now found above the Numpad. Overall, the 1800-Compact saves a bit more space than full-sized keyboards but is still larger than the TKL keyboard. It’s a pretty unconventional layout and can take some getting used to.
TKL Keyboard vs 75% Keyboard
You already know that a TKL mechanical keyboard is equivalent to 80% or 87% keyboards. However, there can still be some confusion between TKL keyboards and 75% keyboards. What is the difference between the two?
As the name implies, a 75% keyboard is roughly 75% of the size of a full-sized keyboard. It’s more compact than the TKL because there’s less space between keys and some keys have been rearranged. Overall, it’s smaller and more compact although it does take time to get the hang of using it. On the other hand, the TKL keyboard is easier to adapt to if you’re switching from a full-sized, 100% keyboard.
TKL Keyboard vs 60% Keyboard
If you want to go more compact than a 75% layout, we recommend the 60% keyboard. It’s the most common layout you’ll find on smaller keyboards – even more than the 75% keyboard. This time, however, it gets rid of the Function (F) keys at the top of the TKL and 75% keyboards. All you’ll get are numbers, letters, and a few important keys like backspace, enter, escape, etc.
Of course, having no dedicated function keys doesn’t mean the 60% keyboard is deprived of functionality. That’s because it substitutes those function keys with the “Fn” key at the bottom-left or right. Just press and hold on to it and use the numeric keys up top to trigger the function keys.
Apart from function keys, the 60% keyboard also chops off the dedicated arrow keys. Like the F keys, you’ll have to use Fn + WASD to navigate the way you would with arrows. However, do note that the format of these types of keyboards generally differs between manufacturers. Hence, it’s important to review the layout of each brand before you buy anything.
TKL Keyboard vs 40% Keyboard
If you want the ultimate space-saving keyboard then you should opt for the 40% layout. It’s the smallest of the keyboard layouts and is still usable. However, it does get rid of a lot of important keys – including the number row up top. All you’ll get are letters and modifiers.
On the other hand, you can access other layers of keys through special keys on 40% keyboards. Nonetheless, it’s the least recommended keyboard of all. That’s because it’s very difficult to get used to and is very frustrating to use. After all, most people do need numbers to type even if they don’t work with numbers all the time.
With that said, it’s no wonder that the 40% keyboard hasn’t become mainstream. For the most part, the TKL keyboard, 75% keyboard, and 60% keyboard are enough when it comes to saving space.
Reasons You Might Want to Use the TKL Keyboard
Are TKL keyboards better? Is there a valid reason to choose the TKL keyboard over 75% or full-sized keyboards? After all, the 75% keyboard is much more compact so it makes more sense if you want to save space. On the other hand, the 100% keyboard doesn’t cut corners and provides all the features you might need. So, what’s the point of using the TKL keyboard?
Saving space is one of the many reasons why people like to use the TKL keyboard. It’s smaller than a full-sized keyboard and is perfect for smaller desk setups. You can easily fit in other things on your desk like mousepads or decorations in the space you saved. Moreover, a smaller keyboard means you don’t have to move your wrists too much while you work. Your hands will be closer, providing you with a much more comfortable position overall.
Of course, you could argue that the 75% keyboard could also work well if you just need to save space. However, the 75% keyboard can take some getting used to if you’re transitioning from a full-sized layout. With TKL layouts, you only need to adjust a little bit before you can get back to typing comfortably.
No Use for Numpad
If you’re looking for a regular gaming keyboard, then a TKL keyboard is one of the best options. This is because gamers rarely have any use for the Numpad. Of course, some gamers do need them for programming macros in certain games. Regardless, it’s a pretty rare use case and most PC gamers won’t need the number keys.
Now, what if you’re not a gamer and simply a regular user? Do you need the Numpad for anything? Well, it depends. If your job or at-home work requires a lot of number crunching, then you might need the Numpad. However, it’s not necessary if most of what you do doesn’t require many numbers or calculations.
With that said, what if you do use the Numpad but only on certain occasions like when you tally expenses? How can you keep the space-saving aspect of a TKL keyboard without sacrificing efficiency?
Well, the best option for this is to get an external USB-powered Numpad. Through this device, you can hook up a Numpad to your setup only when you need it. Then you can simply unplug the device and use the TKL keyboard to save space for your regular setup. It’s the best of both worlds.
A TKL gaming keyboard – or any TKL keyboard in general – provides a minimal aesthetic that looks great in minimalist workspaces. If you’re the type who doesn’t like loud aesthetics but needs some good functionality, it’s a perfect choice.
Of course, not all TKL keyboards are tailor-built for your wrist ergonomics. However, they do generally provide better ergonomics compared to something like a full-sized keyboard. This is because the smaller size means you can move your wrist less when switching to the mouse. As a result, your arm is more lined up with your shoulder and shouldn’t strain as much.
If you’re looking for something portable, then a TKL keyboard is much better than a 100% keyboard. It’s smaller and more compact so it should fit well in most backpacks. Whether you’re simply commuting or traveling long distances, a TKL keyboard is the perfect option. Moreover, if it comes with a detachable cable then that makes it doubly portable compared to a regular TKL keyboard.
Lastly, TKL keyboards are more affordable than regular full-sized ones. This is because it’s smaller and more portable so it requires fewer raw materials to produce overall. Moreover, it’s a fairly popular keyboard layout so you’ll have no trouble trying to find it on the market.
Best TKL Keyboards Available Today
What TKL keyboard should you buy? If that’s the question you’re asking, then you’re in luck. We’ve lined up five of the best TKL keyboard options you can buy today.
Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
One great TKL keyboard option that’s not too expensive is the Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro S RGB mechanical gaming keyboard. As the name implies, you get multiple RGB lighting modes while using this keyboard. Moreover, it boasts impeccable performance, is fairly accurate enough for gaming, and allows for macros.
With that said, there are not too many fancy bells or whistles to boast about in Cooler Master’s TKL keyboard. Its advanced processor and detach USB cord are pretty standard. Moreover, it doesn’t use aluminum and is instead made of durable plastic.
Overall, it’s a pretty good deal considering it costs less than $80. However, it does feel a little lacking if you’re used to flashy keyboards.
HyperX Alloy FPS Pro
If you want the best TKL keyboard for typing but need something affordable, we recommend the HyperX Alloy FPS Pro. Through this keyboard, you can get a sleek and minimalistic TKL keyboard for just under $60. Moreover, it has most of what you need: decent durability, quality, and a detachable cable.
Of course, this keyboard did cut a few corners to lower the cost. Firstly, there’s no customizable backlighting as it only comes in red. In addition, you can’t configure or customize the software to create gaming profiles or program macros. Its cable is also micro-USB instead of USB-A or USB-C. Nonetheless, it’s good enough for the price if you want a basic TKL keyboard for gaming without breaking the bank.
Logitech G Pro X
The Logitech G Pro X is a TKL keyboard Logitech offers that’s great for those who like hot-swapping. With this option, you can choose between three switch types: GX Blue Clicky, GX Brown Tactiles, or GX Red Linears. Regardless of the choice, you’ll need to exert 50 grams of force to register a click.
Other than that, the G Pro X is a pretty decent TKL keyboard overall. It has customizable RGB lighting for individual keys, Logitech’s G Hub syncing technology, and includes customizable profiles. However, it does have its pitfalls compared to alternatives.
For instance, the cable is still micro-USB instead of USB-C. Moreover, the casing doesn’t feel as premium because it’s built with plastic instead of aluminum. Nonetheless, it’s still a good option if you want something that’s hot-swappable.
Logitech G915 TKL
If you want a wireless TKL keyboard then look no further than Logitech’s G915 TKL. It’s slim, compact, and connects through both Bluetooth and a 2.4GHz wireless connection. With it, you can travel almost anywhere and still have a TKL keyboard. However, you do have to watch out for the battery life when you’re out and about. That’s because the keyboard lasts only 40 hours on full brightness.
Unfortunately, the G915 isn’t hot-swappable but you can choose between three switches: brown, red, and blue. These keys are more or less similar to those of the G Pro X but they’re more compact overall.
Overall, the Logitech G915 TKL is a pretty good choice if you want something wireless. However, it is quite expensive compared to its wired counterparts so keep that in mind.
Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition TKL
The best TKL gaming keyboard might very well be the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition TKL. Unlike many other TKL keyboards, the Razer substitutes regular mechanical switches with optical ones.
Through this mechanism, keys register even faster than usual and are generally more responsive. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re limited in options with the Razer. That’s because it also offers two variations: switches that need 40 grams or 45 grams of force.
Apart from these, the Razer is also great all-around because of its stellar build quality. It’s built with aluminum and uses high-quality Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) keys so it should last a long time. Moreover, it uses USB-C and is compatible with Razer Chroma, allowing you to configure the RGB lighting and software.
With that said, the Razer Huntsman isn’t the most affordable option on this list. It’s pretty expensive because of how high-quality the build and functionality are. Nonetheless, this one is hard to beat if you want a top-of-the-line TKL keyboard.
SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL
For many who want a good gaming keyboard, TKL layouts are the way to go. However, a good layout isn’t the only quality that makes a gaming keyboard good. Functionality, durability, and aesthetics also play a part in helping people decide on their gaming keyboard of choice. With that in mind, however, not many gaming keyboards distinguish themselves like the SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL.
What makes it special? Firstly, the Apex Pro is a unique keyboard because it allows you to customize the sensitivity of your keys individually. This is made possible by the Omnipoint switches it employs, allowing for a 0.4-3.6 millimeter sensitivity range.
In addition, the SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL houses a built-in OLED smart display. Through this display, you can search for system information or customize your keyboard without having to launch the app. You can even customize the display by uploading custom photos.
Apart from these unique features, the SteelSeries Apex Pro is also a great keyboard overall. Its construction and customization features are top-of-the-line. Furthermore, you can customize not only the switches but also the RGB lighting. However, it does cost quite a lot so it’s not for everyone.
Get a TKL Keyboard Today!
Whether you’re a gamer or an average worker, having a regular or custom TKL keyboard can go a long way. It’s the perfect size for those who want to save space and money while having a semi full-sized layout. Of course, there are other options such as the 75%, 60%, and 40% keyboards. These are more compact, portable, and could potentially be more affordable than TKL keyboards. Nonetheless, TKL keyboards are easier to transition to so they’re certainly a good choice.