Intro to Keyboard Sizes and Layouts

  • Keycaps 101
  • Posted by: carson-rutz
  • Jun 9, 2022

You might have come across varying keyboard sizes and quirky layouts if you've ever ventured into the world of mechanical keyboards. True fans can quickly sort these input devices into well-defined categories. If you're interested in mechanical keyboards, this article will help you understand how to choose, select, and build your own device.

Let's learn about the different keyboard sizes available in the market!

The Comparison Chart of Common Keyboard Sizes

As you can see from the comparison chart and images, there are six common types of keyboard sizes generally produced by big manufacturers. Keyboard layouts are affected by the number of keys, such as number pad, arrow keys, number keys, and function keys. 

Keyboard sizes comparison
Keyboard sizes comparison | Keychron

Keyboard Size

Keyboard Name Typing & Control Number Keys (row)
Arrow Keys Function Keys Editing Keys Number Pad


Full-Sized ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️


Compact Full-Sized ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️



Tenkeyless ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ None
75% Compact Tenkeyless ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Some Kept


65% Compact ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Comb-Keys Comb-Keys


60% Mini ✔️ ✔️ Comb-Keys Comb-Keys Comb-Keys


Each of the colored columns above represents a mechanical keyboard form factor. The six keyboard key areas determine the layout and size of the final product. Here's a breakdown of each type, according to size.

100% | 104-Key Keyboard | Full-Sized Keyboard

104-key keyboard
104-key keyboard | Amazon

100% keyboards, also called full-sized keyboards, are what you commonly see in everyday office and home settings. They follow traditional keyboard layouts comprising four different parts: function keys area, main key area, arrow keys area, and the number pad. The device contains a complete set of 104 keys, and it does not lack any functions. 

Consequently, it offers several advantages. You can tackle several different tasks efficiently in an office setting with a full-sized keyboard. Work involving data entry or calculations is effortless when you have a readily available number pad. 

96% | 100-Key Keyboard | Compact Full-Sized Keyboard

100-key keyboard
100-key keyboard | Amazon

Full-sized keyboard layouts are trendy. However, the large size can cause portability issues for some people. 96% compact full-sized keyboards offer a solution by removing rarely used keys, such as PrstScn, Scroll Lock, and Pause. These keyboards can be used with increased efficiency in the office, and traveling with such keyboards won't be difficult either.

80% | 87-Key Keyboard | Tenkeyless (TKL) Keyboard

87-key keyboard
80% | 87-Key Keyboard | Tenkeyless (TKL) Keyboard

80% keyboard layouts are popular among avid gamers who spend long hours playing DOTA or CounterStrike. You might have heard of these as TKL or tenkeyless keyboards. As the name suggests, the number pad is removed to produce a moderately linear layout and reduced keyboard size. 

Consequently, this is an excellent option for daily gamers or office goers who want a compact mechanical keyboard that doesn't take up too much desk space.

75% | 84-Key Keyboard | Compact Tenkeyless Keyboard

84-key keyboard
84-key keyboard | Yunzii

75% keyboard layouts are prevalent these days and boast more compact keyboard layouts than their full-sized TKL counterparts. Laptops usually have a similar layout, with 84 keys. The number pad and some navigation keys are removed to streamline the function keys into a single row and column. 

If your daily gaming or office needs don't require a number pad or navigation keys, 75% keyboard layouts will be perfect for you. They have all the advantages of an 80% keyboard, all in a more compact package!

65% | 68-Key Keyboard | Compact Keyboard

68-key keyboard
68-key keyboard | Amazon

The 65% design is one of the best keyboard layouts. It removes a significant number of keys, including the number pad, navigation keys, and function keys. You can still use the functions using a combination of other keys to activate the desired operation. 

Consequently, the design has made 65% keyboard sizes popular among people who require a compact keyboard that prioritizes functionality instead of a wide range of operations. It will also help you clear up desk space, and the reduced size drastically enhances reflexes in games that demand a fast reaction time, such as FPS games.

60% | 61-Key Keyboard | Mini Keyboard

60% | 61-Key Keyboard | Mini Keyboard
61-key keyboard | Amazon

60% keyboards are for you if you're into minimal aesthetics and super-compact mechanical keyboards. It's one of the best keyboard layouts, with streamlined main keys that prioritize your typing experience. 

Rarely used keys, including the number pad, some navigational keys, and the arrow keys, are all removed. Gamers don't prefer the layout due to increased reliance on key combinations. However, office goers, such as coders and writers, prefer 60% keyboards because of the smooth and efficient typing experience.

50% | 49-51-Key Keyboard

50% | 49-51-Key Keyboard
50% | 49-51-Key Keyboard

50% keyboard sizes are often manufactured as 40% keyboards. The types don't differ much from each other in terms of keys. The former can have between 49 and 51 keys, while the latter usually has between 45 to 50 keys. 

The 50% mechanical keyboard will typically retain its arrow keys but won't have the top layers of number keys. It transforms the keyboard into a very compact size which is highly portable and extremely lightweight. Coders, programmers, and typists prefer 50% and 40% keyboard sizes for this reason.

40% | 45-50-Key Keyboard

40 percent keyboard | Amazon
40 percent keyboard | Amazon

The smallest keyboard sizes usually have between 45 to 50 keys and are called 40% keyboards. Many companies never go lower than 60%, but you can still find many decent models in the market by less well-known brands. 

They have unique keyboard layouts with no number keys, arrow keys, and all other components removed from 60% mechanical keyboards.

In addition, even the semi-colon, quotations, and most of the non-letter keys are removed to offer an almost linear mechanical keyboard layout. You can carry out the functions of the removed keys by changing the layers of the keyboard. 

However, you will first need to adjust to frequently changing the layers before you can master the smallest keyboard size in the community!

Other Size or Layout Keyboards (Non-Standard Layouts)


Ortholiner non-standard keyboard
Ortholiner non-standard keyboard | Drop

Do the keys on mechanical keyboards ever trigger your OCD? The disorganized look can feel annoying at times and can even hamper performance because of the gaps in keys. Ortholinear keyboard layouts provide an effective solution. 

These keyboard layouts comprise any number of keys distributed in perfectly aligned rows and columns. While the keyboard will not offer an extensive list of advantages, it is aesthetically pleasing to look at and offers custom keyboard enthusiasts the perfect template for their designs.


Non-standard numpad keyboard
Non-standard Numpad keyboard | Mechanical keyboards

Numpads rarely get the credit they deserve from custom keyboard enthusiasts. However, they're perfect for jobs that don't require full-sized keyboards. In fact, you don't need to worry about the ideal keyboard size or layout if you have a data entry job; just get a Numpad. 

It will reduce desk space and help crunch numbers faster. Standard Numpad keyboard layouts include 17 to 25 keys. You should also get one if you play games that don't require the full keyboard; this way, you can reduce the chance of hitting the wrong keys.

Split/ Ergonomic Layout

Split ergonomic keyboard
Split ergonomic keyboard | Mechanical keyboards

Ergonomic keyboard layouts are designed to naturally match the angle of your wrists when they're at rest position. These mechanical keyboards are an excellent option for people who spend long hours typing, which can put considerable strain on their wrists. An ergonomic keyboard is angled to the wrists, so they don't need to be bent to press the keys. 

Additionally, ergonomic keyboards come in several different keyboard layouts, such as staggered, split, ortholinear, or those with a gap dividing them in the middle. Consider getting one if your wrists hurt after hours of typing or playing games.

How to Choose the Perfect Keyboard Size and Layout for You

Different people have different keyboard sizes or layout preferences depending on utility, performance, or other metrics. Choosing the perfect keyboard is like selecting your favorite piece of art – it’s a subjective process. There are no right or wrong answers, only metrics.

Does Keyboard Size Matter?

Size is a significant aspect of the mechanical keyboard form factor. Contrary to what many keyboard enthusiasts will tell you, keyboard size does matter for various reasons. The mechanical keyboard form factor refers to the device's size, layout, and number of keys. 

In essence, size is integral in determining the number of keys used for a particular keyboard. The same can be said about keyboard layouts. You can only have as many different layouts as the keyboard size can allow. 

Consequently, if your work involves a lot of travel, and you plan on bringing your trusty keyboard to all work-related trips, consider getting a compact or TKL keyboard. If portability and weight are not an issue, and you want the whole package, 104-key mechanical keyboards are the gold standard.

Similarly, if you want a more ergonomic feel when gaming or crunching lines of code, you'll want to get a compact, ergonomic keyboard that matches the natural angle of your wrists and alleviates strain. Many gamers and typists often prefer a TKL-65% mechanical keyboard form factor for this purpose.

Keyboard Size and Layout: Buying Guide

Keyboard sizes and layouts are not the only factors you need to consider when choosing a keyboard. Whether you're a gamer, office worker, custom keyboard enthusiast, or all three, you must consider nine essential aspects other than the mechanical keyboard form factor.

Work Type

The nature of your work is crucial when it comes to deciding the best-fit keyboard for you. Prominent manufacturers build numerous mechanical keyboards of different shapes, sizes, and layouts to cater to people with different needs. 

For instance, if you like gaming, you might prefer a 104-mechanical keyboard form factor to increase the range of available keys. However, you might also require a gaming model with RGB backlighting and hotkeys, which you can customize in your game's control settings. 

Similarly, if you're a coder who writes thousands of lines of code, an ergonomic keyboard with a compact size will provide you with a more comfortable experience. Office Goers often prefer compact keyboards to boost performance and increase comfort. However, you should consider getting a Numpad or keyboard with a number pad if you have a data entry job or a position in accounting.


You should always test the feel of the keystrokes when choosing a keyboard. If you're getting one for working long hours at the office, you don't want a keyboard that feels like typing on a rock. The touch, feel, and sensitivity of the keys are different on different keyboards. While some might have soft and responsive keys, others might have keys that require a hard press.

Key switches control the touch and feel of keystrokes. Mechanical keyboards have switches that allow the keys to respond to your touch. Numerous types of switches can offer audible or silent feedback, hard or soft contact, and fast or delayed response.


Keyboard compatibility is another significant aspect to consider. Most computers provide USB ports for connecting to mechanical keyboards. As we progress into the age of technology, the much older PS/2 ports are becoming obsolete. You don't want to purchase a mechanical keyboard that is not compatible with your device. The same holds true for wireless keyboards that connect to the computer via Bluetooth capability and companion software in most cases.


The keyboard design is equally important when choosing a variant and can range from standard options to non-standard and ergonomic ones. While standard keyboards with 104 keys are the most common ones, you might want to get an ergonomic one if you're suffering from carpal tunnel. The design of the split keyboard helps release the strain from your wrists.

Similarly, programmers can buy mechanical keyboards with a DVORAK layout instead of the standard QWERTY layout. You can even purchase washable models if you're obsessed with cleanliness!

Wired vs. Wireless

Wired and wireless mechanical keyboards have some drawbacks, so avid gamers and keyboard enthusiasts prefer models that support both configurations. Wireless mechanical keyboards are great since they help you save desk space, avoid clutter, and help prevent issues of different cords and wires becoming tangled.

However, wireless keyboards can increase the lag, which gamers passionately despise since it interferes with the gaming experience. Additionally, wireless models are battery-powered, which means they have a specific time window outside of which they need to be charged. They are also costlier compared to their wired counterparts.

Extra Function Keys

Extra function keys can help you quickly perform certain functions, control the volume, or launch different applications. Manufacturers select these keys to help users speed up specific tasks for which the keyboard might be used after purchase. Extra function keys can also be customized with your preferred shortcut keys, drastically enhancing efficiency.

Also, many keyboards come equipped with a joystick or touchpad, making it needless to use a mouse. However, gamers who play many FPS games still prefer a mouse and keyboard for faster reflexes and short reaction time.

Keycap Materials

You must also verify the keycap material in your potential choice. Most keyboards have keycaps made of ABS, which is used in double-shot molding. It offers versatility as the keys can be laser etched, engraved, or even pad printed.

On the other hand, some keyboards use PBT, producing hard and brittle keycaps. It is exceptionally durable and does not yellow like its ABS counterparts. The PBT material is also resistant to heat and chemicals. However, its rugged nature makes it difficult to mold. Please read our article about the best keycap material to understand which material will be perfect for your needs.


Corsair K68 Mechanical Keyboard with RGB
Corsair k68 rgb

Backlighting is another essential factor, especially if you're a gamer. If you stream your games for hours in a dark room, you should look for a keyboard that has backlighting. Many prominent companies like Razer produce keyboards with RGB backlighting features which provide customizable light options. You should also consider getting a keyboard with backlighting capability if you generally use your computer in a dark room.


Finally, all the above features are directly related to price. Mechanical keyboards come at different price points depending on how high-end the materials are and their characteristics. You need to make a budget for your purchase before following through with your selection. The ideal keyboard must strike a balance between your budget and your keyboard requirements. 

What is the Best Keyboard Size for Programmers?

The best keyboard is more a matter of preference than the nature of your work. However, objectively speaking, 75% or lower mechanical keyboard form factor is suitable for programmers, especially if they need to move around for work and need to bring their keyboard along with them. Programmers directly involved in app development who write long lines of codes might also prefer a mini-keyboard like 40% mechanical keyboards, which strictly prioritize typing.

What is the Best Keyboard Size for Gamers?

Most gamers, particularly Dota 2 and CounterStrike players, prefer TKL keyboard layouts since it offers the same functionality and versatility as the full-sized keyboard but provides a compact size that is more efficient and ergonomic. 


The current market has a plethora of mechanical keyboards offering a vast range of keyboard sizes and layouts. Choosing a particular keyboard can be a daunting task when you have so many choices. We hope our article helps you make the best choice according to your needs. Remember to keep your budget in mind as well as your requirements and preferred layout! 


  1. What are compact keyboards?
  2. Keyboard sizes smaller than or equal to a 60% mechanical keyboard form factor are considered compact. They come in various keyboard layouts.
  3. What are common keyboard sizes?
  4. The most common keyboard sizes include full-sized, TKL, 75%, 65%, and 60% variants. There are other keyboard sizes as well, but they're not as common.
  5. What are non-standard keyboard layouts?
  6. Some of the most popular non-standard keyboard layouts include split or ergonomic keyboards, num pads, macropads, and ortholinear ones.
  7. What keyboard size is best for you?
  8. The best keyboard size for you meets all your requirements, enhances your performance, reduces strain on your arms, and adjusts to your budget.
  9. How to choose the right keyboard?
  10. Pay attention to your budget, keyboard size and layout, keycap material, work requirements, and keystroke feel when choosing the right keyboard. Read our guide for a comprehensive answer.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *