The ergonomic keyboard market is a highly competitive one. Therefore, manufacturers of ergonomic keyboards must be able to make their product stand out from the competition. One way a manufacturer can do this is by offering an unusually large number of keys on its keyboard.
Based on extensive research and numerous interviews with potential customers, I have discovered that the average consumer believes that a typical ergonomic keyboard has 64 keys.
It follows that as long as a manufacturer advertises its keyboard as having more than 64 keys, consumers will believe it is offering something better than competing products.
Please note: for this article I use “60 percent” and “65 percent” as generic terms for compact keyboards with no numberpad or only limited arrow key functionality and less than 100 total keys.
With this sales strategy in mind, I present the following list of compact ergonomic keyboards:
how many keys does a 60 percent keyboard have?
65 percent keyboards
The Matias 60 percent keyboard has 61 keys plus 4 function keys that can be programmed by the user.
The Maltron Ergonomic Keyboard has 63 keys plus 3 function keys that can be programmed to produce arrow key functions.
The Kinesis Freestyle2 Keyboard has 83 keys, divided into up to 5 sections which are independently set to different uses. For example, one section can be set as arrow keys while another section is used for typing text.
Are 60 percent keyboards good for gaming?
60 percent keyboards are better than they seem at first glance. For example, many 60 percent boards (such as the popular Poker II) can do n-key rollover without ghosting or transparent layers.
This means that pressing multiple keys simultaneously will register correctly no matter how fast you go.
And some even support full 6KRO on USB! Others use a split spacebar to allow for easy access to arrow keys (Matias Ergo Pro).
Some of these boards with arrow keys act like TKLs when the function key is held down, allowing for navigation via arrow keys plus modifiers.
On OSX 10.8 and higher, these keyboards work perfectly with the built-in OS X Keyboard Viewer . Just hold down the function key and you can check out all the keys your 60% supports.
However, there is one potential dealbreaker:
not all 60 percent keyboards have a standard layout. The most well-known example of this is probably the Planck and its siblings, which produce a stagger similar to the Ergodox or Iris but with more wrist movement due to how close together the center columns are placed.
The Matias Mini Quiet Pro has 58 keys plus 2 function keys that can be programmed by the user.
It also has 6 dedicated multimedia keys for controlling volume, play/pause, etc. without having to press the Fn key first. It doesn’t have arrow keys or a numpad but it does have 5 thumb buttons that function as arrow keys when held down.
It is designed to be a 60 percent keyboard that’s better for travel because it has a very small form factor and can fold up into a built-in storage compartment.
How small of a keyboard can you make by removing the numberpad?
This is a pretty typical 65 percent layout, which has 63 keys plus 5 function keys that can be programmed.
This keyboard is similar to the popular Poker II but smaller because it lacks arrow keys and a Numpad.
Its design puts both shift keys in the middle column, resulting in good ergonomics for touch-typing but less than ideal efficiency when playing games that require frequent use of modifier keys (which must be pressed with the pinky).
How many more keystrokes does it take to type on a 60% vs a full-sized board?
The Planck has 47 total keys plus 4 function keys that can be programmed by the user.
The layout is designed to be ambidextrous and to reduce the amount of hand movement required. It has 3 thumb keys that function as space, backspace, and an additional enter when held down.
Why do ergonomic keyboards have so many more key rows?
The Ergodox has 84 total keys plus 8 function keys that can programmed by the user.
It has a staggering 32 possible thumb keys! Although this keyboard was not designed with gaming in mind, it actually works pretty well for gaming thanks to its total programmability and high-quality Cherry switches (with medium stiffness).
Like most boards with a central column of keys, the Ergodox requires a bit more hand movement than standard layouts but tends to feel better because you’re not bending your wrists inward.
Typing on the Ergodox takes some practice, but it’s no harder than learning to touch-type on a full-sized keyboard.
The increased number of rows also makes it possible to get away with using an ergonomic keyboard even if you have small hands because you don’t need to stretch your pinkies across so many keys!
For gaming, the most important thing is to find a layout that works for you – one with modifier keys in comfortable positions and enough thumb keys for all of your abilities.