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Photo: Copyright: ESL | Adam Lakomy

Size Matters: Small Gaming Keyboard

The keyboard is, besides the mouse, the most important tool of a gamer. A single input error can easily decide the outcome of a game. If you play for victory, you therefore should carefully choose your gaming keyboard. For quite some time, the trend was to cram as many features as possible into the keyboard. Manufacturers tried to outbid each other with the number of additional macro keys and integrated displays or docking possibilities. In recent years, we can observe a reversal of this trend. Small gaming keyboards are getting more and more popular. Many gamers are happy to give up extra features if it leads to a smaller and more handy keyboard.

Why are Compact Keyboards so popular? Advantages of a Small Gaming Keyboard explained

With a large desk, it might seem unnecessary to care about the size of a keyboard. Is there a good reason, to choose a small keyboard, even when you have enough space and you always keep your keyboard in the same place? The short answer is: yes, there is. The love for small gaming keyboards is not driven by small tables, it is the possibility to position your keyboard the way you want. The easiest way to illustrate this, is to take a look on how pro gamers are using their keyboards. The following picture is showing Team Evil Geniuses at the Intel Extreme Masters 2020 in Katowice.

IEM Katowice 2020 - professional gamers with their keyboards
IEM Katowice 2020, Copyright: ESL | Bart-Oerbekke

We can see, that the keyboards are clearly not aligned horizontally in front of the players. Not everyone chooses such a steep angle as shown in the picture, but most pro players prefer to rotate their keyboard at least a bit. The next two pictures show some more examples from the IEM in Katowice. This circumstance is not limited to a few specific players or events, it can be observed at almost all teams and at basically every esports event.

IEM Katowice 2020 - small gaming keyboards are popular
IEM Katowice 2020, Copyright: ESL | Helena Kristiansson
IEM Katowice 2020 - small gaming keyboards is use
IEM Katowice 2020, Copyright: ESL | Helena Kristiansson

The smaller the keyboard, the more options you get to position the keyboard. With a big keyboard, it can easily happen, that you are in your own way and you might become unable to comfortably reach some of the keys. Besides more options for positioning, a small keyboard provides further advantages:

  • Ergonomics: With a small keyboard, you can bring your mouse closer to your center line. It helps you to achieve a natural arm position which aids in preventing exhaustion and health issues.
  • Easy to transport: Not relevant for everybody, but it is a big advantage, when you actually need to be mobile with your keyboard. In addition to smaller size and less weight, small mechanical keyboards typically also offer a detachable cable.
  • Cheap price: If a keyboard is available in multiple sizes, the small keyboard is usually cheaper than the full-size keyboard.
  • Required space: A small keyboard creates space on your desk for other things. No need to fully occupy it though, enjoying the free space is just fine 😉

Common Keyboard Sizes

A full-size keyboard has typically a little over 100 keys. It is made up of several groups: The base area includes alphanumeric keys and special characters. Additionally, there is an navigation block with arrow keys, a numpad for numeric inputs and a function row (F1-F12, possibly others). A small keyboard lacks some of these blocks. The most common keyboard sizes (apart from full-size) are:

  • Tenkeyless Keyboard: The term tenkeyless refers to a keyboard without numpad.
  • 65% Keyboard: A keyboard that has roughly 65% of the keys of a full-size keyboard. Typically, arrow keys are present, but numpad and parts of the navigation block are missing.
  • 60% Keyboard: A keyboard with roughly 60% of the keys of a full-size keyboard. Typically limited to the base area and therefore without numpad, navigation area and function row.

Best Keyboard Size for Gaming

Every keyboard size has its own advantages and disadvantages, there is no clear overall best pick that suits every purpose. A tenkeyless keyboard is perfect to try out a smaller keyboard, if you have not used one yet. Since only the numpad is missing, but the rest stays the same, you only have to readjust when typing numbers. It offers a great compromise between form and function and it is great for gaming and work.

If you want even more flexibility regarding positioning, you definitely should take a look at 65% and 60% keyboards. On these boards, many functions are only available via shortcuts. You therefore should plan for some time to get used to the keyboard. A 60% keyboard can be a bit tedious to work with, but the 60% form factor is also considered as possibly the best keyboard size for gaming.

What is the Best Small Gaming Keyboard?

The trend to a smaller keyboard sizes was presumably started by the keyboard community. At least since the success of the Ducky One 2 Mini*, this trend also reached the mainstream. Many of the new keyboard introductions in the last few months have been small gaming keyboards. A brief excerpt:

More small keyboards: Tenkeyless Keyboards, 65% Keyboards, 60% Keyboards

When you ask ten different people about the best small gaming keyboard, you possibly will get 10 different answers. Our Mechanical Keyboard Score offers some basic guidance on how a keyboard fared regarding reviews and critics from various sources. The Mechanical Keyboard Ranking shows the best mechanical keyboards with respect to its keyboard score. What do you consider the best small gaming keyboard? Let us know and share your experiences in the comment section.

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