Discover the Ideal Mechanical Keyboard Layout for You

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all keyboards. Modern advancements in technology ensure a wide range of keyboard sizes and designs, tailored to suit aesthetic preferences and functional needs. This guide will help you navigate through the myriad of mechanical keyboard layouts, to find the perfect match for your usage requirements.

What Are the Different Components of a Mechanical Keyboard?

Let's start by examining the key groupings on a full-sized keyboard:

  • Modifier Keys - Found on the left, bottom, and right sides of the keyboard, these keys assist in navigating through tasks - including Ctrl, Shift, and Space on Windows or Control and Option on Mac systems. Smaller keyboards might skip some of these, but generally, these are last to be omitted as keyboard sizes decrease.
  • Function Keys - These keys, ranging from F1 to F12, serve specific functions such as accessing help menus with F1 or printing documents with F12, depending on whether you're using a Windows, Mac, or Chromebook system. They are typically positioned at the top of a mechanical keyboard.
  • Numpad - This independent small keyboard sits on the right side of a full-sized keyboard and includes numbers 0 through 9 and arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, and multiplication. It often features a Num Lock function, which allows the switching between numbers and certain operational uses.
  • Navigation and Arrow Keys - Arrow keys include the usual up, down, left, and right directions, while navigation keys might include Page Up, Page Down, Insert, or Delete. On a full-sized keyboard, these often sit above the arrow keys.

At the heart of any custom mechanical keyboard are the alphanumeric keys, which consist of letters and punctuation marks. These core keys are normally retained across all keyboards, unless it’s a specialized type like a numeric keypad.

What Are the Different Sizes of Mechanical Keyboards?

Mechanical keyboards vary in size from full-sized boards to models reduced by 40% or more. Continue reading to learn about which keys are typically omitted as keyboards shrink in size.

Full-sized Keyboards

Also known as 100% keyboards, they feature modifier keys, a numpad, arrow keys, a navigation panel, and function keys. The appearance of each full-sized keyboard might vary based on the type of PC and keyboard features, and sometimes these are referred to as 1800 layouts - similar to a full-sized keyboard but with a tighter, compact design.

Tenkeyless (TKL) Keyboards

Tenkeyless, or TKL, keyboards ditch the numpad while keeping the rest intact. These are popular among gamers or users who do not require numpad functionalities.

Reduced-size Keyboards (75%, 65%, and 60%)

A 75% keyboard is quite similar to TKL but with an even tighter key arrangement, sometimes missing groups like the navigation keys but usually retaining the function row. 65% models often skip the function row, and 60% models typically forgo both the function and arrow keys. Every 5% reduction could mean the omission of modifier keys, arrow keys, function keys, or navigation panels.

How smaller keyboards compensate for missing keys?

Some enthusiasts choose smaller or compact keyboards and find innovative ways to meet their goals. Luckily, for gamers or programmers, smaller keyboards fit perfectly with their requirements.

This is due to smaller keyboards still incorporating function keys, allowing users to activate layers on the keyboard for additional purposes, such as using WASD as directional keys.

Advantages of Full-sized or 75%+ Models

Having a full range of keys at your disposal is beneficial if you use your laptop for diverse tasks. Larger keyboards are ideal if you need comprehensive functionalities at work rather than relying on function keys to perform certain tasks.

Benefits of Compact Models

Compact models are generally more affordable and smaller, facilitating ease of transport and use in various settings. If you’re a gamer or a programmer, the space-saving benefits of smaller keyboards can be very appealing, providing extra desk space during usage.

Other Varieties of Mechanical Keyboards

The market also features other non-standard mechanical keyboards which do not conform to the typical size categories mentioned. These include:

Ortholinear Keyboards
These are keyboards with keys arranged in a grid without stagger. They sometimes require self-assembly with keys that plug into your desired layout without any gaps. There are also custom ortholinear staggered keyboards that allow personal customization in terms of key positioning and grid dimensions.

These are individual keypads that serve as an addition to your standard keyboard setup. If your laptop lacks certain functions or keys, a Macropad can incorporate them.

Macropads can also facilitate complex testing for certain web applications, such as click or response tests, by having designated buttons corresponding to tasks on your computer. These can offer many functionalities that might be missing from your existing mechanical keyboard setup.

What Else Should You Consider When Choosing a Mechanical Keyboard?

Not just the layout, many other factors come into play when using a mechanical keyboard.

Ensure the mechanical keyboard you intend to buy works with your current PC or tech setup. If the keyboard is incompatible with your devices, it won’t serve its purpose effectively.

Switch Types
The type of switches beneath the keys affects your typing experience. There are three primary types to consider:

  • Linear Switches - These switches help in creating a smooth typing experience as they do not offer tactile feedback, making them quieter and potentially more sensitive.
  • Tactile Switches - These provide an additional bump as you press the keys, useful if you prefer physical confirmation of your keystrokes.
  • Clicky Switches - Similar to tactile ones, but these make an audible click as you type, often associated with traditional mechanical keyboards.

Keyboard Designs
You might also want to customize your keyboard with specific designs and colors according to your personal taste. Options range from vibrant customizable themes to more subdued tones, allowing for a personalized touch.

Other considerations might include desk pads and lubricants for your keyboard to enhance your typing experience or to maintain the smooth operation of newer models.

How Can Gimsun Custom Help You with Mechanical Keyboards?

Are you struggling to find the perfect mechanical keyboard for your needs? At Gimsun Custom, we’re here to provide expert recommendations on mechanical keyboards. Contact us today for first-hand advice on how to make the most of your mechanical keyboard choice.