Look down at your keyboard—it’s pretty big, isn’t it? A standard full-sized keyboard is about 18 inches long, and when you think about it, there are probably a lot of keys on it that you rarely use. If you’re willing to part with those seldom-used keys, there are a lot of compact keyboards out there that aim to cut down the overall size to save you some desk space.
What to Look for in a Compact Keyboard
There are a few things to consider when selecting the right keyboard for you.
- Layout: A compact keyboard is going to have an irregular layout compared to a standard full-sized board. You’ll notice that every keyboard on this list either repositions, resizes, or removes certain keys, and that’s all done in the name of cutting down the size. Rest assured though, many compact keyboards will have missing keys as alternative functions that can be accessed with various key combinations (for example, pressing FN + 7 acts as the F7 key). When it comes to mechanical boards specifically, the most common compact layouts are 60% and 65%. Both of these cut out most navigation keys, the Numpad, and the function row. Many are drawn towards the 65% layout however since it keeps the dedicated arrow keys.
- Switch Type: This mostly relates to whether or not you want to go with a mechanical keyboard. Mechanical switches fall under one of three categories: clicky (switches that make an audible click), tactile (switches with a significant tactile bump), and linear (switches with no click or tactile bump). If a keyboard isn’t mechanical though, it’s likely going to have either membrane or scissor switches. Any switch type can deliver a great typing experience if executed well, so it’s just a matter of choosing which one you prefer.
- Build Quality: A high-quality keyboard won’t be cheap, so making sure that the build quality matches the price you’re paying is important. The most common materials for a keyboard’s body are plastic and aluminum, with aluminum being the more expensive and durable option. For mechanical boards, the keycaps are also something you should look at, as there are ways to make them more durable. One of the most effective measures is to doubleshot the legends, which prevents them from fading away as they’re another piece of plastic molded into the keycap.
- Wired or Wireless: It’s always great to cut an unnecessary wire out of your life, and with the huge selection of wireless keyboards out there, you can definitely find one that matches your tastes. If you prefer to not deal with batteries and appreciate the simplicity of a wired connection however, there are plenty of wired keyboards around today as well. When it comes to wireless keyboards, you will need to consider how they’ll connect to your device (whether it’s a USB RF adapter or standard Bluetooth) and how long the battery lasts.
- Additional Features: Backlighting, key reprogramming, and media controls are all relatively minor features that can improve your overall experience using a keyboard. We’ll make special note of keyboards that offer these nice bonus features on top of a great typing experience.
Best Mechanical Boards: Ducky Mecha Mini, One 2 Mini, and One 2 SF
Ducky is a well-known name in the mechanical keyboard community thanks to its high-quality products. And if you’re looking for something compact, Ducky has three boards worth checking out: the Ducky One 2 SF, One 2 Mini, and Mecha Mini. These keyboards are all pretty similar to each other as far as features go, but there are some differences between them.
Each of these boards has doubleshot PBT keycaps and bright and vivid RGB backlighting, connect via a detachable USB-C to USB-A cable, and come in plenty of stylish color combos. The One 2 SF and One 2 Mini use the same high-quality plastic for their frames, with the SF using the 65% layout and the One 2 Mini using the 60%. The Mecha Mini is more premium, with a full aluminum body and a 60% layout. Missing keys can be accessed through various key combinations, and the alternative functions are printed on the side of the keycaps for all three boards.
As we mentioned earlier, each of these keyboards come in a few different color combos. The One 2 SF comes in white and black, and the Mecha Mini comes in black and Frozen Llama. The One 2 Mini gets a bigger selection of colors though: black, white, Frozen Llama, Bon Voyage, Skyline, Good in Blue, and Horizon. It’s also important to note that, on the One 2 Mini, only white, black, and Frozen Llama have RGB backlighting—the rest just have white backlighting.
When it comes to switch options, you can get the One 2 SF and Mecha Mini with Cherry MX Brown, Black, Blue, Red, Silver, or Silent Red switches. The One 2 Mini offers that same lineup, with the addition of Kailh Box White, Kailh Speed Copper, and Kailh Speed Pro Burgundy switches as well.
Cut the Cord: Anne Pro 2
If you’re interested in a wireless mechanical keyboard, then the Anne Pro 2 cuts the cord while using the 60% layout. You can access missing keys through various key combinations, and there’s side printing on the keycaps for all of the alternative functions. You can also use the companion app Obinskit to reprogram keys, along with customizing the RGB backlighting.
The keycaps are doubleshot PBT plastic, and the entire board comes in either white or black. You can expect the Anne Pro 2’s battery to last about eight hours with the backlighting on, but it’ll go for much longer with it off. The Anne Pro 2 connects via standard Bluetooth, but can be used in wired mode with the included USB cable if you want.
You have a lot of options when it comes to switches for the Anne Pro 2. You can get it with Cherry MX Blue, Cherry MX Red, Cherry MX Brown, Cherry MX Silver, Gateron Blue, Gateron Red, Gateron Brown, Kailh Black, Kailh Brown, Kailh Red, or Kailh White Box switches.
Hot-swappable: Drop ALT
Hot-swappable mechanical keyboards are extremely convenient, and the Drop ALT is one of the best around. It features a full aluminum body, RGB backlighting with a ring of lights around the bottom of the board, and uses the 65% layout so you still have access to the arrow keys.
The hot-swap sockets on the keyboard’s PCB (which is the circuit board inside the keyboard) allow you to install any standard MX-style switch without the time-consuming process of soldering switches. This is great if you want to swap out the switches on the fly, or just don’t want to deal with soldering in general.
The ALT isn’t just customizable in its switches though. By using Drop’s dedicated reprogramming site, you can download backlighting configurations and alternative key functions directly to the keyboard’s memory. This means that if you plug the keyboard into a new device, it’ll remember all your settings without the need to install any software.
The Drop ALT comes in either black or gray, along with a high-profile version. As far as switches go, you can get it with Halo Clear, Halo True, Kailh Box White, Kailh Speed Silver, Cherry MX Blue, or Cherry MX Brown switches. There is also a barebones version of this board that doesn’t come with any switches or keycaps and costs less, which is great if you were planning on replacing those anyway.
DROP ALT Mechanical Keyboard — 65% (67 Key) Gaming Keyboard, Hot-Swap Switches, Programmable Macros, RGB LED Backlighting, USB-C, Doubleshot PBT, Aluminum Frame (Barebones, Gray)
A premium quality hot-swappable keyboard with great customization.
Another Hot-swap Option: Keychron K6
If the layout and hot-swappable switches of the ALT sound perfect to you, but the board is a bit too pricey, then the Keychron K6 can give you a lot of the same for less. The build quality isn’t as premium as the ALT, but it’s still more than fine considering the price.
The K6 connects via Bluetooth or the included USB cable, and the battery lasts for about 72 hours with static backlighting on. It features full RGB backlighting , but there’s no software for the K6, so you have to fully customize it through key combinations (which you can find in the user manual).
This is another 65% keyboard, and all the missing keys (alongside some additional keys like media controls) are accessible through various key combinations, with every alternative function printed on the top of the keycaps. Speaking of the keycaps, you’ll get a set of both Windows and MacOS keycaps included with your K6, which is fairly rare in the mechanical keyboard world.
You have a few options when it comes to the K6. You can choose to get it with an aluminum shell over the plastic body (but that’s more for looks than anything else), choose between pure white or RGB backlighting, and choose whether or not you want the board to be hot-swappable (the non-hot-swappable version is cheaper). You can get the board with Gateron Blue, Red, or Brown switches regardless if it’s hot-swappable, or the LK Optical switches (in blue, red, and brown variants) that promise lower latency for gaming.
The LK Optical version is hot-swappable as well, but it’s recommended by Keychron not to change out the switches too often. Not only is the PCB only outfitted for specific types of optical switches (switches need to be the same dimensions as the included switches), but the switches need to be installed very tightly. Because of this, frequently removing and installing switches can be damaging to the keyboard’s PCB.
If you like the style and features of the K6, but would prefer some more keys to work with and don’t mind losing hot-swapping, then the Keychron K2 is worth looking at as well. It’s a 75% keyboard (which is a compacted version of the popular tenkeyless layout), which restores the Function row and gives you a few extra navigation keys as well.
Slim and Versatile: Logitech K380
The K380 is a simple Bluetooth keyboard made for every platform. It’s slim, compact, and perfect for both typing at home and on the go. You can easily switch between three connected devices on the fly, and with two years of battery life from the two AAA batteries (which are included in the box), you’ll rarely have to worry about it dying on you. If you want something compact and wireless that doesn’t use mechanical switches, the K380 is the way to go. There’s also the K480, which is similar to the K380, but includes a small tray that can hold a tablet or phone.
The K380 comes in three colors: black, rose, and off-white.
Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard – Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Android, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV Compatible – with Flow Cross-Computer Control and Easy-Switch up to 3 Devices – Dark Grey
A slim keyboard perfect for typing at home or on the go.
For Mac Users: Apple Magic Keyboard
Apple’s Magic Keyboard will be no stranger to those invested in the Apple ecosystem, but it’s for that exact reason it’s on this list. If you use a Mac (or an iPad for that matter), this is one of the best keyboards to buy because it’s built with that operating system solely in mind. And because this is the compact version of the board, it will still save plenty of desk space.
The sleek and durable aluminum body looks great and, with the help of the scissor switches under each keycap, makes the keyboard a joy to type on. The battery lasts for about a month on a full charge, and you can connect the Magic Keyboard via Bluetooth or the Lightning port.
Apple Magic Keyboard - US English, Includes Lighting to USB Cable, Silver
A wireless keyboard tailor-made for Mac users.
A Budget Option: Arteck Bluetooth Keyboard
If you want to save a few bucks, then the Arteck Bluetooth Keyboard steals the spot as the cheapest keyboard on this list. It’s a slim, Bluetooth keyboard that’s designed to be compatible with every platform. It even has a stainless steel backplate to make the keyboard feel more sturdy. It uses scissor switches and, according to Arteck, lasts for about 6 months on a full charge (if you use it for two hours each day).
Arteck Bluetooth Keyboard, Stainless Steel Universal Portable Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard for iOS iPad 10.2-inch, Air, Pro, Mini, Android, Windows Tablets PC Smartphone Built in Rechargeable Battery
A cheap, sturdy, and slim keyboard for every device.
A Budget Mech: GK61
Mechanical keyboards have always been more expensive than other keyboards, but the prices have been dropping over time, and the GK61 is a prime example of that. The GK61 is a quality 60% keyboard with full RGB backlighting, alternative key functions printed on the keycaps, and comes in at a relatively low price.
The GK61 also comes with its own software, which can customize the backlighting, reprogram keys, and even record macros. The software is a bit rough around the edges, but it still proves useful once you learn your way around it.
The GK61 comes in black or white, and has a decent selection of Gateron Optical switches (which promise lower latency for gaming compared to standard switches). You can get the board with Gateron Optical Black, Blue, Brown, Red, or Silver switches. The keyboard is also hot-swappable, but it only works with other Gateron Optical switches—standard MX-style switches won’t work.
HK GAMING GK61 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - 61 Keys Multi Color RGB Illuminated LED Backlit Wired Programmable for PC/Mac Gamer Tactile (Gateron Optical Brown)
A relatively cheap 60% mechanical keyboard.