Find the Perfect Form Factor
Mechanical Keyboard form factor refers to the physical shape, size, and number of keys. Three common form factors are displayed in the image above. Form factor is important because it should be the first decision made for narrowing down which mechanical keyboard fits your needs.
Form factor and layout are not the same thing. A mechanical keyboards layout is specifically the location of the keys on the keyboard. This can refer to classic keyboard layouts such as QWERTY, or a simple change such as making a mechanical keyboard win-keyless (not including a windows key next to the ctrl key).
Discussion related to mechanical keyboards can be jargon heavy, especially for newcomers into the mech world, if you have any questions about vocabulary please refer to the mechanical keyboard term glossary or contact us.
Introduction to Form Factors
Starting with the most common keyboard form factor, the full size form factor is known to all. This keyboard layout generally has 104 keys, laid out similar to the Corsair Gaming K70 RAPIDFIRE, pictured above. Some mechanical keyboards may have extra function/macro keys for gamers that require intenstive keybindings.
What sets the full size form factor apart from the rest? The distinctive characteristic is the number pad located to the right side of the keyboard. If your daily work or play activities include heavy data entry and calculations, the full form factor is your best bet for productivity. If you do not have much use for a number pad, other mechanical keyboard form factors may be more compelling. You can view our compiled list of best mechanical keyboards of 2016.
Tenkeyless Form Factor
Tenkeyless keyboards are full size keyboards with 10 keys removed. Get it? The tenkeyless form factor was designed for users who rarely use the number pad, but do not want to sacrifice the productivity provided by dedicated arrow keys. More and more users are adopting the tenkeyless (TKL) design for their mechanical keyboard. Many games and applications have pulled away from Numpad-centric shortcuts, allowing their keyboard to shrink to a more ergonomic design. No Numpad means that majority of mouse-users can bring the mouse hand closer to a more natural position near their body center, relaxing the shoulder and strain over a long period of use.
Benefits of the tenkeyless form factor include:
- Being able to keep the mouse closer to the edge of the keyboard
- Saving desk space
- Mobility and portability
- Reducing the distance the hand has to travel from transitioning between typing and using the mouse
This form factor provides a balance between size and productivity.
60 Percent Form Factor
The 60 percent keyboard form factor was created with minimalism in mind. It strips the full form factor to the bare minimum required keys to efficiently type. The term comes from the form factor consisting of roughly 60% of the keys and size of the standard.
It is important to keep in mind you can still access the keys present on the other form factors, they are just embedded in function layers so it takes two key presses instead of the one required when you have a dedicated key. For example, to use the arrow key on the Vortex KBC Poker 3 60% Mechanical keyboard (INSERT LINK) pictured above, you would hold down “FN” and press “WASD”. The standard keycap sets on most 60% form factor mechanical keyboards will have the function layer keys use printed on the side of the keycap.
60% keyboards are great space savers and are extremely portable. You can even place the mechanical keyboard over your laptop keyboard! They are easy to bring to and from class, school, work, or anywhere in between. Carrying cases (insert link) are available to keep your keyboard and power cord protected during transport.
75% Keyboard Form Factor
The 75% form factor is rare, with the exception being the Noppoo Choc Mini. This form factor is a condensed version of the tenkeyless. The 75% is a nice compromise to a tenkeyless functionality and a 60%’s compact design. These are great mechanical keyboards for those that need dedicated arrow keys and like the style of the 60% form factor.
Ergonomic Form Factor
Ergonomic form factors are becoming more popular and come in a wide variety of design theories. The Ergodox mechanical keyboard, pictured above, is designed for power users. The Ergodox has an ergonomic design with two separate typing surfaces for each hand. The mechanical keyboard allows the user to program each key individually, allowing for the ultimate typing experience.