60% mechanical keyboards or other mini sizes do look tidier and cuter – than full-sized (104 keys) or TKL (87 keys). Personally, I fell for it because I initially saw a 60-65% keyboard that was so eye-catching. In addition, 60% mechanical keyboards usually have a standard physical layout and shape. So, you can more easily change cases to make the appearance or sound even more unique.
On the other hand, big gaming brands are also showing a trend in that direction. Razer is one of the big gaming brands that already offers 60% mechanical keyboard with Huntsman Mini. Ducky also actually has several mini-sized keyboards, such as the Ducky One 2 Mini, Mecha Mini, or Mecha SF, although Ducky’s name may be better known among the target market enthusiasts than gamers. Apart from Ducky and Razer, Cooler Master also has several options for compact-sized keyboard products such as the SK622 or SK621. This year Cooler Master also announced their new mini keyboard variant, the MK721. HyperX also recently released a cute-sized keyboard variant with HyperX Alloy Origins 60.
Unfortunately, as I personally feel, appearance isn’t everything – it’s like when you choose your life partner. Moreover, being too trendy doesn’t always end well. There are several other considerations that you need to think about before spending money to buy a 60% mechanical keyboard or any other mini size. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to be patient and use that time to reconsider whether you should buy a cute keyboard.
So, without further ado, here are a few things you need to think about before buying a 60% keyboard or any other mini size.
- Number of Mechanical Keyboard Keys
This is the first thing you should consider when buying a mini-sized keyboard. Initially, you may think that you will not use a number of wasted keys such as the Numpad, Del, F1-F12, or Arrow Keys (up, down, left, right).
But there’s nothing wrong with spending a month before buying a mini-sized keyboard to pay attention to what buttons are important to you. Be very aware of the buttons you use, even the rare ones.
- Mechanical Keyboard Layout
As I wrote earlier, a mechanical keyboard that is compact in size has several variants of size, number of buttons, and layout. The keyboard layout is crucial because it will greatly affect how quickly you adapt to using the new keyboard.
The GK73 actually looks attractive and is very useful at first glance. It was mini size but still had numpad, even without F rows. However, if you pay close attention, the GK73 does not have a complete button on the main part of the keyboard.
- Mechanical Keyboard Software
I know there are probably not many keyboard users who like to play with the software of these devices, such as Synapse from Razer or SteelSeries Engine. However, the relevance of the software is getting bigger on a mini-sized keyboard because you don’t get the complete number of keys.
The macro functions are also very easy to use, unlike the macro functions from QMK / VIA which require you to learn a little coding. From my experience of trying various software, the GK6x Plus made by makebyself is one of the most sophisticated and can be paired with Razer Synapse.
Another example, for example the Rexus Daxa M71 Pro keyboard 65% which is selling well in the market. Because it does offer 71 keys, this keyboard does have directional keys and several other additional keys such as Insert, Home, Delete, End, Pause, Page Up, and Page Down. However, maybe you are a user who needs the Tilde (`) button which is usually used to activate the Console Commands in games.
Indeed, software from third parties such as AutoHotkey, Sharpkeys or others can be used too. But I generally prefer to use the built-in software from the device which is often easier to use – those of you who have played with AutoHotKey may know what I mean.
- Separate Numpad / Macropad
If you still want to find a mini-sized keyboard but really can’t live without numpad, you can look for a separate numpad keyboard. Even more sophisticated, you can look for a macropad that can be remap with various other functions.
Finding separate numpad is easier because there are many choices of products that you can buy, such as Magic Force 21 which also offers mechanical switches. Numpad which is much cheaper is also a lot. Please choose your own according to your pocket.
If you order a custom macropad, you can even request the shape, layout, and number of buttons you want. If you really want to switch to a mini-sized keyboard, I really believe a custom macropad is a must have if one day you need keys that are not on your main keyboard.
- Specific Needs for Mini-Sized Mechanical Keyboard
If you ask me, this section is what I think will determine whether you should switch to a mini-sized keyboard or not. If you really don’t have specific needs that some will mention later, in my opinion, it’s safer (and cheaper) if you stick with a full-sized keyboard or at least TKL.
In addition, another specific requirement may be a PCB hotswap which allows you to change switches without having to learn to solder or desoldering. Full-sized keyboards, as far as I know, don’t offer many PCB hotswap features. Tecware Phantom Elite is a full-sized keyboard variant that offers the hotswap feature that you can easily find in Indonesia. However, Tecware Phantom Elite offers a hotswap feature for 3 pin switches (or plate mounts) even though premium / high-end switches (such as Durock, Gateron Ink, Tealios, Zealios, et al.) Often use 5 pins (PCB mount). You can cut 2 plastic feet out of the 5 pin switch but that means you need some extra time.
Finally, besides you have specific needs for why you should use a small keyboard – for example, as it looks cute, maybe you need to think a little more before buying a 60% keyboard or other compact size. If you really need more space, for example, if you have a mouse problem that often hits the keyboard, I also recommend that you choose the TKL keyboard because it really doesn’t need an adaptation to use.
- Mechanical Keyboard Size and Layout Variants
The 60% keyboard is the smallest size used by many people. There is actually a 40% size, but the absence of many buttons makes it uncommon to use. The 60% keyboard actually has several variants, such as 61 keys and 64 keys. The 61 keys use a standard layout like a full-sized keyboard but only cut the numpad, F-rows, and the middle where the arrow keys are used. Whereas 64 keys usually add directional buttons but so have to sacrifice some right modifier or shrink its size.
Above 60%, there are 65% keyboard which usually has 68-71 keys. For many people, 65% is the ideal size because there are usually arrow keys. Plus, the 65% keyboard also has quite a lot of variants so it’s quite easy to get too.
Longer than a 65% keyboard, there are also 84 key keyboards such as Keychron K2, AKKO 3084, KC84, Iqunix A80, and friends. A keyboard with 84 keys, usually 75% size, has all the keys that belong to the 65% variant and is added with F-rows. A keyboard with 84 keys can also be aligned with TKL but with a denser layout so that it is smaller in size.
The 96 key variant is possibly the rarest variant of the mechanical keyboard. This variant is actually the most similar compared to a full-sized keyboard but with a more compact layout. I’m also still curious about this variant because it has a numpad and almost all the other parts that are usually only found on full-sized keyboards but 1u wider than the TKL.