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Mechanical keyboard layouts and form factors

Mechanical keyboard layouts and form factors

A mechanical keyboard’s form factor refers to the physical shape, size, and number of keys. This is distinctively different from a keyboard’s layout, which refers to which keys are it which slot – for example, the key placement of QWERTY, the standard keyboard layout.


Intro To Form Factors

Full Size

A full size keyboard is the standard form factor you’ll see in the majority of keyboards (especially non-mechanical keyboards). This keyboard form factor has typically has 104 keys, though some mechanical keyboards will come with additional media control keys or macro keys that would up the key count.

Some distinctive characteristics of a full size mechanical keyboard include a separate numpad and arrow keys, a full set of function keys above the numbers, and dedicated keys for Print Screen, Scroll Lock, etc. You can compare the best backlit mechanical keyboards here.



A tenkeyless mechanical keyboard form factor is the same as a full size – without the numpad, bringing the keycount to 87 keys. There’s many advantages to this smaller form factor.

  • Takes up less real-estate on the desk.
  • Gives you more ergonomic typing – centered more to body and keeps your mouse closer to your body.
  • Easier to transport.

If you’re working with numbers a lot, you probably don’t want to give up your numpad. Otherwise, it’s a great option for your daily work horse.


75 Percent

These keyboards are currently the least popular form-factor. These shave off 5 more keys (leaving 82 total), leave no large gaps between keys, and require you to use function key to access some keyboard functions (End, Insert, etc).

These are a great mechanical keyboard for those that need to save even more space on their desk or need even more portability than a tenkeyless form factor offers, but don’t want to lose their arrow or function keys. Check out our Deck 82 keyboard review for one such keyboard.


60 Percent

The 60 percent mechanical keyboard form factor typically has around 60 keys and is the ultimate in portable mechanical keyboard form factors. A great choice for taking in and out of the office or placing over your laptop keyboard.

The downside of this form factor is significant and would take some time to adjust to. You’ll be missing your dedicated arrow keys, function keys, and navigation keys. You’ll be required to hold down a function key and press another key to access those functions, so that’s something to be aware of before switching to this form factor.



Ergonomic form factors come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, all aiming to make the keyboard work with your body for a more comfortable typing experience. These keyboards usually involve radically different key placements, so these would require some serious adjustment. For examples, see the Truly Ergonomic model above, or something like the Freestyle which is split into 2 separate pieces.


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Peter Nivison
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