Mechanical keyboards are the norm these days. Everyone from gamers to programmers is using them either for comfort or just for the satisfying switches. We don’t need to tell you why that is. To put it simply, it is hard to go back from a mechanical switch to a membrane keyboard. No membrane keyboard feels good after your first mechanical one. However, where do you from there? Well, you’ll be happy to know that world of mechanical keyboards is wide and vast.
There’s a lot we can dive into when it comes to mechanical keyboards. However, let’s stick to the topic for today. We’re talking about compact keyboards. These are also known as 60% or 65% keyboards. The reason for that naming is simple. They have 60% or 65% of the keys you’ll find on standard full-sized keyboards.
A 60% keyboard get rids of the function keys as well as the arrow keys. 65% is slowly becoming popular thanks to the inclusion of these arrow keys. A lot of people just don’t need all those macros and other keys they don’t use. This is why compact keyboards are so popular. Here are five of the best in 2021.
If you are even remotely familiar with the hype around compact keyboards, you are aware of the Anne Pro 2. For the longest time, this has been the go-to recommendation when it comes to 60% keyboard. It is well-built, has a lot of features, and is an overall excellent value for the price. Even after all this time, it is quite hard to top the Anne Pro 2.
This keyboard has Bluetooth built-in as well. This means you can connect it with your phone, laptop, tablet, and of course, your PC. It works well for prolonged Bluetooth usage. You can store macros offline on this keyboard as well. The lighting is controllable via Obinslab software. If you lightly tap the right shift, function, menu, or control keys, they function as arrow keys. This is a genius solution and makes the translation from a full-size keyboard much easier.
The Standard 60% layout means that any compatible keycaps will easily work with this keyboard. Speaking of which, this one is incredibly popular in the custom keyboard scene. You can find different keycaps, cases, and other mods to completely change the look of this keyboard. Just something interesting to keep in mind if you decide to do so.
The Anne Pro 2 has 61 keys. The keycaps themselves are double-shot PBT, and they feel excellent. Its case is made out of plastic, but it feels incredible to type on. The factory stabilizers here are well lubed, and no single key on the Anne Pro sounds scratchy or out of the ordinary. You can pick between several different switches, but the Gateron Browns feel the best to me. They are tactile without being clicky.
Overall, Anne Pro 2 is an excellent keyboard. It has everything you’ll want out of a 60% keyboard, and it feels great to type on. A minor complaint is that we wish the RGB was a bit brighter, as it feels dim compared to something like a Ducky One Two Mini. Apart from that, this is an excellent keyboard.
The Durgod HK Venus is a surprisingly stellar mechanical keyboard that comes straight out of the left field. It’s surprising to see a relatively small company take on the likes of Ducky and Obinslab, but this Durgod board does it with ease. Simply put, the Durgod HK Venus deserves more attention, and that’s why it’s on here.
At retail price, this thing is directly competing against the bigger brands. It uses a standard 60% layout with an aluminum frame. There is no height adjustment on this keyboard, but it has rubber feet to help it stay put. It has a thin bezel but a slightly larger forehead. Overall, it looks quite good. The finish isn’t quite on par with other brands with a few rough spots here and there.
The keyboard uses USB-C and has plenty of room for aftermarket cables. The standard 60% layout means any Cherry compatible keycaps will work with it. However, the PBT keycaps included here are quite good on their own. There are a lot of switches to choose from. You have your usual Cherry lineup, the Gateron switches, and even Kailh Box switches. An impressive lineup for sure.
Since red switches are the most popular among gamers, we’ll talk about those. The stabilizers are factory lubed out of the box, and the Cherry Red switches feel excellent. They sound great too. Despite the aluminum build, there is little to no case ping on this board. You often hear a metallic ping with aluminum boards, but thankfully that’s nonexistent here.
The Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB) is a very interesting choice for the keyboard enthusiast. This keyboard comes straight from Japan and uses Topre switches. Many enthusiasts consider these switches to be the best. Sure, it’s a premium product, but if you’re willing to spend the money, you’ll love this experience.
The actual name for this keyboard is the HHKB Professional Type-S. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to it as the HHKB. The hybrid means that it has both wireless and wired connectivity. As for the Type-S moniker, this means that it has silent switches. It weighs 572g, so it’s quite compact and portable. It uses PBT keycaps, which have a decent bit of thickness to them. The keyboard is available in either charcoal or beige.
The layout is quite unorthodox, and a bit hard to get a hold of. Once you do, few keyboards will come close to the level of comfort this one has. The topre switches are electrostatic and capacitive. They are lightly tactile and have a weight of 45g. The assembly is excellent, and the typing experience is pure bliss. It feels buttery smooth on this keyboard, and it’s hard to go back to any other switch after you experience Topre.
So, for the right person, this is an excellent keyboard. Most people are going to skip past this one because of the price. We can’t blame you, as it is quite steep. However, if you ever feel like you’re up for it, you’re going to get a keyboard experience unlike any other. We can say that with confidence.
If you’re bought gaming peripherals in the past, you are likely familiar with Razer. A lot of people will tell you that they are the biggest peripheral maker out there, and we’re not going to argue with them. In recent years, they have been changing quite a few things around in their product line. The Razer Huntsman Mini is an excellent result of that change. There is a lot to love about this keyboard.
This keyboard might prove to be perfect for programmers who want a minimal setup. It has a small footprint, detachable USB-C, standard bottom keys, and double shot PBT keycaps. Not bad at all for a mainstream production keyboard. These optomechanical switches feel fast and linear. The key gets activated when the light beam inside is interrupted by the switch. This creates a fast feeling keystroke. Overall, this thing means business.
Because of the optomechanical switches, it also happens to be the fastest 60% keyboard on the market. If you prefer this switch for gaming and love the form factor, it’s like a match made in heaven for you. The Chroma RGB is addressable and can be controlled with Razer’s software. However, typists will not be fans of the case ping and overly loud keystrokes.
It has fast optomechanical switches, a great form factor, and excellent construction. The Doubleshot PBT keycaps feel excellent, and Razer’s delightful Chroma RGB is just a bonus at this point. However, there is a problem with this board, and that being its loud keystrokes.
The FNATIC Streak65 is a very impressive keyboard. Especially so, since it is a mainstream production keyboard. While custom keyboard lovers won’t bat an eye here, everyone else can and will appreciate this keyboard. However, it is trying to hit a very niche audience. If that works for you, this is a great keyboard.
It uses FNATIC low profile switches that are linear and silent. These ultra fas switches offer just 1mm of actuation distance and reduced total travel. While they won’t be for everyone, for people who love Logitech’s low-profile keyboards, this is going to feel quite familiar. It’s a great layout overall.
Originally, this list was about only 60% keyboards. But the Streak65 is so interesting that we have to throw it in there just to keep things fresh. The RGB lighting is also excellent and supports 16.8 million color options. You can store 4 profiles to hold custom lighting modes, key bindings, and macros. Both build quality and design are also great. While this won’t be for everyone, as it is a niche keyboard, it is an option worth taking a look at.