The mouse and keyboard may be the preferred weapon of PC gamers, but do you need an entire keyboard to play your game? A one-handed keyboard could be the perfect gaming solution for you, but they’re rarely discussed.
One-handed Keyboards Defined
What is a one-handed keyboard? The name almost says it all. Sometimes referred to as a “keypad”, these are keyboard devices that don’t feature the typical 101-key layout. They are designed to be used with a single hand, from a single position.
If you place your palm on the palm rest, you can reach every key on the pad without lifting it again. One-handed keyboards combine aspects of gamepads and keyboards into a hybrid gaming device, although the degree to which this is true depends on the specific style and design in question.
Styles of One-handed Keyboards
While all one-handed keyboards share the traits of being, well one-handed and keyboards, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to designs.
The most basic form of a one-handed keyboard is basically what you’d get if someone took a hacksaw to a regular keyboard. This RedThunder keyboard is a good example.
As you can see, it’s the leftmost section of a standard keyboard with some minor changes here and there. It’s detected as a standard keyboard device, so it’s universally compatible with any title that works with a standard keyboard.
Next, we have the Redragon K585. This style of pad offers the same standard set of keyboard keys, but also adds a number of customizable keys. This makes up for the lack of right-hand keys that would usually be assigned to functions such as opening the inventory or other secondary functions in-game.
You can go really nuts with this concept, as is the case with the Beastron Aula Excalibur.
This keyboard includes all 12 function keys, media controls, and a whole host of programmable keys. This might be a style of pad better suited to MMORPG players who need to have dozens of macros ready to go at the touch of a button.
Finally, there’s the fully custom pad design. The Razer Tartarus is a great example of this.
All of the keys are programmable and it includes a scroll wheel and thumb-operated cursor keys. This is a radical ergonomic design, with an adjustable palm rest and curved keypad. There are other designs that fall somewhere on this spectrum, so there’s a good chance the right pad for your needs is out there.
Razer Tartarus v2
Razer's Tartarus gamepad features 32 programmable keys, a thumbpad for eight-directional movement, and an adjustable palm rest.
Where One-handed Keyboards Shine
When or why would you actually use one of these pads? We think there are a few good core reasons to consider a one-handed keyboard over a full-size model.
The most obvious one is the ergonomic argument. The best examples of one-handed keyboards are more comfortable than a traditional keyboard. This author has found that switching to a Tartarus V2 definitely reduced wrist pain and fatigue compared to regular keyboards. Of course, your mileage may vary.
The second important consideration is cost. Gamers these days favor keyboards with mechanical keys or at least keyboard switches that are designed to perform well for video games rather than typing. Equipping an entire 100+ key keyboard with expensive switches, keycaps, and low-latency electronics is more expensive than doing it for the handful of keys on these pads. It’s perhaps even a bit wasteful, given that most of the keys on your full mechanical gaming keyboards are never used in-game.
If you’re also someone who needs to do a lot of writing on your keyboard, a noisy mechanical keyboard isn’t always conducive to productivity. Combining a gaming keypad with a good typing-focused keyboard is more space-efficient and practical than having two full-size keyboards.
If you’re a LAN gamer, one-handed keyboards offer a strong portability argument as well. They’re easy to throw into your laptop backpack. Speaking of gaming laptops, one-handed keyboards are perfect for laptop gamers. Most people who play on the go with their gaming laptops don’t use the internal keyboard or trackpad. Using a good external mouse and a one-handed keyboard, you can position your laptop’s screen at the optimum distance and angle relative to your face. It’s far more comfortable and less cramped.
Non-gaming Uses for One-handed Keyboards
One-handed keyboards aren’t just useful for gaming. Although this is not their intended use, it can be a cost-effective way for creative professionals to speed up their workflow and improve ergonomics.
If you’re using a video or photo editor, you can assign all your most common functions to keys on the keypad. You never have to look away from the screen and can learn the key positions through muscle memory. You also never have to lift your hand. All of this adds up to substantial time savings across the thousands and thousands of keypresses editors typically perform during a project.
There are dedicated keyboards and control decks for applications like Adobe Premiere, but they are usually much more expensive than one-handed keyboards and offer more functions than most users need. So if you’re looking for a cheap productivity enhancer, a one-handed keyboard might be a left-of-field option. Combine it with an awesome mouse (maybe even a repurposed MMO mouse) and you could be a budget productivity maestro in no time.