When it comes to shopping for a keyboard, one of the deciding factors is size. Although many of the gazillion options on the market are full-size keyboards, the tenkeyless keyboards have gained much popularity. So why is that, and should you buy one?
Minus the Number Pad
Tenkeyless or TKL keyboards are simply full-size keyboards without the number pad, which is typically found on the right side of a keyboard. As the number pad is often referred to as ten key, the omission of the number pad gives them the name: Tenkeyless. However, it doesn’t mean the TKL keyboards have only ten fewer keys than their full-sized counterpart.
While the exact number of keys can vary between different models, most TKL keyboards have around 87-88 keys, which is close to 80% of a full-size keyboard. Hence, TKL keyboards are also sometimes called 80% keyboards.
Removing the number pad makes TKL keyboards significantly more compact and portable than full-size keyboards without sacrificing any commonly-used keys. Moreover, as TKL keyboards essentially retain the same layout as a full-size keyboard, minus the number pad, there is no learning curve in getting used to them.
Why Would You Want One?
One of the most common reasons people prefer a TKL keyboard over a full-size one is the space savings. If you don’t have a lot of space on your desk or you want to give your mouse more room to maneuver, particularly while gaming, a tenkeyless keyboard is a good option.
Beyond that, you probably don’t often use the number pad. Unless your work involves dealing with numbers on a daily basis, like accounting or data entry, you will primarily use the number row on top of the alphabet keys. Also, you can always buy a standalone number pad for when you might need it.
The compact form factor is also helpful when doing repetitive tasks requiring you to transition from keyboard to mouse frequently. As TKL keyboards are smaller, the mouse is closer to your right hand, which makes the whole setup more ergonomic (for right-handed people), leading to less physical fatigue.
Lastly, as mentioned earlier, the small size of the TKL keyboards makes them relatively portable compared to the full-size options. So whether you are going to a LAN party or just taking your favorite keyboard somewhere, it can easily fit in your backpack.
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Are There Any Downsides?
There aren’t any significant downsides to the TKL size, but there are things some people may miss because they are absent from this form factor. The most obvious one is the number pad. If you frequently use the number pad, then this keyboard size is not for you.
Apart from that, the overall small size of the TKL keyboards also means that they sometimes lack dedicated media controls, which you often find on full-size keyboards.
Plus, if you use the number pad for programming macros for gaming, then the TKL keyboards are probably not suitable for you. Moreover, some games, such as Grand Theft Auto V and Arma 3, make use of the number pad to improve the player experience.
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Who Sells Tenkeyless Keyboards?
All popular keyboard manufacturers offer TKL keyboards, including Logitech, SteelSeries, Corsair, and Razer. You’ll also find both mechanical and membrane TKL keyboards, featuring different types of switches and keycaps.
Many of the TKL keyboards target gamers and feature RGB lighting. For example, the HyperX Alloy Origins Core is an excellent TKL keyboard, which features in our recommendations for the best gaming keyboards. It has a great build quality and uses HyperX’s own mechanical switches.
HyperX Alloy Origins Core
A top-notch keyboard with excellent mechanical keys and customizable RGB, the Alloy Origins Core is the best keyboard in an increasingly popular category.
Another great gaming TKL keyboard is the Corsair K70 RGB TKL, which packs Cherry MX switches, RGB backlighting, and a detachable USB-C cable.
But if you want a good office and programming-oriented option, the Keychron Q3 is fantastic, albeit expensive. The keyboard houses Gateron G Pro mechanical switches and a double gasket design for a quieter operation.
The Keychron Q3 is a solid keyboard for office use. It's very quiet and has a fantastic build quality with an aluminum chassis and metal base plate.
Excellent Balance Between Size and Functionality
All in all, the tenkeyless keyboards provide an outstanding balance between size and functionality. So if you can sacrifice the number pad, the TKL keyboards make perfect sense. They are compact, have all commonly used keys, and facilitate a quicker transition between keyboard and mouse. Moreover, there aren’t any significant downsides to picking a TKL keyboard as long as you don’t frequently rely on a number pad.
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