Best answer: A 60% keyboard is one that lacks a number pad, F keys, navigation key cluster, and arrow keys. The benefits of a small form factor outweigh the lack of functionality, especially for any minimalist who prefers a clean setup.
Why choose a 60% keyboard?
Shopping for a keyboard in a market so saturated with options can be quite confusing. On top of myriad options, there are tons of different categories that contain different types of keys, switches, and features. The best gaming keyboards are wildly different from the best productivity keyboards, for example, and the best ergonomic keyboards also take on a totally different shape than a standard keyboard.
One segment that's gaining a lot of traction is 60% keyboards. These lack the other 40% of keys found on a standard keyboard, including number pad, arrow keys, navigation cluster, and F row along the top. 60% keyboards are great for those who often travel with their gear and it's good to note that many manufacturers design these popular keyboards to ensure you still have access to all standard keys.
The main attraction here is the considerably smaller form factor compared to a full-size deck. A 60% keyboard is easier to arrange in a comfortable position on your desk, alleviating some wrist and forearm pain. It's also easier to fit onto a crowded desk, leaving more space for your mouse and other accessories. If you're one who often travels and don't want to leave your gear behind, a 60% keyboard is much easier to stuff into a backpack than a full deck with all keys.
There's also the customizable aesthetic of 60% keyboards to consider, especially once you start getting into designer models with specialized keycaps and color combinations. If you're aiming to create the best-looking office setup possible, chances are you won't be going with a full-sized keyboard.
What about the missing keys?
All 60% keyboards lack about 40% of the keys you'd find on a regular deck. What if you need those keys? If the keyboard is primarily used for gaming, chances are most people won't notice the lack of these keys. The WASD keys are used for navigation, the F keys are usually ignored in lieu of the standard number keys, and the number pad is left alone.
On the flip side, the lack of keys would pose a problem for anyone with productivity in mind. Luckily, most manufacturers of 60% keyboards take into account the physical lack of keys and make up for it with shortcuts. For example, 60% keyboards will almost always include a Function (Fn) key that, when pressed, opens up an entirely different set of key commands.
With the Fn key pressed, F keys can be reassigned to the standard row of numbers. Arrow keys can be reassigned to WASD keys, and the cluster of navigation keys can live on the YUI, HJK, and NM keys. These shortcuts can differ depending on the brand of 60% keyboard you buy, but in general the best keyboards will provide workarounds for just about anything.
For a deeper look at a 60% mechanical keyboard, check out our Ducky Channel One 2 Mini review.
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