5 Best Compact Mechanical Keyboard for Gaming in 2020

If you spend most of your day typing, you shouldn’t be stuck with the mushy keyboard on your laptop or a cheap, uncomfortable desktop keyboard. The mechanical keyboard allows you to customize their looks with different keycaps and get the typing feel you prefer by choosing different switches under the keys. And compact keyboards—which nearly match the size and layout of a laptop keyboard—take up less space on your desk. Of the dozens of keyboards we’ve tested, we think the Ducky One 2 SF is the best compact mechanical keyboard for most people’s needs.


The best compact keyboard

$110
The One 2 SF is the Goldilocks keyboard—it doesn’t have too many or too few keys—and it feels great to type on.

The Ducky One 2 SF Compact Mechanical Keyboard has all the keys most people use and cuts the ones they don’t—hitting the sweet spot of size and layout. The One 2 SF is a solid keyboard that provides a delightful typing experience and has clearly labeled, easy-to-access volume keys, and as a fun bonus, it also offers customizable RGB backlighting. It’s available with a variety of Cherry switches to accommodate the sound and feel you like when typing; we recommend MX Brown switches if you’re not sure. The One 2 SF isn’t fully programmable and is tricky to customize, but most people don’t need to mess with that. You have to pay quite a bit more to get a better small keyboard.


Budget Pick

A starter keyboard

$63
The Magicforce feels better to type on than any other cheap mechanical keyboard, though its keycaps and case don’t look or feel as nice to type on as our top pick’s. We recommend the Cherry Brown switches or the Gateron Brown switches, depending on what’s available.

The Qisan Magicforce Compact Mechanical Keyboard 68-key model is the best budget mechanical keyboard. Its layout is similar to that of the Ducky One 2 SF, with dedicated arrow keys and a small navigation cluster, but it takes up a bit more horizontal desk space. The Magicforce is much more pleasant to type on than any other budget keyboard we’ve tested, thanks to its sturdy aluminum backplate and Cherry or Gateron switch options. (We recommend Browns.) But compared with our top pick, its case feels hollow and cheaper, and it has lower-quality ABS keycaps (unless you’re lucky enough to snag one of the few with PBT keycaps). It also lacks a warranty. Even though the ABS keycaps are ugly, they’re standard size, which makes them easy to replace with better ones.


Upgrade Pick

The fancy choice

$210
The Drop Alt offers the best typing experience and the most customization with hot-swappable switches and full programmability, but it’s expensive.

If you’re willing to pay more for an even better typing experience and a keyboard that you can tinker with—but you don’t want to learn how to solder—get the Drop Alt Compact Mechanical Keyboard. It’s a 68% keyboard just like the Ducky One 2 SF, but it offers superior build quality and a more ergonomically friendly and attractive design. Plus, the Alt is fully programmable and has hot-swappable switches, so you can try different switches without having to break out a soldering iron. (As with our other picks, though, we recommend starting with Cherry MX Brown switches.)


Also Great

More keys

$130
The Tab 75 has a full function row at the top but doesn’t take up more horizontal desk space. It can work wirelessly and comes with Mac-specific keycaps.

If you frequently use the row of function keys along the top of a keyboard, we recommend the Vortex Tab 75 Compact Mechanical Keyboard. It has more keys, yet it’s no wider than our 65% and 68% picks, and it still provides a solid, satisfying typing experience. It’s available with a variety of Cherry switches. The Tab 75 can also connect via Bluetooth, and it’s the only one of our picks that comes with Mac-specific OS keycaps. It’s difficult to customize, though most people don’t need to program a 75% keyboard. But it doesn’t come with a manual, its media keys aren’t labeled, and its flat, DSA-profile keycaps can take some getting used to.


The most compact

$94
The Anne Pro 2 is the easiest-to-program 60% keyboard, so it’s the best starting point if you want an even more compact keyboard. Plus, it has wireless support.

If you want an even more compact keyboard and you’re willing to retrain yourself to use shortcuts to access arrow keys, get the Obins Anne Pro 2 Compact Mechanical Keyboard. It’s by far the easiest 60% keyboard to program thanks to its straightforward, user-friendly software—this makes a huge difference on a keyboard that lacks frequently used keys. The Anne Pro 2 is available with a bunch of different switches, including Cherry MX Browns and Kailh Box Browns, and it can connect via USB-C or Bluetooth.

Unfortunately, availability is an issue with most great mechanical keyboards. Most are made in Taiwan or China and shipped to the United States in batches to be sold by specialty retailers such as MechanicalKeyboards.com. If our picks aren’t available in the switches you want or with the keycaps you want, you can preorder at MechanicalKeyboards.com, keep an eye on that seller’s incoming-shipments page, or set availability alerts on Amazon using a price tracker such as CamelCamelCamel or Keepa. If you can’t wait that long for a new keyboard, take a look at the other great options we found during testing.


The Research


How we picked & tested

Mechanical keyboards bring with them a lot of jargon—layouts and switches and keycap profiles, oh my—and compact mechanical keyboards are immersed in even more terminology due to their non-standard layouts. Here’s a high-level overview of the terms you need to know to buy the right keyboard for your needs. If you’re curious to learn even more detail, see our explainer on how to shop for a mechanical keyboard.

Compact Mechanical Keyboard
Illustration: Sarah MacReading

Size:

  • 75%: Boards like the Vortex Tab 75 Compact Mechanical Keyboard have nearly all the same keys as tenkeyless models, but those keys are all smushed together so the keyboard has no empty space. This size is the best option if you use the function keys along the top row frequently since other compact keyboards lack those keys.
  • 65% and 68%: Boards like the Qisan Magicforce Compact Mechanical Keyboard and Drop Alt Compact Mechanical Keyboard ditch the function keys along the top but keep the arrow keys and a few keys from the navigation cluster. We think 65% and 68% keyboards hit the sweet spot for most people—they’re much smaller than tenkeyless boards, but they have all the most frequently used keys.
  • 60%: Keyboards like the Vortex Tab 60 Compact Mechanical Keyboard and the Obins Anne Pro 2 Compact Mechanical Keyboard include only the essential block of letters, numbers, and modifiers and have no function keys, no arrow or navigation keys, and no Numpad. We recommend a 60% keyboard only if you’re willing to retrain yourself to remember key combinations every time you need the arrow or function keys.
  • 40% and smaller: You can find even smaller keyboards out there, such as the 40% Vortex Core, but we don’t recommend them because most people can’t live without the number row.
All Compact Mechanical Keyboard

Most people are best served by a 75% (bottom) or 65%/68% (middle) keyboard, since 60% (top) keyboards lack dedicated arrow keys. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Switch options: We cover all the switch varieties in-depth in our introductory guide to mechanical keyboards, but here’s the TL;DR. Mechanical switches arrive in three main varieties: linear, tactile, and clicky. Linear switches feel soft when you press them, from top to bottom. Tactile switches have a remarkable bump partway in the keypress, which lets you know that you’ve activated the key. And clicky switches feel similar to tactile ones but have an added click sound to match the tactile bump. For people who don’t already have a switch preference, we recommend Cherry MX Brown switches (followed by their equivalents from Gateron or Kailh) because they’re popular, readily available tactile switches that are best for most tasks and noiseless enough for most offices.

Build quality: Cheap keyboards with plastic cases and backplates feel and sound void when you type, and they can flex when you press too harsh on them. A keyboard made of metal or thicker plastic is sturdier and doesn’t do that.

All Compact Mechanical Keyboard build quality
ABS keycaps (top) are thinner and develop a shine compared with PBT keycaps (bottom), which are thicker and more durable. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Keycaps: Many keyboards come with keycaps made from ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), a lightweight type of plastic that’s prone to wear and can become smooth and shiny with use. Keycaps made of PBT (polybutylene terephthalate), though less common, tend to be more durable, develop less shine, and have a grittier texture. And since half the fun of owning a mechanical keyboard is customizing it to your taste, we like keyboards that are available with a variety of stylish keycap options. You can always buy different keycaps and add them later, but compact keyboards are more likely to have non-standard keycap sizes that are a little trickier to find replacements for.

Most keyboards in the US come with ANSI standard keycaps, and it’s easiest to find replacement keycap sets for boards that follow this standard. Some compact keyboards have a few non-standard keycaps of different sizes. These are usually described in terms of a “u” width; 1u, for example, is the size of each of the number and alphabet keys on a keyboard, or 18 mm. A 2u key like the Backspace key is twice the size of those 1u keys. The most common change is a 1.75u right Shift key in place of the standard 2.75u right Shift key, and in the bottom row, some have 1u modifier keys instead of the standard 1.25u size.

Removable cable: A removable USB cable is preferable to a built-in one because if the cable breaks it’s easier to replace just the cable rather than the whole keyboard.

Programmability: You can customize many mechanical keyboards to change the default behavior of certain keys and have them perform other actions. And the ability to customize is even more important on compact keyboards, which drop more frequently used keys the smaller they get.

The most manageable way is to use DIP switches on the bottom of a keyboard that changes the layout or behavior of a few keys. For example, you can shift between Windows and Mac layouts, trade the Caps Lock key to Ctrl, or turn off OS-specific keys like the Windows or Command keys. Other keyboards allow onboard programming, where you press certain keys to register macros and customize backlighting. Still, others come with software you can use to record macros, remap or customize certain keys, and futz with the backlighting.

For compact keyboards that still have all the keys most people need—75% and 65%/68% keyboards—basic customizability is fine. But for 60% models, the ability to fully program your keyboard to your liking is essential, and ideally, you can do that with software that’s straightforward and easy to use.

Backlight: Although backlighting can be a nice addition, it isn’t a requirement for typing or coding. If a keyboard does arrive with backlighting, we favor it to be either a tasteful white or programmable RGB—though customizable backlighting nearly always costs more.

Hot-swap switches: This is a newer feature typically found only on expensive, high-end mechanical keyboards, but the ability to trade out switches without having to break out a soldering iron is a nice bonus.

Wireless: Wireless mechanical keyboards aren’t super common yet, though we found and tested several compact keyboards with Bluetooth connections. We looked for stable connections that didn’t cut out, lag, or cause double-key entries, as well as keyboards that can still work in wired mode when the battery runs out.

We tested each keyboard by using it for at least one day of work, which involves lots and lots (and lots) of typing. We explored each keyboard’s customization options and paid attention to the quality of the cases and keycaps. As we narrowed down the contenders, we used the finalists for weeks of constant typing and tested any Bluetooth connections on Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS.


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Our pick: Ducky One 2 SF

Ducky One 2 SF Compact Mechanical Keyboard front
Photo: Michael Murtaugh
our Pick
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Ducky One 2 SF

The best compact keyboard

$110
The One 2 SF is the Goldilocks keyboard—it doesn’t have too many or too few keys—and it feels great to type on.
Dimensions:12.75 by 4.13 by 1.5 inchesConnection:Removable USB-C
Keycap material:PBTBacklight:RGB

As a 65%/68% keyboard, the Ducky One 2 SF is Compact Mechanical Keyboard, yet it doesn’t sacrifice the keys most people can’t do without—it has all the letters, numbers, and modifiers, plus dedicated arrow keys and a few navigation keys on the right side. The One 2 SF is a solid keyboard that provides a delightful typing experience, and it has clearly labeled easy-to-access volume keys. On top of that, as a fun bonus, it has customizable RGB backlighting. It isn’t fully programmable and it is tricky to customize, but most people don’t need to mess with that. You have to pay quite a bit more to get a better compact keyboard.

We recommend Cherry MX Brown switches because they provide a satisfying tactile bump without making too much noise for a shared space, but we like that the One 2 SF is also offered with a wide variety of other Cherry options. The One 2 SF is available with a white case and keycaps or a black case and keycaps, and both options have RGB backlighting.

Ducky One 2 SF Compact Mechanical Keyboard side view
We don’t love the bezel on the front, but the One 2 SF is a solid, well-made keyboard. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The One 2 SF’s solid plastic case is sturdy, and in our tests, its stabilizers kept the modifier keys and spacebar from rattling during typing (a problem we saw on a number of cheaper keyboards, most notably the Magicforce). We don’t love the angled bezels on the front and back of the case in comparison with the minimalist cases of our other picks. Although it doesn’t feel as rock solid as the all-metal case of the Drop Alt or the Leopold FC660M, it doesn’t flex during ordinary or even heated typing, and overall the One 2 SF is a delight to type on.

At 12.75 by 4.13 by 1.5 inches, the One 2 SF is a couple of inches or so narrower than a typical tenkeyless keyboard, which makes a huge difference on a desk. And its gentle slope is better for your wrists than a keyboard with a steep upward slope at the back. (The One 2 SF does have feet in the back with two height options if you need them, but we found that the keyboard slid around on a desk more on the highest setting.)

Ducky One 2 SF Compact Mechanical Keyboard keys
The One 2 SF’s shine-through PBT keycaps (left) don’t have the ugly line interrupting some legends like many shine-through PBT keycaps do. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The One 2 SF’s shine-through PBT keycaps are some of the best-looking and best-feeling keycaps we’ve tested. Their surface doesn’t feel as gritty as that of most PBT keycaps, but they don’t feel cheap, either, and after months of typing they haven’t developed the shine typical of lower-quality ABS keycaps. Many shine-through PBT keycaps have ugly fonts with lines through some legends (what’s printed on the keycap), which is a result of the way PBT keycaps are designed, with a cross of plastic bars under each keycap. But the One 2 SF’s keycaps lack that top bar, so the legends look normal. And the keycaps don’t feel cheap or hollow to type on.

Ducky One 2 SF Compact Mechanical Keyboard backside
On the underside, the One 2 SF has four DIP switches, feet to raise the back of the keyboard, and no cable management. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Most people don’t need to customize the One 2 SF since it comes with all the most-used keys. It has volume and mute keys that you can reach one-handed with Fn+M, comma, and period, and they’re clearly labeled on the keycaps and in the included manual. (The Leopold FC660M doesn’t have media keys at all.) The manual also details how to customize the RGB backlight, what the DIP switches do, and how to swap the functions of the Esc, Caps Lock, left Ctrl, left OS, left Alt, right Alt, and Fn keys; doing so is a bit tricky, but it does work as stated in the manual. The One 2 SF also supports macro recording, but you can’t record macros to the default profile.1 In our tests the keyboard worked well on Windows and Mac, though you have to swap the OS keys in macOS—there’s no DIP-switch function to swap them easily—and it comes with Windows keycaps instead of neutral OS ones.

Ducky One 2 SF Compact Mechanical Keyboard keys remover
The Ducky keyboard comes with a handful of bright accent keys, a spacebar, and a short wire keycap puller. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The One 2 SF comes with a removable USB-C cable. It doesn’t have any cable management channels on the underside of the case, but few compact keyboards do. The black model we tested came with an extra spacebar and a handful of bright red accent keycaps for the arrow keys, Esc, Enter, and 1.75u Shift key. It also comes with a short wire keycap puller—it’s a little more awkward to use than our favorite one, but it won’t damage your keycaps as a plastic keycap puller may. If you purchase from MechanicalKeyboards.com, the retailer will service the One 2 SF’s one-year warranty that covers manufacturer defects.


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Flaws but not dealbreakers

Like many of the best keyboards we tested, the Ducky One 2 SF is available in the US primarily from specialty retailers such as MechanicalKeyboards.com, so it may not be immediately available with the design or switches you want. MechanicalKeyboards.com offers preorders (though you may have to wait a month or two) and maintains an incoming-shipments page. If you can’t wait that long, take a look at our other picks.

The One 2 SF has a non-standard keycap layout—it has a 1.75u Shift key and 1u Alt and Fn keys in the bottom row, in contrast to the typical 2.75u right Shift and 1.25u bottom-row keys. We also wish it were available with more colorful keycap options, since these non-standard keys are a bit trickier to find compatible replacements for. Most people don’t need to do this, and as compact keyboards have gotten more popular over the past few years, more keycap sets that accommodate these non-standard keys have surfaced.

As explained above, it’s possible, but confusing, to customize the One 2 SF. The keyboard is not fully programmable, and the included manual can be hard to follow. But most people don’t need to change the behavior of any keys, and those who want to do so need to struggle through the process only once. We do wish the One 2 SF had DIP switches for swapping the OS keys to Mac mode, and we wish it came with neutral OS keys instead of Windows ones.


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Budget pick: Qisan Magicforce

Qisan Magicforce Compact Mechanical Keyboard front
Photo: Michael Murtaugh
Budget Pick
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Qisan Magicforce

A starter keyboard

$63
The Magicforce feels better to type on than any other cheap mechanical keyboard, though its keycaps and case don’t look or feel as nice to type on as our top pick’s. We recommend the Cherry Brown switches or the Gateron Brown switches, depending on what’s available.
Dimensions:13.27 by 4.09 by 1.46 inchesConnection:Removable Mini-USB
Keycap material:ABS or PBTBacklight:White

If you want an entry-level mechanical keyboard, the Qisan Magicforce Compact Mechanical Keyboard 68-key model is the best place to start. Its 65%/68% layout is similar to the Ducky One 2 SF’s, with dedicated arrow keys and a small navigation cluster, but it’s a bit wider than our top pick. The Magicforce is much more pleasant to type on than any other budget keyboard we’ve tested, but its build quality and typing experience can’t match those of more expensive keyboards. Compared with our top pick, its case feels hollow and cheaper, and it has lower-quality ABS keycaps (unless you’re lucky enough to snag one of the few with PBT keycaps). It also lacks a warranty. But the Magicforce is a superb budget board with a sturdy (and good-looking) aluminum backplate, and even though the ABS keycaps are ugly, they’re standard size, which makes them easy to replace with better ones.

The Magicforce is available with a bunch of different switches of varying quality. We recommend Cherry, Gateron, or Kailh switches, in that order. You should avoid the models with Outemu switches or otherwise unnamed switches—they’re cheaper, but they feel unpleasant to type on and aren’t worth the savings. As with our other picks, we recommend Brown switches for most people, unless you know you want a different kind. Most models have an adjustable white backlight; some have an ice-blue backlight.

Next to other budget keyboards with flimsy, ugly cases and gritty-feeling, cheap switches, the Magicforce is well made and provides a superior typing experience for the price. Its aluminum backplate is solid and stylish, it stays put on a desk, and its open design looks nice. Even so, the Magicforce falls short of the pricier Ducky One 2 SF or Leopold FC660M in build quality. The Magicforce’s plastic case feels hollow and the stabilizers beneath the spacebar and modifier keys rattle and resonate throughout the case when you’re typing, problems our more expensive picks don’t have. (We also found that the Magicforce version with PBT keycaps doesn’t rattle or resonate quite as much as the more common model with thinner, cheaper ABS keycaps.)

Qisan Magicforce Compact Mechanical Keyboard white and black color
Our budget pick, the Magicforce (bottom), is a bit wider than the One 2 SF. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Magicforce is about half an inch wider than the One 2 SF but still notably smaller than tenkeyless boards. Like the One 2 SF, the Magicforce has a gentle slope that isn’t as bad for wrists, and it has feet to raise the back if you need them.

The most widely available version of the Magicforce comes with ABS keycaps that feel cheaper, have a particularly ugly font, and will develop a shine as they wear down over time. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a model with more durable, better-looking PBT keycaps on Amazon, but they disappear frequently and typically have more limited switch options. All the media keys and other actions on the function layer are clearly labeled on both the ABS and PBT keycap sets. And all of the Magicforce’s keycaps are ANSI standard, which means if you want to upgrade you can easily find replacements without having to worry about unusual-size keys.

Qisan Magicforce Compact Mechanical Keyboard backside
The Magicforce offers cable management on the underside of the case, but it’s not particularly useful. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Magicforce isn’t fully programmable, but it does have DIP switches on the underside for swapping Caps Lock and Ctrl, swapping the OS key and Fn, and locking the OS key. (And it comes with a manual that explains all of that clearly.) It also has clearly labeled media keys along the bottom alphabet row, and you can reach Fn plus the volume up, volume down, and mute keys with a single hand. We’ve used the Magicforce on Windows and Mac; although there’s no way to swap the OS and Alt keys on the keyboard itself, it’s easy enough to do in macOS. As on the One 2 SF, the Magicforce’s OS keys have the Windows logo.

Though the Magicforce has a cable-management channel built into the underside of its case, the only option it gives you is to route the removable Mini-USB cable from the plug to the back-center of the keyboard. This design makes it a little trickier to plug in and makes the usable cable length shorter, and it doesn’t provide much benefit. Since the Magicforce is a budget board, it doesn’t come with many extras; the only thing included in the box is a plastic keycap puller, which we don’t recommend using because it can damage the edges of your keycaps.

This budget model does not have a warranty that we could find. (The warranty card in the box is in Chinese, the Amazon listing directs us to the manufacturer website, and there is no manufacturer website.) On Amazon, we messaged the seller, who told us that the warranty was “the same as the Amazon policy” and that we could exchange the keyboard within three months, but Amazon’s return policy is 30 days.


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Upgrade pick: Drop Alt

Drop Alt Compact Mechanical Keyboard front
Photo: Michael Murtaugh
Upgrade Pick

The fancy choice

$210
The Drop Alt offers the best typing experience and the most customization with hot-swappable switches and full programmability, but it’s expensive.
Dimensions:12.7 by 4.4 by 1.25 inchesConnection:Removable USB-C
Keycap material:PBTBacklight:RGB

If you’re willing to pay more for an even better typing experience and some fun extra features, get the Drop Alt Compact Mechanical Keyboard. It’s a 68% keyboard just like the Ducky One 2 SF, but it has the superior build quality and more attractive design. Plus, the Alt is fully programmable and has hot-swappable switches, so you can try different switches without having to break out a soldering iron. If you want a keyboard you can tinker with—but don’t want to go off the deep end of soldering—this is the keyboard to get.

Drop Alt Compact Mechanical Keyboard keys
Using the included metal tool, you can swap out the Alt’s switches without soldering. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Alt is available with Cherry MX Brown, Cherry MX Blue, Kailh Box White, or Kailh Speed Silver switches, and it has customizable RGB backlighting. (The Alt is also available with Halo switches, but we don’t recommend them. When we tested the tenkeyless Drop Ctrl, some of the Halo switches had visibly warped stems.) Best of all, the Alt has hot-swappable switches, which means you can easily try new switch types. (Swapping out switches on most mechanical keyboards requires the equipment, expertise, and time to desolder all the old switches and solder in new ones.) The Alt comes with a small metal tool that you can use to carefully pull out the switches, and then you can simply snap in different ones. I’ve personally had good experiences buying switches from NovelKeysKBDfans, and 1UpKeyboards.

Drop Alt Compact Mechanical Keyboard black and white color

Of all the keyboards I tested for this guide, the Alt had the best build quality and felt the best to type on. Its aluminum case made the keyboard feel solid during typing, and the Cherry-style stabilizers and thick PBT keycaps provided a consistent, rattle-free typing experience. The Alt also looks snazzy, with a transparent ring around the edges of the case and shine-through PBT keycaps to show off the RGB backlighting. And I personally prefer the Alt’s low-profile design, where the keys appear to float above the case, over high-profile keyboards, where the keys are set into the case.

Drop Alt backside
The Alt has a completely flat slope. You can add magnetic feet to add a gentle negative or positive slope if you prefer. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Alt is the most ergonomically friendly compact keyboard we’ve tested. It’s just marginally narrower than the Ducky One 2 SF, and it comes with two metal feet that magnetically attach to the bottom of the case and can help to create a slight negative slope—it’s the only compact keyboard we’ve tested that allows for a negative slope without a separate keyboard tray. Without the included feet, the Alt lies completely flat; you could also attach the feet to the back to provide a gentle slope akin to the One 2 SF’s default position, if you prefer.

Unlike our other picks, the Alt is fully programmable—but doing so is tricky. If you don’t want to get into it, you can customize the lighting, and the Alt has media keys programmed by default. (They’re not labeled on the keycaps, so you have to memorize their locations.) It also works with both Windows and Mac out of the box, though you need to swap the OS key location in macOS or go through the full programming process if you want to move it.

If you do want to program the Alt, start with Drop’s instructions. You can use Drop’s keyboard configurator tool to customize your layout and backlighting, and then hit Compile and Download. Then you have to flash that layout to your keyboard—which is where things get complicated. You need to download the software for your OS and then follow these instructions. We tested the process on Windows, and it requires basic knowledge of how to navigate file structures in the terminal; we ran into an error because the config file needs to be in the same folder as the app (the directions weren’t explicit about this). Drop’s instructions say that folks there are working to improve the loading process, so we’ll keep an eye out for updates.

The Alt’s removable USB-C cable can plug into either USB-C port on the back-left or back-right side of the case. And the keyboard acts as a hub, so you can use its other USB-C port to connect devices, too. The Alt doesn’t come with any extra keycaps, but the package does include a nice aluminum-handled wire keycap puller, a metal tool to change out the hot-swappable switches, and two magnetic aluminum feet. Drop covers it with a one-year warranty and offers an extended three-year warranty for $25.


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75% pick: Vortex Tab 75

Vortex Tab 75 Compact Mechanical Keyboard front
Photo: Michael Murtaugh
Also Great
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Vortex Tab 75

More keys

$130
The Tab 75 has a full function row at the top but doesn’t take up more horizontal desk space. It can work wirelessly and comes with Mac-specific keycaps.
Dimensions:12.38 by 5.13 by 1.5 inchesConnection:Removable USB-C, Bluetooth
Keycap material:PBTBacklight:No

If you frequently use the function row of keys along the top of the keyboard, we recommend the Vortex Tab 75 Compact Mechanical Keyboard. It offers more keys than our 65% and 68% picks without being any wider, and it still provides a solid, satisfying typing experience. As a nice bonus, it can connect via Bluetooth, and it’s the only one of our picks that comes with Mac-specific OS keycaps. Tab 75 is difficult to customize, though most people don’t need to program a 75% keyboard. But it doesn’t come with a manual, its media keys take two hands to activate and aren’t labeled, and its flat keycaps can take some getting used to.

The Tab 75 is available with a wide variety of Cherry switches, and as with our other picks we recommend MX Brown switches unless you know you want something else. It comes with plain gray keycaps, and even though the online manual has instructions for controlling the RGB backlight, none of the models we’ve tested have offered a backlight.

Vortex Tab 75 Compact Mechanical Keyboard black and white color
The Tab 75 (bottom) has more keys but is just a bit narrower than the One 2 SF. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Tab 75’s solid build quality and minimalist design are the reasons we recommend it over other 75% options like the Keychron K2. In our tests, it felt excellent to type on, and its Cherry-style stabilizers didn’t rattle during typing. At 12.38 by 5.13 by 1.5 inches, the Tab 75 takes up a bit less horizontal room than the One 2 SF or the Alt. The Tab 75 is deeper because of its additional top row, but that doesn’t negatively impact the ergonomics of your workspace. Like the One 2 SF, the Tab 75 has a gentle slope and doesn’t sit quite as flat as the Alt. Unlike our other picks, the Tab 75 lacks feet to adjust the angle—what you get is what you get.

Vortex Tab 75 Mechanical Keyboard side view
The Tab 75 (left) has flat, uniform DSA-profile keycaps, in contrast to the sculpted keys on our other picks. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Tab 75’s PBT keycaps are durable, but their flat DSA profile can take some getting used to.

Most keyboards use Cherry or OEM profiles, where each row is a different height and each key is sculpted to cup your fingers. But all DSA keycaps are uniform, flat rectangles. This design makes it easier to find replacement keycaps since any keycap can go in any row, but it can feel weird to type on at first. We also appreciate the no-nonsense keycap font.

Luckily, 75% keyboards come with all the keys most people need, because it’s a pain to program the Tab 75. For starters, it doesn’t come with a manual, and the manual on Vortex’s website (PDF) is difficult to decipher. The media keys are on an Fn layer along the top row; by default you need two hands to activate most of them, and none of them are labeled on the minimalist keycaps. You can switch between Windows and Mac modes with Pn+Q and Pn+W, respectively.

As far as actual programming, you can move the Fn or Pn keys and record macros if you switch to one of the non-default layers by pressing Pn+M, comma, or period. The included manual isn’t especially helpful, so follow these instructions for the Tab 60, which also apply to the Tab 75. Last we checked, the Tab 75 doesn’t work with Vortex’s MPC programming tool; we’ll keep an eye out for updates.

Vortex Tab 75 keys remover
The Tab 75 is the only one of our picks that comes with macOS keycaps. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Like the One 2 SF Compact Mechanical Keyboard, the Tab 75 comes with a removable USB-C cable and lacks cable-management channels on the underside of the case. (The USB-C plug is located on the back-left side.) It also comes with a wire keycap puller and a selection of primary-color accent keycaps for Esc, the arrow keys, and other modifiers, as well as Cmd, Option, and Delete keys for Mac users—it’s the only one of our picks that comes with Mac-specific keycaps.

The Tab 75 can also connect via Bluetooth, and in our tests on Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS, we didn’t experience any hiccups or disconnects. To pair:

  1. Flip the power switch on the underside of the case.
  2. Press Pn+left Alt for three seconds until the indicator light under the Caps Lock key begins flashing.
  3. Press Pn+J, K, L, or the semicolon key to pair to the device. (You can pair to multiple devices by selecting a different key each time.)

This is one extra step to connect in comparison with the more user-friendly process on the Keychron K2, but it’s not arduous. The Tab 75 requires two AAA batteries to run on a wireless connection, and the model we bought didn’t come with any—but if you want a recommendation, we have picked for rechargeable AAAs. It has a one-year warranty that covers manufacturer defects if you purchase it from MechanicalKeyboards.com.


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60% pick: Obins Anne Pro 2

Obins Anne Pro 2 Compact Mechanical Keyboard Front
Photo: Michael Murtaugh
Also Great
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Obins Anne Pro 2

The most compact

$94
The Anne Pro 2 is the easiest-to-program 60% keyboard, so it’s the best starting point if you want an even more compact keyboard. Plus, it has wireless support.
Dimensions:11.18 by 3.82 by 1.56 inchesConnection:Removable USB-C, Bluetooth
Keycap material:PBTBacklight:RGB

If you want an even more compact keyboard and you’re willing to retrain yourself to use shortcuts to access arrow keys, get the Obins Anne Pro 2 Compact Mechanical Keyboard. It’s by far the easiest 60% keyboard to program thanks to its straightforward, user-friendly software, which makes a huge difference on such a compact keyboard. The Anne Pro 2 is available with a bunch of different switches and can connect via USB-C or Bluetooth. It’s not quite as nice to type on or as good looking as the less-programmable Ducky One 2 Mini, but it still provides a satisfying typing experience.

The Anne Pro 2 is available with a wide variety of switches, including Cherry switches, Kailh Box switches, and Gateron switches. My personal favorites of those are Kailh Box Browns, which feel smoother and sturdier than Cherry MX Browns and aren’t quite as expensive, but you can’t go wrong with any of the options. The Anne Pro 2 is available with a white case and keycaps or a black case and keycaps, and both versions have RGB backlighting—though we found the backlight a bit dim even at the highest setting. All of the Anne Pro 2’s keycaps are ANSI standard, which makes them easy to replace.

We recommend Anne Pro 2 because of how easy and user-friendly it is to customize—a crucial feature in a 60% keyboard without dedicated arrow keys. The Anne Pro 2 doesn’t come with a manual (a point against it), but it does have software that works on Windows and macOS and makes it super easy to remap every layer of the keyboard, customize the RGB backlight, and update the keyboard’s firmware. You can flash the new settings to the Anne Pro 2 with a click of the big orange Download button, and you don’t need to keep the software running to retain your settings. You can put any key exactly where you want it—media keys, arrow keys, the Fn key—which makes the transition to the smaller 60% layout as easy as it can get.

Even though Anne Pro 2 doesn’t have the best build quality of the 60% keyboards we tested—that honor goes to the Ducky One 2 Mini Compact Mechanical Keyboard—it’s still a solid keyboard that doesn’t flex or rattle when you’re typing. It sounds a bit louder and cheaper because of its more resonant backplate, but it still provides an enjoyable typing experience. The shine-through PBT keycaps will hold up well over the years of typing, though they do have an uglier font with vertical bars through some of the legends, unlike the keycaps on the Ducky One 2 Mini and One 2 SF.

Obins Anne Pro 2 compare
The Anne Pro 2 (bottom) is way more compact than our other picks. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Anne Pro 2 Compact Mechanical Keyboard is the most compact of our picks: It’s about an inch and a half narrower than the Ducky One 2 SF because it lacks dedicated arrow keys and the row of navigation keys on the right side. It has a slightly steeper slope than the One 2 SF and no feet for adjusting the angle; we prefer the Ducky One 2 Mini’s flatter slope plus its adjustable feet to make up the difference for those who like a steeper angle.

Obins Anne Pro 2 keys remover
The Anne Pro 2 comes with some fun accent keys and a wire keycap puller. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Anne Pro 2 Compact Mechanical Keyboard includes a removable USB-C cable and doesn’t have any cable management channels on the underside of the case. The black model we tested came with a wire keycap puller and some cute, colorful extra keycaps for the modifiers. The Anne Pro 2 can also connect via Bluetooth, and in our tests, we didn’t experience any issues on Windows and macOS. We found these pairing instructions (PDF) to be a little clearer than those on the Obins website, but the process is still fairly straightforward. Whereas the Vortex Tab 75 runs on two replaceable AAA batteries, the Anne Pro 2 has an internal battery that you can’t easily replace.

According to the Anne Pro website, Anne Pro 2 has a one-year warranty. But I’d personally order from MechanicalKeyboards.com for that retailer’s one-year warranty—which covers manufacturer defects—because we’ve had positive experiences with the customer service, and many companies based in China and Taiwan charge steep shipping costs for their own warranty service.

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