Small Gaming Keyboard

The Best small keyboards for gaming in 2022

Small gaming keyboards  have been getting smaller and smaller over the last couple of decades, with current options bringing the absolute minimum amount of keys to the gaming table. Many people have started to tire of full-size keyboards these days, so let’s have a look at the best options for reducing your keys. Trigger warning: If you’re a frequent user of the Numpad, steer clear of this guide as there will be no Numpad in sight.

Small gaming keyboard.

Sorry, accountants. Custom PC builders might also want to avoid going small, as there are no Fn keys here either, and Fn keys are particularly useful when it comes to messing around in the BIOS and other low-level hardware.

While the smaller form factor keyboard removes a lot of the versatility they can potentially offer, many people are still leaning towards them for their gaming needs. With a smaller footprint and less clutter, the small gaming keyboard is slowly starting to compete with full-size keyboards.

Small gaming keyboard.

How we choose the best small gaming keyboard

Whether it’s the latest monitor or the best gaming mouse, people always ask us the same question when it comes to the products we recommend. How exactly do you choose the products you recommend?

It’s a great question and one that lets you know our recommendations are well informed.

We usually start each best-of guide with a long list of contenders. After extensive research, we will whittle that list down to around ten finalists – which will either be purchased or sent to us by the manufacturer for testing purposes.

Small gaming keyboard.

Once we have the finalists in the office, we do individual tests on each keyboard to make sure our results are unbiased and from several different user’s perspectives. The results get collated and summarized in a review-style fashion which you can see below.

How we test small gaming keyboards

Testing the products we recommend is a huge part of the overall selection process in our best of guides. It’s a way to make sure what we recommend is, without a doubt, the best option in its specific category.

To be sure a product is “the best,” it must show excellent performance in our tests, and display better qualities and features than the competition it faces.

Small gaming keyboard.

Most of the products we recommend here at WePC have gone through a strict testing process that involves everything from the price and performance, to build quality, efficiency, and aesthetics. Each product is pushed to the limit to see how it performs in numerous different scenarios before being placed in one of our guides.

Doing this enables us to provide you with the most accurate review of how the product performs and, ultimately, whether it’s worth your hard-earned cash.

Things to consider when purchasing a small gaming keyboard

Looking and choosing the absolute best small gaming keyboard for your needs can be a difficult and time-consuming task, especially when you consider the number of options that currently reside in today’s market.

For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of the main factors that we feel you should understand and consider before jumping into any keyboard purchase. By doing this, you will not only ensure the next keyboard you buy is right for you, but you’ll also ensure the one you choose showcases good value for money too.

Small gaming keyboard.

Portability

This is one of the greatest advantages of a compact form factor keyboard over full-size keyboards. The lack of Numpad and extraneous fn keys allow for far more portability, if you’ve ever tried to cram a full-size keyboard into a slightly undersized backpack for the commute to a LAN party, you’ll be acutely aware of how increased portability can be a game-changer. Additionally, the compact form factor’s portability advantages also translate into space-saving advantages that help to create more desk space and a more minimalist overall setup.

Small gaming keyboard.

Bluetooth

With increased portability, comes the need for alternative connectivity. Typically, small gaming keyboards accomplish this with either a 2.4GHz USB dongle or Bluetooth. Bluetooth keyboards are particularly advantageous as they can connect to many different devices, sometimes being able to hold a connection to up to three different ones, which is helpful for using a laptop and CP and the same time, for example. Another advantage of Bluetooth is its lower power consumption that 2.4GHz, oftentimes Bluetooth can cause a 5x increase in battery life, and disabling RGB lighting can make it closer to 8x.

Small gaming keyboard.

Profiles

This may seem a little cryptic, but let us explain. due to the limited nature of small gaming keyboards, the ability to have multiple profiles can be a very handy feature. Essentially, you can define different behavior for different keys depending on the profile. This allows you to have certain shortcuts and macros in some modes, and different ones in others. For example, you can have a profile set up for typing, with some shortcuts to emulate the functionality of full-size keyboards, with the lighting set to static for better focus. After work, you can switch it to a gaming mode with all the RGB lighting blazing and the windows key disabled to prevent accidental tabbing out.

Small gaming keyboard.

Switches

When discussing keyboards from a gaming point of view, the mechanical key switches might be the most important aspect of a small keyboard. The switch is the mechanism that tells the keyboard (and your PC) which keys have been pressed. And while the switches’ main job is to control the function of your board, it also has a huge impact on how the keyboard feels when typing or gaming.

As switches have developed over time, so has the technology that makes up their design. Keyboard switch manufacturers have the ability to create switches that offer a quicker response, tactile feedback, and clicky audible actuation – with variations of all three used across many types of switches.

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A recent development in the realm of mechanical keyboards is the optical switch. Optical switches work via different means that the traditional mechanical or membrane switches. Essentially, A traditional switch relies on making two pieces of metal contact to complete a circuit. The optical switch model works differently, an optical switch relies on the stem letting a laser pass through to a receiver when the key is pressed.

This makes the optical switch last longer as there is less overall physical contact. Other than this an optical switch keyboard feels essentially indistinguishable from its traditional counterpart. Razer’s huntsman keyboard has recently been upgraded to feature Razer’s new optical switches. We already liked Razer’s huntsman, especially the small variant, so the addition of alternative switch options is a good sign.

So, with that in mind, you can start to understand how certain switches (Cherry MX red for example) are going to be better for gaming, while others (Cherry MX Blue) are more suited for typists. Brown switches are also worth considering as they have the tactile feedback of Blue switches, but the volume of Red switches. Brown switches may not be the most popular anymore, but they are the best middle ground in our opinion, so Brown switches will always have a place in our hearts here at WePC.

While Cherry MX Switches are the industry standard for mechanical keyboards, there are many other brands available, such as Kailh, Gateron, and Outemu. All of these are worth considering instead of Cherry MX switches as they offer differing levels of noise, tactile feedback, and performance. Of course, Cherry MX switches are great, but there’s more out there, especially if you pick up a hot-swappable compact form factor keyboard

Even though we’ve only spoken of mechanical switches so far, there are other alternatives too. Membrane rubber dome switches are used widely in today’s keyboards and offer a much softer, spongey actuation. These are the sort of switches you find in budget boards and, dare I say it, older offerings too.

Small gaming keyboard.

small keyboard gamingSmall keyboard gaming

As you can see from the table above, the old-school membrane switch does have its benefits – quieter and less expensive. However, if you’re into gaming, you can clearly see the mechanical switch is the one to opt for, bringing better durability, performance and tactile feedback to the table.

Durability

That leads us nicely to the build quality and durability section of this article. This is another key area when choosing a keyboard, mainly due to how much pressure and force a keyboard has to withstand during its lifetime.

A lot of cheaper boards now come to the table offering a plastic design that can feel flimsy and cheap. This kind of build quality is not ideal for gamers as it simply won’t last – especially if you’re prone to the occasional rage outburst.

More expensive offerings come to the table boasting aluminum frames and steel reinforcement, meaning once you buy a keyboard of this quality, you won’t need to re-invest any time soon.

Macro keys & media keys

While not many of the recommended keyboards above have macro or media keys, they’re still found across many of today’s boards and should be understood when looking for your next purchase. Additionally, macro keys can be created with many of the most popular peripheral software suites too, so it’s worth looking into that.

Macro keys allow users to bind complex commands to a single key, allowing players of MMO-type games to quickly enter spells and commands at the touch of a button.

best small gaming keyboardBest small gaming keyboard

Media keys aren’t really necessary from a gaming viewpoint, but they are handy to have for everything else. Media keys are pretty much what they say on the tin, they control your media settings – volume, play, pause, next, and previous. They come in a number of different forms and just add a little versatility to the keyboard in mind.

Key Rollover

Key rollover is a feature, not every gamer will need, however, for those playing games that require button-bashing or complex commands using numerous keypresses, key rollover can be a real must-have feature.

Key rollover is a technology used in modern keyboards that lets the user press “x” amount of keys at the same time with all being registered to the PC. Key rollover does come in a number of different varieties, with the best of the bunch being NKRO -or in other words, the ability to press every key on the board at the same time.

Size

Of course, not all compact form factor keyboards are the same size, there are many different types, but we are going to concentrate on the big ones, 60%, and TKL. TKL refers to a Tenkeyless design, wherein the keyboard remains identical to a full-size keyboard, with the subtraction of the Numpad. A Tenkeyless design is a good entry point for getting into small keyboards as the use of the Numpad has been declining for a while now, so the Tenkeyless design saves you a good amount of space, but won’t leave you feeling too alienated as the arrow cluster and Fn keys remain untouched.

60% refers to a keyboard without Fn keys, a Numpad, Arrow cluster, and navigation keys like page down and page up. It’s a very popular choice for gamers as games, particularly First-person shooters, very rarely utilize the aforementioned keys. for a more visual example, we’ve made a comparison image for you.

best small keyboard for gamingBest small keyboard for gaming

Aesthetics

Finally, we have aesthetics. While many will brush aside aesthetics as pure skin deep, it’s always nice to have a good-looking keyboard at your desk. Whilst this isn’t a priority lower down the price spectrum, it does actually play a major role in the higher-end boards.

See my article other small gaming keyboard

 

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