In this article, we’re going to have a look at some of the best sixty-five percent keyboards available at the moment, taking ergonomics into consideration.
But first, let’s walk through what exactly we’re talking about here.
What are 65% keyboards?
Sixty-five percent keyboards are keyboards that utilise a special compact design, which many people find allows them to save space and avoid reaching too far for their mouse.
These keyboards remove infrequently used keys, including typically the number pad and dedicated function keys.
In this sense, they are similar to sixty percent keyboards. Unlike the more extreme sixty percent variant, however, the sixty-five percent keyboard includes the arrows keys and some core navigational keys (typically ‘Page Up’, ‘Page Down’, ‘Home’ and ‘End).
For a comparison between the main keyboard size options, see this diagram:
Are 65% keyboards ergonomic?
This type of keyboard has one big ergonomic benefit: they reduce the distance you need to reach for your mouse.
The compact form factor means it is easier to use a mouse without reaching out at an awkward angle. Some people with shoulder discomfort have found this very helpful.
That said, in general, there are other types of keyboards that may offer more value if ergonomics is your only concern.
For example, you may want to look into split keyboards and keyboards with features like tenting and curved keywells. These design features help support a neutral position of your wrists and a comfortable typing experience.
If you want more information on some of the other options, check out my guide here.
To answer the original question, sixty-five percent keyboards can be a good ergonomic option, particularly if portability is important to you and if you’re not experiencing major typing discomfort currently.
If you’re dealing with more serious discomfort related to keyboard use, and portability is not a concern, then there are other design options you may want to look into first.
Note: I am not a medical specialist, so don’t take my opinions here as medical advice. I’m just a guy trying to share my experience and armchair research efforts with you in the hope it will help!
Always consider your individual situation and seek proper medical advice as needed.
My recommendations for the best 65% keyboards
Note that the following options are all mechanical keyboards, since I believe mechanical key switches are higher quality and more conducive to a comfortable typing experience.
Drop ALT Mechanical Keyboard
The Drop ALT mechanical keyboard is a popular choice for those looking for a compact 65% keyboard.
While at a higher price point than some of the others on this list, the Drop ALT has a beautiful design, flexible switch options, and programmable functionality.
Ergonomic Switch Options
The Drop ALT supports a range of switch types, allowing you to pick the type that feels most comfortable for you.
These include the Halo clears, Halo trues, Kailh box whites, Kailh speed silvers, and Cherry MX blues.
The switches are also hot-swappable, meaning you can swap them for other switch types easily without needing to do any soldering.
Not sure which switch type you’d like? One option is to buy a switch tester that allows you to test all of the above (along with others).
Beautiful (and Sturdy) Design
Constructed with a solid aluminium frame, the Drop ALT is sturdy and sleek looking.
The customisable RGH backlighting also adds a nice visual feel to the keyboard (even if it doesn’t do much for ergonomics).
You can customise the key mappings with this keyboard via the QMK firmware.
This means that if you have any particular key combinations you use frequently, you have the option to change the key layout to support those combinations.
Having said that, this does involve fiddling around with the open source code, so is much more work than having an on-board key mapping capability (like my Kinesis Advantage2 does).
Call me lazy, but even as someone who works in tech and runs a blog on keyboards, I’ll admit having to dive into code to do this is not my cup of tea.
Ducky One 2 SF Mechanical Keyboard
Another popular choice is the Ducky One 2 SF (the SF stands for Sixty-Five).
At a slightly more affordable price point than the Drop ALT, this keyboard still delivers a solid build quality.
Cherry MX Switches
You can choose from the popular Cherry MX family of switches for this keyboard (Black, Brown, Blue, Red, Silent Red, or Silver).
For a comparison of each Cherry MX switch type, check out this YouTube video I found:
These mechanical switches can help you type with less actuation force (i.e. how hard you push) as well as finger travel distance. By doing so, they can help reduce strain on your hands, leading to a more comfortable keyboard experience.
Coming in a white or black design, the Ducky One 2 SF also sports some nice RGB backlighting and an optional decorative spacebar.
YUNZII AKKO Vintage 9009 Mechanical Keyboard
The YUNZII AKKO Vintage 9009 is another 65% keyboard option with 68 keys. If you want the ergonomic benefits of a compact keyboard but also something that looks gorgeous, this is one you might want to consider.
The YUNZII AKKO Vintage 9009 comes with three levels of adjustable feet, allowing you to work in the most comfortable position for your body.
With 85% PBT keycaps made through a dye sublimation process (meaning no raised print on top of keycaps), the keycaps are designed to have a long shelf life and resist fading.
Beautiful Vintage Aesthetic
With a muted colour scheme, this keyboard has a gorgeous vintage feel and more personality than some of the other options on the list.
Leopold FC660C Mechanical Keyboard
The Leopold FC660C keyboard is another well-loved 65% option. With a low-key black frame, this keyboard uses a wired USB connection.
It also uses PBT keycaps marked via dye sublimation, which makes the keycaps more resistant to fading.
There are also two flippable kickstands at the back you can use to change your typing angle. However, I don’t like doing this with kickstands since it can increase wrist extension, and so from an ergonomics perspective can increase wrist strain.
Premium Topre Switches
The Leopold FC660C comes with high quality Topre switches, which many in the keyboarding community love (some more so than the Cherry MX family).
The Topre switches are tactile, meaning they give feedback during a key press that lets you know when that key has activated.
This allows you to only push keys down as far as they need to be, instead of excessively “bottoming out” each key press. The benefit of this is reduced force and muscle strain during typing.
You should also be aware that this keyboard is ONLY compatible with Windows. So if you’re a Mac or Linux user, you’ll want to go for a different option.
Vortexgear Cypher Mechanical Keyboard
The Vortexgear Cypher is a sleek black board made with a lightweight plastic case.
It connects to your computer over a wired USB-C cable, and is compatible with all major operating systems.
From an ergonomic perspective, the high quality Cherry MX switches, compact form factor and customisable layout are all key reasons this board makes the list.
Be aware, however, that some users report the keycaps can fade a little quicker than they would have liked.
The other issue that crops up in some reviews is pressing the delete key or tilde key is a bit awkward (you need to first press the ‘Fn’ button to activate the function key layer).
So if you’re someone who needs to use either of these buttons frequently, there may be better options. That said, this is an issue common to most if not all 65% keyboards.
Cherry MX Speed Silver Switches
The Cherry MX speed silver switches are fast, linear switches, designed for fast typing and ideal for gaming.
The linear switch types means they provide even resistance during a key press and don’t generate any sharp tactile feedback.
They also have the lowest “pre-travel” distance of all the Cherry MX switches, meaning they need to be pushed down the least before they activate a key press.
This leads to a more comfortable and efficient typing experience for heavy keyboard users.
That said, the lack of a tactile bump during a key press does make it a little hard to avoid “bottoming out” the key. So, really, personal switch preference is the key thing here.
You can see a good comparison of the different Cherry MX switch types here.
Programmable and Customisable Layout
The Vortexgear Cypher is also programmable, allowing you to program up to one hundred characters per key.
Out of the box, there is a default key layer and a function layer. The default layer defines what characters are activated by default when you press each key. The function layer defines what gets activated when you also hold down the ‘Fn’ key.
There are also three additional programmable layers, which can be accessed by holding the ‘Fn’ key and an additional modifier. This is where your custom programming can be used.
Cross Platform Compatible
This keyboard is compatible with Windows (XP / 7 / Vista / 10), Mac OS, and Linux.
Only minor caveat is firmware updates can only be done in Windows.
We’ve had a look at five of the best sixty-five percent keyboards on the market today.
I hesitate to single any particular one out as the “best of the best”, since they are all quality picks and the best option for you will depend mostly on your needs.
We also discussed some of the alternative keyboard types you may want to consider if ergonomics is your primary concern.
For full disclosure, my current keyboard is not a compact design (the Kinesis Advantage2), since I felt the other design features it offered were too valuable to ignore.
That said, like sixty-five percent keyboards, my current board leaves out a dedicated numpad — which I love!
Therefore I definitely see the value in removing excess keys, which sixty-five percent keyboards do an even better job of.
Hopefully this article was of some value to you, and helps you pick a good option for your situation.