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Layouts - 65% Keyboards

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While 65% keyboards haven't spurred nearly as much controversy in the community last year as 75% boards, that doesn't make them any less worth your attention. A 65% layout takes a 75% and removes the function row, therefore creating an even smaller keyboard.

By now you have probably realized that the percentage point naming scheme is not really about the precision in regards to a 104/105 key full-size layout, but rather about the comparison between the different layouts. For example, there are 65% boards with just 65 keys, 65% keyboards with 68 keys, as well as, there are boards with two-column macro/function clusters on the side (~75 keys) and still may count as an atypical 65% board. Such as the J-01 by Jae from Top Clack or Rama Foundry Zenith.

65% keyboard layout

65% Keyboard Layout



The 65% layout is very easy to use and adjust to since the changes from 100% or 60% are not that large while retaining arrow and navigation clusters, which many users find important for their use. The layout still provides enough keys to not feel cramped and most of the functions can be accessed via secondary or tertiary layers with the use of function keys. Depending on the manufacturer and designer 65% boards leave quite a lot of space for features in both aesthetics and functions, in form of different sized blockers (small piece of case material, which protrudes into space where keys are located), badges, macro keys, sometimes even rotary encoders, or LEDs.

Another factor, which booster the popularity of the layout is the boom of fairly affordable, enthusiast-grade keyboards such as the Drop ALT, NK65, TADA68, Tofu 65, and others. At the current time (Q1 2021), it seems like Group Buys (GBs) for budget or mid-end 65% boards is going a bit crazy and it is enjoying its peak. It will be interesting to see whether this trend is going to continue for a while longer or rather we will see a dip in popularity among designers caused by insufficient demand from the market side or rather large competition between various GBs.

** Our opinion at the time of writing (Q1 2021) - The market for 65% keyboards will continue to grow (and peak) in a similar fashion for at least this year. As people join these GBs, they will start to get delivered by the end of 2021. New users joining the hobby will see media posted about the past GBs and will try to join in. Therefore we foresee another (smaller) spike in the Q1-Q2 2022, with a few new GBs popping up. However, most of the new users will see that their options might be limited and join in on GBs following newer trends established in late 2021. On the other side, vendors and keyboards manufacturers will try to provide enthusiast-grade 65% keyboards as an in-stock product. These will be up for purchase either throughout the whole year or at least a few times a year. We have seen this happen to an extent with companies such as Drop, NovelKeys, or KBDFans. Nevertheless, we expect more players to join this market with even better and more feature-rich products. **

However, it is not all just sunshine and roses for the 65% layout. While these keyboards bring a great balance between function and size, the aesthetics department might be lacking at times especially because of the non-symmetrical bottom row and right side. The designers try to go around this challenge by either integrating the additional keys (in comparison to 60%) into the main cluster or introducing blockers/separating the additional keys. While no solution is ideal, in the end, it comes to the users’ preference in choosing this layout over others and vice versa.

Some of the notable 65% keyboards (other than the ones already mentioned) are Iron165 by Smith+ Rune, KBD67 (also lite version), Vega by ai03, TKC Portico, Jules, Space65, Think6.5, Bauer by Omnitype, and others.


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