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What is TKL Keyboard?
TKL keyboards are like Full-size keyboards without a dedicated number pad; they usually have 87 keys which allow the Keyboard to have a smaller and lighter design. Thus it’s ideal keyboard type if you travel with your Keyboard or want something that takes less desk space.
Some TKL keyboards also have better ergonomics, and because of small size, they provide a better gaming experience if you want your one hand on WASD and another on the mouse.
SteelSeries Apex Pro – High-End TKL Mechanical Keyboard
The SteelSeries Apex Pro is a TKL Mechanical Gaming Keyboard with good customization options including per-key actuation that lets you adjust the actuation on some keys and allows you to create up to 5 actuation profiles. It also has an OLED Smart Display, you can read about it in the design and features section.
Design and Features
The Apex Pro TKL is built on an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy frame, and the overall design looks premium. It comes with a wrist rest that has premium looking rubberized texture and has magnets for attaching it to the board. In the top right corner, the Keyboard has a textured volume roller and an OLED screen which allows you to set an image or play gifs, and you can also program the smart screen to show specs (For example your kill ratio) in some games.
The Keyboard uses a USB Type-A cable and has a cable management system on the back; its flip-out feet are short and do not add much height. It also has a multi-functional media button and USB passthrough. The RGB lights beneath the floating keycaps look amazing, and the lights can be customized using the SteelSeries Engine 3 software.
It uses OmniPoint Switches which are the fastest mechanical switches as claimed by SteelSeries, and the best feature of this Keyboard is the per-key actuation, it lets you change the actuation force and actuation point required to register the click.
- Aluminum build
- USB passthrough
- Per-key actuation
- Magnetic wrist wrest
- Smooth OmniPoint switches
- Short feet
Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition – Mid-Range TKL Mechanical Keyboard
The Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition is a tenkeyless version of the original Huntsman; it uses Razer’s proprietary optical switches available in both Clicky and Linear option. The Keyboard has impressive RGB lighting which can be customized using the Razer’s Synapse 3 software and you can also reprogram the keys the way you want.
Design and Features
The Keyboard is designed with esports in mind, it measures 14.27 x 5.54 x 1.45 inches (LxWxH), the chassis is made of black plastic, and it uses double-shot keycaps with good texture and decent font. Above the arrow keys, it has an embossed Razer logo, and there is no volume roller or other media keys because of the tenkeyless design.
The braided USB-C cable is detachable and connects in the upper-left corner of the board. As mentioned earlier, it uses Razer’s proprietary optical switches which are rated 100 million keystrokes by Razer so it should last years.
- Fast switches
- Detachable cable
- Minimalist design
- Doubleshot PBT keycaps
- No cable management
Corsair K63 – Affordable Wireless TKL Mechanical Keyboard
The Corsair K63 TKL is an affordable wireless gaming keyboard, it can be connected via USB dongle or Bluetooth, and you can connect it to multiple devices if you want. Unfortunately, the Keyboard does not have onboard memory, and the backlighting is set as a single blue color that can’t be changed. On the upside, it comes with a great wrist-rest and is designed to fit in the Corsair Lapboard that helps you use the Keyboard and mouse while sitting on your couch or bed.
Design and Features
Just like other Corsair keyboards, the K63 TKL also has a clean frameless design and textured magnetic wrist rest that offers good support. It has a power switch, mini USB charging port, and media keys on the top left, and top right sides.
The Keyboard uses Cherry MX Red switches and has backlighting underneath the floating keycaps. You can also buy Corsair’s thick double-shot keycaps as a replacement, they feel better and have good letters and symbols visibility. The battery life is up to 20 hours which is just about average, but it can be extended up to 70 hours by deactivating backlight, which is pretty good.
- Responsive switches
- Strong and sturdy build
- 1ms 2.4GHz wireless connection
- No RGB lighting
- Battery life is average with the backlight on
Logitech G915 Wireless – Low-Profile TKL Mechanical Keyboard
The Logitech G915 TKL is the smaller version of the original Logitech G915 Lightspeed which is one of the best wireless keyboards on the market. The G915 TKL has the same slim design, low-profile mechanical switches and connects via USB Type-A dongle or Bluetooth. It takes less desk space, and its wireless connection allows you to have a clutter-free desk.
Design and Features
The G915 TKL measures 15.2 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches (LxWxH), making it one of the smallest keyboards. It has a bruised aluminum finish that looks premium and has media buttons and a volume roller on the top right. On the top left the Keyboard has the ‘G’ logo and buttons for 2.4 GHz wireless, Bluetooth, Game Mode (to lock the Window key), and brightness.
The G915 TKL uses low-profile keycaps which ensure 25% quicker actuation and has full RGB lighting, which can be customized using the software. It has three switch options: GL Linear, GL Clicky, and GL Tactile (Available in both black and white variants).
If you don’t know the difference between these mechanical switch types, you can read about them below the buying guide of this article. On the back, it has dongle storage and four flip-out feet for elevating the board. The battery life is excellent at 40-hour with RGB lights on, and the device comes with a micro USB charging cable. Another impressive feature is onboard memory that allows up to three profiles.
- Great battery life
- Slim and sturdy build
- Comfortable low-profile switches
- No wrist rest
- No USB passthrough
Keychron K2 – TKL Mechanical Keyboard for Mac
The Keychron K2 is an excellent tenkeyless keyboard for Mac users; it can connect with up to three devices via USB-C cable or Bluetooth. If you like Apple’s Magic Keyboard you’ll probably like this one too and not just Mac, you can use it on Windows/Android by changing the mode using a side switch.
Design and Features
The black chassis is made of aluminum and has slim bezels around the parameter, the Keyboard features curved keycaps with tactile Gateron mechanical switches (red, brown, blue), some of its keys are dark, and some are light gray, and the ESC key is orange. We also reviewed the original K1 and listed it in our review of best low-profile mechanical keyboards, K1 has 3±0.5mm key travel while K2 has 4±0.4mm of key travel and has better feedback.
Underneath the unit, you’ll find adjustable rubber feet for elevating the Keyboard, and as mentioned before, it has two toggle switches on the left side, one for Windows/Android and Mac/iOS and one for wired or wireless modes.
- 4000mAh battery
- Includes braided USB-C cable
- Connectivity up to three devices
- Options for Gateron Red, Brown, or Blue switches
- LED bleed-through
Buying Guide For Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard
If you are buying a TKL mechanical keyboard, there are several factors you should consider to choose the right one. Even if you don’t know much about keyboards and the features you should look for, this guide will help you make a decision, so make sure you read it from start to end.
Things to Consider When Buying a Mechanical Keyboard
Build quality: Build quality is one of the most essential things; try to find a keyboard with aluminum chassis or strong plastic with high-quality switches and keycaps.
Keycaps: Most keyboards use strong & durable ABS keycaps, but they become shiny after some time, try to find a keyboard with PBT or POM keycaps. PBT keycaps are stronger than ABS keycaps, and they don’t become shiny over time even after heavy use. POM keycaps are not that common, but they are durable, smooth, and less dense than ABS and PBT keycaps.
Key response time: Key response is the time the Keyboard takes to register the keypress, some keyboard software lets you change key response time that usually ranges from 1ms to 16ms. Most people don’t set it higher than the lowest value, which makes sense, because low response time means good user experience.
Customization options: Keyboards with vast customization options let you program keys, disable the Windows key for gaming, customize RGB lights, and devices like SteelSeries Apex Pro even allow per key actuation which is the next level customization. Before you buy a keyboard, make sure you check customization options, especially if you’re a gamer.
Onboard memory: As mentioned before, customization options are important for good user experience. But, there is another feature that you should look for; it’s “Onboard Memory.” Keyboards with onboard memory save your customization settings allowing you to use the same settings in new devices without reconfiguration.
Backlight: Most gaming keyboards offer RGB lighting nowadays, if you are not buying an RGB keyboard, make sure it has simple white backlighting so you can use the device in the dark and avoid accidental clicks. Most RGB keyboards allow you to display white backlight so if you are not a fan of RGB you can still buy one and customize the display color using the software.
Removable cable: Keyboards with removable cable allow you to carry the board without any problems and if the cable stops working, you can easily replace it instead of buying a new device.
Mechanical Keyboard Switch Types
There are dozens of switch options available on the market; each switch type has different characteristics and provides different user experience. Top brands offer same keyboard model with multiple switch options for all types of users.
By the time you will finish reading this guide you’ll find out which mechanical switch type you should choose.
Which mechanical switch type is best for me?
It depends, there is no one-word answer to this question, some switches are specially designed for gaming, and some are designed for typing, that does not mean you can’t use a gaming keyboard for typing or vice versa. It’s all about user experience and performance.
Here are three main switch types: Linear switches, tactile switches, and clicky switches.
Linear switches feel smooth, and they do not provide any feedback or bump when pressed. If you don’t like tactile feedback and clicky noise, linear switches will not disappoint you.
Tactile switches provide good tactile feedback with a gentle bump when you press the keys.
Clicky switches make clicky noise and provide tactile feedback with a gentle bump when you hit the actuation point. They’re like tactile switches with clicky sound.
Switch manufacturers and their switch types
The most popular manufacturer of mechanical switches is the German company Cherry. Cherry is manufacturing switches since the 90s, and still, most manufacturers use their switches.
Some popular Cherry switches are Cherry MX, they are available in different colors, but the colors have nothing to do with switch design and look, it is used to differentiate between switch types.
Switch types by Cherry:
- Cherry MX Black
- Cherry MX Red
- Cherry MX Blue
- Cherry MX Brown
All of them have different characteristics; you can search them on Google and read about their performance.
Mechanical Switches by top keyboard manufacturers
Razer Green, Razer Orange, Logitech GX, Logitech GL, Romer G, SteelSeries Omnipoint.
Switches from other manufacturers
Kailh Brown/ Red / Blue / Black
Kailh is a Chinese company that produces Cherry MX like switches with good build quality.
What are the quietest mechanical switches?
Cherry MX Silent Red and Cherry MX Silent Black are one of the quietest switches.
What are the loudest mechanical switches?
Cherry MX Blue is a clicky switch that provides good tactile feedback and makes a loud clicky noise.
What are the fastest mechanical switches?
The Steelseries’ Omnipoint switches are claimed to be the fastest mechanical switches, their actuation point is 0.4mm, and the response time is 0.7ms, they also offer per-key actuation feature that lets you change actuation force and actuation point.
Terms Related to Keyboard keys & Switches
If you have read keyboard reviews before you might have searched meanings of some technical terms which you did not know about. It’s important to know the definitions of those terms if you want to find exactly what you need, that’s why we have defined most important technical terms in easy to understand language.
What is the key travel distance?
The distance keys travel from top to bottom is the key travel distance, the travel distance depends upon what switch type your keyboard uses, some switches have low and some have high key travel distance.
What is actuation Point?
Now that you know what key travel distance is, you should also know about the actuation point. The actuation point is also called Pretravel; it is the point where the Keyboard recognizes the keypress and registers the response.
The actuation point is shorter than the key travel distance. For example, some switches have a 4mm travel distance and 2mm actuation point. Thus it’s not required to bottom out the key; the Keyboard will recognize the keypress on its actuation point, which is 2mm.
What is the actuation Force?
The actuation force is the required force to register the keypress response. Some switches require low, and some require high force, the force is measured in Centinewton (cN) or gram-force (gf).
What are keyboard macros?
Macros are used to give multiple instructions with one click; in simple words, they are like shortcuts. Some keyboards come with dedicated macros and allow macro customization using the software. If you are a gamer, macros can enhance your performance and overall experience.
What does anti-ghosting keys mean?
Just like macros, this is another feature that helps improve the gaming experience, it is Anti-ghosting technology, this feature lets you click multiple keys simultaneously. In simple language, it means the Keyboard with anti-ghosting technology will register your response even if you press multiple keys at the same time.
What are floating keycaps?
Keycaps with visible mechanical switches are known as floating keycaps.
What does “Bottom Out” mean?
Pressing a key until it reaches the bottom is “bottom out.” Mechanical switches don’t require key bottom out because they have a short actuation point, so your Keyboard records your response before the key hits the surface.
What are switch stems?
If you have seen a mechanical switch, you must have seen a colored plastic part that connects the switch and the keycap, that colored part is called the switch stem.
What are switch stabilizers?
Switch stabilizers are used for reducing key wobble; you can find them under backspace, enter, shift, and spacebar.
Are TKL keyboards good for programming?
Yes, TKL keyboards are excellent for programmers and writers, they have everything a full-size keyboard offers except the dedicated number pad. Programmers can use numeric keys which are located below the function keys. TKL keyboards are lighter and take less desk space; thus you can easily carry them.
Are TKL keyboards more ergonomic?
Yes, but that does not mean all TKL keyboards have better ergonomic design than other keyboard sizes. TKL keyboards don’t have a dedicated number pad that allows them to be lighter and smaller. If you need to have your hand on the mouse and use W.A.S.D keys, there will be less distance because of the smaller design; thus you do not have to move your hand while gaming or typing.
Tkl keyboard with macro keys?
Tkl keyboards with macro keys are pointless, TKL keyboards are designed to have fewer keys and smaller design, if you want a keyboard with macro keys, you should buy a full-size keyboard.
TKL Keyboards with media Keys?
There are various TKL keyboards with dedicated media keys; some great models are Logitech G915 TKL, SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL, and Corsair K63.
Tkl keyboard with USB passthrough?
The SteelSeries Apex Pro is one of the best TKL keyboards with USB passthrough, it has some exciting features including per-key actuation, and its Omnipoint switches are claimed to be the fastest.
- Mike Epstein, Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition, PC Mag.
- Corsair K63 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, RTINGS.
- Scharon Harding, Logitech G915 TKL Wireless Gaming Keyboard Review, Tom’s Hardware.