The Best 75% Keyboard
The popularity of squishing keyboards into smaller form factors has increased quite a bit in the past couple of years. The standard sizes have been “full” and “tenkeyless” or TKL for a long time, so if you need the number pad, you went with full size, and if you didn’t, you got a TKL. Nowadays, there are lot more options, but as a developer/gamer, I have landed at the 75% layout being my favorite. It includes all of the functionality of a TKL keyboard while taking up half the space on your desk, allowing all the extra room for activities like epic mouse flicks and sick headshots, or if you prefer that minimal vibe. I went on a hunt to find the best one.
- 75% Layout
- Easily buyable (no customs or unreleased keyboards)
- Dedicated delete, print screen, home, and end keys (these are all keys I use very commonly in my day to day work)
- Arrow keys (this is pretty much a given at 75%, but I couldn’t survive without them, so I included it)
- Detachable USB-C Cable
- Blue switches (I work by myself and like the clicky switches for typing)
- Hot-swappable switches (I would prefer it in case I decide to upgrade the switches in the future)
- Bluetooth & 2.4 GHz dongle (I prefer the dongle for the no-nonsense setup and slightly less latency)
- Doubleshot PBT keycaps
- A Low frame (I’m not too fond of wrist rests)
The one I wanted to win…
The Royal Kludge RK84 is the most ascetically pleasing of the keyboards on deck for the comparison, with white shine through high-quality double-shot OEM profile ABS keycaps, and a very low body, with a frame that you can remove (as seen in the image above). It is hot-swappable, but by default, it comes with TTC switches, which are a Chinese Cherry clone, and surprisingly the blues felt better to me than the Gateron switches you see in most keyboards at this price point. The legends are clear, connected, and professional looking with crips shine through for plenty of RGB options. It also provides a USB pass-through for two USB type A connections in wired mode, which worked great for things like a mouse dongle etc.
The software and firmware are hosted on a sketchy Google Drive, so I can’t recommend anyone using it. However, it does work nicely, and profiles are stored to onboard memory, so you don’t need the software on every computer. This is the only keyboard that promises all three ways to connect (wired, 2.4 GHz, and Bluetooth), but unfortunately, it does not deliver. That is the biggest downfall of this keyboard for me. Both the Bluetooth AND the 2.4 GHz wireless do not perform well at all. The 2.4 GHz range is very short unless you plug it into a powered USB hub, and even then, it seems to work for about 20 minutes of use, and then it started missing keys and is very glitchy. At first, it only seemed to happen when typing quickly (I type at around 80 WPM), and I thought it might have just been a limitation to the Bluetooth connection, but then I tried some of the other boards on our list, and they felt much better!
- Low base body, with removable frame
- Ascetically pleasing
- High-quality professional-looking double-shot ABS keycaps
- TTC switches felt surprisingly nice
- USB Passthrough
- The wireless is borderline unusable
- Sketchy software that Google flags as a virus
Amazon Affiliate Link
Royal Kludge RK84: https://amzn.to/3q97lgZ
The Keychron K2 was supposed to be the keyboard that checks all the boxes, but in the end, it was a bit of a letdown. Although they are double-shot OEM profile ABS keycaps, the legends are muddy and unreadable on some keys. The Gateron switches came unlubed and did not feel great. It is hot-swappable, but I don’t want to have the added cost of immediately swapping both the switches and the keycaps. The biggest let down of this board is the chassis. Don’t bother getting the “aluminum” version as just the outer frame is aluminum, while the base is still plastic. All of that may have been forgivable, but the base is very tall, and the board overall lays flat. This is the second version, which is supposed to have a bit more angle than the first, but the height still makes this keyboard unusable for me, and I don’t want to use a wrist rest. The Bluetooth does connect and switch quickly, and I had no problems with the connection. The chassis is also very hollow sounding, and I had plans to mod it by taking it apart and adding foam to the chassis, but I feel like if they had flattened out the board, it would both reduce that hollow clunky sound AND bring the board down to a more comfortable height.
- Wireless connection was reliable
- Way too tall to use without a wrist rest
- Hollow sounding, with poor design
- Slightly deceptive marketing with the “Aluminum Frame” version
- Scratchy Gateron switches
- Cheap keycaps with muddy hard to read legends
Amazon Affiliate Links
Hot-Swap White LED V2: https://amzn.to/3e0ccOK
RGB V2: https://amzn.to/2ZW9TnL
If you decide to pick up the K2, make sure to look for V2 (and not all are hot-swappable if that is important to you)!
The winner is… the Yunzii Akko 3084 Upgraded Keyboard. Note this is the “upgraded” new version; double-check that before you order (or use my links). This keyboard comes in a wide variety of Gateron switches, but I went with the Blue Akko gen 2 switches, and they feel great! The stabilizers come lubed from the factory, and while it might not be perfect, it is way better than the previous boards I’ve tried. The chassis is low to the desk (not at low as the RK84, but still nice). The Bluetooth connects and switches fast and is very reliable. I have not been able to outpace the connection as I could with the RK board. Latency feels pretty good for Bluetooth, and I would say is ok for gaming (obviously not as good as a wired connection or some of the proprietary connections that some gaming keyboards provide, but good enough). They are Dye-Sub PBT OEM profile keycaps, so no double-shot here, but the legends are very readable and feel like they would not wear off any time soon. This is backlit, but the keycaps are not shine-through, and there are no options for RGB. This keyboard’s overall feel and functionality are why it’s the best pick for me, although if RK ever sorts out all of the wireless issues, my opinion could change! I picked up a nice set of quality thick double-shot Cherry profile PBT keycaps and it gave the board a whole new look and the lower profile feels great!
- Reliable and fast wireless Bluetooth connection
- Lubed Stabilizers
- Great Feeling Gen 2 Akko Switches
- PBT Keycaps
- Semi-low profile Chasis
- Retro theme (I don’t love the aesthetic)
- Dye-Sub not double-shot keycaps
- Difficult to mod (I struggled to get the plastic frame apart to add some sound dampening foam)
- Not hot-swappable
Amazon Affiliate Links
Yunzii Akko 3084 Upgraded Keyboard: https://amzn.to/3aZE1VF Quality PBT Keycaps: https://amzn.to/2OaFFKY
Obviously, this is not an all exhaustive list of 75% boards out there, but these were the ones that checked most of the boxes for me without going custom. If you don’t really need the function row, all of the boards offered above also come in a 65% version. I may follow up about 65% keyboards if I can find one that allows me to map the functional keys on the right to home, end, delete, and print screen because I don’t necessarily need the function row.
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