A full size keyboard usually refers to some of the larger keyboards that are purchased with computers. They typically include all alphabet keys, most often arranged in the QWERTY configuration, which include the row of numbers and symbols above the letters, function keys, shift, space, directional keys with arrows, and a number pad located to the right of the keys, which may be helpful in ten-key and data entry operations. Such keyboards are generally at least 17 inches (43.18 cm) wide and about 6 inches (15.24 cm) or more deep.
There are distinct advantages to a full size keyboard because it contains all the extra keys, and plenty of space to type with generous spaces in between keys. It’s roughly similar to key space and width of typewriters, though a bit smaller, and it may be appreciated by those who learned to type on a typewriter instead of smaller computer keyboards. Smaller keyboards are certainly widely available, and they may save space by eliminating some keys, shrinking space in between keys or doing both. These may not be as easy to work with for those used to full sized keyboards, though they have their advantages too, and have been particularly appreciated for use with small-sized laptops. Shrinking the keyboard can mean reducing overall weight and size of a laptop, though there’s been some movement back toward larger ones, especially for people who want larger screens or larger keyboards.
With some of the very small devices that require keyboards, it may be easier to use a mini keyboard or at least a smaller plug in. Those who do want access to a full size keyboard for things like texting from a personal organizer or cellphone do have some options. There are now laser keyboards that project keys onto a surface and sense which keys are being touched. Another option are flexible or foldable keyboards which are fairly simple to use and easy to pack.
Even though a full size keyboard may be desirable, many people prefer smaller keyboards. They may be easier to set in the lap, they’re usually lighter and they take up less space on a desk. They pack quickly into laptop bags, and this may be helpful for those who prefer a keyboard larger than one that comes with their laptop and yet not a full size version. Some feel that elimination of certain keys on smaller keyboards is no problem because they don’t routinely use things like direction pads or 10-key pads in any case.
There is another definition for this term. A full-sized keyboard can also refer to synthesizers or electric pianos that contain a certain amount of keys or that have key size and spacing similar to that on most pianos. This may be a little confusing since a synthesizer called full size might only have 61 keys, while the average piano has about 88. However what is meant by full size here is that key size and space between keys is close to standard piano size.
How Many Keys Are on a Full-Size Keyboard?
There are 104 keys on a full-size keyboard. These include a number pad on the right side, arrow keys, Home cluster keys, function keys, and the main cluster of letters and a number row.
Compare this to other types of keyboards. For example, the 1800 compact keyboard, sometimes called a 96% keyboard, is slightly smaller than a full-size keyboard and can be considered an alternative type of full-size keyboard because it contains the same number of keys. Space is saved by placing the number keys below the Enter key, for instance, and the Home key cluster rests higher up near the number pad.
A third type is the Tenkeyless or TKL keyboard, sometimes referred to as an 80% keyboard. A TKL keyboard does not have a number pad and contains 87 keys. Because many people have little need for a number pad, they may prefer the smaller size of the TKL.
The 75% keyboard is slightly smaller than a TKL. The arrangement on a 75% keyboard is modified to fit the smaller size. Gaps between keys are omitted, and the arrow keys are placed directly beneath the Enter key. The Home key cluster, which typically has a horizontal alignment, is placed vertically. Some 75% keyboards lessen the size of the Shift key.
There are even smaller types of keyboards, such as the 65%, 60%, and 40%. 60% keyboards have 61 keys. In addition to the number pad being removed, the Home cluster and arrow keys are omitted. Function keys are subtracted. With 40% keyboards, there are only 47 keys that contain only the main cluster keys.
Which Keyboard Is Right For You?
The size of your keyboard is totally up to you and depends on your needs. Many prefer full-size keyboards for the sake of convenience or productivity. Others find smaller keyboards more comfortable and like to save space on their desk. Smaller keyboards tend to be lighter and also less expensive.
Your profession matters, too. If you’re an accountant or in any job involving data entry, you probably would prefer to keep the number pad. Gamers may benefit from 60% keyboards, which omit keys that are generally not used in games.
What Is the Difference Between Membrane and Mechanical Keyboards?
Membrane keyboards use silicon-based elastic devices to register keystrokes. Unlike a mechanical keyboard, which uses individual switches to register keystrokes, the membrane is all one piece. Mechanical keyboards use springs installed underneath each key. Because they’re individual keys, those on a mechanical keyboard can be replaced and customized. However, if one key fails on a membrane keyboard, the entire keyboard will need to be replaced.
There are pros and cons to each type. Membrane keyboards are less expensive than mechanical keyboards. They’re also quieter, with no “click” with each keystroke that a mechanical keyboard has. They tend to be both lighter and smaller.
Mechanical keyboards are the older type but are still very popular today. To best understand the difference between a mechanical and a membrane keyboard, one merely needs to type on each. The feel is very different, and many prefer the more tactile sensation of the mechanical keyboard. While the distinctive “click” of a mechanical key being pressed is louder than a keystroke on a membrane keyboard, some may prefer this louder sound, as it offers an audible feeling of the key being pressed. While mechanical keyboards are heavier and larger than their membrane counterparts, they are sturdier; if a key fails, one can replace the individual key without needing to replace the entire unit.
Not all mechanical keyboards have the “click” feature. Two subtypes of mechanical keyboards, linear and tactile, do not have a “click” sound on the keypress. Tactile mechanical keyboards have the “bump” feeling just like “clicky” mechanical keyboards do, but linear mechanical keyboards have neither a bump nor a click. Thus, if the loudness of a traditional “clicky” mechanical keyboard is a downside for you, there are quieter mechanical keyboards available.
Gamers, in particular, tend to appreciate mechanical keyboards, as they are highly customizable, durable, and have a less “sticky” feel than membrane keyboards. Higher-end mechanical keyboards, while expensive, offer a multitude of functions that can’t be replicated on a membrane keyboard.
Ultimately, it comes down to preference. If you’re used to membrane keyboards, you may find a learning curve switching to mechanical. On the other hand, mechanical keyboards offer distinct advantages and are generally considered superior to membrane keyboards, the latter’s advantage primarily being price.