40% mechanical keyboards are the most compact format available for sale, except for some keypad models. Unlike 60% keyboards, here not only functional keys are sacrificed, but also arrow keys and numeric keypad at the top. A combination of letter keys with Fn is used to enter numbers and special characters. Their ergonomics and minimalism allow them to be carried and used anywhere, no matter how tight the workspace may be.
At first glance, 40% keyboards may seem impractical due to their very limited functionality. However, by using combined keys, usually around 40 to 45, and commands, one can achieve impressive results while saving space on the desk or in a backpack for work on-the-go. This format is not widely popular among people in regular professions as it is too unfamiliar and requires a lot of time to adapt to. But among computer geeks, programmers, and writers, they are appreciated for their compactness and functionality, creating the impression of a high-tech device in an elegant case.
Top 40% Keyboards Ranking
It can be difficult to find and choose the right 40% keyboard as they are usually only represented by a couple of models in stores. However, since these devices are primarily designed for use by geeks, there are some very interesting options available among them. The variety of shapes and key layouts, as well as designs ranging from classic to bright and flashy gamer styles, allow you to find a model that meets different needs, from controlling a TV to gaming and programming professionals.
The key criteria for determining winners in various categories are compactness – weight and dimensions, as well as the presence of a wireless module and battery life. For office variations, the emphasis is placed on parameters such as typing comfort: keycap type, profile height, smoothness, and key travel force. It is also possible to use such an input device for gaming, although the selection is limited. The main advantages will be the presence of a stylish design, a variety of backlighting options, and a good response time.
- Best overall: DIERYA DK61E
- Best ergonomic: ErgoDox EZ
- Best weight: Vortexgear Core
- Best for gaming: Redragon K585 DITI Wireless
- Best budget: Dye-Sub Top Print DSA Profile PBT Keycap
- Best for typing / work: OLKB Planck
Number of keys
2 x 38
PBT or ABS
Redragon K585 DITI Wireless
Wireless (2.4Ghz adapter)
Dye-Sub Top Print DSA Profile PBT Keycap
PBT or ABS
Key things to know about the best 40% keyboards
DIERYA DK61E 60%
The manufacturer classifies this keyboard as 60%, but given its size, lack of arrow keys and Pg Up/Down buttons, most tech bloggers consider it a transitional model between super-compact and simply compact form factors.
Thanks to this design, the keyboard is great for both gaming and typing. With only 61 keys, it easily fits on a small desk and allows freedom of mouse movement during gameplay. Its functionality is almost unaffected during typing, except for accountants who may miss the Numpad layout.
The DIERYA DK61E has many advantages that easily overshadow its size. The model is IPX4 rated for water and dust resistance, meaning that dust, food residues, and moisture cannot enter inside due to its specially constructed printed circuit board. It features reliable Gateron optical switches, and supports Hot-Swappable function, which means you can change keycaps without disconnecting the keyboard.
The keycaps themselves are made of high-quality PBT plastic using Double-Shot technology, and consist of two parts. This engraving method under the first layer provides durability of the lettering during daily use. It also supports N-Key Rollover, which means each key press is registered separately. Whether in gaming or typing, every touch is registered and memorized. The response time is 1ms or 1000Hz.
There are special pads at the bottom for stability, and the housing is designed to minimize fatigue from prolonged use. The keycap layout and functional features reduce the likelihood of errors. The type of connection is wired via USB Type-C interface, with an L-shaped connector to prevent bending, and a cord in protective braiding. It easily connects to devices running on Windows, Mac OS, and Android operating systems.
It has RGB backlighting with five default modes, and with the application, it can be customized to your liking, including a single-color light.
One significant drawback is the lack of wireless connectivity options, which may not be convenient for use while traveling.
Dimensions: 293 x 101 x 39mm. Weight: 900g.
- Dust and water resistance at IPX4 level;
- Compatible with different operating systems;
- Customizable RGB backlight;
- Hot-Swappable Gateron optical switches;
- Programmable keys;
- 61 keys.
- Wired connection only;
- Cable length of 1.5m.
ErgoDox EZ is a keyboard revolution that has gained recognition among users for its unique design and ergonomics. It is split into two parts, allowing it to be positioned wherever it’s most comfortable and allowing typing across the full width of the shoulders. This posture is more open and natural, eliminating the need to hunch over a narrow body while maintaining maximum mobility.
Another feature is the key layout, which places the keys directly below each other without any offset. This allows the fingers to quickly find the necessary keys and leads to less fatigue. The design also features an ergonomic wrist rest on each half of the keyboard, while special legs on both sides help adjust the desired height and tilt.
The ErgoDox EZ has a powerful and reliable body, confirmed by certificates and a two-year manufacturer’s warranty. Despite this, the keyboard remains highly customizable. Users can change keycaps without soldering and adjust it to their liking without voiding the warranty. For geeks, the manufacturer has left the open source code of the QMK firmware on GitHub. Users can explore and modify the QMK firmware as they please, although the standard settings are already sufficient.
Unique features include graphical configurators, which allow the owner to reassign the keyboard layout and illuminate only the desired areas. The use of multiple layers and Hyper and Meh keys, which do not conflict with system commands, simulate unpopular combinations. The ErgoDox EZ can even replace a mouse with a special mode that simulates movement, button clicks, and scrolling. Using layers and double function keys (holding down), the model allows you to get the functionality of a full-size keyboard in a super compact body.
RGB backlighting is used not only for illumination but also for visualizing the used layers and groups of keys. LEDs can be manually programmed using custom and built-in animation sets.
There are seven options for mechanical switches available. They differ in stiffness and click, while retaining tactile feedback and clarity. This allows you to choose the perfect option for each user. The material of the marked keycaps is ABS, while the plain ones are made of PBT plastic.
There are two main drawbacks: cost and difficulty in mastering the keyboard layout, which is very unusual. However, once mastered, the ErgoDox EZ is perfect for any task thanks to its abundance of modes: for gaming, typing, and even programming. It works with Linux, Windows, and macOS.
The length of the connecting cable (TRRS Cable) is 70 cm, and the USB C power cord is 210 cm.
Dimensions: 152 x 101 x 19 mm. Weight: 2×160 g.
- Wrist rest, adjustable height and angle, low profile
- Quality assembly
- Official 2-year warranty
- Hot-swappable switches, customizable to personal preference
- Open-source firmware
- Mouse mode
- Layers and additional keys
- Programmable RGB lighting
- Takes time to get used to
- Only wired connection
- ABS plastic keycaps with printed legends
- High cost.
This is a mid-range keyboard with no frills, featuring four rows of 47 keys. Despite weighing in at 410g, it stands out with its stylish aluminum casing, reliable construction, and durable PBT plastic keycaps. It can be easily connected to PCs and Macs.
Inside, it uses Cherry MX switches with a characteristic “clicky” sound. Both the keys and backlighting can be programmed, with three colors available: red, blue, and white. Users can highlight the keys they use most often.
The main downside is the use of the outdated USB-Micro interface. However, the detachable cable makes it easy to transport and minimizes the risk of the wire breaking.
Dimensions: 295 x 82 x 38 mm. Weight: 410 g.
- Very compact;
- Reliable aluminum construction;
- PBT plastic;
- Programmable keys;
- Detachable cable.
- Outdated USB-Micro interface;
Redragon K585 Wireless
Typing or working on it is inconvenient because the keyboard is specifically designed for gamers. All control is done with one hand, and the buttons are arranged with maximum emphasis on gaming. There are 7 programmable macro keys, and you can also assign their combinations. All settings are saved to a profile, and you don’t have to reassign them every time. There is a convenient magnetic wrist rest.
You can get used to it fairly quickly – the arrangement of all 42 buttons is convenient, there is an incomplete F-row for voting and other online gaming activities. The keys are pressed with a characteristic click and a small force, which improves tactile sensations during prolonged battles. There is RGB backlighting.
The Redragon K585 uses a 2.4 GHz adapter as a wireless interface. Since this is a gaming model, this solution is better than Bluetooth due to reduced response time and a more stable connection.
The 3000 mAh battery lasts up to 20 hours of active gaming with backlighting. It charges in about 10 hours using fast charging and a detachable USB-C cable.
The main drawback of the Redragon K585 is the use of ABS plastic keycaps. However, the model turned out to be quite affordable precisely because of the short operating time and cost savings on the case materials. The quality of the case assembly is good. The Hot-swappable keycaps support hot-swapping without soldering and are rated for 50 million presses.
The regular model (K585) can work both through the 2.4 GHz adapter and through USB-C. But there is also a wired version, which has the “DITI” prefix in the name.
Dimensions: 280 x 255 x 48 mm. Weight: 630 g.
- Designed for one hand;
- Programmable keys;
- Detachable cord;
- Wired and wireless modes;
- Wrist rest;
- Software available;
- 7 RGB lighting modes.
- Long charging time;
- Up to 20 hours on a single charge;
- ABS plastic keycaps;
- Not suitable for work.
- Improved the grammar and readability of the text;
- Reordered the information for better flow and coherence;
- Added more specific details and explanations to make the text more informative;
- Clarified some of the technical terms used in the original text.
Dye-Sub Top Print DSA Profile PBT Keycap
Budget-friendly option, with low-profile 1.4mm keycaps and durable PBT plastic being among its advantages. The keys are arranged in four rows stacked on top of each other, which speeds up typing and prevents finger fatigue.
There are various delivery options, from the keyboard fully assembled to just the keycaps and plate. In any case, it’s a good choice due to its low cost, high quality, and easy replacement, including the case.
One downside is the lack of Bluetooth technology support. Otherwise, it’s a simple budget keyboard with high-quality keycaps and a waterproof plate.
Dimensions: 250 x 170 x 30 mm. Weight: 200 g.
- The plate can be installed in any suitable profile;
- Low cost;
- PBT plastic and low profile;
- Keys are stacked on top of each other;
- Waterproof plate.
- Does not support wireless operation via Bluetooth;
- No backlighting.
Drop OLKB Planck V6
This keyboard is a joint project between designer Jack Humbert (OLKB) and manufacturer Drop, and it is now in its sixth revision. Previous model issues have been resolved while maintaining compactness and functionality – even including arrow keys. All keys are stacked with space between them, eliminating accidental key presses during fast typing. The design minimizes hand movement, and all non-letter keys are colored differently for visual distinction.
The special feature of this model is that it needs to be assembled by the user. It comes as an OLKB board and an aluminum case, with stainless steel mounting plates, a set of screws, nuts, rubber pads, and a Drop key. The new Planck comes with MX switch plates, but it can work with any other MX clone switches. The kit includes everything needed for self-assembly. This approach will appeal to geeks but may stymie ordinary users – but it is worth it.
Drop OLKB Planck V6 allows for the creation of a highly personalized keyboard for each user. Everything can be changed from the case to the hot-swappable keycaps without soldering. The updated version also features a new ARM STM32 processor, which guarantees more stable operation and supports USB-C. There is an initially programmed layout, but it can be changed to suit personal preferences using the keyboard reset button. All changes are saved in layers and do not require constant adjustment.
The case is made of strong and lightweight aluminum in various colors: yellow, red, green, black, purple, and white. The keycaps come in three colors: white, black, and green.
There are three clear downsides: high cost, lack of backlighting, and wireless support. The keyboard is sold as a kit, and almost all parts can be selected, but even without keycaps and switches, the price exceeds $100. Backlighting is available in higher-end 60% models.
The Drop OLKB Planck V6 is excellent for typing, as it allows users to configure and choose everything from switch type and keycap material to case color and standard layout parameters.
It works with Mac and Windows devices.
Dimensions: 234 x 81 x 33 mm. Weight: 510 g.
- Option to choose components, keycaps, case, switches
- Hot-swappable keycaps
- Fully programmable layout
- Color variety
- Arrow keys in a compact form factor
- Convenient button placement, reducing finger movement
- Must be self-assembled
- Wired connection only
- No backlighting
- No wrist rest
- High cost.
Advantages of 40% Keyboards
Compactness and ergonomics are the two main advantages, from which all the drawbacks follow. They can easily fit on any desk, be carried in a backpack, and can be used even while traveling. Their small size allows for the maximum comfort and unconventional design.
Disadvantages of 40% Keyboards
It cannot be said that the main drawback is the lack of buttons. They exist, it’s just that their usage is associated with the use of combinations and layers. Therefore, the main disadvantage is the need for time to get used to them, and then the loss of some functional keys.
Also, this form factor usually comes with a higher price, and there are few models available or not in stock.
Are there more compact options than 40% keyboards?
No, but among them, there are ergonomic models and keypads that are smaller than standard keyboards.
How to choose a model for gaming?
It is advisable to choose ergonomic keyboards with a wrist rest and wired connection. For wireless keyboards, it is best to choose those with a 2.4 GHz adapter. If you prefer to play in the dark, choose a keyboard with quality RGB backlighting. Additional macro keys, hot-swappable keycaps, and keycaps made of durable, non-fading PBT plastic are also great features to look for.
What parameters should I pay attention to when choosing?
Pay attention to how the keyboard works with layers, key combinations, and the ability to reassign keys since the limited number of buttons does not allow for full functionality. It is important to choose an input device with a large battery if you plan to work on the go. A 4000 mAh battery can be used continuously for more than a day with the backlight on. Also, check the support for operating systems, wireless interfaces, and charging ports – ideally, it should be USB Type-C.
Wired or wireless?
For gaming, it is better to use a wired keyboard. For work, a combined keyboard is recommended. Give preference to models with a large battery, fast charging, and Bluetooth. They can easily be connected to different operating systems and support working with multiple devices.
Is it convenient to work with a 40% keyboard?
It depends on the tasks and type of keyboard, but in most cases, they are good for typing and programming. In any case, it will take some time to adjust, and with ergonomic options, it may take longer. However, the comfortable shape, low profile, and wrist rest allow for extended use without fatigue.
A 40% keyboard is designed for geeks and people who need to type on the go or in limited space conditions. Despite their small size, they are perfect for gamers, writers, and anyone who needs a keyboard with just letter keys and space for a mouse.