The tenkeyless (TKL) layout is an excellent choice for those who want a smaller keyboard without dealing with a radically different layout or complex function layers. It splits the difference between full-sized and compact 60%-style keyboards nicely, making it a safe choice no matter your experience level. If you’ve been itching to downsize but need help finding the best TKL keyboard, you’ve come to the right place.
Our list of the best tenkeyless keyboards covers all the essential categories: budget-friendly, wireless, DIY, and even a high-end premium option. While there are too many keyboards on the market to claim that our list is definitive, we’re confident that our list will help you pick out the right TKL mechanical keyboard for you.
The Best Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboards
|Switch Type(s)||Cherry MX Black/Blue/Brown/Red/Speed Silver/Silent Red (Hot-swap)|
|Keycap Material||Double-shot PBT|
|Programming||Macros and limited remapping|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||17.71 x 5.51 x 1.57 inches|
Ducky’s new One 3 TKL gets all the important aspects of a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard right, while adding a few welcome extras that set it apart from most of the competition. It starts with the new in-house double-shot PBT keycaps. These retain Ducky’s signature keycap quality but open up a whole new range of colorway options impossible with traditional dye-sub PBT.
Beyond the great stock keycaps, Ducky ships all One 3 keyboards with a layer of EVA foam pre-installed beneath the PCB. Installing EVA or poron foam is a typical enthusiast mod designed to dampen a keyboard’s stock sound, so it’s great to see a keyboard ship “pre-modded.” The company also claims that it’s “fine-tuned” the stabilizers, often a weak point of many mainstream mechanical keyboards.
We also appreciate that Ducky offers a decent number of switch options for the One 3 TKL. Usually, hot-swap keyboards only come with basic switch types since they expect you to swap them yourselves. That’s not the case with the One 3 TKL, though. You get Cherry MX Black, Silver, and Silent Red options alongside the usual Brown, Blue, and Red.
If there’s a downside to the One 3 TKL, it’s that it lacks the full programmability we’re used to on modern keyboards. You still get macro recording and limited key remapping, but we would’ve loved to see a fully programmable keyboard. Even cheap keyboards come with proprietary software for remapping and custom RGB modes these days, so there’s really no excuse.
You get six onboard macro profiles, all accessible via keyboard shortcuts. As far as remapping goes, the One 3 lets you remap seven keys: Escape; Caps Lock; both Control, Alt, and Windows keys; and the Function key. There are also a bunch of pre-programmed shortcuts for multimedia controls, launching basic programs, and moving the mouse cursor.
Overall, the Ducky One 3 TKL is an excellent TKL keyboard that continues Ducky’s tradition of great mainstream keyboards. It’s not as flashy as all the $200+ aluminum keyboards out there, but it has it where it counts.
|Switch Type(s)||Logitech GL Clicky/Tactile/Linear|
|Keycap Material||Double-shot ABS|
|Programming||Macros and lighting|
|Connectivity||Micro-USB, Bluetooth, Logitech Lightspeed 2.4 GHz|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||14.48 x 5.90 x 0.86 inches|
Logitech’s G915 TKL is an impressively well-rounded keyboard. Not only is it an excellent gaming keyboard, but it also excels at being a low-profile and wireless keyboard. If you want a board that covers multiple bases, this is the keyboard for you.
The G915 TKL uses Logitech’s in-house GL switches, ideal for gamers that want a light and responsive switch. These low-profile switches come in three flavors: clicky, tactile, and linear. All three switches have the same core specs: 1.5 mm of pre-travel, 2.7 mm of total travel, and 50 gf of actuation force.
Logitech’s Lightspeed 2.4 GHz wireless connection is a further boon for gamers, giving you a 1ms response time indistinguishable from a conventional wired connection. Of course, you can still use Bluetooth, and it’ll come in handy if you want to connect to multiple devices simultaneously. Logitech claims an impressive 40 hours of battery life at 100% backlight brightness.
The G915 TKL retains some of the full-size G915’s standout features. The volume roller is still present, as are the dedicated media keys and macro functionality. The TKL doesn’t have the dedicated macro keys of the full-size G915 (one of our favorite low-profile keyboards), so they’re slightly less convenient to access. But that’s nothing you can’t get used to.
One welcome feature for gamers is that you can customize the keys that the G915 TKL’s built-in Game Mode disables. Like most other “game mode” toggles, it only disables the Windows keys by default. But you can use Logitech G Hub to change that to whichever keys you prefer.
Overall, the Logitech G915 TKL is an excellent option for the avid gamer. You get a low-latency wireless connection, solid macro functionality, and responsive mechanical switches in a well-built package. It’s expensive, but we think the price is justified given the overall package.
3. Keychron K8
|Switch Type(s)||• Gateron G Pro Mechanical Blue/Brown/Red
• Gateron Optical Blue/Brown/Red
• Keychron Optical Blue/Brown/Red
|Keycap Material||Double-shot ABS|
|Connectivity||USB Type-C, Bluetooth|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||14.1 x 5 x 1.65 inches (aluminum bezel) / 13.9 x 4.84 x 1.65 (plastic frame)|
|Weight||1.9 pounds (aluminum) / 1.6 pounds (plastic)|
The Keychron K8 is a relatively no-frills wireless TKL keyboard designed to offer a decent typing experience without going overboard on the price. If you want wireless without any of the extra bells and whistles of the Logitech G915 TKL, then the K8 is a board you should check out.
As with most Keychron keyboards, the K8 comes in a few varieties. There are plastic and aluminum bezel versions, each with the choice of Gateron G Pro, Gateron Optical, or Keychron Optical switches. And if that wasn’t potentially confusing enough, the G Pro Mechanical version also comes in soldered and hot-swap versions. Thankfully, the other switch choices are hot-swappable by default. Confusing? That’s par for the course for Keychron.
No matter which version you get, the K8 comes with a decently-sized 4000 mAh battery that’s good for “up to 72 hours” with RGB lighting. This goes up to “240 hours” with the backlight turned off. Granted, these are lab tests and might not reflect real-world use, but we’re confident that you won’t have any issues with battery life on the K8.
Like most of Keychron’s range, the K8 isn’t programmable. You get two built-in layouts (Mac and Windows) and 18 RGB backlight modes, but you’re otherwise stuck with software remapping solutions. It’s not a deal-breaker, and it’s fine if the K8 is your only keyboard. However, those (like me) who swap between keyboards with vastly different layouts will likely prefer remapping directly on the keyboard instead.
But that’s more of a mechanical keyboard nerd nitpick; it likely won’t be an issue for the average consumer interested in the Keychron K8. And that’s the whole point of Keychron’s range. They’re not keyboards for the nerds and enthusiasts. Instead, they’re perfect for the more casual user (or budding hobbyist) who wants a classy upgrade from a membrane keyboard or entry-level mechanical keyboard.
The Keychron K8 is also available with a white backlight at a slightly lower price.
|Switch Type(s)||Topre electro-capacitive 45g/55g|
|Keycap Material||Dye-sub PBT|
|Connectivity||Fixed USB cable|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||14.5 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches|
Yes, the Realforce R2 TKL is an expensive keyboard. That’s impossible to deny, and the price undoubtedly puts it out of the reach of most users. But if you’re after one of the best typing experiences possible, this is a keyboard you’ll want to consider.
The main appeal of the Realforce R2 (and other Topre boards) is its electro-capacitive Topre switches. These are rubber dome switches, but they’re far from the mushy, imprecise typing feel you might expect. Instead, Topre’s combination of rubber domes and capacitive sensing results in a crisp, tactile typing experience that’s hard to beat.
It’s not just the switches that feel great, either. Realforce keyboards have always had excellent keycaps, which hasn’t changed with the R2. These are thick dye-sublimated PBT keycaps, and they’re a joy to type on. They’re somewhat similar to a Cherry profile but with taller top rows. No idea what that means? Check out our guide to keycaps for a quick rundown of some popular keycap profiles.
The Realforce R2 comes in three different switch weights: 55g, 45g, and variable. Variable offers a mix of weights arranged in a supposedly ergonomic layout that’s heavier in the center and lighter towards the edges of the alphanumeric keys. I enjoy it, but it’s not for everyone. 45g is what I’d recommend as it offers the signature Topre “snap” without being too taxing on the fingers.
One big issue with the Realforce R2 TKL (and most Topre keyboards) is that you don’t get many extra features to justify the price. Sure, the typing experience is excellent, but you’re stuck with a fixed USB cable and zero programming beyond the ability to swap Caps Lock and Control.
That said, you can at least change each key’s actuation point in software. You get three choices: 1.5 mm, 2.2 mm, or 3.5 mm. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend Topre for gaming, the option to change actuation points makes them slightly more viable. And it’s a welcome value-add that might help with the sticker shock.
Overall, the Realforce R2 TKL is a special keyboard for a particular type of keyboard user. Gamers and casual hobbyists should look elsewhere, but heavy-duty typists will find much to love here. The Realforce R2 TKL is also available in black.
|Switch Type(s)||Outemu Blue/Brown/Red|
|Keycap Material||Double-shot ABS|
|Programming||Macros and lighting|
|Connectivity||Fixed USB cable|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||13.9 x 4.9 x 1.4 inches|
The Redragon K552 is one of the most popular mechanical keyboards of recent times, with over 40,000 Amazon reviews in total for both versions. You might think that’s solely down to its sub-$50 price, but the K552 is a great bang-for-buck board with a decent typing feel and solid build quality.
The K552 feels surprisingly good to hold and type on, primarily due to the presence of an aluminum backplate. The main body is plastic, but the plate adds rigidity and heft, making it feel more substantial than the price would otherwise indicate.
You get to choose between Outemu Blue, Brown, and Red switches. These are clones of Cherry’s equivalently-colored switches and offer a similar typing experience. The Outemu Blue, in particular, is almost an exact match for Cherry’s Blue switches. So if you want a clicky mechanical keyboard but can’t afford MX Blues, these are the next best thing.
There are two versions of the Redragon K552. There’s the full RGB version, which we’ve linked above, and the original “rainbow RGB” version, which is a bit cheaper. There’s not much in it, though, and we think you might as well get the RGB version given the less than $10 price difference.
The Redragon K552 is customizable using Redragon’s proprietary software. Note that the software only supports the per-key RGB version, not the cheaper rainbow version. The software lets you do basic tasks such as record macros and configure your lighting scheme.
Overall, the Redragon K552 deserves its massive popularity. Yes, you can get better keyboards with higher-quality keycaps and more full-featured software. But the Redragon K552 will serve you well if you’re just getting into the hobby or need a cheap keyboard in a pinch.
|Switch Type(s)||Cherry MX hot-swap (3-pin only)|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||14.5 x 5.5 x 1.75 inches (without keycaps)|
|Weight||4.25 pounds (without switches and caps)|
The Drop CTRL is the perfect keyboard for those of you in search of a satisfying do-it-yourself experience. Admittedly, it’s not entirely on par with some of the high-end custom mechanical keyboards. But it’s a great keyboard if you want an accessible DIY project that you can put together over a cup of coffee or two.
The Drop CTRL comes in two versions. The standard CTRL has a “floating key” design, where the switches and keycaps rise above the frame. We prefer the High-Profile version, which has a more traditional raised body that covers the switches and only leaves the keycaps standing proud.
Both versions are fully aluminum boards with integrated plates, making for a relatively stiff typing feel. The CTRL also has the fixed typing angle common to aluminum boards. Six degrees isn’t the most extreme angle we’ve seen, but it will take some getting used to if you’re coming from a standard membrane keyboard.
The Drop CTRL is fully programmable using Drop’s online configurator. It lets you remap keys, set up extra function layers, and set per-key and underglow RGB. It’s a decent enough configuration tool, with the only significant negative being that it’s online-only.
The keyboard itself also has a couple of negatives. First up is the sub-par stock stabilizers, which many users recommend tuning or replacing outright. Secondly, the all-aluminum construction does amplify any pinging or ringing sounds that come from your switches. But laying some sound-dampening foam between the case and PCB should resolve that.
Overall, both versions of the Drop CTRL are worth considering if you want a heavy, all-aluminum TKL keyboard that you can build exactly to your preferences. It might take some work to get it perfect, but that’s just part of the fun of a DIY kit.
Tenkeyless mechanical keyboards aren’t as novel as they used to be, that’s for sure. The increasing popularity of compact keyboard sizes such as 75% and 60% makes the TKL seem slightly old-fashioned. But the best TKL keyboards prove that there’s a lot of life left in the layout, no matter how popular its smaller rivals get.
If you have the cash, the Ducky One 3 TKL is arguably the obvious choice. It’s not the flashiest board, but it’ll be great to type on and last for many years to come. On the other end of the spectrum, the Redragon K522 continues to be a great budget TKL pick. The price shows in the cheap keycaps and plasticky feel, but it’s OK to type on and is still a massive upgrade over a cheap membrane keyboard.