In Search of the Perfect Compact, Wireless, Mechanical Keyboard

iKBC Poker II Keyboard in White

My futile search for the perfect 60% wireless mechanical keyboard.

An open letter to the makers of bespoke mechanical keyboards, from a fan without the time and passion for building my own from parts.

I need a keyboard with these attributes

There are a lot of mechanical keyboards. There are a lot of compact mechanical keyboards. There are a lot less wireless mechanical keyboards, and way less that combine the above features with good function key placement at the small form factor.

Poker II

The keyboard / keyboard layout that comes closest to hitting these needs, but only offers a wired connection, is the Poker II model keyboards from iKBC.

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They look great, in all white/black colorways with the option for RGB function keys. The keyboard is a true 60% layout, moving function keys to a separate function layer on top of the keyboard. Most successfully, re-mapping arrow keys to FN+WASD for a very seamless arrow key usage while coding.

If the Poker II was wireless, this post wouldn’t exist. It’s an awesome keyboard that meets almost every need.

Keychron K6

Keychron is a company making wireless mechanical keyboards mostly built on Gateron mechanical switches. They’ve got many options for form factors, including a 65% key layout that was very attractive to me in the Keychron K6.

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I tried the K6, loving it’s design and production quality. It looked great on my desk, wire-free. However, my experience typing was frustrating. I realized that I rely as much on the key layout edges as I do the home keys to orient myself when using a keyboard for an extended period of time. I found myself reaching for the right edge of keys to know where to place my hands, and each time being off just slightly.

It comes down to the key layout of this compact keyboard. K6 did a novel thing by moving some helpful functions to a vertical strip on the right side of the board. Most importantly, it enabled a real T-shaped arrow key layout in a super-compact keyboard.

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However, in practice, I felt like this extra column was always adding an accidental offset to my hand placement. My right pinky would reach for an edge or gutter in the key layout when moving my hand back to the board, find it, and be a column off.

Compare to my Poker II

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Or the Apple Magic Keyboard

magic keyboard

Each of which has a consistent right edge, one less than the Keychron layout. Even full-layout keyboards like my UNICOMP has a built in gutter to the right of backspace/enter/shift on the right side of the primary layout.

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Needless to say, my minuscule annoyance at the Keychron gutter-buttons was enough for me to return it.

Keychron K8

Currently, I’ve decided to stick with Keychron, but moved to the more spacious K8 tenkeyless keyboard layout.

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The K8 adds separate function keys and arrow key cluster separate from the core keys. Similar in layout to standard keyboard layouts like the UNICOMP, sans number keypad.

I’m happy with the convenience of the K8 layout, the quality of this wireless board, and the design of their products in general.

However, I’m still pining for that perfect 60% wireless mechanical keyboard.

If any enthusiasts out there are reading, and know of an awesome keyboard meeting my description, let me know @ajkueterman

P.S.

I’m not done looking! A few keyboards I plan to consider in the future…