Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot more sixty percent keyboards enter the fold. As someone who’s been an enthusiast for years, having a smaller keyboard isn’t abnormal—I happen to be typing on one right now, but more on why later.
Where things become intriguing is the reasoning for the sudden explosion of nifty sixties onto the market. For instance, Razer’s Huntsman Mini features its all-singing and all-dancing optical switches that are usually reserved for its high-speed gaming boards. For me, this presented an intriguing conundrum: do people really use sixty percent keyboards for gaming and if so, how does it feel?
Well, PC Gamer sent me on my merry way to find out.
When choosing a keyboard for this task, there were a few things to consider, chief among which were switches. I didn’t want something too gamer like the Huntsman Mini, but didn’t want to go all the way out there with some super-specialist option from a manufacturer only known to a handful of people.
Size: TKL Mini (60%)
Switches: Cherry MX
Extra features: 5 dip switch settings, USB 2.0 port
In the end, I settled on the Filco Majestouch MINILA-R Convertible which was handed over to me by The Keyboard Company here in the UK. This board feels a handy halfway house between the usual mainstream picks and other enthusiast-level options from Varmilo and other manufacturers.
It’s a wireless 60% with Cherry MX Brown switches inside which, on a personal level, are the best all-round switches in the MX arsenal. Being tactile with a little bump means they’re great for typing, and an actuation force of 55cN means they’re also light enough for the hours of gaming I’d be doing.
The MINILA-R Convertible is also incredibly well-built being made of some rather hard plastics and features no deck flex whatsoever. I’m convinced you could run a tank over it and it would remain intact.
With the board chosen, it was now time to get into some games and begin my quest into whether it’s possible to game on a sixty percent keyboard.
One of the first, and arguably more obvious, problems you’re confronted with when using a 60% to game with are the obvious omissions of arrow keys, nav cluster and number pad. I’ve always been a big arrow keys user in some games, so at least this was just a simple case of training my fingers to use WASD like any other normal gamer does.
The big problem of being without a number pad, though, is the inability to program macros as you’re severely limited on space. Some boardshave additional software that can be used to program macros to the on-board memory of the keyboard, but the MINILA-R I'm using is not one of them.
That said, in utilising my usual testing grounds of CS:GO to pwn noobs, as you do, (or in my case, bots, don’t judge), the MINILA-R performed rather well indeed. The lack of arrow keys in this instance wasn’t especially noticeable, nor was the lack of num pad. There’s not really a need if you’re more of a casual player to program macros, or third-party buying commands within CS:GO, so a smaller layout wins here, for me on the point of overall functionality.
It also wins on the fact there’s more space to use your mouse on your desk as opposed to a full-size board, and if you have a teensy desk investing in a super-sensitive mouse to go along with your smaller keyboard would also be advisable. My rodent of choice was Razer’s Basilisk V3, and certainly having more desk space thanks to using a 60% was a welcome change, especially in FPS games.
If you’re also a gamer on the go too, a 60% would also be my go-to option due to that space-saving layout. In actual fact, as I’m off to university in a matter of weeks, this Filco board will be one of the first things in my bag thanks to its smaller stature.
However, it’s at this point where things become a little sticky. I do, on occasion, play MOBA or MMO titles like League of Legends (albeit to only test MOBA mice) and if there’s an awful lot of things to program, this is where a 60% falls down a little. That lack of the num pad to have a dedicated function zone as it were did take some getting used to, although with some time spent rebinding keys, it did become that bit more intuitive.
You might be finding yourself asking “But Reece, what about RGB? How does that affect my game?” Well, to that dear reader I’ll tell you that it makes no difference whatsoever. As much as having RGB seems to be a stalwart of the ‘gaming keyboard’ fold at the moment, it’s of course only cosmetic. Alright, maybe my setup didn’t look as cool with the MINILA-R on my desk, but it sure as hell didn’t affect my game.
So, should you use a 60% keyboard for gaming? It depends on what games you’re playing. If you’re like me and you dip in and out of FPS games and are more into sims like ETS2 and Football Manager, then it doesn’t matter a flying flamingo which keyboard you use, as your most-used functions will be in the same place.
However, if you’re heavy into MMO and MOBA titles, you can make do with a nifty sixty, but if you want an assortment of functions at your fingertips, it’s probably better if you go for a full-size keyboard. For that I’ll tell you to check out our best gaming keyboards list.
The bottom line is this though: Sixty percent keyboards have become ludicrously popular as they’re space-savers and my honest view is to game on what keyboard you feel comfortable. If you’re indecisive, pick up a couple to test them out and just see what works best.