40 Percent Keyboard: What is it and How Do I Get One?

40 Percent keyboards are perhaps some of the least common models available. The inherent nature of such a small keyboard immediately turns off most buyers due to the varying limitations of such a device. 40 percent keyboards may not be super popular, or easy to find, but they do serve some very useful functions to those in the know.

If you’re reading this article, it’s probably safe to assume you aren’t too sure what a 40 percent keyboard is and perhaps had never even heard of one until very recently. That’s understandable – most people haven’t. Luckily for you though, this article is going to explain precisely what a 40 percent keyboard is, where it excels and where it’s limitations lie, and even how to get one for yourself.

A 40 percent keyboard is a compact keyboard with only about 40-45 keys. Its name describes it’s size compared to a full-size keyboard. These Keyboards are rarely produced by big companies and the majority of them are custom made by mechanical keyboard hobbyists.

Despite you momentarily having never of heard of such a keyboard I can almost guarantee you that you could make good use of such a small and convenient keyboard in your day to day life.

Incidentally, whereas you would ordinarily find that people who extensively use keyboards for work or play make better use out of these niche keyboards than your everyday Joe, this time around it’s the casual user who is perhaps most likely to gain the most use – you’ll understand why that is as we dig further into the article.

40 Percent Keyboard: What is it and How Do I Get One?
40 Percent Keyboard: What is it and How Do I Get One?

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In a hurry? Check out some cool 40 percent keyboards available on Amazon!

What is a 40 Percent Keyboard?

A 40 percent keyboard is a very uncommon type of keyboard. You aren’t going to find them in most stores and even online they can be a little tricky to track down. Now, when you refer to a keyboard by its type you are usually referring to it based on two characteristics. The type of switches and the size.

A mechanical keyboard has mechanical switches, a membrane one has membrane switches, etc. When referring to the size we usually do so in a percentage rather than a specific measurement such as the dimensions of the keyboard its self. The reason being, size does not always equal functionality and therefore it can make direct comparisons difficult and It’s not always clear what you are talking about.

Two “full-sized” keyboards may have the same number of keys but be vastly different in shape and length. That’s why we have percentages to play with. A 100 percent keyboard has all of the expected keys, all the alphanumerics as well as a Numpad and all the various function keys typically found along the top.

A 40 percent keyboard only has 40% of the standard keys, often choosing to leave out all function keys, the Numpad, and perhaps even the numbers found along the top. Some 40 percent keyboards don’t even make use of all the letters, instead, they elect to double them up to save even more room.

It’s not uncommon for 40% keyboards to forgo the standard QWERTY layout in favor of more rows and fewer columns (Fewer keys horizontally and more vertical rows). Keyboards that are smaller in size than a full 100% keyboard are incredibly common, the most common being 60-80% keyboards. 40% seems to be a bit too small for most people.

Why are 40 Percent Keyboards so Uncommon?

The answer is most likely supply and demand. 40 percent keyboards are not exactly popular so manufacturers are far less likely to make and sell them. Sure, you can find some, but why produce a product that is only going to sell a handful of units. It’s a safer bet to focus your innovation efforts on a product that appeals to as many people as possible.

Since these keyboards are so unpopular you’ll find that most stores don’t even stock them. Or, if they do, they only stock trashy versions that have little to no effort put into their design or functionality. This leaves you with no other option than to scour online retailers such as Amazon for such a keyboard.

Some of the big players in the world of keyboards do have their various 40 percent models but, you can often tell the disconnect between effort put into their 40 percent keyboards and their 100 percent ones. Unfortunately, the disconnect between the actual price and what you might think is a reasonably fair price can also often be rather glaring.

Perhaps 40 percent keyboards would be more popular if more people knew they existed. It’s hard to want something we have never heard of. And why shouldn’t you want one? The immediate benefits of such a small keyboard should be apparent to most people, keyboard enthusiasts especially. If you want to take a deeper dive into the various pros and cons of such a small and compact keyboard, we are going to cover that in the next section.

Pros and Cons of Using a 40 Percent Keyboard

LightweightLess functionality
Great for travelMore cost per unit

What are the benefits?

Let’s start with the most obvious benefits to having a very small 40 percent keyboard. It’s very small. Duh! Having such a small, compact, and by default, the relatively light keyboard makes it perfect for travel. Whether that means taking your keyboard with you when you travel for work or whether you are just desk hopping in the office, the benefits are the same.

A huge size-related benefit is that since the 40 percent keyboard is so small it can feasibly fit into the small spaces you find yourself working while you are actually in transit. The table on a train, the pull-down tray on a plane which you ordinarily eat your meals off of, are all very limited for space. The plane especially. But, if you had a 40 percent keyboard, you would have no trouble fitting at all.

Even when you aren’t using it, the 40 percent keyboard offers its conveniences. It fits comfortably in your laptop bag or carry on bag, it’s light, and you need not worry that you’ll end up leaving it behind since it fits comfortably into both. At one time or another, I think we have all told ourselves that our keyboard “fits” in our bag when in actuality it’s sticking its nose out rather a lot and isn’t what you might call safe and secure.

Another benefit to a 40 percent keyboard is that it’s simplistic by nature. Sometimes, we want all the bells and whistles, we want as much functionality as feasibly possible and we want it all on one keyboard. Other times, we only want the bare bones because we only need the bare bones.

Why over complicate things? Sometimes simple is better. If all you’re doing is typing, then why not? Most 40 percent keyboards offer a way to input numbers by having them double bound to keys that can be toggled on and off with a function key. So you can still access numbers if need be. But if you’re mostly just typing words, emails, or articles then a 40 percent keyboard would work just fine.

This article could have easily been written on a 40 percent keyboard, should I have wanted to. With a smaller keyboard typically comes a smaller price tag. So much of the price is based on the material when the keyboard is smaller and there is, therefore, less material required to manufacture it we often see the price tends to go down.

What are the drawbacks?

The funny thing about this type of keyboard is that most of its drawbacks are almost identical to its benefits. For example, you lose a lot of them over the top functionality simply because you lose 60 percent of your keys. How could you conceivably have the same functionality unless you were to give each key 2 or 3 functions? (This does sometimes happen to be fair).

What if we want functionality? Or better yet need it? If that’s the case a 40 percent keyboard is perhaps the worst keyboard for us. If it makes our jobs extensively harder to use a 40 percent keyboard rather than a full size one, is the convenience factor of its size completely negated? I would argue that the answer is perhaps yes.

You may not find that changing to a 40 percent keyboard makes much of a change to how easily you can work in transit simply because your airline tray table may still be too small to work from and you may find that a keyboard of any size (within reason) works just fine for you on the train, so why would you make the switch?

Another fun little problem with the 40 percent keyboard is the price. But wait, didn’t we just discuss how the low price was a benefit? While yes, that is true, there is a catch. A 40 percent keyboard may indeed be cheaper than a standard-sized one but it is not proportionally so.

Since a 40 percent keyboard is going to see fewer sales, but still requires a certain level of design and manufacturing efforts so you don’t end up with a disastrous product, you may find that the price is higher per unit to recoup the costs. They must charge more per unit because they still need to pay the wages of the staff working behind the keyboard.

The employee’s wages and running costs don’t decline just because the demand for the product does. With this in mind, you may find that a 40 percent keyboard costs less than a 100 percent one but more than, say, a 60 percent one. This isn’t the case with all 40 percent keyboards, but it is recommended to compare the price of a 40 percent, 60/80 percent, and 100 percent keyboard from the same manufacturer to see what’s what.

Are 40 Percent Keyboards Worth it?

So, are 40 percent keyboards worth it? That depends. For me? No. I don’t think so, the loss of functionality is a real killer for me and many other people. Our keyboards should make life as easy for us as possible, functionality is one of the most important factors when choosing a new keyboard for people who use their keyboard all day every day.

But, this is where we circle back to the idea that they may appeal more to the casual user that was mentioned at the very beginning of the article. If you don’t program or game, or perform any complex tasks using your keyboard, then you may find that the 40 percent keyboard is precisely what you want/need.

It’s no drama, it’s simple, it’s sleek, it’s letters first and very little else. If you only require a keyboard to type some emails and browse the internet this might be the best way to go. The simple approach might work out well in your favor.

Where can I Find a 40 Percent Keyboard?

40 percent keyboards are hard to find. At least, a good selection is hard to find. While yes it’s true that you aren’t likely to find many of these keyboards from physical stores like Walmart, you have a good chance of finding some from non-chain computer stores. These stores are more likely to buy into the niche market a little to help drive customers to their store over the chain locations.

If you aren’t keen on going store to store, just send them a quick email. Every store will know exactly what you are talking about when you ask for a 40 percent keyboard, so you can save yourself the headache and find out whether the trip down there is worth it before you set off. If you have resigned yourself to being stuck in the realms of online retailers, then your best bet is probably Amazon.

If you are looking for vendors or specific model recommendations then scouring the various keyboard-related subreddits is probably the way to go. If you can’t find the information you are looking for, at least this way you can ask the people who do have said information.


Hopefully, you now know one way or the other whether or not the 40 percent keyboard might be the keyboard for you! Sure, it does have some downsides but the benefits for some people (especially travelers) can make the 40 percent keyboard a real winner.

A good 40 percent keyboard will have dual function keys so you aren’t left high and dry should you need to use some other functions, be they basic like being able to use numbers or more complicated like your F1-12 keys. Whatever you decide, good luck and happy typing!

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