Best 1800 Compact Layout 96% Mechanical Keyboards

A full-fledged keyboard with all the keys the same as a 100% keyboard, but with all the gaps minimized to give it a compact look, that’s what a 96% keyboard stands for. Most 1800 compact layout mechanical keyboards contain about 100 keys and are available in various switch types (tactile, linear, and clicky).  Using a 96% keyboard will save desk space for you while being able to enjoy the features of a full-width keyboard. These keyboards are built with the objective to make a perfect balance between size and functionality. The 96% compact keyboards are available in a wide range of variety in terms of connectivity options, type of switches, and backlit, but they are hard to find.

What to look for in a 96% mechanical keyboard:

Before you make your buying decision it is important to understand what essential characteristics are required to look for in a 96% mechanical keyboard.

  • Connectivity Modes: All 96% mechanical keyboards comes with wired connectivity, either through a USB or USB Type C cable. In some keyboards, it is detachable, while in others you get a fixed one. Other connectivity modes available with some of the keyboards are Bluetooth or Wireless 2.4G or 2.5G. The ones with Bluetooth might allow you to connect to more than one device, probably 3 to 4 devices. In some keyboards, the UBS or Type-C ports can be used to transfer data, as well as recharge the keyboard. 
  • Battery Capacity: If you are opting for a wireless keyboard, you need to check the capacity of the battery. Most keyboards have a 3500 mAh to 4000 mAh powerful battery, which is good to last for about 48 hours. 
  • Backlit Options: In some keyboards, you will find backlit features. Some of these provide White Backlit, while some have RGB backlit with different lighting effect modes. You will be able to set your own RGB effects configuration using the program compatible with the keyboard. Some of them are compatible with Philips Hue and other partner apps.
  • Special OS Keycaps: You need to check what all OS (Mac or Window) shortcut keys are provided with the keyboard. In some keyboards, you can choose the IS you want to use and replace the keys for that particular keycaps. 
  • Hot Swappable: Most keyboards have a hot-swappable option, but you need to check the compatibility. Some keyboards are compatible with only 3-pin or 5-pin switches, while others are compatible with both. 
  • N-Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting: You need to check the N-key rollover details, whether the keyboard is full NKRO or only a certain number of Key rollovers. The number of key rollovers also differs on wired and wireless modes.
  • Switch types: One of the objectives of using a mechanical keyboard is the freedom to customize and change switch types based on individual requirements. There are manufacturers like MX, Cherry, Gateron, etc, and they produce keys in various feedback options (linear, clicky, tactile, and combination of more than one). 

Review of Best 96% Mechanical Keyboards

There are very few good quality 96% mechanical keyboards, but our team worked extensively to find the best ones and test them to compile this list and detailed review of them. Here are our recommendations for the top 96% Mechanical Keyboards:

Our #1 Pick for 96% Mechanical Keyboard
1. FIRSTBLOOD ONLY GAME. B16 Gentiana Mechanical Gaming Keyboard - 96 Keys Layout - PBT Keycaps - White Backlit
  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Blue | Cherry MX Brown | Cherry MX Red
  • Color: Available in 3 color options. Cyan | Purple | Yellow
  • Connectivity: Wired USB

Additional Features:

  • Compact 96 keys layout
  • Just 15” wide
  • Attractive colors
  • 21 modes white backlit
  • Two colors PBT Keycaps
  • Ultimate comfortable
  • Numeric keyboard and function direction keys are combined together
  • 100 million keystrokes guaranteed. 
  • 2.2mm distance to actuation 
  • 55g actuation force
  • Magnetic suction panel
  • Supports DIY keyboard and macro editing
  • Special cable for stable data transmitting

The objective of using a 96% keyboard is to save space, and this Firstblood Only Game keyboard stands true to it, with just 15” width and 96 keys layout. To achieve a 96 keys layout they have merged the direction keys with the num pad numbers, to be used with the function key. Also, the DEL and INS keys are removed. But, they are able to include a dedicated volume control key for media. Besides, its compact layout it has other characteristics which makes it one of the best 96% keyboards, including high-performance Cherry MX Switch, DIY key reprogramming, the anti-interference cable, and 21 modes white backlit among others. We would especially like to mention the 1.6 anti-interference cable that provides stability while transmitting data, hence making it more efficient.

The build quality is very good, and we also like the magnetic suction panel which can be easily removed by pressing on both sides. It is available in bright and energetic colors like Cyan, Yellow, and Purple to suit your decor, and the keyboards are dual-tone. The white backlit makes it look much more appealing.  The rubber feet at the bottom make it stable to use, and the keyboard is angled at 6° for a comfortable user experience. The keyboard is created by Ajazz which is a high-value manufacturer in the gaming peripheral industry.

Wireless Mechanical Keyboard
5. Keychron K4
  • Switch Type: Gateron Blue | Gateron Brown | Gateron Red
  • Color: Black & Gray
  • Connectivity: Dual connectivity modes. Wired USB | Bluetooth

Additional Features:

  • Aluminum frame
  • N-key rollover (NKRO) on wired mode
  • 6KRO on wireless mode
  • Great tactile typing
  • Connect with up to 3 devices 
  • Unique Mac layout
  • Compatible with Window
  • Extra keycaps for Mac and Windows
  • 4000 mAh battery, easily lasts for 72 hours typing
  • Enchanting RGB backlight
  • 15+ types of flashing light mode
  • 50 million keystroke lifespan
  • 9-degrees inclined bottom

Keychron is a well-reputed name as a leading manufacturer of mechanical keyboards, and the K4 has again lived up to its reputation. It is a 100 keys compact 96% mechanical keyboard with an Aluminum frame, ergonomic design, and dual connectivity option. Moreover, the build quality and operational efficiency of the keyboard are second to none in the 1800 compact keyboard category. It uses a durable Gateron mechanical switch, which is swappable with most 3 and 5-pin MX-style switches. Due to the metallic frame, the keyboard is a bit on the heavier side, which makes provides much-needed stability when working. 

What we liked the most about is its minimalist design, I mean, no flashy logos, no extraneous designs, just a decent and elegant look with the classic color combination that goes really well in any office environment. The keyboard offers N-key rollover on wired mode, while a 6-key rollover on Bluetooth mode. On Bluetooth, we have connected it to 3 devices, and we were able to switch between them seamlessly. We used it on Mac and Windows, with their respective extra keys, and it worked perfectly fine and gave us a really great working experience on both the operating systems. The keyboard is slightly higher than other keyboards at about 9 inches, which is convenient for most people, but some might prefer to use a wrist rest with it. The slide switch is provided on the sides to switch between wired and Bluetooth modes.

Our Top Pick
7. EPOMAKER GK96S Hot-Swappable Bluetooth 5.1 Wireless/Wired RGB Mechanical Keyboard
  • Switch Type: Available in 4 Gateron switch options: Black | Blue | Brown | Red
  • Color: Available in 2 case color options. Black | White. Keycaps are Orange, Black, and White
  • Connectivity: Dual connectivity modes. Wired USB | Bluetooth 5.1

Additional Features:

  • Hot-swappable 96% Mechanical Keyboard
  • Connect up to 4 using Bluetooth
  • Dedicated Mac and Windows shortcut keys
  • Fully programmable using custom software
  • Onboard macOS Mode
  • 4000mAh Long-lasting Battery
  • GK1 PBT Keycaps
  • 16.8 Million RGB Backlight
  • GK1 PBT keycaps with thermal sublimation
  • 9 types of default lighting effects

EPOMAKER GK96S has excelled the game in terms of Bluetooth connectivity with the option to connect to 4 devices at a time, with seamless switching between the devices using the hotkey. The keyboard boasts of dual system layout that comes with dedicated Mac and Windows shortcut keys. The keycaps are available in ABS and PBT versions. The RGB backlit is highly customizable with 9 default effects, and you can easily download many more effects online for the keyboard. The keyboard is based on Epomaker’s self-developed GK1 keycap profile that strikes the perfect balance of height and shape of keys for comfortable and ergonomic usage. There are 3 onboard modes provided on the keyboard to give you a good start if you want to remap the keys.

The keyboard boasts of might 4000 mAh battery which can last for 72 hours of extensive typing, and it takes about 8 hours to fully charge the keyboard. The switches can be swapped with any 3 or 5 pins mechanical switch like Gateron, Kailh Box, Cherry, etc. The 5 usage modes provided on the keyboard include Standard Mode, Driver Mode, Onboard Windows Layout Mode, Onboard macOS Mode, and an extra Custom Onboard Mode. We found this highly customizable keyboard, with lots of different modes and layouts to choose from.  

Top Compact 1800 Mechanical Keyboard
2. Cherry G80-1800 Compact Keyboard
  • Switch Type: Cherry MX Black, linear MX Gray for the spacebar
  • Color: Available in 2 color options. Black | White
  • Connectivity: Wired USB | Wired PS/2

Additional Features:

  • Compact 16″ keyboard
  • Programmable keys – Reassign or define macros
  • Rated for 50 million actuations
  • Maximum key switch longevity 
  • Industry gold standard switches
  • Individual keys with Gold Crosspoint contacts
  • Code set 3 support e.g. for Unix systems (PS/2 version)
  • ANSI-1800 style layout
  • Perfect for office work
  • PBT keycaps
  • Easy to lube the stabilizer

This is a serious no-nonsense keyboard, with a simple layout, minimalist yet modern look, and a compact design that is 16” wide. It will give you a really soft and smooth typing experience, with minimal spring noise. It has PBT keycaps with a classic look that will remind you of IBM keyboards of the 1990s. The weight is very well managed so that the keyboard stays stable while you work over it. It offers you wired connectivity using a USB port as well as a PS/2 port with a plug-and-play setup. The keys are highly programmable that allows you to reassign them as per your own choice, or define complex macros for convenient operation. 

The keyboard employs Cherry MX Black switches, which are considered the most durable ones, rated at 50 million strokes, and requires 60G of actuation force, and has a tighter coil spring (and some users might feel a need to lubricate the switch). The MX black is also considered to be highly precise and linear, which has a pre-travel of about 60 cN (centiNewtons). The Black key switch used is of industry gold standard, for superior responsiveness, precision, and feel. To summarize, it is a high-quality keyboard for professional users as well as gamers. 

Our Top Pick
3. Akko 100-Key and 98 key 1800 | 96% Wired Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
  • Switch Type: Gateron Orange | Gateron Pink
  • Color: Dual Tone – Green and White
  • Connectivity: Wired USB

Additional Features:

  • Available in 2 key options – 98 key and 100 key
  • Matcha red bean series
  • Anti-ghosting with N-key rollover 
  • Gateron tactile switches
  • Built-in LED slots for mod 
  • PBT Double-shot keycaps
  • Unique textured touch feel
  • Custom switches co-developed by Akko and Gateron
  • Crisp switch bump in the middle of key travel
  • Effective cable routing
  • Adjustable heights
  • Programmable built-in Macro
  • Includes cap puller and extra keys

This is not just another value-for-money 96% keyboard, but you can expect more out of this complete package. Its switches are custom-made by Akko in association with the industry leaders Gateron, and they provide a perfect balance between the linear quiet switches and clicky loud switches, so you can expect the best of both worlds. The keyboard comes with no led-backlit and the unique green color base with white and red keys makes it so much appealing, with Matcha Red Bean series. There are extra red keys provided in red color. You can also choose between a 100-key option as well a 98-key option. 

The keyboard greatly supports simultaneous keypresses very efficiently with its anti-ghost and n-key rollover option for a seamless and smooth gaming experience. The quality of keycaps is really great with clear and crisp legends on PBT Doubleshot keys. The keyboard is completely reprogrammable as per individual preference. The Akko keyboard is ergonomically created with 3 height adjustment options and slightly textured keys. The cable management is also very useful with a 3-way routing option. The keyboard has a protection rating of IP 40 against ingress of solid and liquid material. 

Our Top Pick
4. RK ROYAL KLUDGE RK100 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard
  • Switch Type: Gateron Blue | Gateron Brown | Gateron Red
  • Color: Available in 2 color options. Carbon (Cream, Black and orange) | Classic (White and Gray)
  • Connectivity: Three connectivity modes. Wired USB | Bluetooth 5.1 | 2.4Ghz

Additional Features:

  • Hot-Swappable Keyboard
  • PBT Keycaps
  • 3 device switchable
  • 3 HubPorts (2 USB; 1 Type-C)
  • 3750 mAh Battery
  • Low latency Bluetooth mode
  • PCB supports 3 pins and 5 pins switch
  • Conflict free keys
  • Indicator LED lights
  • Professional Driver Support
  • 24-hour Customer Care
  • Folding foot stands

Royal Kludge RK100 keyboard comes with a powerful configuration with 3 connectivity modes, a powerful battery backup, and high-performance Gateron switches. Besides 3 connectivity modes, it has 3 hub ports that include 2 built-in USB pass-through ports and 1 Type-C port. The wireless connectivity is enabled by a 2.4 GHz dongle/ adapter and using Bluetooth 5.1 you can connect with 3 devices simultaneously with a switchable mode. The hot-swappable switch can be replaced with any MX switch (Gateron, Cherry, etc.), and is also compatible with 3 pin as well as 5 pin switches.

We particularly liked the driver support, which allows you to customize the RGB lighting effects as well as define macros. The keyboard is backed by a powerful 3750 mAh battery which allowed us to work without any interruptions for 7-8 hours. The package includes a 2.4 GHz adapter, Type-C Cable, Keycap puller, Switch Puller, and 4 replacement switches. The keyboard has foldable feet, so you can either use it without inclination or can incline it by opening the feet. The 2 color options look really great and elegant, the classic one has normal white and black keys, while the carbon one has off-white, orange, and black keys. The keyboard is very compatible and is only 14.4 inches wide.

Our Top Pick
6. Drop Shift Mechanical Keyboard — Full-Size 1800 Layout (99 Key)
  • Switch Type: Available in 7 switch options: Barebones | Cherry MX Blue | Cherry MX Brown | Halo Clear | Halo True | Kaihua Box White | Kaihua Speed Silver
  • Color: Space Gray
  • Connectivity: Dual connectivity modes. Wired USB | Bluetooth

Additional Features:

  • Aluminum frame
  • N-key rollover (NKRO) on wired mode
  • 6KRO on wireless mode
  • Great tactile typing
  • Connect with up to 3 devices 
  • Unique Mac layout
  • Compatible with Window
  • Extra keycaps for Mac and Windows
  • 4000 mAh battery, easily lasts for 72 hours typing
  • Enchanting RGB backlight
  • 15+ types of flashing light mode
  • 50 million keystroke lifespan
  • 9-degrees inclined bottom

Drop Shift mechanical keyboard is known for providing a lot of switch type options to choose from, and in this keyboard, they offer 7 switch variants to choose from, including a barebone one which you can use to add any plate-mounted Cherry-style switch. The frame of the keyboard is made of anodized CNC-machined aluminum, which makes it sturdy and heavy to provide stability. You can customize any variant of this Drop Shift keyboard to pull out switches and fit in any of your preferences. We used the Cherry Brown one extensively and found it highly silent with a tactile bump and medium actuation force, which makes it a good choice for work as well as gaming purposes. 

We found it to have one of the best LED lights and effects, which operates at 100 Hz and offers per-key customization from millions of colors and indicators for Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock. The programmable RGB effects have preset lighting to cycle through the spectrum and have a built-in LED diffuser to minimize hot spots. The keyboard is programmable using QMK software for custom keymapping and programmable macros. The 2 USB ports allow you to charge the devices or transfer the data at USB 2.0 speed. You will be able to adjust the height of the keyboard using removable feet.  

FAQ’s

What are 1800 compact layout and 96% mechanical keyboards?

In a full-sized keyboard, you must have observed the gaps between the main section, navigation cluster, number pad, fn row, etc. In an 1800 compact layout, these section gaps are removed and all clusters are squeezed in a compact area. The 96% keyboards have about 98-100 keys (4-6 keys less than a 100%), as some of the home cluster keys are combined for dual operation. It has less width than a 100% keyboard, which offers more comfort and convenience, along with more desktop space. 

Are 96% keyboards better than TKL keyboards?

Both types of keyboards have their own set of Pros and Cons, and it purely depends on individual requirements and preferences. A TKL keyboard occupies even lesser space and looks very compact. But some people prefer to use a dedicated Numpad for entering numbers, especially the likes of accountants or people doing data entry. For such people, a 96% keyboard is better, with the added advantage of getting more space on their work desk to move around the mouse easily.

Are 96% mechanical keyboards good for programming?

Yes, they are considered great for programming, as they are compact in size so you can place it as per your convenience. A 96% keyboard has all the essential keys that are needed for the coding purpose. As you will be using a mechanical keyboard, you can be sure about the accuracy of keypresses, hence it will help you boost your productivity.

How can I define the macros and remap my keyboard?

To remap your keyboard you need to check the product details and see which software is needed to remap and configure other functions of the keys like RGB backlit, etc. Every keyboard manufacturer has its own firmware which can be used to update the keyboard driver as well as remap the keys and define the macros. 

Conclusion

A 96% keyboard with an 1800 compact layout is a great choice with all the functionality of a full-sized keyboard, yet a little shorter in size to save space. You can customize the 96% mechanical keyboards available in the market to address your needs to harness complete benefits. These keyboards are popular among gamers as well as coders, due to their versatile functionality. The keys are placed in a way that they are easily reachable. You will still get a dedicated Numpad, scroll keys, and navigation cluster among other essential keys. 

Related Articles:

Mechanical Keyboard Sizes Explained
Best 60% Mechanical Keyboards
Best 75% Mechanical Keyboards
Best 80% [TKL] Mechanical Keyboards

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I work from home. To do the best possible job I need the right accessories - the right desk, the right chair, the right keyboard, the right monitor, etc. When I work I want to feel comfortable. I review everything that's related to home desk setup - focusing on Monitors & Keyboards.

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