You don’t need to be a nerd to know that computer keyboards come in all shapes and sizes.
You have the quirky ergonomic models to the heavyweight mechanical keyboards popular with gamers.
But in this blog post, we’re going to look at a sub-genre of keyboard – the low profile keyword.
What is a low-profile keyboard?
A low-profile keyboard is a standard keyboard that isn’t as tall as a regular desktop keyboard but the keys also have less play in them i.e. there’s not much travel when you depress any key.
Basically, these usually look and feel like a laptop keyboard except in a desktop keyboard case, which makes them a neater option that requires less physical space than your average gaming keyboard.
Are low-profile keyboards mechanical or membrane?
Low-profile keyboards are available in both mechanical and membrane, or rubber dome, models. Mechanical low-profile keyboards are more popular with gamers but they’re also physically taller and larger due to the nature of the keyboard switches used in their construction.
Membrane keyboards, on the other hand, are not physically as tall as mechanical low-profile keyboards because their keys are overlaid on a sheet of rubber or silicon which then activates an electrical rather than mechanical switch when you press a key.
This means that the keys on a low profile mechanical keyboard can be flush to the edges or bezel of the keyboard case itself – these low profile keys are often called “chiclet” keys.
A mechanical low-profile keyboard’s keys will – because of their construction – sit in a position several millimeters above the body of your keyboard. The technology exists for mechanical keyboard keys to have a lower profile and we cover this in our article on “Are laptop keyboards mechanical“.
So that means the sleekest low-profile keyboards are membrane models but the disadvantage here is that they lack the responsiveness and tactile feedback that you get with a low profile keyboard with mechanical switches.
The flip side of this is that membrane keyboards are also far cheaper than mechanical models, so if you’re shopping based on price alone (usually not a good move) then membrane keyboards can be a good choice as long as you accept that you get what you pay for.
Who manufactures low-profile keyboards?
These types of keyboards are manufactured and sold by a number of leading brands such as Logitech, and Microsoft for membrane models, and Razer, Corsair, and Redragon for mechanical models.
There are also a vast number of “no name” low-profile keyboards on the market.
Are low-profile keyboards good for gaming?
A low-profile keyboard can be used by any non-competitive gamer, especially the mechanical models, but they’re not the first choice of professional gamers.
It also depends on the type of games you play on a regular basis. So while a low profile might be suitable for a typical RTS (Real-time Strategy) game they can be far too compact and prone to input errors for FPS (First-Person Shooters) games.
Although, gamers do have the option of purchasing a dedicated low-profile gaming keyboard from a company such as Razer, but these cost at least $100.
Are low-profile keyboards better for carpal tunnel?
Low profile keyboards should allow your wrist to adopt a more natural position when typing and your fingers don’t need to be arched when depressing any of the keys.
Or that is the theory, at least.
But swapping from a conventional keyboard to a low-profile model means that your body then has to adapt to a new typing position, which can lead to strain on your hands and wrists.
Based on my own experience, the most comfortable typing experience I’ve had is when using a mechanical keyboard, and that’s having owned several low-profile keyboards in the past.
The best way to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome is to follow basic ergonomic advice when using a computer. Sit upright, support your back, use a wrist rest, and take frequent breaks if you type a lot for a living.
Are low-profile keyboards better for typing?
No, low-profile keyboards are not better for typing – data input specialists such as coders or even authors typically use a standard keyboard form factor instead e.g. the classic Cherry MX type of keyboard.
But there is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on personal preference.
Are low-profile keyboards good for coding?
Coders do prefer low-profile keyboards but only the mechanical models and particularly the tenkeyless variations of popular keyboards.
The reason why coders prefer this type of mechanical keyboard over comparable membrane models is because they can customize a mechanical keyboard with individually colored keycaps but they can also modify the action of a mechanical keyboard by swapping out its switches to get more, or less, travel when they’re entering data.
Are low-profile keyboards more ergonomic?
Low-profile keyboards have a shallower key press, which means that your hands don’t have to travel as far to press the keys. This could also reduce strain on your wrists and fingers.
If you look at any ergonomic keyboard on the market today, none of them use a low profile format. Instead, they’re designed to allow your wrists and hands to type at a more natural angle, and they also feature full-height keys – be they rubber dome or mechanical keys.
But low-profile keyboards do stop your wrists from having to be inclined at an unnatural angle when typing vs. a standard keyboard.
The only way to be sure is to test a low-profile keyboard and see if it suits your particular physiology, because the “perfect” keyboard is a very subjective thing.
Some great low profile keyboards
There are dozens of excellent low-profile keyboards on the market today but here are my top 3:
This is a high-end low profile mechanical keyboard from one of the oldest names in the game. Available in full-size and tenkeyless models, it offers a great typing experience despite the lack of a wrist rest.
The low-profile switches used here are the same types you’ll find on gaming keyboards, and they’re available in clicky, linear, and tactile variants.
Available in both wired and wireless models. Pricey, but lots of people love it.
Cherry MX 10
If you need a low-profile keyboard that’s good for around 100 million presses per key, then you might just like the Cherry MX10.T
This is a high-end low profile mechanical keyboard from the people who pretty much invented the modern computer keyboard.
You’ll find that it’s very responsive to the point that you need to almost kind of hold back a little either when typing or gaming. In terms of data entry, several owners have said that owning this keyboard increased their overall typing speed.
This keyboard has no frills – it’s all about performance.
Yup, really. Check out the Cherry MX10 here.
This is a keyboard by gamers, for gamers. Or just people who need an all-around excellent work keyboard.
The Corsair is flashy, and robust and uses linear switches for absolute speed. You get low-profile Cherry switches wrapped in a brushed aluminum frame with full RGB backlighting.
And you also get a wrist rest thrown in for good measure. Honestly, I didn’t see the big deal about having a wrist rest designed specifically for your keyboard until I started using one.
Wrapping things up
You should now know enough to decide whether or not a low-profile keyboard is a good choice for you.
They offer a sleek take on a standard keyboard, which will appeal to the minimalists out there.
But sometimes less isn’t more.
The truth is, however, that it comes down to personal preference i.e. some people love low-profile keyboards and wouldn’t consider using anything else.