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Best 40% Keyboards In 2021 – Reviews & Buying Guide

The term 40% keyboard is used to describe a small, usually community-made keyboard. As the name suggests, these keyboards are less than half the size of a regular keyboard, and one of the most noticeable exclusions is the number row.

Custom designing a tiny keyboard has its appeal. When there are only three or four rows of keys, every one counts and is given special attention.

So, let’s take a look at the best 40% keyboards currently on the market to get you started in the world of mini keyboards, as well as a dedicated one-handed gaming keyboard, which might also be of interest.

Best 40% Keyboards

Top 3 Best 40% Keyboards Reviews

  1. YMDK Keycaps – Best Retro 40% Keyboard
  2. NPKC DSA Keycaps – Best Dye-Sub 40% Keyboard
  3. Songway Gaming Keyboard – Best One-Handed 40% Keyboard

1 YMDK Keycaps – Best Retro 40% Keyboard

These keycaps are designed to fit only a Planck keyboard. If you are new to the micro keyboard scene, then you may be unfamiliar with Planck. Usually sold either assembled or as a kit, there is a choice between a Cherry MX or ALPS version.

Two layouts are also available, being MIT with a 2u spacebar or Grid with two 1u keys instead. The MIT layout has 47 keys in total, while the Grid layout has 48 keys. The YMDK keycaps are compatible with all the Planck configurations.

What do you get?

Included in the YMDK keycap set, you’ll receive 61 keys in total consisting of 2 x row 1, 1 x row 2, 1 x row 3, and 1 x row 4. The row 4 are the numerical keys, so if you plan on creating a micro keyboard, they can be put aside.

The keys themselves give a retro look while combining modern performance. Constructed from durable PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate), this material is harder to mold than ABS. The advantage is a more rigid, more durable material with higher resilience to heat and chemicals.

Keeping a typeface…

The extra-large and sharp typeface used on each key makes them easy to identify, even at night without LED shine-through. For that very reason, that makes the YMDK keycaps an excellent option for anyone moving from a traditional to a micro keyboard.

Each key has a thickness of around 1.5mm, giving them a solid feel. The legends are laser etched onto each key, meaning that they should sustain a decent life. This method is still prone to fading as the surface wears, though.


YMDK Keycaps

Our rating:4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2 / 5)

Pros

  • Funky retro look with a modern feel.
  • Solid PBT construction.
  • Extra-large typeface makes recognition easy.

Cons

  • No LED shine-through.
  • Laser etching can fade.

2 NPKC DSA Keycaps – Best Dye-Sub 40% Keyboard

Up next is this beautiful set of keycaps from NPKC that are predominantly white, with some pastel colors thrown in. The colors include a pale red, blue, aqua, yellow, and purple. If you want something that isn’t too obnoxious but still stands out, look no further.

Being compatible with Planck, AMJ40, and Niu40 layouts gives you a few options to consider. These particular keycaps are only compatible with MX switches, though. Not a huge drama, as MX switches are one of the best available anyway.

Comfortable DSA profile…

The height and spherical touch area on these keys are what’s known as DSA profile. That means they are a standard height, with a standard profile across all rows. There is not much curvature on the keys, and they are all flat. A nice neutral position for getting a feel.

Just like the YMDK keycaps, these NPKCs are constructed from DSA plastic. Even though the molding is more complex, the material quality is far superior to regular ABS. A key puller is included to make adding and changing your keys easier.

The legend of never fade…

By using dye-sub, which is short for dye-sublimation, on each of the keys means that they will never fade. By permeating the plastic with ink vapors, no matter how much abuse, wear, and tear these keys suffer through, your legend will still be staring back at you.

The thickness of each key is approximately 1.4mm making them lightweight yet still sturdy. Overall, these keycaps offer high-quality materials, an excellent feel, and are highly affordable compared to other competitors.


NPKC DSA Keycaps

Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Pros

  • DSA plastic construction.
  • Dye-sub key legends are resistant to fading.
  • Affordable keycap set.

Cons

  • Can be a tight fit over MX switches.
  • Legend looks a little fuzzy up close.

3 Songway Gaming Keyboard – Best One-Handed 40% Keyboard

For our final product, we would like to introduce you to this one-handed mechanical gaming keyboard from Songway. It is basically a regular keyboard that has been cut in half with a wrist rest, some function keys, and a thumb key.

This keyboard has been designed specifically for gaming and connects to your PC via USB. It features some ergonomic aspects, along with some handy customization possibilities to make it the perfect gaming companion.

Make it shine…

No gaming accessory these days is complete without RGB lighting, and the Songway can boast this ability. Eight RGB colors create an incredible light show with multiple effects, including judgment, raising, running, snowing, and breathing.

35 mechanical keys make up the keyboard, including six shortcut keys and a thumb button as the spacebar. Compatibility includes use with Windows, PS4, Xbox, and even smartphones with no drivers required, meaning complete plug-and-play ability.

Record and delete macros…

Each of the six shortcut keys can have macro shortcuts recorded to them without any software required. By pressing the corresponding G key and FN key at the same time, the recording begins. Once finished entering your inputs, press the same G and FN key together to end.

Every gamer will know how vital the WSAD keys are. Well, so does Songway, which is why they made them a different texture to the other keys. Without looking, they can be easily located through touch alone.


Songway Gaming Keyboard

Our rating:4.1 out of 5 stars (4.1 / 5)

Pros

  • Customizable RGB lighting.
  • Recordable macros without software necessary.
  • Textured WSAD keys.

Cons

  • USB cable a bit too short for consoles.
  • Switches are rather loud.

Best 40% Keyboards Buying Guide

Best 40% Keyboards Guide

Even though we have only shown you three products on this occasion, there are some critical differences between them. Especially when it comes to unique customization and purpose design, the small things are where it counts.

If you are considering creating your own micro keyboard, there are many different options available. It can be easy to spend thousands of dollars perfecting it to your exact specifications. This is more for people that are first entering the scene to give them a feel.

All-Rounder, or Gaming Specific?

If you are after a gaming-specific controller, we would highly recommend the Songway. It is well-built and durable while also being compatible with a wide range of applications. Not to mention those awesome RGB lights.

For a keyboard that is still great for gaming but can also be used for other tasks at the same time, you’ll need a custom build. Both of the keycaps we’ve shown you will be the icing on the cake to finish off your personal masterpiece.

Retro or Modern?

Basically, what the two keycap sets come down to is a choice between funky retro or cool modern. The YMDK set feels like it’s come straight out of the ’70s but still offers a clean, durable, modern performance.

The more modern-looking NPKC keyset is based on the DSA Milkshake design yet is only a fraction of the price. Construction materials are of exceptionally high quality, and they look absolutely fantastic.

If even after reading our buying guide you still don’t know which product will suit you most, then stick around. Up next, we reveal what our choice is for the best 40% keyboard and why. It could just be what you need to make that final decision.

Need more than 40%?

If so, please read our reviews of the Best 60% Mechanical Keyboards.

While you’re here, wanna check out the latest keyboard tech on the market in 2021?

Then read our Best Topre Mechanical Keyboards Review, the Best Quiet Mechanical Keyboard Reviews, our Best Membrane Keyboards Review, and our Best Expensive Gaming Keyboards Review to get a complete picture of what’s currently out there.

Or take a look at dedicated product reviews such as our Steelseries Apex Pro Review, our Corsair K63 Wireless Review, and the Razer Blackwidow X Ultimate Review!

Back to the best 40% keycaps…

So, which of the Best 40% Keyboards should you go for?

Even though there were only three products to consider, this decision wasn’t easy. While the Songway gaming keyboard is fantastic, it is more of a niche market, so it will come down to the keycap sets.

To choose which is the best, we compared the build materials, quality, features, and value. The product we feel performed best is the…

NPKC DSA Keycaps

While the build materials are the same, the use of dye-sub on the legend will make these keys last that little bit longer while also being compatible with a few more arrangements.

Happy tapping!

About Douglas Brown

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