Now that you’ve decided that you’d like to reap the benefits of a split keyboard, which one should you get? Here are a few things you’ll want to consider.
This is usually the biggest factor in choosing a split keyboard. The lower the key count the higher the commitment is required to adapt, but the benefits at lower key counts also markedly increase.
Are you buying for your short term goals? Or your long term goals? What are you ok with right now? How much commitment can you give adapting to a new layout? These are some questions you will likely need to ask yourself. Below are some personas we think that fit these keyboards, you can use this to find the one matching your goals the closest.
If you want the easiest time migrating to a split keyboard, a 50% like a Lily58 Pro is the best to start with. This is the closest key count to a traditional 60% and thus you are reducing the changes you need to adapt to.
50% are for people who are
- Ok with some wrist lift
- Ok with moving away from the home row occasionally
- Ok with their pinky still assigned to some modifiers and two columns
- Ok with the stock keymaps, and are not looking to customize too much
- Wanting to use only the minimum recommended layers in a split keyboard
- Wanting the least difficulty in migrating to a split keyboard
This is still a big improvement from traditional keyboards given the Columnar Stagger, Wide split stance, and the 10% reduction in keys.
50% users understand the benefits of a split, but are often limited by their commitment levels and so need an easy time migrating. Often though, this becomes a gateway to smaller keycount as the barrier to entry has been broken already, and they’re ready to take on more commitments.
If you want to start tinkering with further keymap optimization, and keep your fingers at most one row away from the home row, then this is for you. 40% keyboards like the Corne only have one row above and below the home row. This is also when people start considering using alternative keymap layouts like Colemak and Dvorak to further take advantage of a homerow-bias typing experience, but there are also a lot of Qwerty users in this key count.
40% are for people who are
- Wanting to keep their fingers close to homerow always
- Wanting to reduce wrist lift due to reaching row 1 (num row)
- Wanting to further customize their keymap to fit their comfort requirements
- Ok with using more layers to access less frequently used keys, like the number row
- Ok with a little bit more difficulty in migrating to a split keyboard
40% users are often the people who start thinking about how efficient their keymap is and have committed some time to tinkering in QMK, ZMK, Via or Vial.
If you recognize that the pinky isn’t really up to the keys it’s assigned to do, and want to significantly reduce its use, then this keyboard is for you. Notice how when using your pinky it is awkward, unlike the other fingers, its dexterity is weaker. Sub-40% keyboards like the Fifi or Sweep lose the outermost pinky column, giving the pinky just 1 column to work with.
Sub-40% are for people who are
- Wanting to redistribute modifier key and pinky finger responsibilities to other fingers
- Wanting to take their keymap optimization to the highest personalization level
- Wanting to keep their fingers close to homerow always
- Wanting to reduce wrist lift caused by an outer pinky column, and row 1 (num row)
- Ok with using more layers to access less frequently used keys, like the number row and 98% of symbols
- Ok with a lot of difficulty with migrating to a split keyboard
Sub-40% users are often the ones that recognize that their keymap can be further condensed to fewer keys, and that larger key counts layouts can still be optimized using clever layer switching tricks. Often, they learn how to build custom QMK/ZMK firmware and are willing to spend the time in exchange for maximum control over their keyboard and keymap.
If you have plans to eventually use a small keycount keyboard, but don’t like the large commitment it is always fine to start with a higher one that fits your commitment level, from there you reduce the challenges in migrating and start becoming comfortable eventually to upgrade (downgrade?) to a smaller keyboard.
Why is there no 60% split?Well there are 60% splits out there, however we decided not to carry them as they do lose the spirit of encouraging better typing health. 50% is the best compromise we think while retaining the most health benefits to a columnar staggered split keyboard.
Wired or Wireless
Wired is great for reliability and access to QMK. If you like to experiment with QMK firmware and take advantage of its flexibility and maturity, this is the way to go. While it is less portable, you do not have to worry about interference or a battery. It is markedly more reliable if you can’t ever go without a split keyboard. Our recommended EDC is still a wired keyboard.
Wireless is great for portability and access to ZMK. In our store, wireless is achieved with Nice!Nano Microcontrollers. If you like to take advantage of ZMK’s better organized firmware API and repository, this is the one for you. Wireless allows you to pull out your split, and start typing with no fuss on connecting wires.
Switch and Keycap Profile
MX is what you are likely familiar with, Cherry, Gateron, Kailh, are all MX-style switches that work with MX Profile Keycaps like SA, Cherry, DSA, XDA, while less portable it is compatible with the most choices for keycaps and switches.
Choc is a low-profile keycap and switch spec. Built, they are around just 50% the height of an MX keyboard. Combined with a pair of Wireless Microcontrollers, they are the best portable setup. We carry a great selection of Choc Switches, as well as the popular MBK profile Choc keycaps.