Kinesis’ TKO Is My New Favorite Compact Keyboard

Here is the TKO right side up.
Here is the TKO right side up.
Photo: Kinesis

Kinesis Gaming’s new 60 percent keyboard is a lot more than just small and portable. The TKO Tournament keyboard’s got hot-swappable switches, an optional triple-split spacebar, and the ability to tilt up either side for maximum ergonomic comfort. It’s more than I knew I needed in a tiny keyboard.

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When I turn to a 60 percent keyboard—a keyboard with a compact layout that’s approximately 60 percent a full-size keyboard—my main concern is generally how much space it takes up. I have limited desk real estate, so the less space taken up by my keyboard is more space I can use for important things like action figures, cans, and random bits of junk.

Kinesis Gaming’s $160 TKO is small. There is no number pad. There are no dedicated F1 - F12 or arrow keys. By default those functions and many more are mapped to a second layer, which users can access using the FN key. As with many more considerate 60 percent keyboards, these sub-functions are printed on the front of the TKO’s double-shot PBT plastic keycaps, which is incredibly helpful for folks getting used to the smaller layout.

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Front legends are friendly. Learn the keyboard, then swap them out with your fanciest keycaps.
Photo: Kinesis

The TKO has RGB lighting, both per-key and in a strip that runs the length of the keyboard’s base, because how else would anyone know it’s a gaming keyboard. It’s a sturdy little unit with its aluminium base plate. It’s got a detachable USB-C cable, which rolls up neat and tidy in the included travel case.

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As a keyboard collector I really appreciate a nice zipper bag.
Photo: Kinesis

The TKO ships with a choice of Kailh box switches, either red (linear), white (clicky), or brown (tactile), but don’t fret over switch choices. The TKO is a hot-swappable board, which means the included switches can be pulled and replaced with any combination of standard MX-style keyboard switches. The board comes packaged with some extra switches and a combo switch/keycap puller, so users can easily swap in their current favorite switch flavors.

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The package also includes an extra full-size spacebar, for users who can’t handle the triple split. Personally, I like having the option to squeeze in a couple extra functions by keeping it split. I hit the spacebar with my right thumb almost exclusively, so I use the TKO’s programmability to drop macros onto my keyboard. Cool gaming macros, and not CTRL-C and CTRL-V.

Fine, I mapped them to copy and paste. It’s convenient. Shut Up.

Fine, I mapped them to copy and paste. It’s convenient. Shut Up.

Fine, I mapped them to copy and paste. It’s convenient. Shut Up.

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Fine, I mapped them to copy and paste. It’s convenient. Shut Up.
Screenshot: Kinesis
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The TKO is readily programmable via Kinesis’ SmartSet App, which lets users fiddle with everything from lighting to macros across nine onboard profiles. There’s a learning curve to Kinesis’ programming system, which relies heavily on hardware commands issued via special key combinations, but once you get the hang of it there’s a lot of room to maneuver.

The TKO has all the features of a larger gaming keyboard, packed into an itty-bitty form factor. With its own carrying case it’s an excellent travel companion. With its onboard profile storage it can be plugged into any computer and maintain its user’s custom settings. You can change the switches to adjust how typing and gaming on it feels. These are all good things, but my favorite bits are on the bottom of the keyboard.

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A truly impressive bottom-to-feet ratio.
Photo: Kinesis

The TKO’s tilting feet are the best. Many keyboards have pop-out feet on the bottom so users can set the keyboard at an angle. The TKO has eight pop-out feet, four large and four small. Want the keyboard to be at a flatter angle to reduce wrist strain? Pop up the two small feet in front. Playing a game with the mouse in your right hand and the keyboard in your left? Prop up the two large left-hand feet to tent the left side. Oh, here’s a good one: Are you paralyzed in a hospital bed and need to lay flat at eye-level with your desk (that’s me)? The two tenting feet in the back give me a better view of the board.

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My TKO’s default position while gaming.
Photo: Kinesis

When I first heard Kinesis, a company known for its large, space-age-looking Advantage keyboards and its ergonomic split keyboards, I was confused. How would the company’s ergonomic focus translate into a 60 percent board? Quite nicely, it turns out. Who knew a set of keyboard feet could make such a difference?

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The TKO features a level of comfort and flexibility not often seen in the small keyboard space. There’s nothing else quite like it. It’s quickly become my daily driver, and it’s going to take something really special to knock it off its place on my desktop.

DISCUSSION

By
Optimus_Mike

So they made a small keyboard, but failed to give it low profile key caps?

Despite being a PC gamer I resisted mechanical keyboards for years, tapping away on a mushy Razer Deathstalker. This is because I learned touch typing on them, and the tall caps and looking throw off almost every mechanical keyboard on the market screws with my ability to type.

Enter Logitech's G915 (specifically the TKL version). It's everything I'd ever wanted- shorter throw, flat key caps, but crisp mechanical switches. A tad pricey ($230 for the TKL, $250 if you want the number pad), but I may honestly never buy another keyboard.