I love a compact keyboard. Once I’ve got a cup of coffee, a glass of water, mouse, headphones, and a notebook open on my desk, I don’t want to dedicate any space to a bigger keyboard than what I need. But this approach comes with trade-offs. When you use a keyboard without a function row, for example, you have to get pretty used to holding down multiple keys just to perform fairly simple commands, and inputting a lot of numbers can be a chore.
The Chassepot Keyboard C1000 is an attempt to get the best of both worlds. It’s still just as narrow as a compact keyboard like the Happy Hacking Keyboard, but it includes all of the regular full-size Windows keyboard keys, meaning there are multiple keys to access the function row or non-alphabetical keys like “Home” or “End.”
It does this by making itself roughly twice as tall as any other keyboard I’ve ever used, eschewing a typical rectangular form factor in favor of a big, ridiculous square. While a typical keyboard has around five or six rows of keys, the Chassepot Keyboard C1000 has nine. You’ll find all of your function keys to the upper left of the board, your number pad is on the upper right, and there’s a collection of miscellaneous keys in the upper middle. Somewhat amusingly, there’s so much space here that Chassepot has even cut a little hole into the middle of the keyboard. I’m not exactly sure what the point of this is, but I like to imagine people using it as a little handle when they’re carrying the C1000 around.
Before I looked too closely at the Chassepot, I imagined that this design would be more or less similar to a typical keyboard layout on the bottom half of the board, while leaving your less commonly used keys on the top for you to reach up to when you need them. I admit now that this was the wrong assumption to make.
There are two models of the C1000: there’s the Go model, which is only available with clicky blue Outemu switches that limit you to plain white backlighting, and there’s the Pro model, which is equipped with RGB lighting and can be bought with either click blue, tactile brown, or linear red switches. The Go costs $169, and the Pro is priced at $199.
In terms of build quality and construction, there’s very little to complain about. The keyboard feels nice and solid as you type on it, and it even has a little USB Type-A port on the top left of the keyboard if you want to pass through a connection from a USB stick or mouse. The surface on the included keycaps is maybe a tad tackier than I’d ordinarily like, but that’s just my personal preference.
With its bizarre, super tall design, Chassepot obviously has no intention of following regular keyboard design trends. Yet I was still staggered at the number of ways the C1000 deviates from regular keyboard layouts in some seemingly completely arbitrary ways.
The worst of these is that Chassepot decided to place its keyboard’s arrow keys to the left of the layout, rather than on the right like basically any other keyboard ever released. This has the annoying side effect of shifting the entire keyboard just slightly to the right to compensate, meaning that the last row of keys on the left of the board is farther away than you’d expect it to be.
The weirdness doesn’t stop there. There’s no Windows key on the bottom row of the board; instead, it’s to the left of the Tab key. The right-hand shift key has been made shorter to accommodate the “~” key because there’s a function key where the “~” key would normally go. There’s also a second backspace key to the right of the space bar.
I’m struggling to understand why you’d bother with half of these changes. Most laptops use a pretty compact layout that’s an industry standard that most people are familiar with. Why not just use that as a basis, and then add any extra keys above it?
I’m sure that if I stuck with the C1000 for long enough, I’d eventually relearn where its arrow keys are. I’m sure I’d eventually learn to start using keyboard shortcuts again, and that I wouldn’t curse myself whenever I found that I had to skip through a paragraph of text. But then inevitably I’d have to use a regular keyboard layout like the one that’s built into my laptop, and I’d have to go through the relearning process all over again.
Beyond the odd layout on the bottom half of the keyboard, I’m not even sure the double-height design is even that great of an idea in the first place. The Chassepot C1000 uses its extra tall height to include basically every key you’d find on a full-size keyboard, and it even adds a couple of extras like a shortcut key that automatically opens your task manager and one that opens your calculator app.
For something like the Numpad, having those keys relatively far away makes a certain amount of sense. You use the Numpad when you need to enter a lot of numbers, so you kind of switch your entire hand positioning to be able to do that.
But for other keys up there, it doesn’t work nearly as well. A lot of the time when I’m pressing a function key, I want to do so in conjunction with a modifier, like Alt-F4. But having the function row keys so far away makes this more difficult. Retaining these dedicated keys is supposed to save you time and effort, but the effect of Chassepot’s implementation does anything but.
Keyboard layouts are perhaps the part of the modern computer that has remained the same for the longest period of time, and it’s nice to see a company attempt to rethink how they should work. But Chassepot’s approach arbitrarily changes far too many things about the standard keyboard layout. You have to spend a lot of time relearning how to type, and even then, you’re probably going to have to revert to a standard keyboard layout whenever you want to use another keyboard or your laptop.
If you’re really pressed for space, then there are a number of compact mechanical keyboards that come with a much more traditional layout. The Leopold FC660C and the Vortex Race 3 are both great options. Sure, you might have to rely on pressing a combination of keys to access some less common keys, but at least you’re not going to have to relearn years of muscle memory or repeatedly lose track of where your Windows key is.
Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.