Thin Keyboard Fits In Steam Deck Case

Although some of the first Android-powered smartphones had them and Blackberries were famous for them, physical keyboards on portable electronics like that quickly became a thing of the past. Presumably the cost to manufacture is too high and the margins too low regardless of consumer demand. Whatever the reason, if you want a small keyboard for your portable devices you’ll likely need to make one yourself like [Kārlis] did for the Steam Deck.

Unlike a more familiar mechanical keyboard build which prioritizes the feel and sound of the keyboard experience, this one sacrifices nearly every other design consideration in order to be thin enough to fit in the Steam Deck case. The PCB is designed to be flexible using copper tape cut to size with a vinyl cutter with all the traces running to a Raspberry Pi Pico which hosts the firmware and plugs into the Steam Deck’s USB port. The files for the PCB are available in KiCad and can be exported as SVG files for cutting.

In the end, [Kārlis] has a functioning keyboard that’s even a little more robust than was initially expected and which does fit alongside the Deck in its case. On the other hand, [Kārlis] describes the typing experience as “awful” due to its extreme thinness, but either way we applaud the amount of effort that went in to building a keyboard with this form factor. The Steam Deck itself is a platform which lends itself to all kinds of modifications as well, from the control sticks to the operating systems, and Valve will even show you how.

13 thoughts on “Thin Keyboard Fits In Steam Deck Case

  1. It’s worth mentionning that most gaming handheld PC had keyboard before the steam deck but after the deck a whole new gen of gaming handheld PC lost keyboards. through some of the newer brands try to reintroduce them in some new models…

    1. Also has to be noted that most of those keyboards are about as ergonomic and useable as an onscreen keyboard, though there are outlier (or at least ones that look more useable and I’ve heard are). But in general its offering a pretty bad to use but better than nothing type of keyboard, so I’d suggest not having it in this ‘gaming handheld’ form factor is for most people the right choice anyway – when you want a keyboard you’d get a real keyboard, and most of the time you don’t. Not that I am belittling this project – if its what you want/need it looks pretty darn slick really. The info on the separator layer hole size may well be useful to me and is certainly intersting too. Though for revision 2 ditch the full size pi supplied board, perhaps even just for the bare chip and minimal support component IMO, perhaps even lightly mod your deck to run a flat flex USB signal cable inside the case with one of those magnetic connectors fitted to the bottom – making deploying the keyboard easy.

      Though those GPD baby gaming laptop hybrids are quite tempting to me – performant, useful HID variety and easily pocket sized (at least for folks my size who don’t wear clothes with only vestigial useless fashion only pockets). The ergonomics are doubtless way way worse than a steamdeck shaped object for gaming, but as a more universally useful mobile computing device that is a trade I’d perhaps want to make – especially when its this horribly warm as being able to do all your computing on a performant and more efficiency aimed system than the big workstation and under the shade of the trees seems like a winner.

      1. Had a gpdwin1 and I switched for a gpdwin2 long ago, great to play mmo during comute. PC without keyboard seems a bit dumb, at least not if it’s a cheap thing like the steam deck…
        obviously ergonomic of the keyboard can’t be stellar but it’s less bad than one could expect…
        The gpdwin4 looks great but I just can’t justify getting one with my usage atm…

        1. > PC without keyboard seems a bit dumb
          Can’t really agree in this context, but in general I would – for the Steamdeck shaped portable PC that are really very clearly focused on being a game console first and formost – so you either don’t want a keyboard at all for the game you play, or will really want a real keyboard and separate mouse as this game lacks good controller support…

          If you have Steam running to use the keyboard developed for the SteamController you can get a really nice faux keyboard on the trackpads for when you need it, or just use an onscreen keyboard. Neither are a perfect replacement for a real keyboard, but at the same time nor are the keyboards shoved into some of the very clearly game console handhelds – so for that tiny bit of text input you might need on your game console it seems like any of them would do, so why pay extra for the hardware.

    2. GPD was and still is the one “big” one making handhelds with keyboards, there wasn’t really anyone else making them before the Deck, and Aya only has two keyboard models post-Deck

  2. I have to admit this is cool. I prefer the folding BT keyboard I bought for my deck, but it’s cool. The idea itself, creating an ultra thin flexible keyboard, is just epic and can be used for tons of different things. For example, using it inside a digital art creation.

  3. That looks like some kind of weird Garage Tech, made out of spare parts on the fly, and in the middle of the night by somebody binging out. I should think any Bluetooth capable keyboard would work (and look) so much better. Also BT keyboards most definitely come in compact sizes too.

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