Keychron Q1 evaluation: A personalised keyboard that can final for years

MSRP $169.00

“The Keychron Q1 mechanical keyboard is as customizable as you need it to be, with loads of choices to personalize your typing expertise and make it last more, and for a value that is much like non-customizable fashions.”

Professionals

  • Vary of customizable components
  • Aluminum case is sturdy
  • Works with Mac and Home windows
  • Key mapping software program compatibility

Cons

  • No Bluetooth
  • No peak or angle adjustment

The Keychron Q1 is a customizable mechanical keyboard that’s a step up from the model’s common mechanical keyboards. It offers a tailor-made typing expertise for the connoisseur, full with hot-swappable sockets for various switches and assist for open-source key-mapping software program. At first look, it appears very sophisticated and that you must be a keyboard knowledgeable to get the very best from it.

My each day use keyboard is normally a Keychron K2V2, and I’ve lengthy thought-about it to be the very best keyboard to go well with my wants. Would stepping as much as the Q1 change that, and is having the choice of customization actually well worth the effort? One other key query: Is it accessible to all types of customers? I’ve been typing on it for greater than every week, and I’ve been delighted by the expertise up to now.

Design

Keychron Q1 mechanical keyboard.Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

The Keychron Q1’s high and backside case is created from CNC-machined aluminum, and the 327mm-long physique homes a 75% keyboard. It’s designed to be custom-made and to have new switches put in — both 3-pin or 5-pin — on the PCB, which doesn’t require any soldering. It’s will be ordered both pre-built, or as a “bare-bones” package prepared so that you can make your self. along with your alternative of keycaps, switches, gaskets, and sound deadening.

My evaluation model got here preassembled with Gateron Brown switches and Keychron’s personal ABS plastic keycaps. The ultimate factor of customization comes with the choice of including a emblem of your alternative within the high right-hand nook of the keyboard. Keychron positioned the Digital Developments emblem on this one, and it seems nice (see under). The modification prices $30 and can clearly lengthen the supply time ought to you choose it.

The Q1 is a critically weighty piece of package, which together with very grippy rubber toes, stops it from transferring round on the desk. Regardless of not having any method to change the peak or angle, I discovered it was excellent for comfy and fast typing with out fatigue, however that received’t be the case for everybody, and I’m shocked Keychron hasn’t offered any adjustment in such a customizable bundle. You possibly can order the keyboard in black, blue, or a smart-looking grey.

Close-up of the Keychron Q1 keys.Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

I just like the refined design that doesn’t scream “gaming keyboard” like many mechanical choices, and as an alternative will take a look at house on any desk, no matter whether or not you’re gaming or engaged on it. The south-facing RGB lights are extra noticeable than on my K2V2, and it’s straightforward to vary the type by urgent the operate and Q keys on the identical time. Once you change the switches, the bottom RGB colour additionally alters, and you’ll see the improved purple impact through the Gateron Pink switches in our pictures.

If a keyboard is made for use for typing all day and never gaming, design isn’t centered on by the producer, and a keyboard turns into only a keyboard, and the design is what it’s. Not so with the Keychron Q1, as a result of in case you don’t just like the keycap colour mixture in our pictures, you possibly can customise it and make it totally your individual. The identical goes for the case colour, the little emblem, and the general typing expertise.

Connection and software program

The keyboard is hooked up to your pc utilizing a thick, braided, very high-quality USB Sort-C to Sort-C cable, full with an aviator-style socket within the center to allow totally different connections. There’s a curly part within the center for aesthetic functions solely. A USB Sort-C to Sort-A adapter is included within the field, together with a sequence of instruments to vary the switches, stabilizers, and keycaps on the keyboard.

Windows and Mac switch on the Keychron Q1.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Keychron Q1 aviator-style connector.

Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Special order logo option on the Keychron Q1.

Elective emblem on the Keychron Q1 Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

RGB lighting effect on the Keychron Q1.

RGB lighting impact with the Gateron Pink switches

When attached, there’s a change on the again of the keyboard to specify use with both Mac or Home windows. The Keychron Q1 doesn’t have Bluetooth, so it may well’t be used wirelessly along with your pc, or linked to an Apple iPad or different pill. That’s Okay because it’s not appropriate to be used once you’re out and about anyway, because it’s too heavy to hold round.

Keychron advertises the Q1 as being suitable with QMK key remapping software program for Home windows and By way of software program for Mac. Nonetheless, By way of wouldn’t set up on my Apple Mac Mini M1 with Large Sur, and the By way of web site isn’t the friendliest in case you’re not aware of putting in software program exterior of the Mac App Retailer. Once I requested about this, Keychron indicated the software program ought to work and not using a drawback on my machine, so it might be an remoted problem.

I just like the refined design that doesn’t scream “gaming keyboard” like many mechanical choices.

Earlier than the primary use on my Mac, the system required a number of particular keypresses for it to acknowledge the Q1, however exterior of that, there was no setup wanted. I’ve no actual want for the remapping or macro instruments offered by By way of, so the very fact it didn’t work wasn’t a problem, and the keyboard has operated with out fault. Nonetheless, in case you do want customized settings and use a Mac, you might want some endurance or a deeper understanding of the best way to set up non-App Retailer software program to get them.

Typing

Typing on the Keychron Q1 mechanical keyboard.Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Coming from the Keychron K2V2, the Keychron Q1 was noticeably quieter when typing, regardless of me utilizing Gateron Brown switches on each. The sound deadening contained in the case does an important job, however it does sound a bit hole, one thing Keychron is conscious of and addressing with the choice for added sound deadening foam so that you can add if wanted. The gasket mounts present loads of spring and provides when urgent the keys, and Keychron says the gaskets allow 2.5mm of journey. If you’d like extra sound from the Q1, you possibly can change the switches to the extra clicky Gateron Blue variations.

The mannequin I’m reviewing comes with an ANSI format and never my most popular ISO type, the place the Enter key’s a lot bigger. This meant the keyboard took a short while to get used to, as my little finger would faucet each the Enter and the Shift key when typing rapidly. Now that I’m extra used to it, my typing pace and accuracy is similar because it was on the Keychron K2V2, suggesting that in case you’re used to a mechanical keyboard already, you received’t have any bother adjusting to the Q1.

The usual ABS key caps really feel to be of upper high quality than those on the Keychron K2V2, with a much less plasticky under-your-finger texture and a snug indentation. Nonetheless, I swapped the keycaps to a special set created from Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) which have a good higher really feel, and may resist fading and shine for longer, too. Keychron sells PBT keycap packages for $40, making them fairly costly, however it’s a worthwhile improve for the higher really feel and elevated sturdiness.

Switches on the Keyboard Q1.Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

It takes lower than 30 minutes to swap all of the keycaps over utilizing the equipped device, however longer to do the switches. It’s not a tough job, as a “puller” device is included within the field. Nonetheless, you do want endurance because it’s a time-consuming and generally painful course of as a result of it takes a variety of effort to interrupt the switches freed from the PCB. I swapped the Gateron Brown switches to a set of Gateron Pink switches, which took about 45 minutes. As a result of the switches require some drive to take away, it’s all too straightforward to scratch the aluminum of the chassis when doing so, however this may’t be seen as soon as it’s all again collectively. I’d not wish to change the switches regularly, however having the choice to take action is a substantial profit.

Why? Experimentation, as a result of fulfilling typing is a surprisingly particular person factor. The texture of the Pink switches surpasses the Brown switches for me, permitting me to kind even sooner and extra exactly, one thing I wasn’t conscious of till taking part in round with the customizable Q1. Typically, there’s an exquisite solidity to the typing expertise on the Q1, particularly when in comparison with the plastic-bodied K2V2. Every keypress has a satisfying quantity of damping, is nowhere close to as loud, and but nonetheless feels very satisfying. The Brown switches right here require extra drive to satisfyingly activate in comparison with the Brown ones fitted to the K2V2, curiously.

Keychron Q1 and alternative keycaps and switches.Andy Boxall/Digital Developments

Regardless of attempting a number of totally different mechanical keyboards lately — the Keychron K3, and the Azio Izo, for instance — I’ve at all times returned to the Keychron K2V2. I don’t count on to do that with the Q1. The solidity offered by the steel physique, the superb Gateron Pink switches that I’ve hung out putting in, the quieter sound (I file interviews, and listening to the clatter of the K2V2 keyboard throughout them after I take fast notes may be very annoying), and that I appear to be a greater and sooner typist utilizing it is going to hold it on my desk.

All this discovery was actually enabled by the Q1’s flexibility, which extends far additional than my information and wishes go, making this a wonderful alternative for the novice and skilled fanatic alike.

Worth and availability

The Keychron Q1 is accessible to pre-order now, with delivery anticipated to start out round September 15. Absolutely assembled in any of the three colours, the Q1 prices $169, though this can be a particular provide value in accordance with the net retailer, and the fee could rise to $179 at any time. The bare-bones variations are usually not obtainable to order on the time of writing, and might be obtainable shortly after the absolutely assembled model’s launch.

Our take

The advantages of customization had been a bit misplaced on me earlier than I hung out (various time, truly) swapping between switches and keycaps on the Keychron Q1, then evaluating the typing expertise to my Keychron K2V2. Having settled on the keycaps and switches that felt finest for me, it’s clear that there’s a super keyboard setup for everybody, and the advantages are apparent once you get it proper. Understanding and discovering your ultimate setup will come by way of trial and error, however having a keyboard just like the Q1 minimizes the ache and expense, and it’ll subsequently final for years in case you’re prepared to spend money on it.

Understanding I can change all of the elements once more at any time, and likewise go deeper into the customization by including foam sound deadening (or eradicating it) and altering the stabilizers and gaskets as properly, means the keyboard is genuinely future-proofed. It’s a keyboard that may develop with you, or just keep as it’s, for not much more cash than a non-customizable mechanical mannequin.

I’m a relative newcomer to mechanical keyboards, however have been bought on the idea since swapping to 1. The Q1 isn’t just for lovers desirous to create their very own “final” keyboard, however for these like me who need a high-quality, extraordinarily strong mechanical keyboard for work that actually fits my type and preferences, with out the necessity to purchase a completely new keyboard if something alters or breaks.

Is there a greater various?

The Superb GMMK Professional is the Q1’s direct competitor, and it’s one other aluminum, extremely customizable mechanical keyboard with a 75% measurement. It prices the identical and has a rotary knob for media management, however doesn’t assist By way of remapping software program, solely QMK for Home windows.

When you aren’t anxious concerning the customization, we advocate the Corsair Straife RGB Mk.2 mechanical keyboard, which can be round $160 and offers an important expertise when each working and gaming. You may also try our intensive roundup of the very best mechanical keyboards or the very best keyboards typically in case you’re in search of different selections.

How lengthy will it final?

The aluminum case and modularity of the parts means there’s a complete lot of life within the Keychron Q1, until you spill one thing throughout it, because it’s not water resistant. Keychron offers a 12-month guarantee, however within the case of the Q1 will change the faulty elements fairly than your entire bundle.

Do you have to purchase one?

Sure. It’s an absolute pleasure to kind on, and the intensive customization choices imply it is going to final for years.

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