A couple of 12 months in the past, Keychron launched its Q-series of customized mechanical keyboards that now spans the gamut from small 60% boards to full-size choices, with every thing in between. No matter your desire, Keychron clearly desires to be in the working on your cash. Now, the firm is launching the Q8, a uncommon 65% Alice-style board with a gasket design.
Except you’re deep into mechanical keyboards, likelihood is you’ve by no means heard of an Alice-style board. It’s mainly a keyboard that’s break up in the center with either side barely angled and curved, with small area bars and B keys on either side (sure, B keys on either side…). In any other case, it’s largely a normal structure with arrow keys and numbers, however with no numpad or F keys. and whereas I hesitate to name it ‘ergonomic,’ the angled keys permit for a fairly relaxed wrist place. Not like ‘actual’ break up ergonomic keyboards like an ErgoDox EZ or Matias Ergo Professional, all you get is a set angle although and no tenting to boost the center of the board. In return, although, it’s extraordinarily simple to regulate to an Alice structure and, by extension, the Q8.
Keychron offered us with a overview pattern forward of the launch and having not too long ago tried each their Q3 TKL and Q8 1800 board, this one may very well be my favourite certainly one of the bunch. The model I’ve right here is the pre-built Carbon Black version with a knob and pre-lubed Gateron Professional crimson linear switches. That’s each a glance I get pleasure from and a change I can dwell with (I’d doubtless substitute it with a barely heavier linear).
Surprisingly, there isn’t any foam at the backside of the case to mute the sound. As a substitute, Keychron opted to pre-apply the standard tape mod and coated the again of the PCB with a pre-cut inexperienced tape, one thing I haven’t seen on a pre-built board earlier than. That will sound like a bizarre factor to do, however it actually does form the sound by absorbing a few of the undesirable increased frequencies. It’s good to see Keychron studying from the mechanical keyboard neighborhood, although, and the end result speaks for itself. There’s no case ping right here both, which additionally helps form the total sound, and whereas there isn’t a whole lot of area at the backside of the case, there needs to be simply sufficient so as to add a skinny layer of froth to mute the board a bit extra, if that’s your factor.
Out of the field, the board truly sounds fairly alright. It’s virtually ‘thocky,” however not fairly. The screw-in stabilizers want some further lube, particularly to make the bigger proper spacebar sound higher, however half the enjoyable of customized boards is to form them to your preferences and there may be nonetheless some room right here to do this. Like with earlier Q-series outings, the non-obligatory knob feels good, with clear steps and a satisfying click on whenever you press it.
I nonetheless want Keychron would supply extra change choices, however since this can be a hotswap board, you may simply substitute them. Provided that the totally assembled variations of Keychron’s boards with switches and keycaps solely price about $20 greater than the barebone units, I are likely to go for the totally assembled variations. When you’re new to mechanical keyboards, that’s the option to go anyway and if you happen to’re already deep down the rabbit gap, you may all the time discover some use for a number of additional switches. I’ve actually loved Keychron’s double-shot PBT Cherry profile keycaps currently, too, which at $40 are a little bit of a steal.
Speaking about keycaps: on condition that Alice-style boards aren’t precisely customary (although Akko additionally not too long ago launched one), it’s exhausting to search out mainstream — that’s, non-group purchase — keycap units that help it. Along with the two small area bars, Keychron opted for 2 B keys in the center as a result of fairly a number of typists apparently alternate between fingers for typing B. In an earlier model, Keychron truly opted for 2 G’s as an alternative (the slot for that’s nonetheless on the PCB), however the neighborhood suggestions was swift and virtually uniformly adverse. Some keycap units truly function two B keys, however that’s nonetheless considerably uncommon. You’ll have to get a bit artistic with a perform key there if you happen to solely use a type of anyway. Enjoyable reality: Keychron’s newest Cherry keycaps function two G keys…
In any other case, the Q8 follows the lead of the remainder of the Q collection, with QMK/VIA compatibility for reassigning each key to your coronary heart’s need, a CNC-machined aluminum physique and a polling charge of 100 Hz for avid gamers. There’s additionally per-key LED, in fact, to gentle up your day by day typing session. The PCB can deal with each three- and five-pin MX-style switches. And like these different boards in the Q collection, you may change between Home windows and Mac compatibility and like these different boards, the Q8 is barely accessible in a wired model, which stays the customary for customized keyboards.
Total, I was fortunately stunned by the Q8. Like most of Keychron’s current choices, you could possibly simply use it as is and be completely completely happy together with your alternative, however with just some small mods, you may make it nice and form it in keeping with your wants.
Pricing begins at $175 for a barebone equipment with out knob and $185 with it. Add $20 to these and also you get switches and keycaps, too. There aren’t a whole lot of reasonably priced (in mechanical keyboard phrases) Alice-style keyboards on the market, however it doesn’t really feel like Keychron minimize any corners right here.