Keychron retains doing it. Since we reviewed the Keychron Q2 in January 2022, it’s revamped the Q1 and launched 12 different Q-series boards, from a regular old full-size right down to an ultracompact. There’s even an HHKB. But possibly essentially the most unusual is the Q10: a 75 p.c Alice format mechanical keyboard with a milled aluminum chassis. Like different Keychron Q-series keyboards, it’s a improbable keyboard for the worth, with a bunch of fanatic options at middling-gaming-keyboard costs. Like them, it’s for a sure kind of individual: somebody who sees a $200 keyboard and says, “How is this so cheap?!”
Imagine that somebody cut up a keyboard down the center, rotated every half barely, kinked the skin columns again the opposite method a bit, and caught it again collectively. That’s Alice — named for the TGR Alice, a 60 p.c keyboard from Malaysian designer Yutski that ran as a 40-unit group purchase again in 2018 and impressed a legion of clones, imitators, variants, and spinoffs.
Like different Alice boards, the Q10 is just not fairly a cut up keyboard, and it’s not fairly an ergonomic keyboard. You can’t management the angle or the tenting nor place the halves independently. They aren’t far sufficient aside to essentially preserve your forearms parallel to one another, shoulder-width aside. And the Q10, particularly, is a bit tall. But it’s a little extra snug than a typical keyboard because it allows you to preserve your wrists at a extra impartial angle to your forearms. I really feel prefer it opens up my shoulders a bit extra. It additionally appears cool.
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For $215 with keycaps and switches or $195 with out, the Q10 is, imagine it or not, an absolute steal. The Q sequence is Keychron’s try to make an off-the-shelf mechanical keyboard really feel like a high-end customized, and it largely works — in case your imaginative and prescient of a high-end keyboard contains phrases like “gasket mount” and “milled aluminum chassis.”
My evaluation unit weighs 2244g, or simply underneath 5 kilos, with the inventory keycaps and switches. It’s meant to go on a desk and keep there. Keychron is following the keyboard neighborhood right here: most customized keyboards over the previous decade have been comprised of milled aluminum for a number of causes. Aesthetically: steel keyboards look good, heavy issues really feel high-end, they usually don’t slide round your desk if you kind. And virtually, the per-unit price of CNC-milled aluminum scales linearly, which is vital for those who’re solely making 50 or 100 of one thing for individuals who don’t thoughts paying tons of of greenbacks every. It’s solely previously few years that fanatic keyboard producers have gotten the dimensions essential to make plastic circumstances, simply as extra established producers began making steel ones.
Like the opposite Q-series boards, it’s gasket-mounted: the change plate sits on strips of squishy foam between the highest and backside frames. This provides your complete meeting a pleasant bounce: for those who push arduous sufficient on any key, you possibly can see all of the keys transfer downward en masse and bounce again up. Small silicone bumpers between the highest and backside frames forestall metal-on-metal contact, additional lowering vibration and eliminating the high-pitched ping that solid-aluminum circumstances usually have. There’s a layer of sound-damping foam between the change plate and PCB. The switches are flippantly lubed, and the stabilizers are… much less flippantly lubed.
These are all methods lovers mod their keyboards to provide them deeper, fuller sounds and scale back high-pitched clacking or pinging. To put it one other method: to compensate for the truth that they’re milled out of stable aluminum. Another is the tape mod (or Tempest mod, after the guy who popularized it). It entails making use of layers of tape to the again of the PCB to alter the sound profile. It’s low-cost and simple, and it really works. I’ve accomplished it to a number of keyboards. The Q10 comes pre-tape-modded with a skinny sheet of “acoustic tape” in lieu of the layer of acoustic foam different Q-series boards have.
With the inventory keycaps and Gateron Pro Red switches, the Q10 feels and sounds nice. And I don’t even like gentle linear switches. It’s not quiet, essentially, however a lot of the sound comes from the keycaps clicking in opposition to the change plate. There’s no resonance or ping in any respect. Even the area bars — often the loudest keys on any keyboard — are fairly quiet, in all probability as a result of they’re the scale of typical Shift keys. I personally don’t kind with sufficient power to really feel any bounce from the gasket mount — it feels about the identical as an built-in plate to me, to be trustworthy — but it surely appears to assist the sound profile, and it ain’t hurting something.
The inventory screw-in PCB-mount stabilizers are okay. They’re generously however inexpertly lubed, and the backspace secret’s louder than I’d like. If it have been my keyboard, they’re the primary issues I’d tweak. Still, by preinstalled stabilizer requirements, they’re fairly good.
This is the primary time I’ve used an Alice board, and it took me nearly no effort to get used to. It helps that the format is usually commonplace. Generally, the keys are the scale you’d count on them to be and about the place you’d count on them to be.
The backside row is likely to be the trickiest adjustment: there are three 1.25u modifier keys to the left of the primary area bar and a perform key to the proper of it. On the right-hand facet, there’s one other area bar, then a solitary 1u modifier that, by default, acts because the board’s perform key. If you’re used to counting on these right-hand modifiers, you might need to get artistic. Fortunately, that’s all fixable: the Q10, like all of Keychron’s Q-series boards, is totally programmable utilizing VIA, a versatile and widespread app within the keyboard neighborhood for customizing RGB lighting and key mapping.
The Q10 contains each Mac- and Windows-compatible keycaps within the field and has a change to toggle between two completely different units of layers, which you’ll be able to program independently. This is a killer function for anybody who frequently swaps between Mac and Windows as a result of it means you are able to do extra than simply swap the areas of some modifiers: you possibly can have utterly completely different layouts. What, simply me?
The Q10 isn’t but within the official VIA repository, so I needed to obtain a JSON file from Keychron’s web site, import it into VIA, and toggle V2 compatibility within the settings menu earlier than I used to be in a position to remap the board, however that’s fairly widespread and will finally be mounted (Keychron’s older Q-series boards are already within the official repository).
Unless you go for the barebones model, the Q10 ships with Gateron Pro Red (linear), Blue (clicky), or Brown (allegedly tactile) switches, in addition to doubleshot PBT keycaps in OSA profile. The keycaps are advantageous. They’re fairly skinny, and the modifier legends appear to be they have been typeset in an actual rush, which is a disgrace on a board that’s in any other case fairly polished. But they’re primarily free, they usually include Mac-style legends on the perform row.
I say “essentially free” as a result of the bare-bones model of the Q10 is simply $20 lower than the model with switches and keycaps. It’s arduous to seek out 89 good switches for $20, a lot much less keycaps. Even when you’ve got a bunch of keycap units mendacity round (don’t choose me), they won’t have each key you want for an Alice board, so that you may as properly spend the $20.
There’s a 1.75u proper shift key, which is widespread in aftermarket keycap units. The Delete secret’s a row increased than it must be, and Home is a row decrease (although you possibly can in fact remap these with VIA), and there’s that column of 5 macro keys alongside the left-hand facet. As is customary with Alice-style boards, there’s a second B key, one on all sides of the cut up. Some keycap units are beginning to embody the second B, and you’ll cowl the area bars with commonplace 2.25u and a couple of.75u Shift keys in a pinch, however the Q10 remains to be a bit harder to cowl than a typical 75 p.c board. Keychron sells a few compatible keycap sets on its web site, together with completely different switchplates, switches, fancy cables, and so forth.
The Q10’s hot-swap sockets make it simple to alter out your switches, although a few of the cutouts are fairly tight.
The Q10 has a hot-swap PCB with south-facing RGB LEDs, so you should use just about any MX-compatible switches and keycaps with out worrying about interference. (North-facing PCBs can cause issues with Cherry-profile keycaps except you utilize long-pole switches). Like my friend Flo Ion at Gizmodo, I discovered that a few of the cutouts within the perform row are a bit tight to squeeze a keycap puller or change puller into, so I wound up taking the highest body off after I swapped switches or caps.
Even for those who go away the body on whereas swapping caps, it is best to take into account putting in switches with the body off, so you possibly can apply counter-pressure to the hot-swap sockets. It makes it simpler to seat switches and keep away from pushing the sockets off of the again of the PCB. Plenty of individuals, together with my editor, simply yolo it. It appears to largely work for them, however I bend quite a bit fewer change pins this manner. Just saying.
You ought to set up switches with the body off
Keyboards with quantity knobs are the massive factor proper now, and I actually like that the Q10’s knob is on the top-left nook as an alternative of the proper. It feels extra pure to me, a left-handed individual. The left macro column can also be type of neat, and each the knob and the macros are simple sufficient to program in VIA. Plenty of gaming keyboards have left macro columns, however they’re not as widespread on fanatic boards.
What’s to not like?
So what’s to not like concerning the Keychron Q10? It’s fairly tall: the entrance edge is nearly 20mm excessive. If you relaxation your wrists on the desk if you kind, you may want a wrist relaxation, relying on the scale of your palms and the peak of your keycaps. (Keychron sells one that’s curved to match the Q10, which I used for a pair days after which stopped utilizing). If you hover like a correct typist, it is a non-issue, however who does that?
Like the remainder of Keychron’s Q line, there’s no wi-fi choice. That’s advantageous. Bluetooth help on QMK / VIA boards is fairly wonky, and battery life is often horrible. On a five-pound board with a nonstandard format, simple programmability is extra vital. There are loads of first rate wi-fi boards on the market. That’s simply not what the Q-series is for.
The board comes with a braided USB-C-to-C cable and an A-to-C adapter. It additionally comes with a keycap puller, change puller, hex wrench, and screwdriver. They are dinky however serviceable in a pinch, and it’s a pleasant contact that implies the keyboard is supposed to be messed with. The caps are, as I discussed, skinny.
Do you are taking plastic?
The Q10 is superb at being the factor it’s attempting to be: a solid-aluminum Alice-layout keyboard with a bunch of fanatic options. If you desire a actually heavy Alice keyboard, it’s virtually the one off-the-shelf choice except for the 65 p.c Keychron Q8 and the Feker Alice75, which is 100 bucks dearer and has worse software program however does have Bluetooth and a couple of.4GHz wi-fi.
It is an excellent keyboard, however you actually need to desire a five-pound gasket-mount keyboard. If you don’t desire a five-pound keyboard however do need an Alice board, there are a number of choices on the market. Epomaker’s site has a number of 65 p.c Alice boards, together with a gasket-mounted 65 percent Alice kit with a stacked acrylic case and VIA help. The solely in-stock Alice with a knob on the left that I can discover is the Orange Boy Ergo, and it’s solely in inventory within the sense that you could purchase the elements — you want a soldering iron for that one, and never only for the switches. That’s an awesome choice for those who love constructing your personal keyboards — which I do — but it surely’s the alternative of the Q10’s complete readymade vibe.
As I used to be drafting this evaluation, Keychron got here out with the V8, a plastic model of the Q8, and there’s already a pre-launch web page for the V10. Like the opposite V-series boards, it loses the aluminum case and gasket mount — to not point out half the worth tag — however retains a lot of the different fanatic options of the Q sequence. If you’re curious concerning the Q10’s format however aren’t prepared for a $200, five-pound keyboard, that’s the one to observe.
Photography by Nathan Edwards / The Verge
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