Keychron Q1 Review
The Keychron Q1 is a fantastic option for those wanting to try out the world of custom keyboards. It’s incredibly well built, with perhaps the sturdiest chassis I’ve seen on a keyboard in a long time, while the MX Clear switches feel responsive and are some of the best for typing out there. Things can get pretty expensive with switches like these though, so it’s really an option for enthusiasts and those with money to spend.
- Incredible build quality
- Responsive MX Clear switches
- Powerful software
- Expensive (in some configurations)
- RGB lighting won’t always shine through
- UKRRP: £149
- USARRP: $168
- Hot-swappable switches:The Keychron Q1 V2 has the ability to have its switches swapped out
- VIA software:It also comes with a powerful software suite for customisation
- Detachable USB-C cable:The Q1 V2 is wired, but includes a detachable USB-C cable, which makes it a good choice for typists on the go
Building your own custom keyboard is becoming increasingly popular, and recent years have seen plenty of manufacturers providing more and more customisation options to allow customers to scratch that itch.
Enter the Keychron Q1 (Version 2), an option from one of the more established custom manufacturers that brings with it a sturdy CNC’d aluminium frame alongside PBT keycaps, a hotswappable PCB and convenient means of customisation.
As a barebones kit, the Q1 will run you £149/$169, although you can purchase it fully assembled for $179 if you don’t want to customise it.
- Thick aluminium case
- Intuitive layout
- Plenty of configuration
Before jumping into design proper, it’s worth mentioning that this is a custom Keychron Q1 and not the fully assembled kit. With the custom one, you get to choose your keys witches and keycaps, the latter of which will determine at least part of its looks.
For my configuration, I went for some Mac-inspired keycaps that makes the Q1 look like it’s an older Apple Extended Keyboard that used to be an odd on for the Macintosh II and SE from 1987 to 1990. This gives the Q1 a certain retro aesthetic that looks excellent, and considering these keycaps are made using dye-sublimated PBT plastic, they also feel incredibly durable.
Regardless of which keycaps you go for, the frame of the Q1 remains the same. It’s comprised of a CNC’d 6063 aluminium chassis that brings with it some ludicrous heft and a weight to it that seems to be unmatched for its smaller stature, at least from OEM boards, that is.
There’s no deck flex either, given the sheer thickness of the aluminium case, although given this is a gasket mount keyboard, there is a small amount of bounce to the keypresses. There are options to add a metal plate to the board if you so wish, which could provide even more structural rigidity.
This is a smaller footprint keyboard too, with a 75% layout that brings with it a TKL-style composition, although with a squished nav-cluster so that it only occupies one column. Generally speaking, 65% and 75% keyboards have always been my preferred layouts, given the desk space you save, and you don’t tend to lose much in the way of functionality, apart from the number pad.
Round the back, the interface is nice and simple, with a USB-C port for connectivity (the cable here is an aircraft style coiled offering that looks truly brilliant) and a Windows/Mac selector switch, given this keyboard works on both platforms.
- MX Clears work a treat for day-to-day work
- Hotswappable PCB means switches can be changed easily
- Windows & Mac compatibility is very handy
When it comes to switch selection for a barebones kit, the world is literally your oyster. As this is a hotswappable PCB, no soldering is required, and you can chuck in any MX-style switches with either 3 or 5 pins on the bottom.
The process for doing so is simply to take a switch and push down lightly until it clicks into place, although it will be worth buying a few extras if you bend the pins and you can’t push them back into shape.
If you buy the Keychron Q1 from Keychron directly, you have the choice to use a range of Gateron G Pro switches, although for mine, I decided to hunt down some Cherry MX Clears.
For those unaware, MX Clears are a heavier version of MX Browns, with 65g of force needed to actuate, as opposed to the Brown’s slightly lighter 55cN. They offer more pronounced tactility, with more of a pronounced bump that makes them the perfect choice for typists.
In day-to-day use, the Q1 absolutely shone with the Clears inside, providing a responsive keypress with a satisfying bump to them, too. They’re probably a little on the heavy side for gaming, although there isn’t anything stopping you from trying. With a disclosed polling rate of 1000Hz, then the Q1 may well be responsive enough for gaming with some lighter switches inside.
The fact you can switch between MacOS and Windows use on the fly with the bundled switch round back, proved especially useful considering I’m someone who works on a MacBook and games on a Windows PC. And as soon as you change the mode, all the relevant functions are present and ready to go.
Software and lighting
- Bright RGB lighting (with the right switches)
- VIA software is seriously capable
When it comes to lighting, the Keychron Q1 comes with some RGB, thanks to south-facing RGB LEDs installed underneath the base plate, and it works like a treat with the right switches installed.
Unfortunately, with the fact these MX Clears have black housings, it becomes nearly impossible for the RGB to shine through, but the lighting is there and it generally looks pretty good, even if there isn’t much in the way of customisation in the bundled VIA software.
VIA is a very powerful piece of keyboard customisation software, even if its menus suggest otherwise, with a simplistic look to it. There’s the option to program four separate function layers, as well as remapping functions directly onto keys.
You can also program macros and fiddle with a set of presets for lighting too. It’s a very functional bit of kit and does all of what most people will need. And even though it might not look as big-budget as suites from the likes of Razer and Corsair, VIA definitely gets the job done.
Should you buy it?
You want immense build quality:
The Keychron Q1, with a CNC’d aluminium case, is one of the best built keyboards money can buy, and if it’s durability you’re after, there aren’t too many better options.
You want something affordable:
In its fully customised consideration, the Q1 isn’t the cheapest of keyboards, so you may want to look elsewhere if affordability is a top priority.
Custom keyboards is only a market that’s going to grow over time, and the Keychron Q1 is a shining example of how to get it right. For the price of an upper-end keyboard, you can have yourself a CNC’d aluminium case alongside a choice of basically any switch you like (for a cost) and some great software to boot.
It’s an interesting proposition to consider, especially if any of the current run of gaming keyboards don’t tickle your fancy. If you’re an enthusiast who wants to take the plunge with a custom keyboard, then the Q1 is definitely a great option.
How we test
We use every keyboard we test for at least a week. During that time, we’ll check it for ease of use, comfort and performance of the switches.
We also check each keyboard’s software to see how easy it is to customise and set up.
Spent at least a week testing
Compared the build quality with similar priced keyboards.
You might like…
The Keychron Q1 isn’t a proper gaming keyboard, but is perfectly good for gaming if you pick the right switches.
Yes, a switch puller is included.
Yes, the keyboard’s deck is made from aluminum.