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the Keychron Q2 in January 2022, it’s revamped the Q1 and launched 12 different Q-series boards, from an everyday outdated full-size all the way down to an ultracompact. There’s even an HHKB. However perhaps probably 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 incredible 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 that this so low cost?!”
Think about that somebody break up a keyboard down the center, rotated every half barely, kinked the skin columns again the opposite method a little 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 shouldn’t be fairly a break up keyboard, and it’s not fairly an ergonomic keyboard. You’ll be able to’t management the angle or the tenting nor place the halves independently. They aren’t far sufficient aside to actually maintain your forearms parallel to one another, shoulder-width aside. And the Q10, specifically, is a little bit tall. Nevertheless it’s a little extra snug than a typical keyboard because it helps you to maintain your wrists at a extra impartial angle to your forearms. I really feel prefer it opens up my shoulders a little 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 and make an off-the-shelf mechanical keyboard really feel like a high-end customized, and it principally works — in case your imaginative and prescient of a high-end keyboard consists of 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 produced from milled aluminum for a couple of causes. Aesthetically: metallic keyboards look good, heavy issues really feel high-end, and so they don’t slide round your desk once you kind. And virtually, the per-unit value of CNC-milled aluminum scales linearly, which is essential if you happen to’re solely making 50 or 100 of one thing for individuals who don’t thoughts paying tons of of greenbacks every. It’s solely prior to now few years that fanatic keyboard producers have gotten the dimensions essential to make plastic circumstances, simply as extra established producers began making milled-aluminum ones.
Like the opposite Q-series boards, it’s gasket-mounted: the swap plate sits on strips of squishy foam between the highest and backside frames. This provides your complete meeting a pleasant bounce: if you happen to push laborious sufficient on any key, you’ll be able to see all of the keys transfer downward en masse and bounce again up. Small silicone bumpers between the highest and backside frames stop metal-on-metal contact, additional decreasing vibration and eliminating the high-pitched ping that solid-aluminum circumstances usually have. There’s a layer of sound-damping foam between the swap plate and PCB. The switches are frivolously lubed, and the stabilizers are… much less frivolously lubed.
These are all methods fanatics mod their keyboards to offer them deeper, fuller sounds and cut back high-pitched clacking or pinging. To place it one other method: to compensate for the truth that they’re milled out of strong aluminum. One other is the tape mod (or Tempest mod, after the man 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 finished 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 Professional Crimson 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 towards the swap plate. There’s no resonance or ping by any means. Even the house bars — normally the loudest keys on any keyboard — are fairly quiet, most likely 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 — however it 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. Nonetheless, by preinstalled stabilizer requirements, they’re fairly good.
That 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 normal. Typically, the keys are the scale you’d count on them to be and about the place you’d count on them to be.
The underside row is likely to be the trickiest adjustment: there are three 1.25u modifier keys to the left of the primary house bar and a operate key to the best of it. On the right-hand facet, there’s one other house bar, then a solitary 1u modifier that, by default, acts because the board’s operate key. If you’re used to counting on these right-hand modifiers, you might need to get inventive. Luckily, that’s all fixable: the Q10, like all of Keychron’s Q-series boards, is absolutely programmable utilizing VIA, a versatile and in style app within the keyboard neighborhood for customizing RGB lighting and key mapping.
The Q10 consists of each Mac- and Home windows-compatible keycaps within the field and has a swap to toggle between two totally different units of layers, which you’ll program independently. This can be a killer characteristic for anybody who repeatedly swaps between Mac and Home windows as a result of it means you are able to do extra than simply swap the areas of some modifiers: you’ll be able to have utterly totally 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 capable of remap the board, however that’s fairly widespread and may ultimately be mounted (Keychron’s older Q-series boards are already within the official repository).
Until you go for the barebones model, the Q10 ships with Gateron Professional Crimson (linear), Blue (clicky), or Brown (allegedly tactile) switches, in addition to doubleshot PBT keycaps in OSA profile. The keycaps are high quality. They’re fairly skinny, and the modifier legends seem like they have been typeset in an actual rush, which is a disgrace on a board that’s in any other case fairly polished. However they’re primarily free, and so they include Mac-style legends on the operate row.
I say “primarily free” as a result of the bare-bones model of the Q10 is barely $20 lower than the model with switches and keycaps. It’s laborious to search out 89 good switches for $20, a lot much less keycaps. Even when you have a bunch of keycap units mendacity round (don’t decide me), they won’t have each key you want for an Alice board, so that you would possibly 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 should be, and House is a row decrease (although you’ll be able to 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 break up. Some keycap units are beginning to embody the second B, and you may cowl the house bars with normal 2.25u and a pair of.75u Shift keys in a pinch, however the Q10 continues to be a little bit harder to cowl than a typical 75 p.c board. Keychron sells a couple of suitable keycap units on its web site, together with totally different switchplates, switches, fancy cables, and so forth.
The Q10 has a hot-swap PCB with south-facing RGB LEDs, so you need to use just about any MX-compatible switches and keycaps with out worrying about interference. (North-facing PCBs may cause points with Cherry-profile keycaps until you employ long-pole switches). Like my good friend Flo Ion at Gizmodo, I discovered that a few of the cutouts within the operate row are a little bit tight to squeeze a keycap puller or swap puller into, so I wound up taking the highest body off once I swapped switches or caps.
Even if you happen to go away the body on whereas swapping caps, it is best to think about putting in switches with the body off, so you’ll be able to 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. Loads of individuals, together with my editor, simply yolo it. It appears to principally work for them, however I bend quite a bit fewer swap pins this fashion. Simply saying.
You need to set up switches with the body off
Keyboards with quantity knobs are the large factor proper now, and I actually like that the Q10’s knob is on the top-left nook as an alternative of the best. It feels extra pure to me, a left-handed individual. The left macro column can also be form of neat, and each the knob and the macros are simple sufficient to program in VIA. Loads 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 happen to relaxation your wrists on the desk once you kind, you would possibly want a wrist relaxation, relying on the scale of your fingers and the peak of your keycaps. (Keychron sells one which’s curved to match the Q10, which I used for a pair days after which stopped utilizing). If you happen to hover like a correct typist, this can be a non-issue, however who does that?
Like the remainder of Keychron’s Q line, there’s no wi-fi choice. That’s high quality. Bluetooth help on QMK / VIA boards is fairly wonky, and battery life is normally horrible. On a five-pound board with a nonstandard format, simple programmability is extra essential. There are many respectable 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, swap puller, hex wrench, and screwdriver. They’re dinky however serviceable in a pinch, and it’s a pleasant contact that means the keyboard is supposed to be messed with. The caps are, as I discussed, skinny.
Do you’re taking plastic?
The Q10 is excellent at being the factor it’s attempting to be: a solid-aluminum Alice-layout keyboard with a bunch of fanatic options. If you would like a extremely heavy Alice keyboard, it’s virtually the one off-the-shelf choice other than the 65 p.c Keychron Q8 and the Feker Alice75, which is 100 bucks costlier and has worse software program however does have Bluetooth and a pair of.4GHz wi-fi.
It’s a excellent keyboard, however you actually must need a five-pound gasket-mount keyboard. If you happen to don’t need a five-pound keyboard however do need an Alice board, there are a couple of choices on the market. Epomaker’s web site has a couple of 65 p.c Alice boards, together with a gasket-mounted 65 p.c Alice package with a stacked acrylic case and VIA help. The one 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 you could purchase the elements — you want a soldering iron for that one, and never only for the switches. That’s an awesome choice if you happen to love constructing your individual keyboards — which I do — however it’s the other of the Q10’s entire 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 happen to’re curious concerning the Q10’s format however aren’t prepared for a $200, five-pound keyboard, that’s the one to look at.
Images by Nathan Edwards / The Verge