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reviewed the Keychron Q2 in January 2022, it’s revamped the Q1 and launched 12 different Q-series boards, from a daily outdated full-size right down to an ultracompact. There’s even an HHKB. However possibly essentially the most unusual is the Q10: a 75 % Alice format mechanical keyboard with a milled aluminum chassis. Like different Keychron Q-series keyboards, it’s a incredible keyboard for the value, with a bunch of fanatic options at middling-gaming-keyboard costs. Like them, it’s for a sure sort of individual: somebody who sees a $200 keyboard and says, “How is that this so low-cost?!”

Think about that somebody cut up a keyboard down the center, rotated every half barely, kinked the surface columns again the opposite manner just a little, and caught it again collectively. That’s Alice — named for the TGR Alice, a 60 % 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 will not be fairly a cut up keyboard, and it’s not fairly an ergonomic keyboard. You possibly can’t management the angle or the tenting nor place the halves independently. They aren’t far sufficient aside to essentially hold your forearms parallel to one another, shoulder-width aside. And the Q10, particularly, is just a little tall. Nevertheless it’s just a little extra snug than a regular keyboard because it enables you to hold your wrists at a extra impartial angle to your forearms. I really feel prefer it opens up my shoulders just a little extra. It additionally appears to be like cool. 

The Good

  • Attention-grabbing and helpful format
  • Nice really feel and sound
  • Simple key remapping
  • South-facing hot-swap PCB
  • Left quantity knob

The Unhealthy

  • Low cost-looking keycaps
  • You need to need a five-pound keyboard
  • $200 both too costly or suspiciously low-cost

How we charge and assessment merchandise

Fullmetal Alice

For $215 with keycaps and switches or $195 with out, the Q10 is, consider it or not, an absolute steal. The Q collection is Keychron’s try and 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 assessment unit weighs 2244g, or simply beneath 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 constructed 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 while you sort. And virtually, the per-unit price of CNC-milled aluminum scales linearly, which is essential 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 up 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. 

The Q10 has a five-degree typing angle, which is snug, nevertheless it’s only a tad taller than I would love.

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 may 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 typically have. There’s a layer of sound-damping foam between the change plate and PCB. The switches are frivolously lubed, and the stabilizers are… much less frivolously lubed. 

These are all methods fans mod their keyboards to provide them deeper, fuller sounds and scale back high-pitched clacking or pinging. To place it one other manner: to compensate for the truth that they’re milled out of stable aluminum. One other is the tape mod (or Tempest mod, after the man who popularized it). It includes making use of layers of tape to the again of the PCB to vary 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 Professional Crimson switches, the Q10 feels and sounds nice. And I don’t even like mild 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 by any means. Even the house bars — often the loudest keys on any keyboard — are fairly quiet, in all probability as a result of they’re the dimensions of typical Shift keys. I personally don’t sort with sufficient drive to really feel any bounce from the gasket mount — it feels about the identical as an built-in plate to me, to be sincere — nevertheless 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 key’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.

Alice good

The Q10’s house bars are the dimensions of ordinary Shift keys. The 2 B keys are to accommodate individuals who sort unsuitable, I suppose.

That is the primary time I’ve used an Alice board, and it took me virtually no effort to get used to. It helps that the format is usually customary. Usually, the keys are the dimensions you’d anticipate them to be and about the place you’d anticipate them to be. 

The underside row could be the trickiest adjustment: there are three 1.25u modifier keys to the left of the primary house bar and a perform key to the correct 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 perform key. If you’re used to counting on these right-hand modifiers, you might need to get artistic. Thankfully, that’s all fixable: the Q10, like all of Keychron’s Q-series boards, is absolutely programmable utilizing VIA, a versatile and standard app within the keyboard neighborhood for customizing RGB lighting and key mapping. 

The Q10 contains each Mac- and Home windows-compatible keycaps within the field and has a change to toggle between two completely different units of layers, which you’ll program independently. This can be a killer characteristic for anybody who often swaps between Mac and Home windows as a result of it means you are able to do extra than simply swap the places of some modifiers: you may have utterly completely different layouts. What, simply me?

I really like VIA as a result of I insist on placing keys in bizarre locations.

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 frequent and may ultimately be fastened (Keychron’s older Q-series boards are already within the official repository).

Different options

If the caps lock, shift, and tab legends look wonderful to you, congratulations on being much less annoying than me.

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 wonderful. 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 perform row.

I say “primarily free” as a result of the bare-bones model of the Q10 is just $20 lower than the model with switches and keycaps. It’s arduous to search out 89 good switches for $20, a lot much less keycaps. Even if in case you have 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 would possibly as nicely spend the $20. 

There’s a 1.75u proper shift key, which is frequent in aftermarket keycap units. The Delete key’s a row larger than it should be, and House is a row decrease (although you may after all 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 either side of the cut up. Some keycap units are beginning to embody the second B, and you may cowl the house bars with customary 2.25u and a couple of.75u Shift keys in a pinch, however the Q10 continues to be just a little tougher to cowl than a regular 75 % board. Keychron sells a couple of appropriate keycap units on its web site, together with completely different switchplates, switches, fancy cables, and so forth.

The Q10’s hot-swap sockets make it straightforward to vary out your switches, although among the cutouts are fairly tight.

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 buddy Flo Ion at Gizmodo, I discovered that among the cutouts within the perform row are just a little tight to squeeze a keycap puller or change puller into, so I wound up taking the highest body off once I swapped switches or caps. 

Even for those who depart the body on whereas swapping caps, you must think about putting in switches with the body off, so you may 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 largely work for them, however I bend so much fewer change pins this fashion. Simply saying.

You must 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 a substitute of the correct. It feels extra pure to me, a left-handed individual. The left macro column can also be sort of neat, and each the knob and the macros are straightforward sufficient to program in VIA. Loads of gaming keyboards have left macro columns, however they’re not as frequent 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. For those who relaxation your wrists on the desk while you sort, you would possibly want a wrist relaxation, relying on the dimensions of your palms 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). For those who 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 wonderful. Bluetooth help on QMK / VIA boards is fairly wonky, and battery life is often horrible. On a five-pound board with a nonstandard format, straightforward programmability is extra essential. There are many 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’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 are 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 need a extremely heavy Alice keyboard, it’s virtually the one off-the-shelf choice apart from the 65 % Keychron Q8 and the Feker Alice75, which is 100 bucks costlier and has worse software program however does have Bluetooth and a couple of.4GHz wi-fi. 

It’s a superb keyboard, however you actually must need a five-pound gasket-mount keyboard. For those who 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 % Alice boards, together with a gasket-mounted 65 % Alice equipment 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 which you could purchase the elements — you want a soldering iron for that one, and never only for the switches. That’s an incredible choice for those who love constructing your individual keyboards — which I do — nevertheless it’s the other of the Q10’s entire readymade vibe.

As I used to be drafting this assessment, 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 value tag — however retains a lot of the different fanatic options of the Q collection. For those who’re curious concerning the Q10’s format however aren’t prepared for a $200, five-pound keyboard, that’s the one to look at.

Pictures by Nathan Edwards / The Verge

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