New Keychron Q1 brings keyboard customization to the masses

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Even a beginner can customize the new Keychron Q1 mechanical keyboard.
Even a beginner can customize the new Keychron Q1 mechanical keyboard.
Photo: Keychron

Those who love the old-school touch and feel of a mechanical keyboard have long-admired Keychron for its range of K-series keebs. The newest member of the family offers a new series name, Q1, an affordable price and more customization than the company has yet put out there.

The device goes by the full name of Keychron Q1 QMK Custom Mechanical Keyboard. “QMK” is a reference to popular open-source firmware that helps you customize the keyboard as you see fit. You can easily program key combinations, shortcuts and even RGB backlighting effects.

Keychron Q1: Price is right

The Q1 is a 75% keyboard, meaning navigational keys have a tight configuration and there is no number pad. The Mac- and Windows-compatible keyboard comes with an Aviator-style USB-C cord. It lacks Bluetooth connectivity, which may be a deal-breaker for some people.

At $169, the price beats some products by prominent competitors working at the highly customizable mechanical keyboard game, such KDBFans and GMMK. Cult of Mac recently reported on a identically priced and option-heavy choice from MelGeek.

And with the Q1, customization really does seem to be the name of the game.

Customization is king

What Keychron appears to be doing with the Q1 is bringing the super-geeky world of mechanical keyboard customization to more people.

You can order your preferred configuration pretty easily, without necessarily having to get an advanced degree in mechanical keyboards, so to speak. Unless you’re into that sort of thing, that is. You will want to learn about some things, such as characteristics of color-coded switches in terms of how quiet they are, how smooth they feel, etc.

Keychron makes it easy to customize by laying out all the options on one page, essentially. This make things easy for a beginner. A veteran keyboard geek might find the options varied enough, or they might prefer a far-ranging DIY hunt, just like in the olden days of mechanical keyboard customization.

Hot-swappable switches, keycap selection, color choices

The switches under the keys are hot-swappable, meaning you can easily swap in different ones. If you already have your preferred switches, you can order the Q1 Barebone for $20 less than the full price. You can also pick from a range of keycaps the company offers.

Keychron notes a fully assembled Q1 comes with the following items (the Barebone version lacks switches or keycaps):

  • Keyboard PCB (circuit board housing the switches), the case and the aluminum plate
  • Double-shot ABS keycaps (including additional Mac and Windows keycaps)
  • Gateron Phantom switches
  • A premium coiled USB-C cable

Q1 color choices are Carbon Black, Navy Blue and Space Grey.

Switch options are Gateron Phantom Red, Gateron Phantom Blue and Gateron Phantom Brown.

Keychron Q1 comes with the proper tools

A cool thing about Keychron keyboards is that they come with a keycap puller tool and a switch remover tool. even better, you get keycaps for both macOS and Windows layouts. If you use both operating systems, you can easily reconfigure a Keychron keyboard without having to buy new keycaps.

Price: $169

Where to buy: Keychron