I personally identify as a bit of nerd on all things tech and gaming. Because of this, I feel like I should’ve put together at least one mechanical keyboard by now! The truth is, I haven’t! That’s where the Keychron Q1 comes in, it’s a 75% barebones board.
Now, before we dig into my review I’d just like to give a huge shout out to The Keyboard Company for sending over all of the bits and pieces needed to complete this build.
So, let’s get into my review of the Keychron Q1 and find out if it’s any good.
Keychron Q1 Review
My first ever review on the blog was when I covered the Keychron K2. I was fairly inexperienced at this whole writing and reviewing thing, so it seems fairly apt that I’m now reviewing the Q1; it’s like we’ve pretty much come full circle.
I’ll start the review with initial impressions, followed up by a few different topics, covering typing performance, build quality and pricing.
I thought to myself, ‘Wow this box is pretty heavy’. I try not to look into review items before they’ve arrived at CodeWithMike headquarters, so I often don’t know what to expect. I guess I was basing my thoughts on previous keyboard encounters.
For example, the Filco Majestouch 2 isn’t exactly a featherweight, but the Keychron Q1 definitely felt heavier. Once I’d opened the box however, I understood why it had some weight to it, the body is made of aluminium and so is the plate. Once you account for the PCB board and the other internal components the beefiness starts to make sense.
This thing is a beast! I say that with the greatest respect, because this thing is stunning and I can’t wait to put it together and get typing on it.
Inside the box there isn’t much in the way of single use plastic. There’s a bunch of packaging foam, which could potentially be replaced with cardboard. With cardboard however, comes the potential for excess dust. Which I don’t particularly want all over my brand-new PCB board.
In this instance, I don’t think there is any room for an immediate improvement in plastic use.
Overall, I was incredibly impressed when I’d unboxed everything and got to handle the keyboard, it feels extremely well built. If it performs as well as it looks and feels, then I’m in for a treat.
So, what’s actually in the box then?
What’s In The Box
Inside you’ll find the Q1, braided cable, a few screws and foam pads. At the bottom of the box is a keyboard shaped quick start guide, which is very handy and easy to follow.
At this point I thought to myself that the Q1 Barebones would be much better if Keychron decided to include a few useful tools to help build the keyboard. I started to have a quick look on Ebay and amazon for a key cap puller and a switch tool.
It then dawned on me that I hadn’t actually removed the quick start card that was at the bottom of the Q1 box. What if they’d actually included the necessary tools?! – Yep, they had.
Nestled neatly underneath, held in place with foam cut-outs is where I found the tools, in all of their glory. The included tools are incredibly useful and good quality.
I’ll discuss my thoughts on the build quality next.
I’ll echo my comments above, this thing is a beast. Trying to twist the Q1 to see if there is any flex in the body is pretty futile, it’s frankly, impossible to do.
The metal body of the Q1 is exceptionally strong and well made. It’s made using a CNC machine, which can sometimes leave tool marks on the metal surface. Keychron have ensured the surface has been sandblasted, anodized and then polished, all but guaranteeing there aren’t any unsightly blemishes to the finish.
This 24 hour manufacturing process ensures a superb look and feel to the keyboard. When you pair this great piece of manufacturing with the solid aluminium base plate, switches and keycaps, it’s fairly obvious this will last a lifetime.
I wanted to see how the Q1 performed against my scratch test. So, I grabbed a letter opener and ran the edge of it on the underside of the keyboard. It left a very feint line which, thanks to the flaked metallic finish is practically invisible.
This goes to show that the overall finish can stand up to the day to day rigors of office or gaming life.
The Q1 has a shape almost like a Rhombus, which means, for me at least, I don’t need to use any additional stands to provide a decent ‘angle of attack’ when typing.
At the back of the keyboard is a switch to select between Mac and Windows. There are 2 modes for each OS, making 4 in total, but I won’t bore you with the differences of each. Basically, either of the 2 default options engaged by the toggle switch at the back are sufficient for 99% of most people.
The toggle switch hasn’t just been thrown on at the last minute either, it’s also made to the same high standards as the rest of it.
Bundled with the keyboard is the USB-A to USB-C braided coiled cable, personally I’m not a huge fan of those types of cables, I can never get them to sit right on my desk. But, this striking blue cable that matches the body of the Q1 is ever so good, it feels robust and the fabric braiding fits into each end of the cable without any frayed ends or quality control issues.
The actual USB-C port, also on the back of the keyboard is recessed ever so slightly, this helps to guide the cable into the port easier than it would if it was surface mounted. You know what it’s like, the sheer frustration that comes from trying to plug a USB cable in, you try it 3 times before realising you had it the right way round the first time you tried!
Underneath you’ll find 4 rubber / plasticy feet which, to be honest are my only gripe. They’re a bit slippery. I had expected the keyboard to slide around a bit when typing because of this, but the heavy Q1 ensures it’s doesn’t.
There are some additional foam pads in the box that you can add to the underside of the board for a bit more grip though, keychron really have thought of almost everything, haven’t they!
The typing performance will differ if you have different switches than the Keychron browns I’m using in this build. The purpose of covering typing performance in a barebones review is to give you an overview of what it could be like if you build something similar.
For the typing performance section I guess I’d better explain what we’re working with here. I’ve built the board using the Keychron K Pro Brown switches and Keychron keycap set.
|Keychron K Pro Switch – Brown
|50 ±10 gf
|2 ±0.4 mm
|4 ±0.4 mm
|Office / Gaming / General Purpose
The switches are very different than what I’m used too. The Filco Skull that I’m rocking has red MX switches which are quite soft and have a subtle ‘click’ to them.
Keychron’s K Pro Brown Switches however, are quite different. Whilst they are described as being quiet, the all metal construction of the keyboard enables them to be a tad louder than the reds and at the same time, they have a nice metallic echo to them.
Here’s a super quick video to show you what I mean:
I’m a fairly quick typist. I write code for a living, which also means I have to be accurate too. I wanted to test the difference between my current workhorse, the Filco and the Keychron Q1.
The test results below aren’t exactly scientific, there are far too many variables at play; how long I’ve used the Filco, different sized boards, different keycaps & switches etc. But, it does give a decent indication that the Q1 can keep up with the best of them.
On the left, we have the FILCO Majestouch-2‘s score and on the right it’s the Keychron Q1’s, they’re pretty much neck and neck in terms of performance.
I think the additional typo from the Q1 is because it’s a 75% board, in the typing test I went to hit the number pad, only to quickly remember it doesn’t have one!
Before you go ahead and buy this keyboard, you’ll need to decide which switches and which keycaps you’re going to use. Hit the link here for a guide on how to build your own keyboard and how to choose the right components for your specific use case.
How Much And Where To Buy
The Q1 Barebones without switches or keycaps will set you back around £139.00 / $166.00. For that price your getting an incredible quality foundation for you to take to the next level. You’ll find it available for sale on the KeyboardCo website. Hit the button below to check it out.
They also sell the Q1 as fully built board, if you prefer.
Keychron Q1 Review Summary & Verdict
I mentioned in my Majestouch 2 review that the Filco offering was the best keyboard I’ve ever used. I still think that holds true. It’s never let me down, even when I drowned it. But, the Keychron Q1 is not just a keyboard, it’s a bit of an experience.
I’m not sure I’m ready to retire the Filco yet, it’s a tough decision. My wife does like the Q1. She’s been rocking the Keychron K2 for a couple of years and quite fancies a change. I’m not sure who’s desk it’s going to end up on, but it’ll remain in our keyboard arsenal for the foreseeable future.
Score: 9.5 / 10
In reality, this keyboard, in terms of a functionality probably deserves a 9/10. But, it’s the entire experience of gathering the required components and building it, that only adds to the typing feel. It’s that knowledge in the back of the mind that you’ve chosen the components and put it together that makes it so special to type on.
Building my very own mechanical keyboard was extremely satisfying. I’d whole-heatedly recommend others to try their hand at building one too. The Q1 is the perfect platform to build on, so head on over to TheKeyboardCo and pick one up today.
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CodeWithMike is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.
The Q1 was sent over in exchange for writing this review. CodeWithMike have not been paid to write this article.