Review: We’re Stuck On This Magnetically-Enhanced Keyboard From Keychron

Computers & Mobile Electronics
Review: We’re Stuck On This Magnetically-Enhanced Keyboard From Keychron

Manufacturer: Keychron

URL: https://www.keychron.com

Price: $219

The crossover between makers and mechanical keyboard enthusiasts is significant. Makers’ innate drive to bend technology to their will and customize hardware to their specific needs makes them prime candidates for the deep levels of customization afforded by the mechanical keyboard hobby. And many a mech-head has gone “full maker” in the pursuit of their desire to customize things beyond the realm of imagination offered by commercial offerings. So occasionally we like to fuel that fusion of interests, and the Keychron Q1 HE is a brand new, unique keeb with some interesting tech of particular appeal to folks who value extreme customization.

The Q1 HE will appear familiar to those who have encountered the Q1 Pro, Keychron’s full-metal 75% (82-key) luxury mechanical keyboard. But the Q1 HE represents a new flagship, with some groundbreaking new features not found on the Pro, if anywhere. For starters, the HE adds a new 2.4GHz connection with 1000Hz polling, in addition to three Bluetooth 5.1 slots and USB-C wired. The same 6063 aluminium chassis and double-gasket construction provides a luxury feel and sound, and the common 4000mAh battery provides hundreds of hours of wireless usage between charges (I charged my own Q1 Pro only a handful of times over the past year). That runtime will of course depend on your usage of the south-facing RGB LEDs and their 22 effects!

But where the HE departs from the Pro, and in fact any other keyboard I have tried, is with its hot-swappable Hall effect Gateron Nebula double-rail magnetic switches. Unlike traditional mechanical switches, which have a single, fixed actuation point, the HE’s Gateron 2.0 magnetic switches offer 0.1mm sensitivity along the entire 4.0mm actuation range, meaning you can customize your actuation point as you wish (per key!). And here’s where things get really crazy: you can define up to four actuation points per key, allowing for example a slight press to be bound to a walking action in a game, then transition to running at the next threshold.

While the Q1 HE uses open-source QMK firmware and can be configured using VIA, the new magnetic switches necessitate a new tool, Keychron Launcher, which allows all of the keymapping, macros, and LED customization you’d expect, plus extensive HE-specific functionality, such as setting actuation distance, the aforementioned multiple commands per key based on that distance, and even the ability to emulate analog joystick movement based on key travel.

The Keychron Q1 HE began as a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and is shipping to backers this month. But if you missed out, you can now pre-order it from Keychron’s site for $199 barebone without keycaps and switches, or $219 fully assembled, in order to be part of the May 2024 batch.

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David bought his first Arduino in 2007 as part of a Roomba hacking project. Since then, he has been obsessed with writing code that you can touch. David fell in love with the original Pebble smartwatch, and even more so with its successor, which allowed him to combine the beloved wearable with his passion for hardware hacking via its smartstrap functionality. Unable to part with his smartwatch sweetheart, David wrote a love letter to the Pebble community, which blossomed into Rebble, the service that keeps Pebbles ticking today, despite the company's demise in 2016. When he's not hacking on wearables, David can probably be found building a companion bot, experimenting with machine learning, growing his ever-increasing collection of dev boards, or hacking on DOS-based palmtops from the 90s.

Find David on Mastodon at @ishotjr@chaos.social and to a far lesser extent on Twitter at @IShJR.

View more articles by David Groom

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