When Keychron released the Q1 mechanical keyboard in 2021, it was a watershed moment for premium custom mechanical keyboards. Up to that point Keychron was known more for solid affordable mechanical keyboards without breaking the bank.
The Q1, however, marked the start of the Q series, beautifully crafted aluminum keyboards that are easy to customize out of the box with included tools, and most importantly, readily available online.
In the world of mechanical keyboards, there are few high-end options that can be purchased today and delivered in a couple of weeks. Instead, most have to go through what is called a ‘group buy’ process. This lengthy annoyance is a little like a kickstarter, in that you pay up front for a product that you may not recieve for potentially a year or more. The Q1 changed that, being available at all times, opening the idea of a custom mechanical keyboard to the masses.
The Keychron Q1 Pro is the most recent keyboard from Keychron. Almost cosmetically identical to the Q1, but with added wireless functionality and improvements that make the typing experience as good as you’ll find for the price.
Price and availability
The Keychron Q1 Pro is available directly from Keychron (opens in new tab) for $199 as a fully assembled version with switches and keycaps like the one I was sent. For a few bucks less at $179, you can grab the barebones option that requires you to add your own switches and keycaps.
At the time of writing, some colors and switch options are sold out. However, Keychron regularly restocks, so you should never have to worry about availability – one of the major selling points for this mechanical keyboard.
What I love
Before testing the Keychron Q1 Pro, I had just built and customized a Q1 and was very happy with the finished product. It’s fair to say the Q1 Pro does everything the Q1 offers but better, and with the option of Bluetooth wireless connectivity, something that you don’t often see in higher-end boards.
When you lift the Q1 Pro out of the box, you’ll first notice the sheer weight of the keyboard. It’s a hefty piece of kit weighing in just under 4 lbs, and that adds to the premium feel of the aluminum casing. Even the screws on the bottom are top-quality Allen-key screws that make opening the keyboard, should you wish to do so, a breeze. It’s a 75% keyboard, which means you still get function keys but no number pad.
Keychron sent me a Carbon Black pre-assembled model with the linear Keychron K Pro Red switches and a blue-grey set of Keychron’s KSA-profile PBT keycaps. As far as the switches go, they are exactly what you’d expect from a linear switch, a smooth switch with tactile or audible feedback, perfect for gamers, and my preference for typing.
Nowadays, more and more mechanical keyboard switches come factory lubricated for better feel and sound, and these Keychron switches follow that trend. These K Pro Reds are a great starting point for anyone wanting to get started with a custom mechanical keyboard but doesn’t want to fork out on switches immediately until they know what they like. And as the PCB is Hot-Swappable, you can change the switches anytime without soldering. If you prefer options that give tactile feedback with every press, Keychron offers the K Pro Brown and a slightly more quiet tactile switch in the K Pro Banana.
In terms of keycaps, they are solid. You get double-shot PBT, the standard nowadays for its oil resistance and long-term durability. The double-shot aspect means the key legends will never wear off as they are injected in a different color as part of the second plastic injection process. The Q1 Pro also comes with additional keycaps for Mac users, which goes hand in hand with the Mac and Windows system toggle on the rear of the keyboard to match your system’s layout. The keycaps have a spherical shape that almost makes a wave when looking side-on, called a KSA profile. I’ll touch on this a little later in the review.
Keycaps and switches aside, the Q1 Pro has a double-gasket design, essentially rubber suspenders on both sides of the circuit board. This makes the typing experience flexible and comfortable for long days at the office. With the wired Q1, some modding was required to get my desired sound. I covered the back of the PCB with tape, for example, to eliminate a metallic pinging sound that comes from the aluminum enclosure.
The Q1 Pro has none of those issues thanks to better foam in the bottom case around the 4000 mAh rechargeable battery. The Q1 Pro also differs from the Q1 with a polycarbonate (PC) plate versus the steel plate used on the wired Q1. The PC plate enhances the typing experience tenfold as the flexibility of polycarbonate makes the keyboard feel less harsh on your fingers and more satisfying to type on.
For most people, you can buy the pre-assembled version of the keyboard and never have to worry about changing anything, although I would argue that you SHOULD give customizing a go. And Keychron wants you to make the keyboard your own too.
On the box, the Q1 Pro is called “An open source customizable keyboard for peak productivity,” and the company has achieved exactly that. In the box, you’ll find spare screws, spare rubber gaskets, a screwdriver, a hex key, a switch puller, and a keycap puller – before you know it, you’ll be too tempted not to change something up.
I couldn’t help myself. I played around with the Q1 Pro by opening it up to see what it looked like inside and then changed the switches and the keycaps to something more to my liking.
The customization isn’t only physical. The Q1 Pro works seamlessly on Mac and Windows with VIA keyboard customization software. Simply plug the keyboard in with the provided USB-C cable and launch the VIA software from the web browser. Once launched, you can customize everything from the programmable knob (set to control volume by default) to each and every keypress so you can have specific custom shortcuts like switching off your Mac or launching a specific app, for example.
So you get a better out-of-the-box typing experience than its older sibling, but considering you can customize the internals, switches, and keycaps to your liking. Why else would you opt for the Q1 Pro?
I was never a wired peripheral person; I wanted everything wireless all of the time until I bought my Q1 and realized that a wired keyboard is nothing to frown upon. In terms of customizable mechanical keyboards, it’s pretty hard to find premium options with Bluetooth support, especially without compromising on something else. The Q1 Pro works as you’d expect a Bluetooth keyboard to work; there’s a toggle on the side to change from a cable connection to a wireless one, and I’ve had no issues with typing cable-free. Keychron says the battery should last around 300 hours without RGB and 100 hours with, and I’ve found these estimates to be correct.
What I don’t love
There are very few qualifications I have about the Keychron Q1 Pro. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best readily available premium wireless mechanical keyboard package on the market. But there are a few things that I don’t quite like.
The first, which is a preference thing and easily fixable by changing keycaps, is the KSA profile keycaps that the pre-assembled option ships with. Unfortunately, I find them too tall and uncomfortable to type with. The angle is cool to look at and helps the RGB lighting to shine through, but the first thing I wanted to do as soon as I had used the Q1 Pro for a day was change to a flatter cherry profile of keycap.
There are also no extendable feet under the keyboard, so you can’t change the typing angle without changing the keycaps. This meant that the very tall KSA profile hurt my hands more than it might have if I could change the typing angle. As I said, it’s purely preference, but you may need to purchase a wrist rest if you don’t like the stock keycaps and don’t want to buy new ones.
And then, the whole wireless versus wired keyboard debate has left me wondering, do I want to give up RGB lighting for a wireless connection? I forgot to charge the keyboard multiple times, which meant the battery died after a few days, and I had to opt for wired anyway. If you don’t care about RGB, you’ll get fantastic battery life, but if you do, I’d opt for a cable. As for gamers, you’ll want to play games wired anyway to reduce the input lag, although a 2.4GHz dongle would’ve been nice to give gamers a wireless option.
There are so many mechanical keyboards out there, but only a few are in direct competition with such a tightly knit package like the Q1 Pro.
If you don’t care about wireless and like a firmer typing experience, the Keychron Q1 is an excellent option for around $160 on sale. Keychron also makes keyboards in every other layout, so if 75% isn’t for you can opt for something like a Q2 60% instead.
As for other manufacturers, the Glorious GMMK Pro offers similar levels of customization and tweaking to your liking as well as a programmable knob and aluminum enclosure. But it’s more expensive, doesn’t have Mac support for customizing the RGB or keypresses, and isn’t wireless.
And, of course, there’s Apple’s Magic Keyboard for $99 if you want to match your Mac’s aesthetics. While it’s cheaper, it doesn’t come close to the typing experience on any mechanical keyboard.
Should you buy it?
You should buy this if…
- You want a wireless mechanical keyboard
- You want a premium option that allows you to customize even further without waiting months
- You’re intrigued by mechanical keyboards and want to dive in
You shouldn’t buy this if…
- You just want a no-frills keyboard and don’t care about the typing experience
- You don’t care about wireless and want to put work into the wired option
- You don’t like the feeling of mechanical keyboards
The Keychron Q1 Pro takes the gold standard of mechanical keyboards and makes it better. It feels incredible, looks awesome, and is easy to customize. Not only do you get one of the best keyboards on the market, but it has wireless connectivity options too.
If you’re tempted to jump into the world of the best mechanical keyboards for Mac and want the perfect starting point without diving into Reddit threads and waiting months for shipment, you can’t go wrong with the Keychron Q1 Pro.