Keychron continues doing it. Since our assessment of the Keychron Q2 was published in January 2022, the company has redesigned the Q1 and introduced 12 other Q-series boards, ranging in size from a conventional full-size board to a very small one. Even more, there is an HHKB. However, the Q10, which is a mechanical keyboard with a 75% Alice layout and an aluminum chassis that has been machined, is possibly the rarest of them. It is a terrific keyboard for the price, similar to other keyboards in the Keychron Q series. It has a plethora of features that are aimed at enthusiasts, but the price is about average for a gaming keyboard. Similar to them, it is intended for a particular type of person: one who, when seeing a keyboard that costs $200, exclaims, “How is this so cheap?!”
+Design that is both interesting and practical.
+Excellent touch and timbre
+Easy key remapping
+PCB with a hot swapping window facing south
+Left volume knob
-You must have the desire to use a keyboard that weighs five pounds.
-$200 is either either too pricey or way too low of a price.
Imagine if someone cut a keyboard in half across the middle, rotated each half slightly, kinked the outside columns back the opposite way a tiny bit, and then reassembled it. That’s Alice, called after the TGR Alice, a 60 percent keyboard designed by Malaysian maker Yutski and sold as part of a 40-unit group buy in 2018. The TGR Alice has since spawned a multitude of clones, imitators, modifications, and spin-offs.
The Q10 is similar to other Alice boards in that it is neither a split keyboard nor an ergonomic keyboard. Rather, it is a hybrid of the two. You have no control over the angle or the tenting, and neither of the halves can be positioned separately. They aren’t spaced far enough apart for your forearms to remain parallel to one another while maintaining a shoulder-width gap between them. In particular, the height of the Q10 is a little bit excessive. However, because it allows you to keep your wrists at a more neutral angle to your forearms, it provides a level of comfort that is slightly superior to that of a conventional keyboard. It gives the impression that greater space is created between my shoulders. It has a cool appearance as well.
Believe it or not, the Q10 is a phenomenal deal at either $215 with keycaps and switches or $195 without either of those components. The Q series is Keychron’s attempt to make an off-the-shelf mechanical keyboard seem like a high-end bespoke keyboard, and for the most part, it succeeds in doing so — that is, if your idea of a high-end keyboard includes jargon like “gasket mount” and “milled aluminum chassis.”
Using the factory keycaps and switches, my review unit has a total weight of 2244g, which is little under five pounds. It is designed to be placed on a desk, where it will remain. In this regard, Keychron is following the lead of the keyboard community; during the past ten years, the vast majority of custom keyboards have been fabricated from milled aluminum for a number of reasons. Metal keyboards have an appealing appearance; heavy objects have a luxurious feel; and if you type with them, they won’t move around on your desk. In addition, the cost of CNC-milled aluminum scales linearly per unit, which is crucial to know if you are only creating 50 or 100 of anything for customers who are willing to pay hundreds of dollars apiece. It has only been in the recent past few years that producers of enthusiast keyboards have obtained the scale necessary to make plastic cases, which is approximately the same time that more established manufacturers began creating milled-aluminum ones.
It is gasket-mounted, just like the other Q-series boards; the switch plate is held in place by strips of squishy foam that are sandwiched between the top and bottom frames. This provides a lovely bounce to the entire assembly: if you press down hard enough on any key, you can see all of the keys go downward as a mass and then bounce back up again. Small silicone bumpers are placed between the top and bottom frames to prevent metal-on-metal contact. This further reduces vibration and eliminates the high-pitched ping that is commonly associated with solid aluminum casings. Between the switch plate and the printed circuit board (PCB) is a layer of sound-damping foam. The stabilizers have a little heavier coating of lubricant than the switches, which are just lightly lubricated overall.
All of these modifications are things that keyboard aficionados do to their instruments in order to make them deeper, fuller sounds and to lessen the amount of high-pitched clacking or pinging. To put it another way, in order to make up for the fact that they are milled out of a single piece of aluminum solid, these are designed. One more is the tape modification (or Tempest mod, after the guy who popularized it). In order to alter the sound profile, this method requires adding layers of tape to the back of the PCB. It’s not expensive, it’s not difficult, and it does the job. This has been done to multiple keyboards by me. Instead of having a layer of acoustic foam like the other Q-series boards, the Q10 already has a thin strip of “acoustic tape” applied to it during the manufacturing process.
Does it work? Yeah.
The Q10 has an excellent feel and sound when equipped with the standard keycaps and Gateron Pro Red switches. In addition to that, I’m not even a fan of light linear switches. The most of the noise is produced by the keycaps rubbing up against the switch plate, thus it can’t be described as particularly quiet. There is not the slightest hint of resonance or ping. Even the space bars, which are typically the keys on a keyboard that make the most noise, are surprisingly quiet. This is likely due to the fact that they are the same size as the standard Shift keys. To be honest, I do not type with enough power to feel any bounce from the gasket mount; to me, it feels about the same as an integrated plate does. However, it appears to assist the sound profile, and it is not hindering anything in the process.
The stock stabilizers that screw into the PCB mount are suitable. They’ve been lubed liberally but not particularly well, and the key for the backspace is noticeably louder than I’d like it to be. If that were my keyboard, those are the first settings I’d adjust to make it more comfortable. In spite of this, they perform admirably in comparison to other pre-installed stabilizers.
Good job, Alice
Even though this is the first time I’ve ever used an Alice board, I had almost no trouble becoming accustomed to it. The fact that it is generally conventional in its layout is helpful. In most cases, the keys are around the size you’d expect them to be and are located roughly where you’d anticipate finding them.
It’s possible that the adjustment for the bottom row will be the most difficult: there are three 1.25u modifier keys to the left of the first space bar, and a function key is located to the right of it. Another space bar can be found on the right-hand side of the board, followed by a solitary 1u modifier that serves as the board’s function key by default. If you are accustomed to depending on the right-hand modifiers, you are going to need to exercise some creativity in this situation. The Q10, along with the rest of Keychron’s Q-series boards, is fully programmable using VIA, which is a flexible and well-liked app in the keyboard community for modifying RGB lighting and key mapping. Consequently, all of these issues may be resolved.
The Q10 ships with keycaps that are compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems and features a switch that allows you to switch between two separate sets of layers, each of which may be individually programmed. This is a killer feature for anyone who frequently switches between Mac and Windows because it means you can do more than just swap the locations of a few modifiers; you can have completely different layouts. This is a feature that is a must-have for anyone who frequently switches between Mac and Windows. What, just me?
Before I could remap the board, I had to download a JSON file from Keychron’s website, import it into VIA, and toggle V2 compatibility in the settings menu. This is a fairly common issue that will hopefully be resolved in the future (Keychron’s older Q-series boards are already included in the official repository).
The Q10 comes standard with doubleshot PBT keycaps in OSA profile and Gateron Pro Red (linear), Blue (clicky), or Brown (supposedly tactile) switches, unless you opt for the barebones version, which comes with Gateron Pro Blue (clicky) switches. The keycaps are in good condition. They are not very thick, and the modifier legends appear to have been typeset in a hurry, which is unfortunate for a board that is otherwise fairly professional. However, they come with a legend on the function row that is formatted in the Mac way, and they are practically free.
I refer to it as “basically free” because the price difference between the version of the Q10 with switches and keycaps and the version with just the bare bones is only twenty dollars. Even more difficult to get than keycaps are 89 decent switches for the price of twenty dollars. Even if you have a lot of keycap sets floating around (don’t judge me), they might not include every key that you need for an Alice board, so it’s best to just shell out the twenty bucks and get a new set.
There is a key with a 1.75u right shift, which is a standard feature of aftermarket keycap sets. There is a column of five macro keys along the left side of the keyboard, and the Delete key is placed one row higher than it should be. The Home key is also placed one row lower than it should be (although you can, of course, remap these keys using VIA). There is a second B key located on both sides of the divide, as is typical for boards designed in the Alice style. Although some keycap sets are beginning to accommodate the second B, and normal 2.25u and 2.75u Shift keys can be used to cover the space bars in a pinch, the Q10 is still a little more difficult to cover than a standard 75% board. On its website, Keychron sells a few different compatible keycap sets, in addition to a variety of switchplates, switches, and other accessories such as fancy cables and the like.
Because the Q10 features a hot-swap PCB with RGB LEDs pointing south, you may use virtually any MX-compatible switches and keycaps without having to worry about interference. (Unless you employ long-pole switches, North-facing printed circuit boards might give you problems with Cherry-profile keycaps.) I had the same experience as my friend Flo Ion at Gizmodo when I discovered that some of the cutouts in the function row are too small for a keycap puller or switch puller to fit into. As a result, I ended up having to remove the top frame whenever I changed the caps or switches on my keyboard.
Even if you leave the frame on while you are changing out the caps, you should still remove the frame before installing the switches so that you can provide counter-pressure to the hot-swap sockets. It makes it much simpler to seat switches, and it prevents the sockets from being pushed off the rear of the printed circuit board. There are a lot of folks that just “yolo it,” including my editor. It appears to work reasonably well for them, however when I do it this way, I bend a lot less switch pins. Just saying.
Installing switches requires that the frame be turned off.
There is a surge in popularity for keyboards that are equipped with volume knobs at the moment, and I find it quite convenient that the Q10’s knob is located in the top-left corner rather than the right. As someone who writes with their left hand, I find this more comfortable. The left macro column is also really cool, and both the knob and the macros can be easily programmed in VIA thanks to the intuitive interface. There are a lot of gaming keyboards out there that include left macro columns, but enthusiast keyboards don’t typically have them.
What could possibly go wrong?
What aspects of the Keychron Q10 could perhaps be improved? The height of the front edge is approximately 20 millimeters, which is quite a little. If you type with your wrists resting on the desk, you may require a wrist rest; this will depend on the size of your hands and the height of your keycaps. If you type without resting your wrists on the desk, you do not require a wrist rest. (Keychron makes one that is curved to match the Q10, which is the one that I used for a couple of days before deciding to quit using it.) This is not an issue at all if you hover as you type like a professional would, but who does that?
There is not a wireless option available, just like the rest of the Keychron Q line. That’s not a problem. Bluetooth functionality on QMK and VIA boards is notoriously buggy, and the boards typically have very poor battery lives. It is more vital to have easy programmability on a board that weighs five pounds and has a nonstandard configuration. There is no shortage of good quality wireless boards on the market nowadays. Simply put, it is not the purpose of the Q-series.
A braided USB-C-to-C cable and an A-to-C adapter are included with the purchase of the board. In addition to that, a screwdriver, hex wrench, keycap remover, and switch puller are included in the package. They are teeny, but they can get the job done in a pinch, and it’s a lovely touch that gives the impression that the keyboard is intended to be toyed with. As I noted before, the caps are not very thick.
Do you take plastic?
The Q10 does an excellent job of being the thing that it is attempting to be, which is a solid-aluminum Alice-layout keyboard with a variety of features geared toward enthusiasts. It is essentially the only off-the-shelf option if you want a truly heavy Alice keyboard, with the exception of the 65 percent Keychron Q8 and the Feker Alice75, which is one hundred dollars more expensive and has inferior software, although it does offer Bluetooth and 2.4GHz wireless connectivity.
You actually need to desire a five-pound gasket-mount keyboard in order to purchase this one, despite the fact that it is an excellent keyboard. There are a couple different solutions available to you if what you want is an Alice board but you don’t want a keyboard that weighs five pounds. Epomaker’s website offers a few different 65 percent Alice boards, one of which is a gasket-mounted 65 percent Alice kit that features a stacked acrylic casing as well as support for VIA. The Orange Boy Ergo is the only in-stock Alice that I have been able to locate that has a knob on the left, and even then, it is just in stock in the sense that you can buy the components for it; in order to put it together, you will need a soldering iron for more than just the switches. If you enjoy making your own keyboards, like I do, then this is a fantastic choice for you; nevertheless, it runs counter to the overall “readymade” vibe that the Q10 exudes.
While I was working on this review, Keychron released the V8, which is a plastic counterpart of the Q8. Additionally, there is already a pre-launch page for the V10 model. However, unlike the other V-series boards, it maintains the majority of the Q series’ enthusiast features while omitting the metal casing and gasket mount along with a significant portion of the Q series’ price tag. That’s the one to keep an eye on if you’re interested in the Q10’s layout but aren’t quite ready to commit to a five-pound, $200 keyboard just yet.
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