Until recently, Keychron was best known for its line of (relatively) affordable wireless mechanical keyboards with nice quality-of-life features like Mac compatibility. Then, in 2021, came the Keychron Q1, the first of more than a dozen Q-series keyboards to feature heavy-duty aluminum construction, customizable layout and switches, and great typing feel. They are among the best ready-made keyboards you can get for the money.
This year’s Keychron Q1 Pro feels like a marriage between these two lines. It has the same great build, customizability and typing feel as the Q1, but with Bluetooth connectivity that’s just as reliable and easy to use as Keychron’s more affordable keyboards. Keychron already made good premium keyboards and good wireless keyboards – now you can get both in the same device.
At $199 (or $179 without keycaps or switches), the Q1 Pro is still relatively pricey. But since that’s only $20 more than a wired Q1 with similar specs, with no real drawbacks, I think it’s the obvious choice, even for people who plan to use it as a wired keyboard most of the time.
Keychron was initially taking pre-orders for the Q1 Pro through its Kickstarter, but it’s now available to pre-order directly from Keychron, with shipping expected in April.
- Great typing feel
- Long battery life
- Battery life with RGB
- No 2.4 GHz dongle option
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You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Q1 Pro for the original Q1 at first glance. Both keyboards use a compact 75 percent laptop-style layout, with a programmable volume button on the top right (on the Q1 this button was optional, but here it’s standard). Like the Q1, the Q1 Pro weighs about four pounds, meaning it’s far too heavy to be the kind of wireless keyboard that can be easily stashed in a backpack and used on the go. Both have hot-swap switches, are fully customizable with VIA and have gasket mounted plates.
However, look closer and the differences become more apparent. At the top of the keyboard you’ll see the Q1’s physical Mac/Windows layout toggle switch is joined by a second one to toggle between wired and Bluetooth mode or completely disable the keyboard, as well as a small plastic one covered recess in the aluminum frame to improve wireless reception.
Wireless connectivity is the big new feature for the Q1 Pro, and frankly I struggle to fault it. During the month I used the keyboard over Bluetooth with a Macbook Air, I didn’t experience any connectivity issues at all. As a test, I also tried walking around my apartment while typing on the keyboard, and the connection held up just fine from other rooms or even downstairs. The keyboard can save connections with up to three devices, which is ideal if you want to quickly use it to quickly type a response to a message on your phone before switching back to your computer. It had no problem switching between my laptop and phone during my testing.
Keycaps and switches are removable with a simple tool.
The volume knob is programmable, as are the rest of the keyboard’s keys.
The only complaint I have about wireless performance is that Bluetooth is your only option. That’s unlike other similar keyboards like the Epomaker TH80, which includes a small 2.4GHz USB dongle to use as an alternative to Bluetooth. Such dongles are useful if your main PC doesn’t have a Bluetooth receiver and companies like Corsair, Razer, and Logitech use them to provide a higher polling rate than what’s available over Bluetooth.
But with the Keychron Q1 Pro, Bluetooth is all you get. That means you’re stuck with a 90Hz glacial polling rate when using the keyboard wirelessly, which isn’t great for fast-paced games. Outside of games, though, I didn’t feel any lag when using the keyboard, and you can always plug it in via USB to get a more traditional 1000Hz polling rate.
Battery life is excellent when using the keyboard wirelessly, as long as you’re willing to live without RGB lighting. With the RGB lighting on the default setting, I got four working days out of the Q1 Pro’s 4,000 mAh battery and an extra day after the lighting turned off automatically to save power. So you effectively look at a week of use when using RGB. But turn the backlight off completely and the keyboard will last for over a month. I last charged this keyboard six weeks ago and it still claims 20 percent battery life. Keychron says the keyboard offers 300 hours of battery life with the backlight turned off, which translates to about seven and a half weeks of use, assuming you use the keyboard for eight hours a day, five days a week.
Double-shot keycaps keep these legends from fading. Ever.
RGB lighting and wireless keyboards are never a good combination, but you’re not missing out too much as the Q1 Pro isn’t really built to show it off. It’s fitted with solid, long-lasting, double-shot PBT keycaps that have no transparent elements to let light through, so the best you can hope for is to see some RGB lighting around the sides of each key. There’s no funky underglow or LED strips around the outside of the keyboard like we saw with Drop’s Sense75. Personally, I was happy to leave it completely turned off for the sake of battery life.
Included in the box is a USB-C cable and a USB-C to USB-A adapter for wired connectivity. There’s also an extra set of Windows keycaps you can use if that’s your operating system (the Mac caps come pre-installed but are easy to remove), a keycap puller, Allen key, screwdriver, and some spares like screws, rubber feet, and gaskets. This is a keyboard designed to be opened up and customized if you’re into that sort of thing.
The Q1 Pro’s keycaps have a chunky, retro look.
The stock keycaps are on the taller side.
The Keychron Q1 Pro is available with three different switches: tactile Keychron K Pro Browns, clicky Keychron K Pro Bananas, or linear Keychron K Pro Reds, which is what I had on my review board. These switches are five-prong, which means all Cherry MX-style aftermarket switches should fit their receptacles just fine, and they’re hot-swappable, so you can remove them with a simple pull tool instead of needing a soldering iron. The Q1 Pro’s switches face south, which is better for compatibility with aftermarket keycaps.
It also comes in three different colors – black, gray and white – each of which comes with free colored keys. These keycaps are in Keychron’s own KSA profile, which are slightly larger than the OSA keycaps Keychron has used in previous Q series boards and with a chunky retro look compared to more standard Cherry style keycaps. Personally, I could take the look or leave it, but they are perfectly functional and are constructed to look good for years to come.
And believe me when I say you’ll want to keep typing on the Keychron Q1 Pro for years to come, because this thing feels every bit as good as the Q1 that preceded it. Like the Q1, the Q1 Pro is a gasket-mounted keyboard, meaning the switch plate is effectively suspended with soft foam inside the keyboard’s housing. That allows for a significant amount of flex when you press the keys hard, which is also helped by the more flexible polycarbonate switch plate used in this model. But what’s more important is the soft and light feel this construction gives the keyboard while typing normally.
Not only does the Q1 Pro feel great to type on, it also sounds great while you’re doing it. Each keystroke has a nice full, deep sound, and the logic board-mounted screw-in stabilizers (which sit under longer keys, like the spacebar to keep them from wobbling) don’t rattle audibly like some other keyboards. There’s also no trace of metallic pinging noises as you type.
Like Kechron’s other Q-series boards, the Q1 Pro is also fully programmable using VIA. It lets you change what each key on the keyboard does, set macros, and even reprogram the volume knob. You have to connect the keyboard via USB to reprogram the layout, but I found VIA had no problem recognizing the keyboard, and it was a simple process to adjust.
Media controls are built into the f-row.
The keyboard is also available in gray and white, as well as the black model here.
The Keychron Q1 Pro is just as premium and well-made as the wired Q1, but also has the added flexibility of wireless. Even if you mostly use it as a wired keyboard, I still think wireless is worth having as a backup for the relatively small price of $20.
The only reason you might want to use a Q-series wired keyboard from Keychron is if you’re not a fan of the Q1 Pro’s 75 percent layout. While the Q-series wired keyboards come in everything from a 60 percent compact layout to a full keyboard, 75 percent is (currently) your only option if you want wireless. That will almost certainly change over time, but that’s not much help if you need a keyboard now.
The Q1 Pro also isn’t a great choice if you’re looking for something to use on the go with a laptop or tablet. You might want to consider a low-profile keyboard like the Nuphy Air 75 or something with a lighter plastic build like Epomaker’s TH80 if portability is a bigger issue.
Otherwise, if the Q1 Pro’s hefty build and 75-percent laptop-style layout work for you, then it has very few drawbacks. It feels great to type on, the connectivity and battery life are solid, it’s customizable, and it’s not exorbitantly priced. It’s a fantastic mechanical keyboard.
Photography by Jon Porter/Acutely