Keychron Q1 Pro review: they actually nailed it

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 twelve Q-series keyboards with a heavy-duty aluminum build, customizable layout and switches, and great typing feel. It’s one of the best keyboards you can buy for the money.

This year’s Keychron Q1 Pro looks like a marriage of these two lines. It has the same great build, adjustability 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 them both in the same device.

At $199 (or $179 without keycaps or switches), the Q1 Pro is still relatively expensive. But considering it’s only $20 more than a similar wired Q1, with no real downsides, 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 Kickstarter, but it is now available for pre-order directly from Keychron, with shipping expected in April.

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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 dial on the top right (on the Q1, that dial was optional, but here it’s standard). Like the Q1, the Q1 Pro weighs around four pounds, which means it’s too heavy to be the kind of wireless keyboard that can easily be thrown into a backpack and used while on the go. Both feature hot-swap switches, are fully VIA-customizable, and have flange-mounted plates.

But look more closely and the differences become more apparent. Around the top of the keyboard, you’ll find the Q1’s Mac/Windows layout toggle switch has been docked for a second to switch between Wired and Bluetooth modes, or to turn off the keyboard entirely, as well as a small plastic-covered cutout on the frame aluminum to improve wireless reception.

Wireless connectivity is the big new feature for the Q1 Pro, and frankly, I have a hard time faulting it. In the entire month I’ve been using the keyboard over Bluetooth with a Macbook Air, I’ve had absolutely no connectivity issues. As a test, I also tried walking around my apartment typing on the keyboard and its connection held up just fine from other rooms or even downstairs. The keyboard can save connections on up to three devices, which is ideal if you want to quickly use it to quickly type a reply to a message on your phone before returning to your computer. It had no problem swapping my laptop and phone in my tests.

The only complaint I have about the wireless performance is that Bluetooth is your only option. This contrasts with other similar keyboards such as the Epomaker TH80, which includes a small 2.4GHz USB dongle for use as a Bluetooth alternative. Such dongles are useful if your main computer does not have a Bluetooth receiver, and companies such as Corsair, Razer and Logitech use them to offer a higher polling rate than is available over Bluetooth.

But with the Keychron Q1 Pro, Bluetooth is all you’ve got. This means you’re stuck with a polling rate of 90Hz when using the keyboard wirelessly, which isn’t ideal for fast-paced gaming. Outside of gaming, however, I experienced no 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 prepared to live without RGB lighting. With the RGB lighting at its default setting, I got four working days out of the Q1 Pro’s 4,000mAh battery, and an extra day after the lighting automatically turned off to save power. So you’re effectively looking at a week of use when using RGB. But turn off the lighting completely and the keyboard continues to work for over a month. I last charged this keyboard six weeks ago and it still claims to have 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 eight hours a day for five days a week.

RGB lighting and wireless keyboards are never a great combination, but you’re not missing out on too much considering the Q1 Pro isn’t really built to flaunt it. It’s equipped with solid, durable dual-shot PBT keycaps that have no transparent elements to let light through, so the best you can hope for is some RGB lighting on 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 off completely for the sake of battery life.

In the package there is a USB-C cable and a USB-C to USB-A adapter for wired connection. There’s also an extra set of Windows keyboards to use if that’s your OS of choice (Mac covers are pre-installed but easily removed), a keyboard puller, Allen key, screwdriver, and some spare parts like screws, rubber feet, and gaskets. This is a keyboard designed to be opened up and modified if you’re into that sort of thing.

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 I had on the review board. These switches are five-pin, which means any aftermarket Cherry MX switches should fit nicely into their sockets, and they’re hot-swappable so you can remove them using a simple pull tool instead of needing a soldering iron . The Q1 Pro’s switches are oriented in a southerly direction, which is better for compatibility with aftermarket keys.

It’s also available in three different colors – black, gray and white – each of which comes with free colored dice. These keycaps are Keychron’s KSA profile, which are slightly taller than the OSA keycaps Keychron has used on previous Q-series boards, and have a chunky retro look compared to more typical Cherry-style keycaps. Personally, I could take or leave the looks, but they are perfectly functional and built in a way that should keep them looking good for years to come.

And trust me when I say you’ll want to keep typing on the Keychron Q1 Pro for years to come because this thing looks just as great as the Q1 that came before it. Like the Q1, the Q1 Pro is a flanged keyboard, meaning its switch plate is effectively suspended using squished foam inside the keyboard case. This allows it considerable flexibility 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.

The Q1 Pro not only feels great to type on – it also sounds good while you’re at it. Each keystroke has a nice deep sound, and the PCB-mounted screw stabilizers (which sit under longer keys like the space bar to keep them from wobbling) don’t rattle like some other keyboards do. There’s also no hint of metallic pinging sounds as you type.

Like Kechron’s other Q series boards, the Q1 Pro is also fully programmable via VIA. It allows you to change the function of every key on the keyboard, set up macros and even reprogram the volume dial. You’ll need to connect the keyboard via USB to reprogram its layout, but I found that the VIA had no problem recognizing the keyboard and it was a simple process to customize.

The Keychron Q1 Pro is just as premium and well-built as the wired Q1, but also has the added flexibility of wireless. Even if you use it as a wired keyboard most of the time, I still think wireless is worth having as a backup for the relatively small $20 price premium.

The only reason you might want to stick with a Keychron Q-series wired keyboard is if you’re not a fan of the Q1 Pro’s 75-percent layout. Although wired Q-series keyboards are available in everything from a compact 60 percent layout to a full-size keyboard, if you want wireless, then the 75 percent is (for now) your only option. This will almost certainly change over time, but that’s not much help if you need a keyboard right now.

The Q1 Pro is also not a great choice if you want to use something 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 more of your concern.

Otherwise, if the Q1 Pro’s solid build and 75% laptop-style layout is your thing, then it has very few downsides. It’s great to type on, its connectivity and battery life are solid, it’s customizable, and it’s not overpriced. It’s a fantastic mechanical keyboard.

Photo by Jon Porter / The Verge

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