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Keychron Q2 review: a great keyboard, now more compact

Final yr, Keychron entered the world of high-end mechanical keyboards with the superb Q1. It was compact, it was hot-swappable, it was simple to customise, and it felt wonderful to kind on. Now it’s taking a second swing on the premium market with the Q2, a fair more compact keyboard that inherits a lot of what made the Q1 great.

The massive change with the Q2 is that it has a 65-percent structure, which means it’s lacking the perform row that the Q1 had. That makes it more compact (clearly), however if you wish to entry the perform keys, you’ll have to make use of the Fn2 modifier. It signifies that selecting between the Q1 and Q2 comes down as to whether you prioritize a compact structure or having more keys at your disposal.

My Q2 assessment pattern additionally has a rotary knob on the highest proper of the keyboard, which by default controls your laptop’s quantity. This dial can be accessible as an possibility for the unique Q1, however it got here out after the unique keyboard launched and after our assessment was revealed. So consider this assessment as being half Q2 assessment and half Q1 rotary knob assessment. Cool? Cool.

Verge Rating

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8.5 out of 10

Good Stuff

  • Similar great typing really feel
  • Sizzling-swappable
  • Straightforward to customise

Unhealthy Stuff

  • Smaller structure received’t be for everybody
  • Wired solely
  • Costly

Just like the Q1, the Q2 is an costly wired keyboard. It at the moment begins at $149 for a bare-bones model with out switches, keycaps, or a rotary knob. Including the rotary knob prices an additional $10 ($159), and including switches and keycaps prices an additional $20 ($169). Getting the keyboard absolutely assembled with a rotary knob will set you again $179 (that is the model I’ve been utilizing, in its inventory configuration, with Gateron G Professional Brown switches). Keychron characterizes these as early costs for preliminary clients and says it expects to see costs improve in mid-2022. If you would like it with a UK or European structure there’s no absolutely assembled possibility and you’ll solely purchase it as a bare-bones keyboard, which sucks for me personally. You get a removable USB-C cable within the field that’s braided, however not coiled, and it’s wonderful.

The Q2 is hot-swappable, so you possibly can set up or exchange its switches with none soldering. As normal, you get a alternative of Gateron G Professional linear pink, clicky blue, or tactile brown switches. It additionally has per-key RGB backlighting, and the switches are south-facing, in case you’re the type of one who cares about that kind of factor. (That ought to present higher compatibility with third-party keycap units, notably these from GMK.)

The Q2’s switches are south-facing.

Even in its bare-bones configuration, the Q2 is a lot more costly than Keychron’s different 65-percent keyboards just like the K6 (which prices simply $59 and is wi-fi in addition). The reason being construct high quality and customizability: the Q2 (and Q1 earlier than it) is in a totally different league of typing high quality in comparison with Keychron’s different keyboards, and it helps QMK software program, which implies you possibly can fully customise what every of its keys do.

I anticipated to start out this assessment by saying that the Q2 feels and sounds an identical to the Q1 to kind on. However Keychron has made a small change to the development of the Q2 with the addition of an additional silicone gasket between the highest and backside sections of its case that reduces the slight “pinging” sound the unique Q1 would make whereas typing. It’s a small change, however it’s a good enchancment. Keychron tells me it’s additionally integrated this design ingredient into the knob model of the Q1 and can roll it into the bottom Q1 from June.

In any other case, the Q2’s typing expertise is each bit as wonderful because the Q1. It feels crisp and strong, and the keyboard’s stabilizers (the mechanisms that cease bigger keys just like the house bar from wobbling) don’t rattle when their keys are pressed. It’s a premium bundle and precisely what you’d hope for with a keyboard costing this a lot.

The Q2’s USB-C port and Mac/Home windows structure switcher.

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Newton’s cradle not included.

I just like the keycaps that come included on the absolutely assembled model of the Q2. They’re manufactured from hard-wearing PBT plastic, have double-shot legends, and use a considerably unusual OSA profile. Meaning they’ve a barely rounded look to them (just like SA keycaps), however they’re shorter and fewer stylized, which makes them simpler to kind on for me. Contemplating they solely add an additional $20 to the price of the keyboard alongside the switches, I believe shopping for them is a simple choice in case you like their design.

In basic Keychron vogue, you get each Mac and Home windows keycaps within the field, and a small swap subsequent to the keyboard’s USB port flips it simply between its Mac and Home windows layouts. There aren’t any adjustable toes to vary the angle of the keyboard.

Mac and Home windows keycaps are provided within the field

Whether or not or not the Q2 is the suitable keyboard for you’ll, I believe, come down as to whether you possibly can dwell with its 65-percent structure. In my expertise, the compact structure is a actual love-it-or-hate-it design. Its proponents love how compact it makes the keyboard, however for others the shortage of a devoted perform row, and the more restricted variety of keys across the arrow key cluster, are deal-breakers.

Clearly, it is best to observe your private preferences, however I’ve usually discovered that a 65-percent structure is usable on a Mac however sometimes tough on PC. For starters, the default keyboard shortcut for closing a program on PC is Alt + F4, counting on a bodily key that’s not current on 65-percent boards (on the Q2 you entry it with Fn2 + 4). Macs also can use Cmd + Left and Cmd + Proper as easy Dwelling / Finish instructions, so there’s much less want for devoted keys. However everyone’s totally different, and keys that is perhaps non-compulsory for me is perhaps important for you.

The inventory keycaps are simple to suggest

It helps that the Q2 is QMK appropriate, so you should utilize a program like VIA to customise its structure and guarantee it has precisely the keys you need. Don’t like that the 2 keys on the far proper of the Q2 are devoted to Delete and Dwelling out of the field? You may change them! (However you would possibly want some additional keycaps if you wish to change their legends).

VIA is a comparatively intuitive piece of software program to make use of, and when you’re arrange it’s simple sufficient to start out reassigning keys to carry out totally different duties. Essentially the most unintuitive ingredient is that the Q2 has 5 separate “layers,” which may every be programmed independently. There’s 0 for Mac, 1 is Home windows, 2 is Mac whereas holding the Fn1 key, 3 is Home windows whereas holding the Fn1 key, and 4 is each Home windows and Mac whereas holding the Fn2 key. It’s much less complicated than it sounds in observe, however in case you’re attempting to vary your structure and it doesn’t appear to be working, then this could possibly be why.

It’s comparatively simple to fully remap the keyboard

It’s additionally VIA that permits you to remap what the Q2’s non-compulsory rotary dial does. The dial has three features — scroll left, scroll proper, and press — which by default deal with quantity and muting. It’s a comparatively stiff mechanism meaning it’s essential be agency with it, however it’s simple sufficient to rotate with a single finger. I simply want it didn’t have a bizarre sq. cutout round it, which is presumably so it could possibly use the identical keyboard case because the non-dial model of the keyboard.

I needed to see if it could possibly be become a instrument for scrubbing by way of music and movies, and you realize what? It completely can. Altering its goal is so simple as understanding the related keyboard shortcut in your software program of alternative and assigning it to the dial. So I mapped Ctrl + Cmd + Left and Proper to the dial utilizing macros, which allowed it for use to clean by way of information in VLC.

Higher nonetheless, as a result of the Q2 helps a number of layers, you possibly can assign performance like this to the dial with out having to surrender primary quantity controls. So my VLC controls solely activate if I maintain down Fn1 whereas I flip the dial. I might even use Fn2 to arrange a third set of rotary controls, if I had been so inclined.

General, the dial is a great addition to the Q2 (or the Q1). Sure, it prices an additional $10, and takes the place of one of many keyboard’s keys, however it’s versatile sufficient that I believe it earns its place.

The rotary dial.

The Q2 has per-key RGB backlighting.

Final yr I stated that the Keychron Q1 was the keyboard to get if you would like a high-quality, premium typing expertise with out having to assemble a keyboard your self or undergo a prolonged preordering course of. And the Keychron Q2 is not any totally different. It’s properly made, simple to customise, and feels great to kind on. It even sounds a little higher than the Q1 in addition.

Whether or not you go for the Q1 or the Q2 mainly comes down as to whether you’re keen on or hate the Q2’s more compact design, and what it’s essential use your machine for on a each day foundation. Its structure definitely received’t be for everybody, however in case you worth a compact keyboard above all else, then it’s arduous to beat.

Images by Jon Porter / The Verge

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