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 over a dozen Q-series keyboards with a weighty aluminum construction, a customizable layout and switches, and great typing feel. They’re among the best off-the-shelf keyboards you can get for the money.
This year’s Keychron Q1 Pro feels like a marriage of these two lines. It has the same great construction, customizability, and typing feel as the Q1 but with Bluetooth connectivity that’s every bit 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 with no keycaps or switches), the Q1 Pro is still relatively pricey. But considering that’s just $20 more than a similarly specced 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 preorders for the Q1 Pro via its Kickstarter, but it’s now available to preorder directly from Keychron, with shipping expected in April.
You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Q1 Pro for the original Q1 at first glance. Both keyboards use a compact laptop-style 75 percent layout, with a programmable volume dial on the top right (on the Q1, this dial was optional, but here it’s standard). Like the Q1, the Q1 Pro weighs in at around four pounds, which means it’s far too heavy to be the kind of wireless keyboard that can be easily chucked in a backpack and used while on the go. Both have hot-swap switches, are fully customizable with VIA, and have gasket-mounted plates.
Look closer, however, and the differences become more apparent. Around the top of the keyboard, you’ll find that the Q1’s physical Mac / Windows layout toggle switch has been joined by a second for hopping between Wired and Bluetooth modes or to turn the keyboard off entirely, as well as a small plastic-covered cutout in the aluminum frame to improve wireless reception.
Wireless connectivity is the big new feature for the Q1 Pro, and honestly, I struggle to fault it. Throughout my month of using 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 typing on the keyboard, and its connection held up just fine from other rooms or even downstairs. The keyboard can save connections to 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 swapping back to your computer. It had no problem swapping between my laptop and phone in my tests.
The only complaint I have about wireless performance is that Bluetooth is your only option. That’s in contrast to other similar keyboards like the Epomaker TH80, which includes a small 2.4GHz USB dongle to use as an alternative to Bluetooth. Dongles like these are useful if your main PC doesn’t have a Bluetooth receiver, and companies like Corsair, Razer, and Logitech use them to offer 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 glacial 90Hz polling rate when using the keyboard wirelessly, which isn’t great for fast-paced games. Outside of games, however, I didn’t feel any lag while 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 — so long as you’re prepared to live without RGB lighting. With the RGB lighting at its default setting, I got four work days out of the Q1 Pro’s 4,000mAh battery and one 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 the lighting off entirely, and the keyboard keeps going for over a month. I last charged this keyboard six weeks ago, and it still claims to have 20 percent battery life remaining. Keychron says the keyboard offers 300 hours of battery life with the backlighting turned off, which translates to around 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 pairing, but you’re not missing out on too much, given the Q1 Pro isn’t really built to show it off. It’s equipped with solid, durable, double-shot PBT keycaps that have no transparent elements to let light shine 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 turned off entirely for the sake of battery life.
In the box there’s a USB-C cable and USB-C to USB-A adapter for wired connectivity. There’s also an extra set of Windows keycaps to use if that’s your operating system of choice (the Mac caps are preinstalled but easily removed), a keycap puller, Allen key, screwdriver, and some spare components like screws, rubber feet, and gaskets. This is a keyboard that’s designed to be opened up and tweaked 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 is what I had on my review board. These switches are five-pin, which means any aftermarket Cherry MX-style switches should fit in their sockets just fine, and they’re hot-swappable so you can remove them using a simple pulling tool rather than needing a soldering iron. The Q1 Pro’s switches are oriented in a south-facing direction, which is better for compatibility with aftermarket keycaps.
It’s also available in three different colors — black, gray, and white — which each come with complimentary colored keycaps. These keycaps are in Keychron’s own KSA profile, which are slightly taller 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 or leave the look, but they’re perfectly functional and are constructed in a way that should keep them looking good for years to come.
And trust me when I say that you’ll want to keep typing on the Keychron Q1 Pro for years to come because this thing feels every bit as great as the Q1 that preceded it. Like the Q1, the Q1 Pro is a gasket-mounted keyboard, meaning its switch plate is effectively suspended using squishy foam inside the keyboard’s case. That allows it a significant amount of flex when you push hard on the keys, 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 feeling this construction gives the keyboard while you’re typing normally.
Not only does the Q1 Pro feel great to type on — it also sounds good while you’re doing it. Each keypress has a nice full deep sound to it, and its PCB-mounted screw-in stabilizers (which sit underneath longer keys like the spacebar to stop them from wobbling) don’t audibly rattle like with some other keyboards. There’s also no hint of any metallic pinging sounds as you type.
Like Kechron’s other Q-series boards, the Q1 Pro is also fully programmable using VIA. It lets you change what every key on the keyboard does, set up macros, and even reprogram the volume dial. You’ll need to plug the keyboard in by USB to reprogram its layout, but I found that VIA had no problem recognizing the keyboard, and it was a simple process to get customizing.
The Keychron Q1 Pro is every bit as premium and well-made 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 one reason you might want to stick with a wired Q-series keyboard from Keychron is if you’re not a fan of the Q1 Pro’s 75 percent layout. Although its wired Q-series keyboards are available in everything from a compact 60 percent layout to a full-size keyboard, if you want wireless, then 75 percent is (currently) your only option. That will almost certainly change over time, but that’s not much help if you need a keyboard right now.
The Q1 Pro also isn’t a great choice if you’re after 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 construction like Epomaker’s TH80 if portability is more of a concern.
Otherwise, if the Q1 Pro’s hefty construction and laptop-style 75 percent layout works for you, then it has very few downsides. It feels great to type on, its 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 / The Verge