App & Software Review

OnePlus’ Keyboard 81 Pro is a Keychron with a twist

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OnePlus’ debut mechanical keyboard, the Keyboard 81 Professional, could also be little greater than a redesigned Keychron Q1 Professional with a few tweaks. However the Keychron Q1 Professional is without doubt one of the finest mechanical keyboards obtainable at present, and the tweaks OnePlus has made to its design vary from “inoffensive” to “truly type of neat.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Keyboard 81 Professional is higher than the Q1 Professional, but it surely’s a pleasant various model with its personal strengths.

As a reminder, Keychron’s Q1 Professional is a wi-fi model of the Keychron Q1. It’s fabricated from a stable aluminum chassis, with a gasket-mounted swap plate that provides it a premium typing really feel and is filled with additional options like hot-swappable switches (useful if you wish to change its typing really feel while not having to solder) and the power to reprogram it utilizing the highly effective customization software program VIA.

Relying on which design and switches you’re after, the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Professional (the model I’ve been testing), in comparison with $199 for the knob-equipped Q1 Professional it’s primarily based on. For many individuals, I believe that would be the finish of the dialog — why pay a premium of between $20 and $40 additional for this keyboard except you’re a OnePlus superfan? 

The OnePlus branding is comparatively minimal.

The kickstand might be the most important addition OnePlus has made.

It’s a good level, however the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Professional has extra going for it than simply the OnePlus branding and coloration scheme. For starters, there’s its added kickstand, which lets you modify its typing angle in a means that’s surprisingly not attainable with the usual Q1 Professional. The adjustable bar is reassuringly stiff, and as soon as I set it to the peak I needed, I didn’t really feel it shifting over time. It’s a neat addition, even when it’s in a position to elevate the keyboard to a top that’s previous the purpose of being comfy to kind on. 

Second, OnePlus has opted for a extra conventional keycap form in comparison with the Q1 Professional that I personally actually like. As commonplace, the Q1 Professional comes with , which you can describe as having a retro-inspired look to them. However the OnePlus keyboard as a substitute ships with cylindrical keycaps, which have a extra fashionable feel and look. 

The precise fashion of keycap you get varies relying on which swap kind you go for. The $219 tactile swap model (aka Winter Bonfire) will get you largely darker grey double-shot PBT keycaps, whereas the dearer $239 mannequin with linear switches that I’ve been utilizing (Summer season Breeze) comes with extra lighter grey double-shot keycaps made out of a fabric OnePlus calls “marble-mallow.” Maintain considered one of these keycaps in your hand, and it’s attainable to squeeze and flex them earlier than they pop again into their authentic shapes.

The “marble-mallow” keycaps have a bizarre quantity of flex to them.

On the board, the pliability of the keycaps isn’t almost as apparent.

They don’t flex like this when hooked up to the keyboard, however in any other case, the “marble-mallow” keycaps have the good matte roughness I’d usually affiliate with PBT and in addition really feel slightly bit cheesy like rubber. They’re pleasantly grippy with legends which might be good and crisp. The massive query is how this materials will maintain up over time. PBT plastic has a status for not creating a shine because it’s worn down with use, but it surely’s tough to know if the identical is true of this versatile marble-mallow, no less than within the period of time I’ve had with the keyboard. You get Mac keycaps put in on the Keyboard 81 Professional by default, however there are additional Home windows keycaps within the field, and just like the Q1 Professional, you possibly can swap between the 2 working system layouts with a small swap on the highest fringe of the keyboard.

Third, the Keyboard 81 Professional truly feels fairly totally different to kind on in comparison with the Q1 Professional. They each have swap plates made out of polycarbonate, however OnePlus has opted to make use of custom-branded switches that correspond to the colour scheme of the general keyboard. So the Winter Bonfire coloration scheme comes with “Winter Bonfire” switches (that are tactile and have purple stems), and the Summer season Breeze coloration scheme comes with linear “Summer season Breeze” switches, which have navy blue stems. (Sure, it’s complicated that the keyboard makes use of blue to indicate linear, which is often used on clicky switches, and purple to indicate tactile when it’s normally the colour used for linear). 

The keyboard’s lettering is crisp and clear.

The translucent quantity dial is one other change for the OnePlus keyboard.

The doesn’t provide many specifics on the linear “Summer season Breeze” switches that got here in my overview pattern. However they share some similarities with the linear purple Keychron Ok Professional switches within the Q1 Professional. Keychron’s title is printed atop every swap, they usually have an analogous medium weight and a smoothness. The massive distinction is in how the keyboard feels once you backside out a swap, which is much less crisp and vivid and extra of a muted thud. I wouldn’t say it’s higher or worse, but it surely’s definitely quieter, which can attraction to anybody who wants a keyboard for workplace use or to be used on video calls. I can’t converse for the tactile “Winter Bonfire” switches, however right here’s a typing sound check of Summer season Breeze.

In any other case, sure, the Keyboard 81 Professional is only a Keychron Q1 Professional with a OnePlus-inspired makeover, and a few elements of the redesign work higher than others. I like, for instance, the general coloration scheme, the alert slider-style controls on the highest facet of the keyboard, the purple USB cable, and the shiny raised part across the quantity dial, which obscures the messy sq. cutout you’ll discover on the Q1 Professional. However I’m much less of a fan of the clear quantity dial itself (it seems to be slightly low cost), and I might take or depart the OnePlus brand on the escape key. I’d love if OnePlus had included an alternate escape key with a normal “Esc” legend.

The wired / wi-fi swap has been tweaked to look extra “OnePlus.”

There’s RGB lighting, but it surely’s not notably seen.

Though you will get a full rundown of the Keyboard 81 Professional’s options in my overview of the Keychron Q1 Professional, right here’s a abstract of another specs price figuring out about:

  • The keyboard is hot-swappable, which means you possibly can substitute its switches utilizing a easy pulling instrument without having for soldering. You get a mixed swap and keycap puller within the field.
  • The keyboard is remappable utilizing VIA, a wonderful app. The software program acknowledged the OnePlus keyboard instantly and labored in addition to with the Q1 Professional.
  • Sure, it’s RGB, however the keycaps aren’t shinethrough, so that you’re solely going to see the sunshine between every keycap, which is comparatively underwhelming. I’d suggest leaving the keyboard’s RGB lighting turned off as a result of…
  • Utilizing RGB will considerably minimize the keyboard’s battery life. Even with its RGB turned to its lowest setting, you’re taking a look at a battery lifetime of 100 hours versus 300 hours with the lights turned off completely. Finest save them for once you’re utilizing the keyboard wired.
  • As you possibly can hear within the typing sound check above, Keychron has accomplished an amazing job on the keyboard’s stabilizers, which I can’t hear rattling in any respect. 

The OnePlus Keyboard 81 Professional is neither higher nor worse than the Keychron Q1 Professional that it’s primarily based on, neither is it a easy rebadge. It’s quieter, feels totally different to kind on, and it’s height-adjustable for good measure. I’ll depart the choice of whether or not these adjustments are price paying a $20 to $40 worth premium as much as you.

Images by Jon Porter / The Verge

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