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OnePlus’ Keyboard 81 Professional 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 Pro with a few tweaks. However the Keychron Q1 Professional is likely one of the best mechanical keyboards available today, and the tweaks OnePlus has made to its design vary from “inoffensive” to “truly form of neat.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Keyboard 81 Professional is higher than the Q1 Professional, however it’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 made from a strong 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 with no need 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 prices between $219 and $239 (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 think that would be the finish of the dialog — why pay a premium of between $20 and $40 additional for this keyboard until you’re a OnePlus superfan? 

The OnePlus branding is comparatively minimal.

The kickstand might be the largest addition OnePlus has made.

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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 alter its typing angle in a manner 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 wished, I didn’t really feel it shifting over time. It’s a neat addition, even when it’s capable of elevate the keyboard to a peak that’s previous the purpose of being snug to sort 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 Keychron’s spherical-angle (KSA) keycaps, which you may describe as having a retro-inspired look to them. However the OnePlus keyboard as an alternative ships with cylindrical keycaps, which have a extra fashionable feel and look. 

The precise type of keycap you get varies relying on which swap sort 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 time Breeze) comes with extra lighter grey double-shot keycaps made out of a cloth OnePlus calls “marble-mallow.” Maintain one among these keycaps in your hand, and it’s attainable to squeeze and flex them earlier than they pop again into their unique shapes.

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

On the board, the pliability of the keycaps isn’t practically 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 large query is how this materials will maintain up over time. PBT plastic has a fame for not growing a shine because it’s worn down with use, however it’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 may 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 sort 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 time Breeze coloration scheme comes with linear “Summer time Breeze” switches, which have navy blue stems. (Sure, it’s complicated that the keyboard makes use of blue to indicate linear, which is usually 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 Keyboard 81 Pro’s spec sheet doesn’t supply many specifics on the linear “Summer time Breeze” switches that got here in my evaluation pattern. However they share some similarities with the linear purple Keychron Okay Professional switches within the Q1 Professional. Keychron’s title is printed atop every swap, they usually have an identical medium weight and a smoothness. The large distinction is in how the keyboard feels while 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, however it’s actually 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 take a look at of Summer time Breeze.

In any other case, sure, the Keyboard 81 Professional is only a Keychron Q1 Professional with a OnePlus-inspired makeover, and a few components of the redesign work higher than others. I like, for instance, the general coloration scheme, the alert slider-style controls on the highest aspect 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 slightly low-cost), and I may take or go away the OnePlus brand on the escape key. I’d love if OnePlus had included another escape key with a normal “Esc” legend.

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

There’s RGB lighting, however it’s not notably seen.

Though you will get a full rundown of the Keyboard 81 Professional’s options in my review of the Keychron Q1 Pro, right here’s a abstract of another specs value realizing about:

  • The keyboard is hot-swappable, that means you may change its switches utilizing a easy pulling device without having for soldering. You get a mixed swap and keycap puller within the field.
  • The keyboard is remappable utilizing VIA, a superb 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 advocate 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 while you’re utilizing the keyboard wired.
  • As you may hear within the typing sound take a look at above, Keychron has performed 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 sort on, and it’s height-adjustable for good measure. I’ll go away the choice of whether or not these modifications are value paying a $20 to $40 value premium as much as you.

Pictures by Jon Porter / The Verge

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