Do you really like the keyboard you’re typing on right now, or is it just good enough? Of course there’s a difference in quality amongst all the keyboards out there, but how much better can a keyboard really get? As it turns out, a lot better!
One of my favorite YouTube channels is called Linus Tech Tips. I’ve learned a lot from their videos, including that there’s a whole keyboard enthusiast community that builds, mods, and tweaks every bit of a keyboard. Watching LTT as well as other YouTubers, I determined that I wanted to get a mechanical keyboard with a balanced, mama-bear-esque switch feel. Not too hard, not too soft, one that was just right. Now, I don’t want to go too far down the keyboard switch rabbit hole. Believe me when I tell you, it’s a deep hole!
I’ve been using a wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse at work for years with no complaints. The particular keyboard/mouse set at work was purchased specifically because of its excellent wireless range. For that particular use case, the Logitech set fits the bill. However, for home usage, I wanted something nicer than just a utilitarian keyboard. I’ve been wanting a full size keyboard that has a ten key, a nice tactile typing feel, wired connection, RGB lighting, and is serviceable / cleanable.
For the past year, I’ve been using a wireless compact keyboard from a brand called Keychron – their K2 keyboard. It’s a nice enough keyboard, but their bluetooth implementation takes quite a bit of time to wake my Mac up from sleep. Thus, I’ve been using it wired, but the usb port and cable stick out from the side which is quite annoying. While it’s a good enough keyboard, it’s not fantastic feeling, and I really miss having a full keyboard with all of the keys.
Not knowing where to begin, I started with a Logitech keyboard. Recently, Logitech released their MX Mechanical wireless series. Earlier I said I wanted wired, but I’ve had great luck with Logitech wireless devices, so I made an exception in this case. Like my work keyboard, the wireless implementation of the MX (using Locitech’s own USB transmitter) worked flawlessly with my Mac – no complaints. The particular unit I purchased was their “tactile” feel which was supposed to be their balanced switch design. All I can say is that from the first moment I sat down to type on it, it felt mushy – just awful. Honestly, the worst keyboard I’ve ever used. It negatively impacted my accuracy and was not worth the money I paid for it. I tried it for about a week, but it in the end, I’m sending it back to Amazon.
Back on the hunt for a keyboard on Amazon, I came across the Keychron Q6. You can read all about it here. The price wasn’t that much more than the Logitech, and seemed to have all the bells and whistles I wanted, so I took a chance and purchased the one with the Gateron brown switches, Also, I purchased their wooden hand wrest designed to fit the keyboard perfectly.
First impressions of the Q6 – it’s surprisingly heavy. Really heavy! I’ve never once thought anything about a keyboard’s weight before, but this sucker will take you aback. Not that it really matters, it’s going to be on your desk, but still it’s remarkably noteworthy.
The feel of the switches and the sound of the keyboard is click and clack in all of the right ways. Honestly, I’ve never felt a keyboard so amazing. I was so excited about it, I asked Vanessa (my wife) to come downstairs and try it. One thing you need to know about Vanessa, is that she couldn’t care less about any of this nerdiness. She only cares if something works or not, and other than that, she’s all about calculating the diminishing returns of technology. In other words, why spend more than $200 on a new keyboard when you already have one that works? However, once she sat down and started typing, even she commented how nice it felt – Vanessa approved! That’s pretty much the highest praise you can give a piece of technology in the Bershatsky household.
Regarding the wrist rest, there’s not much to say about it other than it’s an absolute must. It enhancing the keyboarding experience both aesthetically and adds to the general comfort of typing. On to the actual computing experience…
There’s a Mac / PC switch on the keyboard housing, and I set it to Mac. Out of the box, I expected everything to work without any tweaking on my part. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Most keys worked as expected, but not the F1 and F2 screen brightness controls. Only enough, immediately above the 10-key is a row of four buttons – two of which actually affect screen brightness. The other two did nothing.
In order to get things working the way they should, I spent a good few hours using various software programs and got to learn first hand all about the joys and frustrations of open source keyboard software. I often jumped from one hoop back to another, and then back to the original hoop, multiple times, trial and error to get things working. Here are all of the different hoops I had to jump through in order to get things set up properly:
- Installed different firmwares from Keychron, QMK, and Via – which annoyingly involved removing the spacebar keycap.
- Used the online Via keyboard configuration software to map certain keys and key combinations (i.e. macros) to where I thought they should logically be. For example, screen brightness is now set to F14 and F15 where the F1 and F2 are. Sounds weird, but when you hit the “fn” key and F1 or F2, then they perform as F1 and F2, otherwise they are the F14 and F15 keys for screen brightness. Regardless of how odd that sounds, it works like it’s supposed to.
- Used Apple’s built in Automator software to map certain apps to services, and then those services to various shortcut keys. For example, in row above the 10-key each symbol is now mapped to a different app or function. The circle now opens the calculator app, triangle opens Brave, square opens a new Finder window, and the X is a key combination that puts the Mac automatically into sleep mode.
Now that everything is set up and working, I’ve been typing with it for most of the day, but there’s one main issue that bothers me – the spacebar sounds hollow with a metallic thunk at the bottom of the keystroke. It’s quite distracting from an otherwise perfect sounding typing experience. Perhaps it’s because the keycap is larger and resonates the sound more. I’m not sure why, but it is noticeably hollow sounding. If I replace the spacebar with a smaller keycap (like a letter), it sounds nice and clicky and matches the rest of the keys, but when I put the spacebar back on it’s back to the awful hollow and resonating thunk sound. It’s unfortunate, because of the level of detail put into the rest of the keyboard, just not on this one part.
If I had to rank this keyboard, I’d give it an 8 out of 10. Why an 8? Well, I’d deduct one point for the setup time and firmware issues I had to deal with in order to have it properly configured for a Mac. The other point deduction would be for the metallic thunking sound at the bottom of the spacebar. In the end, Keychron falls just short of making it a perfect experience our of the box, but it is a nice keyboard nevertheless.
I ended up returning the prebuilt version, and instead bought a barebones blue version. Check out the build here.