Previously, I reviewed a prebuilt Keychron Q6 that I bought off of Amazon. In then end, I ended up returning the board because I wasn’t entirely happy with it.
Even though I returned the board, I really liked the form factor of the Q6, the layout, and the build quality, but I figured I could do better picking my own switches, keycaps, and stabilizers. Thankfully, I found a very welcoming, informative, and helpful Facebook group where the members were very patient with newcomers and were able to answer my endless questions.
Here are the parts that I ultimately ended up with:
- Keychron Q6 barebones in blue directly from Keychron. It’s quite tough to find a full-sized hot-swappable mechanical barebones keyboard with RGB and that is QMK/VIA ready.
- Gateron G Pro 2.0 yellow switches directly from Gateron, or were they actually sent by Keychron? I’m wondering if Gateron and Keychron are the same company or what partnership they have because the switches came with a label on them that reads “Packed by Keychron.” My reason for the yellow Gateron switches was that someone in the Facebook group recommended them, and since I know very little – why not? Also, I read this article and thought I would give them a try. Another reason I went with Gateron switches is because they are pre-lubed. I’ve watched a few videos where people lube their own switches. It looked painfully tedious, and something that I really have no interest in messing with.
- Staebies v2.1 purchased from Heebie Keebies. Aaron from Heebie Keebies happens to be in the Mechanical Keyboards USA group, and was also kind enough to answer my presale questions. I trust his recommendation, and so I purchases two sets of Staebies so I had enough stabilizers for my full-sized keyboard.
- GMK Dots R2 Keycaps from NovelKeys. There are no letters, numbers, or any symbols on the keycaps except for dots. That’s it! They are ridiculously impractical, but since I am mostly a touch typist, they looked cool, and I thought I would give them a try. Unfortunately, the key caps slid all around the packaging box, and when I opened the box, they were all mixed up. This might not sound like a big deal, but the height of each row is different than another. It took me an hour to figure out which dot goes in which row. So frustrating!
Once I opened up the Q6’s chasis, I noticed these white rubber/plastic pads by the screw holes. I’ve read about a mod known as the “force break” mod, where you put tape around the screw holes of the keyboard housing in order to prevent and reduce “pinging.” It was actually something I was prepared to do, but it was nice to see Keychron had already implemented a mod of their own that essentially does the same thing albeit more elegantly than tape.
After the Q6 was completely disassembled, I proceeded to lube the Staebies stabilizers. What an absolute chore of a task! My close up vision isn’t the best anymore. Just a reminder that I really should get bifocals. Also, the pieces are tiny! There’s a bunch of different videos and opinions on stabilizer lubing, so I went with the advice of a video that has millions of views on YouTube from Taeha Types.
I used the Krytox GPL 205G0 lubricant that Taeha recommended for the task, but didn’t use a syringe to add any more lube yet, but might in the future. The toughest part was getting the wire to clip in to the stabilizers after they had been all greased up. What a sliperry and messy job! After the stabilizer wires had been inserted, I had to brush a little more lube on to the wire afterwards because a lot of the lubricant rubbed off onto my hands.
Inserting the switches was a new experience. During the process, I ended up bending a few pins and a few of the switches wouldn’t work because of it, but I was able to remove those switches, bend the pins back, reinsert the switches, and all is working just fine now.
Once plugged in, the keyboard doesn’t work completely with Macs – even though Keychron adverstises that it does. One of the most glaring flaws out of the box is that the F1 and F2 keys don’t control screen brightness. Searching the web lead me to Reddit where I learned that you could map “scroll lock” and “pause” to the F1 and F2 keys using VIA. I did just that, and now I’m able to adjust screen brightness as expected.
So how does the keyboard sound and feel? I think I have to compare it to what I’m mainly using for typing – a 2022 M2 MacBook Air. I gotta say, that I have become quite adept at typing with the MacBook, and really don’t have any complaint about the keys. Comparing the MacBook to these mechanical linear switches is quite a change. What I’m noticing as I’m typing this article, is that I have to type with quite a bit more force than I’m used to on a laptop. It almost reminds me of when I was learning keyboarding in Middle school on electric typewriters – back in the ’80s. At that time, you used to have type quite hard, because you had to press down on those mechanical keys with quite a bit of force in order for your keypresses to register. When PCs were readily available, people used to comment that I was hitting the keys unnecessarily hard as a result.
In the video posted at the beginning of this article, I tried to really accentuate the spacebar to illustrate how much differently it sounds than the rest of the keyboard. Perhaps it’s because of the size of the spacebar, or the way in which the stabilizers were lubed, but it’s not any more or less lube than the other stabilizers on the board. Someone on the Facebook group suggested I use a lighter lubrication as they noticed the spacebar moving up slower than they thought it should. Maybe the delay is because the spacebar weighs more than the other keys and two stabilizers would add some resistance. However, now that I’ve been typing on the keyboard writing this article, it doesn’t seem to bother me at all. I’m not thunking the spacebar down as hard as I would in the video so it’s not as loud, and it seem to be returning to an up position in a reasonable time frame.
I could dismantle everything again and apply some tape under the spacebar wire and under the stabilizers (Band-Aid mod), or I could try a Staebie without any lube just to hear if there’s any noticeable improvement, but I’ll try it as it is for now.
I am curious though about mixing up switches on the keyboard though. There’s so many different switches out there!
For now, I’ll play with everything the way it is for a few weeks before I make any further modifications.