As you possibly can think about, we do lots of typing right here at PCMag, so we’re at all times looking out for ergonomic keyboards to assist with the aches, pains, and different issues of fixed keyboard use. The most recent of those is the Keychron Q11, a split-design mechanical keyboard that makes use of a brief USB-C cable to hyperlink the halves. At $205 for a completely assembled mannequin, it’s undoubtedly one of many dearer choices for an ergonomic keyboard, rivaling high-end mechanical boards made for players or fans. Though it is well-built, in testing we discovered the Q11 to fall a bit in need of the extent of consolation we anticipate from such an costly ergonomic mannequin, so it does not unseat our present Editors’ Alternative decide for split-design keyboards, the Cloud 9 ErgoTKL.
The Design: A Almost Equal Break up
The Keychron Q11 is a split-design, tenkeyless (TKL) mechanical keyboard. (TKL boards lop off the quantity pad within the curiosity of compactness.) The model we examined comes geared up with Gateron G Professional Pink key switches, a linear model of swap. Keychron additionally provides this board with Gateron G Professional Browns. If neither of those key-switch choices appeals to you, and also you’re up for a little bit of DIY customization, a barebones mannequin can be obtainable for $185, which helps you to provide your personal switches. For the reason that Q11 is hot-swappable, it must be as straightforward as plugging them in.
Should you do go for the barebones mannequin, you’d additionally want to produce your personal keycap set. Those included with the absolutely assembled Keychron Q11 have a darker tone of purple for the alphanumeric keys, darkish grey for many of the others, and pink for the Enter and Escape keys. The keycaps are double-shot PBT, and though the keyboard has south-facing LEDs, the caps haven’t any shine-through characteristic to permit the legends to glow such as you’ll discover on boards just like the SteelSeries Apex Professional Mini.
The field contents embody an additional pair of keycaps for a Mac format (Command and Possibility keys), a keycap puller, a swap puller, and a mini screwdriver. The mini screwdriver is a pleasant contact, because it’s actually all you could get contained in the Keychron Q11 for really superior tweaking. All of the screws are simply accessible on the underside of the keyboard. Tinkerers keen on further modifications previous swapping key switches should not have any points breaking into this one.
As is widespread with cut up keyboards, the Q11 comes with a brief USB-C-to-USB-C cable to bridge the 2 halves. With the cable unplugged, it is potential to make use of the left half by itself through the USB-C port on the excessive left of the again edge, proper subsequent to a toggle swap used to swap between Home windows and Mac modes. The cable carries energy to gentle the LEDs and transmits your key presses. Theoretically you possibly can provide your personal USB-C-to-USB-C cable and have your keyboard halves as far aside as you’d like, however for our testing we stored to the inventory cable, which is about 4 inches lengthy.
The house bar is cut up into two components to facilitate the cut up design, with the best portion being the bigger one. That is probably to accommodate right-handed individuals, however every half of the keyboard has its personal rotary knob to make sure easy accessibility for whichever hand is your dominant one. The left portion has 5 macro keys working down the left edge, whereas the best facet has the Web page Up, Web page Down, and Dwelling keys arrayed in the same column.
The cut up design of the keyboard isn’t a clear slice down the center, however slightly a zigzag. The minimize divides the F6 and F7 keys, the 6 and seven keys, the T and Y keys, the G and H keys, and the B and N keys. This zigzag look permits the keyboard to suit collectively like a puzzle for those who’d favor to make use of it in the usual non-split format. And for those who’re a split-keyboard novice, this really works to your profit. Typing on the Q11 takes some getting used to, so for those who’re getting annoyed with acclimating to the cut up design and simply have to get some work finished, you possibly can recombine the keyboard halves and proceed typing.
Testing the Keychron Q11: You will Have to Retrain Your Mind
Due to the cut up design, we’ve two completely different typing types to judge. A take a look at utilizing the keyboard pace take a look at web site Monkeytype confirmed a fairly steep studying curve in both configuration. Within the Q11’s mixed “regular keyboard” mode, pace wasn’t a lot of a priority. I used to be nonetheless capable of attain my 63-word-per-minute common after a few makes an attempt. The cut up design was rather a lot tougher to be taught, although, knocking me all the way down to 58 phrases per minute in my finest Monkeytype try.
Should you’re utilizing a split-design keyboard for the primary time, and also you rely by yourself psychological map of the place the keys are with out utilizing the indentations on the F and J keys, you’ll end up reaching for keys once they aren’t there. The twin house bar additionally proved a bit complicated, as I’d typically over-reach to hit the bigger bar I used to be anticipating. A number of weeks to retrain your muscle reminiscence would most likely repair these points. I discovered myself rising extra comfy typing over time.
One of many largest causes to change to a cut up keyboard is to alleviate pressure in your shoulders. Separating the keyboard halves farther aside units your shoulders in a extra relaxed place than they’d be if typing on a standard keyboard. The Q11 undoubtedly helps alleviate that stress, but it surely nonetheless falls in need of different ergonomic-keyboard designs. We might’ve cherished an inclusion of some angled ft, for instance. As a substitute, this board lays flat on the desk with no further typing angles potential. For sure individuals with wrist points (comparable to carpal tunnel syndrome), this could possibly be a deal-breaker for utilizing the Q11 for prolonged intervals.
Keychron sells a wrist relaxation individually through its on-line retailer, however not a tenting equipment such as you’ll discover with the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB Break up, which has a “carry equipment” obtainable as an add-on. Members of the maker group have designed Q11 tenting kits, basically 3D printed units of slopes to put the halves on, but it surely’s a disgrace Keychron provides no official possibility.
In depth Customization Choices through VIA
Many Keychron keyboards go for VIA as their software program utility of alternative. VIA is an open-source keyboard configurator for QMK-based keyboards that you simply entry by an internet site, with no further installs wanted. Utilizing VIA permits you to remap all of the keys on the keyboard, apply lighting results, assign customized macros, and even load customized keyboard profiles. Most of those options you possibly can management from the Q11 itself, but it surely’s good to have the ability to visualize them on a display screen.
VIA additionally has numerous specialised diagnostic instruments for essentially the most enthusiastic members of the keyboard modding group, together with a key tester to check for lifeless switches, a device not generally present in different keyboard utilities. You possibly can even set the habits of every of the rotary knobs individually. By default, each knobs management quantity, however you possibly can set one to, say, scroll by textual content or to manage magnification as an alternative.
Verdict: A Stable, if Expensive, Solution to Study the Splits
Whether or not or not the Q11 is billed as a premium ergonomic keyboard, its value cements it as one, and it does meet a few of our expectations for the class. The cut up design helps restrict shoulder pressure throughout lengthy classes, for example, to not point out it is simply cool. The act of splitting the keyboard aside prompts the “elite tech nerd” neurons inside our brains.
However we won’t ignore just a few points right here—small adjustments that, if Keychron carried out them properly, would stage up the Q11. Because it stands, the board falls a bit brief. It’s a strong gadget fabricated from high quality supplies and primarily based on a confirmed ergonomic design, however alternate options just like the Cloud 9 ErgoTKL supply extra for much less. The ErgoTKL has a removable wrist relaxation, USB passthrough, and the choice for a carry equipment, making it a greater, and better-value, match for our achy arms.