Keychron Q8 keyboard review: Alice’s layout is interesting, but not optimal

Advantages

  • Substantial weight and stability
  • Ergonomic layout
  • High quality design, fit and finish
  • Optional customizable button
  • QMK VIA software support
  • Mac and Windows compatibility

The inconvenients

  • Dear
  • No function line
  • No tilde key

It seems that Keychron releases a new mechanical keyboard once a month and after adopting the large model Q5 with its dedicated numeric keypad and button, the Keychron Q8 caught my attention. I’ve used a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard for years in the office, so I was excited to try out the Q8 with its Alice layout, which isn’t technically fully ergonomic, but it’s more ergonomic than a standard keyboard.

The Keychron Q8 has keys based on a 65% keyboard split into right and left halves with a small gap in the middle. Both sides are slanted and angled slightly upward to follow the sloped design of the keyboard. The real ergonomic keyboards I’ve used before had a certain downward tilt like I was hanging off the edge of a cliff, but I don’t see that sort of arrangement here.

Keyboard material

The Keychron Q8 keyboard connects to your computer through its USB-C port with a gray Keychron-branded USB-C to USB-C/A included in the retail package. An OS switch sits at the top, next to the USB-C port, so you can optimize the keyboard for Windows or macOS. I don’t have a MacOS computer, so I only tested this keyboard with Windows 10 on my Surface computers.

The keyboard is constructed from CNC machined 6063 aluminum with a heavy weight of 4 lbs (1820 grams). While I like lighter Bluetooth keyboards when moving my keyboard between workstations, keyboards that connect via cables have to feel heavy and immobile. The Keychron Q8 stays put while typing with a nice stable platform.

keychron-q8-alice-2

An interesting layout for a mechanical keyboard

Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Facing south (toward the typist), the RGB LED lights with 13 different effect options are a nice touch. Press fn1 + Q to change the lighting effect. You can also press fn1 + Tab to toggle the backlight on and off. Brightness is controlled with fn1 + W (increase) or Fn + S (decrease).

Exam: Keychron Q1 QMK custom mechanical keyboard: a premium and affordable experience

The keyboard has multiple layers including aluminum bottom case, acoustic strip, circuit board, steel plate, gaskets, aluminum top case, switches and keys. I was sent the fully assembled button model in “Carbon Black – A” for testing. There are five other colors available and several keycap kits to swap out the keycaps if you prefer a different look to your keyboard as well.

The keys are placed at a 5 degree angle and the bottom case is not adjustable. I used a Keychron Wooden Wrist Rest and while it doesn’t match the curved bottom of the keyboard, it still gives me a nice place to rest my wrist. The keyboard is 358mm long and 136mm wide.

keychron-q8-alice-3

The left side of the keyboard contains the smaller part of a spacebar

Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Keyboard software

The Keychron Q8 is a quantum mechanical keyboard that can be programmed and remapped using the VIA software application. VIA software lets you fully configure the keyboard, including adding macros, media controls, and more. I’ve only scratched the surface of VIA software and am impressed with the possibilities of using this open source software to create an extremely productive and efficient keyboard experience to help you get your work done.

The model I tested includes the button, and by default the button works to control volume by pressing the button to mute and unmute. You can reprogram the button to perform other actions, such as zooming in and out, adjusting screen brightness, and more. In addition to downloading and installing the free VIA software, you also need to download the appropriate JSON keymap file from the Keychron website. Once this is set up, you can define the macro for the button, in addition to mapping other keys as desired.

Also: The 5 Best Mechanical Keyboards: From Mini to Macro

Four key parameter layers are provided with Layers 0/1 assigned to Mac OS and Layers 2/3 assigned to Windows. You can customize shortcuts, backlight effects, and more with the software, so spend some time setting up the keyboard to work best for your needs.

Change option

Various switch options are supported and they are also hot-swappable. Gateron G Pro Red switches were included with this review unit. Gateron G Pro Blue and Gateron G Pro Brown are other options available. The Gateron G Pro Switch Red is a quiet switch suitable for office or gaming with minimal force needed to press keys. Keychron also sent a set of Golden Brown Gateron Cap Switches. This set of switches has a soft sound level with a tactile behavior. Although I also appreciate the clicky switches, the Gateron Pro Red looks great and I am able to type quickly with this set of switches. It’s quite affordable to change the switches if you also want to try something else.

keychron-q8-alice-1

The right side has the directional arrows and most of the spacebar

Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Keychron also incorporates Gateron screw-in PCB stabilizers so that larger keys have stable and smooth performance. There are stabilizers for shift, enter spaced bars and backspace keys. The Q8 also supports third-party stabilizers including Cherry and Durock.

The retail package includes the keyboard, key puller, switch puller, screwdriver and hex key. A 1.2 meter USB-C to USB-C cable (with USB-A adapter) is provided to connect the keyboard. There are 98 keys on the Keychron Q8 QMK keyboard with directional arrows on the right, and two small spacebars, with fn1 and fn2 buttons in the space between the spacebars.

Also: Keychron Q5 keyboard review: Greater functionality for a higher price

Daily use experiences and conclusion

The Keychron Q8 keyboard is available in a barebones model for $175 up to a fully assembled model with a button for $205. ISO models are available, with six color combinations and three switch options to choose from.

I was excited to try out the Alice layout on a mechanical keyboard, and if you want something a bit unique that offers ergonomic features, you might want to consider this. However, I have been spoiled by Keychron’s other models, such as the Q5 and Q1, which support all the text input experiences I need. I’ve found the lack of a tilde key, a missing function line, and number keys that weren’t intuitively accessible to slow me down a bit and also cause a few errors in my text input over the past two weeks. .

The Keychron Q8 is a very well built keyboard with a solid design, heavy weight and action that doesn’t get any better. The layout is unique and some people will definitely like it, while others may want to consider a more standard Keychron design.

Alternatives to consider

The Keychron Q8 keyboard is an interesting mechanical keyboard, but if you have other ergonomic mechanical options, check them out.

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