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Keychron Q11 review


Like many other people, I spend the majority of my waking hours in front of a computer. Thus, I’m always looking for ways to make those hours as enjoyable and productive as they can be.

When considering possible upgrades, I’d argue that for me and many others, focusing on I/0 components, like a great monitor, yield larger improvements than compute upgrades.

Case in point: I use Neovim as my code editor and skew towards native apps on macOS. So any investment into a faster, more powerful Mac simply won’t improve my user experience as much as thoughtful I/O upgrades.

Over the years, I’ve compiled an I/O setup that meets or exceeds my expectations regarding ergonomics and quality: a 4k monitor with P3 color gamut, a decently-built vertical mouse, and my trusted AIAIAI studio headphones.

One component I’ve curiously never upgraded from the vanilla/base option was the keyboard though: I bought an Apple “Magic” Keyboard right when I bought my external monitor and stuck to it.

It’s hard to find a Mac-layout keyboard that’s as low-profile as this one. This was important to me, since my previous office chair lacked arm rests. Thus, not having to tilt my hands upwards too much was simply more comfortable. However, I disliked how it lacked any meaningful tactility and how little I could customize it.

After getting a new chair with armrests recently, I started venturing into the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole and eventually bought a Keychron Q11 split keyboard.

Since there aren’t many reviews of it online (ergo mech keyboards are still somewhat of a niche), I’ve written up my experience with it below.

Context

My typing speed ranges from 60-80wpm with an accuracy of around 95%, depending on the complexity and language of the text (especially punctuation and German Umlaute slow me down).

I type mostly (90%) in English and 10% in German. Most of my typing eventually ends up being a Slack message or documentation, with a little bit of code (mostly off work).

Ergonomics are important to me, I’m in my mid-thirties and know a couple of people my age with serious back issues, so I’m inclined to invest whatever it takes into prevention.

Apart from Neovim, I also use VIM keybindings in most other tools I use (e.g. Obsidian). Generally, I optimize for keeping my hands on the keyboard as much as possible for speed and convenience.

Search Criteria

When looking for a keyboard, this is what I optimized for:

Things I didn’t care too much about:

Options I Considered

Even though it’s a niche, there are plenty of split keyboards around. There’s a nice, comprehensive list here. Ultimately, I only evaluated a couple of options more closely, listed below. Take the prices here as rough indication, I’ve put them together at the time of writing this piece and import duties for may change the price significantly. Plus, it wasn’t my main criteria anyways, but I’ve added them to the list to give you a rough feeling of (perceived) value vs. asking price.

Ordering a Q11: Availability, Pre-sale Service, Final Price, Config

Since the Q11 has everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t want, I ordered one off their German website right away. This is the config I went for:

There’s also barebones version without keycaps and switches for 20 USD less, but getting double-shot PBT keycaps + a set of Gateron G Pro switches for 20 USD seems like a good deal to me.

Keychron states on their website that all orders are put out for shipping within 2 business days. Indeed, mine was picked up by a local courier on the second day after I ordered it.

Keychron has somewhat of a bad rep when it comes to customer service (at least that’s what I picked up on reddit), but so far I can attest that my experience with them was quite decent. I mistyped my address during the order and wrote a quick email to Keychron. Their support sorted it out in no time and replied in a friendly way. I’m aware that this was essentially pre-sale support so the experience might differ if you have an issue years down the line or a warranty claim, but at the very least I walked away from that initial interaction with the impression that this is a well-run company.

The final price including delivery to Europe (from Mainland China, I assume Shenzhen) was around 240 USD. That also included import duties to Europe already. Compared to the other options I checked out, this is at least 100 USD cheaper.

While I didn’t optimize for price at all, this demonstrates that Keychron has a pricing edge. My assumptions:

Total time from order to delivery were 19 days, with most of the time spent in customs checks in China and Europe. The keyboard was flown out of China with YunExpress.

First Impressions

The first things I noticed were:

After 2 Weeks of Use

What I like:

What I don’t like:

Verdict

If you want to ease into split keyboards in particular and ergo mech keyboards in general, this is a great option. Especially if you care about build quality and don’t mind a staggered layout and the lack of built-in tenting and wireless connectivity. I don’t, so after a couple of weeks of use, I’m still happy with the purchase.