We’ve seen plenty of keyboards released under Keychron’s Q series, but none of them are quite as exciting as this one right here, the Keychron Q8. Not only does it have a unique “Alice” layout, it also has one new feature that’s not found on other Keychron Q keyboards to date.
While the Q8 also sees a slight price hike compared to its predecessors, it still offers good value for money, especially for a keyboard with this unconventional layout. If you’ve always wanted an Alice-style keyboard that’s easily accessible, the Q8 is worth a consideration.
What It Is
First of all, why is it called an “Alice” layout? Well, the name is actually taken from the TGR Alice, which was a keyboard designed by a Malaysian. Anyway, that’s the keyboard that popularised this staggered, split layout.
While the Keychron Q8 doesn’t have the exact same layout as the TGR Alice, it’s similar enough to the latter, including having two B keys on the left and right columns of the keyboard. Keychron also added arrow keys to the Q8, and overall, it’s certainly a more practical layout – in my opinion, anyway.
Aside from that, the Q8 has all the features found on other Q series keyboards too. These include a “double-gasket” design for improved sound profile, a full CNC aluminium case, a hotswap PCB with QMK/VIA support, as well as screw-in stabilisers.
But unlike its predecessors, the Q8 has one new feature: it is tape modded straight out of the factory. This mod – which involves applying a layer of tape under the PCB – is typically done by end users to deepen the sound profile of a keyboard, so it’s quite impressive that the Q8 has this mod out of the box.
Now, let’s talk prices. There are two variants of the Q8: the barebone kit retails at $175 (about RM780), while the fully assembled model, which includes Gateron G Pro switches of your choice and double shot PBT OSA keycaps, costs $195 (around RM870). You can also add a knob for $10 (approximately RM45).
It’s worth noting that there aren’t many Alice-style keyboards in the market now, let alone one that’s readily available like the Q8 with an aluminium case at this price point. Without a doubt value for money is one of this keyboard’s best qualities.
And that’s a good segue to the next section.
The Good Stuff
Thanks to the factory tape mod and double-gasket design of the Keychron Q8, I really dig its sound profile. However, even with the tape mod, it’s still a clacky keyboard to my ears, but it does have a deeper, lower-pitched sound signature than, say, the Keychron Q5.
Another benefit of the factory tape mod is reduced case ping on the Q8. Yes, the case ping is still there, but at head level, it’s not particularly audible, unless you’re in a really quiet room. All in all, I’m a fan of the Q8’s sound profile; just take a listen for yourself in the sound test above.
Sound profile aside, the typing feel of the Q8 is quite good as well. The double-gasket design offers a good amount of flex, though it’s not exactly a soft or bouncy keyboard. This can be attributed to the steel plate stiffening up the typing experience, though it’s still not as stiff as a tray-mounted keyboard like the Keychron V1 or K8 Pro.
And then there’s the Alice layout of the Q8, which is really one of its best selling points. Because the keys are arranged outward, my hands are in a more natural position when I’m typing on the keyboard. While it does take some time to get used to the split layout – especially if you’re not a touch typist – I imagine most folks can get used to it after a short adjustment period.
Just like other Q series keyboards, the Q8 has support for QMK/VIA, which gives users the freedom to easily change the mapping of the keyboard. Even though VIA doesn’t automatically detect the Q8 out of the box, it’s not too hard to grab the JSON file from Keychron’s website to start configuring it.
Last but not least is the screw-in stabiliser of the Q8. The wires of the stabilisers are lubed out of the box, and it does a decent job of minimising ticking and rattling. While there’s still a hint of rattle on certain mod keys, it can easily be fixed by adding a bit more lube.
The Bad Stuff
Even though the screw-in stabilisers of the Keychron Q8 are good (for the most part), there is a weird…tonal difference on certain keys, such as the left spacebar. See, hitting that spacebar on the left and right corners produce very different sounds: one has a deeper pitch, while the other is oddly clacky.
That being said, I did manage to eliminate this weird issue by adjusting the fit of the keycap on the stabiliser. With that in mind, I definitely recommend swapping to a higher quality third-party stabilisers if this sounds (sorry for the pun) like an issue that you’ll find annoying.
Another downside of the Q8 is its…well, utilitarian design. While the Alice layout does look aesthetically-pleasing, I’m not crazy about the sizeable bezels on certain parts of the keyboard. As a result, it doesn’t look quite as sleek as it should be.
Is It Worth It?
Starting at only $175, the Keychron Q8 is worth every penny; assuming you’re looking to get an Alice-style keyboard. As mentioned, there aren’t a lot of keyboards with such a layout in the market now, so the wide availability and affordability of the Q8 – along with its aluminium case – make it a very easy Alice keyboard to recommend.
It would’ve been great if the Q8 had a more appealing design, but ultimately, the Keychron Q series had always been more about practicality than offering an eye-catching design. That, and the fact that it’s easily accessible, both in terms of pricing and availability.