Keyboard, Review

Keychron V1 Review: Fantastic Starting Point for Only $54

The mechanical keyboard scene has grown immensely over the past couple of years, and so did Keychron. From the release of its first premium keyboard about a year ago – the Keychron Q1 – we now have the Keychron V1: a very budget-friendly keyboard with some key features of an enthusiast-level board.

Just how affordable is the V1? Well, it starts at only $54, which comes up to about RM240. Of course, given its low asking price, it doesn’t have the best typing experience or sound profile. But for those who are new to the custom keyboard scene, the V1 is a great starting point, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

What It Is

At a glance, the Keychron V1 is a 75% keyboard that looks very similar to the Q1, just in a plastic body; ABS plastic, to be specific. Evidently, the V1 has some design cues of the more premium Q series keyboards, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’d argue this design works better on the V1 – more on this further down this review.

Aside from its ABS plastic body, the V1 also features a steel plate, a hotswap PCB, support for QMK/VIA to easily change the mapping of the keyboard, screw-in stabilisers, and…a tray mount design. Yes, it would’ve been better if it was gasket-mounted like the Q series keyboards, but hey, the V1 is a far more affordable offering.

Speaking of affordability, the V1 starts at only $54 for the barebone kit. The fully assembled model – which includes Keychron K Pro switches of your choice and double shot PBT OSA keycaps – costs just $74 (around RM330). You can also add $10 (approximately RM45) to get a knob installed on the top right corner.

So at this price point, how good can the V1 really be? Well, let’s find out in the next section.

The Good Stuff

What I absolutely love about the Keychron V1 is the fact that it has an ABS plastic case. Thanks to this, it has absolutely no case ping, which is one of my biggest qualms with Keychron’s Q series keyboards. With the absence of case ping, the sound profile of the V1 is actually quite pleasant.

More importantly, it doesn’t have the cheap, plasticky sound profile of a typical pre-built keyboard; this fact alone puts the V1 above most mainstream keyboards. In fact, I’d argue the V1 has a low-pitched, almost thocky sound profile. It’s certainly not a clacky keyboard, in my opinion.

The stock screw-in stabilisers of the V1 are quite good too. Not only are they nice and secure – typical traits of a screw-in stabiliser – they are also lubed reasonably well out of the box to eliminate rattling and ticking, though the backspace does tick ever so slightly.

Thankfully, putting in a bit more lube to the wire solves this issue, and given that this is not a particularly difficult mod to do, I’m quite happy with the stock stabilisers of the V1.

As with most recent keyboards from Keychron, the V1 comes with VIA and QMK support, though VIA doesn’t recognise it out of the box. Instead, users will have to head to the V1’s product page and grab the JSON file for the keyboard to work with VIA. While this may sound troublesome, it’s really not that difficult to do.

Last but not least is the design of the V1, which I quite like. Though it looks very similar to the Q1, this slightly translucent Frost Black colourway gives it a very nice aesthetic, in my opinion. It’s nice that I can see some of the keyboard’s internals with this colour option.

Of course, if you’re not a fan of this translucent design, you can opt for the Carbon Black opaque colourway instead.

You may have noticed that I haven’t talked about the typing feel of the V1 yet. Let me elaborate on this in the following section..

The Bad Stuff

Because it uses a tray mount design, the Keychron V1 is a stiff keyboard to type on. There’s absolutely no flex whatsoever, and it can even feel harsh to some folks in longer typing sessions. If you like a stiff typing experience, then you may consider this to be a positive, but it’s certainly not a quality I look for in a keyboard.

The default steel plate of the V1 also stiffens up the typing feel even more. If Keychron had used a softer plate material such as polycarbonate, it’s possible the V1 won’t feel quite as harsh to type on. It could possibly make the keyboard sound lower-pitched too, not that the V1 is a clacky board by any means.

And then there’s the build quality of the V1. Don’t get me wrong, it feels solid in my hands, but I’m not thrilled by the screws that hold the tray mount system of the keyboard. As these screws don’t use metal thread inserts, they visibly strip the threads on the plastic case.

In repeated disassembly, it’s possible these threads will be completely stripped, rendering the screws…well, useless. Granted, you won’t be disassembling the keyboard too often, but this is an issue worth pointing out.

Is It Worth It?

Retailing from only $54, the sheer affordability of the Keychron V1 alone makes it a worthwhile purchase. It’s not a compelling keyboard just because it’s affordable; its other features are genuinely good too, including a low-pitched sound profile, QMK/VIA support, and pretty sleek looks.

If you’re keen to get the Keychron V1, it is now available for purchase on Keychron’s online store. To recap, the barebone version costs just $54, while the fully assembled model – which bundles Keychron K Pro switches of your choice and double shot PBT OSA keycaps – starts at $74.

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