Is OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro Worth the Hype?

The debut mechanical keyboard from OnePlus, the Keyboard 81 Pro, seems to be a redesigned Keychron Q1 Pro with a few modifications.

However, the Keychron Q1 Pro is currently one of the top mechanical keyboards available, and the adjustments made by OnePlus range from unremarkable to intriguing.

While I wouldn’t claim that the Keyboard 81 Pro surpasses the Q1 Pro, it does offer its own strengths, making it a viable alternative.

To refresh your memory, Keychron’s Q1 Pro is a wireless variant of the Keychron Q1, boasting a solid aluminum chassis and a gasket-mounted switch plate that provides a premium typing experience.

It also comes with convenient features like hot-swappable switches, which allow for easy typing feel customization without soldering, and a robust customization software VIA for reprogramming.

Depending on your preferred design and switches, the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro is priced between $219 and $239 (the version I’ve been testing), whereas the Q1 Pro with a knob costs $199.

For many, this price difference might end the discussion – unless you’re a devoted OnePlus fan, why spend an additional $20 to $40 for this keyboard?

However, there’s more to the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro than just branding and color.

Firstly, it features an added kickstand that allows you to adjust the typing angle, which is not possible with the standard Q1 Pro.

The adjustable bar is solid and stays in place once set, providing a neat addition even though some elevated positions might be less comfortable for typing.

Secondly, OnePlus has chosen a more traditional keycap shape compared to the Q1 Pro’s retro-inspired spherical-angle keycaps (KSA).

The OnePlus keyboard ships with cylindrical keycaps, offering a modern look and feel that I personally prefer.

The type of keycap you get depends on the switch type you choose.

The tactile switch version ($219) comes with darker gray double-shot PBT keycaps, while the more expensive model with linear switches ($239) features lighter gray double-shot keycaps made from OnePlus’ “marble-mallow” material.

The “marble-mallow” keycaps have a pleasant matte roughness similar to PBT and a slightly tacky rubber feel.

The legends are sharp and crisp, and the keycaps feel sturdy. However, the long-term durability of this material remains uncertain compared to PBT.

The Keyboard 81 Pro comes with Mac keycaps by default, but you can switch to Windows keycaps using a small switch on the top edge, just like the Q1 Pro.

Additionally, the Keyboard 81 Pro offers a distinct typing experience from the Q1 Pro due to custom-branded switches matching the overall color scheme.

For instance, the Winter Bonfire color scheme has tactile “Winter Bonfire” switches with red stems, while the Summer Breeze color scheme comes with linear “Summer Breeze” switches featuring navy blue stems.

The Keyboard 81 Pro’s linear “Summer Breeze” switches share similarities with the linear red Keychron K Pro switches in the Q1 Pro.

They have a medium weight, smoothness, and a quieter, more muted thud when bottoming out.

Apart from the OnePlus-inspired makeover, some redesign elements of the Keyboard 81 Pro work better than others.

The overall color scheme, alert slider-style controls, red USB cable, and shiny raised section around the volume dial are pleasing.

However, the transparent volume dial looks somewhat cheap, and the OnePlus logo on the escape key is debatable.

An alternative escape key with a standard “Esc” legend would be a welcome addition.

For a full rundown of the Keyboard 81 Pro’s features, check my review of the Keychron Q1 Pro. But here are some key specs worth knowing:

  • The keyboard is hot-swappable, allowing you to replace switches easily with a pulling tool included in the box.
  • It is remappable using VIA, a powerful and excellent app.
  • The keyboard has RGB lighting, but the keycaps are not shinethrough, resulting in relatively underwhelming illumination. I recommend keeping the RGB lighting turned off to preserve battery life.
  • Using RGB will significantly reduce battery life. With RGB at its lowest setting, you’ll get 100 hours compared to 300 hours with the lights turned off. Best to use RGB when the keyboard is wired.
  • Keychron has done an excellent job with the keyboard’s stabilizers, eliminating any rattling noise.

The OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro is neither superior nor inferior to the Keychron Q1 Pro; it offers a different typing experience, adjustable height, and a quieter operation. Whether these changes justify the $20 to $40 price premium is for you to decide.

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