Keychron’s S1 mechanical keyboard is the best yet for Apple Mac computers

Keychron's S1 mechanical keyboard is the best yet for Apple Mac computers
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Anyone who has used a Mac may be surprised at how light and thin Apple’s Magic keyboards feel. One of the world’s most famous computer brands is a byword for high quality, but Apple’s keyboards and mice don’t seem to have come very far in recent years.

With Apple lagging behind with its keyboard design, there is a demand for alternatives and many specialist manufacturers have stepped in to offer Mac users a wider selection of keyboards to type on. These days you can buy all kinds of keyboards for your Mac, including soft membrane models and the mechanical variety often favored by gamers.

Many of these third-party keyboards also offer wireless connectivity; some even have backlit keys and hot-swappable switches for tactile feedback. Perhaps the most prolific of these keyboard manufacturers is Hong Kong-based Keychron. Founded in 2017 by Will Ye and Sven Zhu, the company now offers a huge range of keyboards, from compact models to full-sized versions with numeric keypads and all the usual media keys that Apple users have grown accustomed to.

The latest Keychron model to show up on my desk for review is the Keychron S1, a luxurious and beautifully built model with supremely comfortable low-profile keys. The S1 is a 75% low profile keyboard that can physically switch between Mac and Windows layouts. Unlike cheaper mechanical keyboards, the S1 has a CNC-milled metal chassis that gives the S1 significantly more power than most keyboards and makes it incredibly stable to type on. The S1 also features high-quality tactile feedback and supports QMK/VIA software for programming the keyboard layout for custom or personal use.

To make the S1 as comfortable to type on as possible, Keychron uses Gateron’s low-profile MX switches with LSA low-profile, double-shot PBT keycaps. These buttons are of high quality and resistant to oils on the user’s fingertips. The keycaps have a durable, textured finish and, being double shot, are more resistant to fading. And should the legends fade, they can easily be replaced with a new set of Keychron keypads.

Each of the S1’s buttons has a north-facing LED backlight and two versions are available. The first version comes with regular white LED backlighting, while the second one has RGB backlighting, which is preferred by many gamers. The S1 has 22 lighting effects ranging from static to fade and ripple.

The white backlit model can be ordered with Gateron’s red, blue or brown low-profile switches. Red Gateron switches have a linear feel, resulting in a smooth button press with no noticeable click. Gateron’s blue switches produce a lovely sticky sound and feel, while the brown switches are somewhere in between.

The RGB backlit version of the S1 can be ordered with red, blue or brown switches, and there’s also a hot-swap model for a bit more money. The hot-swappable model means the user can replace the switches for quieter or stronger feedback without using a soldering iron.

Inside the Keychron S1 is an ultra-low power arm structure MCU backed by 128K flash memory for developers. The polling rate is up to 1000Hz out of the box, meaning there is virtually no noticeable latency and it gives the keyboard an ultra-responsive feel, no matter how fast you type or play.

The Keychron S1 comes with a system toggle and an additional set of custom keypads for both Windows and macOS systems. Users can save two different keyboard layouts, one for each system. In addition, the keyboard has two sets of rubber feet that can adjust the tilt angle of the S1 two either 3° and 6°. The choice of feet allows the user to choose the most comfortable angle for their wrists.

Like most of Keychron’s mechanical keyboards, the S1 is programmable using QMK/VIA, allowing users to easily program or remap every key on the keyboard. The open source firmware offers endless possibilities for changing keyboard layouts, shortcuts, backlight effects and more.

Judgment: The new Keychron S1 is a superb mechanical keyboard and perfect if you don’t want a Bluetooth model. The advantage of using a wired keyboard is that you never have to worry about charging the battery. The fact that the S1 is CNC machined from metal gives it a wonderfully solid feel and makes typing much more secure, as the keyboard doesn’t fold when in use. The choice of heights means two levels of shaving for the keyboard to suit most wrist positions. Other highlights include the luxurious dual-shot backlit buttons. However, the keys are not transparent, so the backlight does not illuminate the texts on the keys. So keep that in mind if you want more visible keys in dimly lit rooms. The ability to switch between Mac and Windows layouts offers more versatility, and full support for macOS media keys means experienced Mac users will feel right at home. Overall, the Keychron S1 keyboard is a superb alternative to Apple’s somewhat spongy and expensive Magic keyboard. It’s well worth the upgrade if you’re a serious typist or a dedicated gamer.

Price and availability: The Keychron S1 mechanical keyboard is available now and costs $109. The RGB version is available with hot-swappable switches for $119.

More information:

Technical specifications:

  • Width: 118.4 mm
  • Length: 310.4 mm
  • Front height: 7.8 mm.
  • Back height: 13.7 mm.
  • Foot height: 2.7 mm.
  • Angle: 3°/6°
  • Weight: 960g ± 10g
  • Body Material: Full CNC Machined Aluminum.
  • Plate material: Steel.
  • Polling rate: 1000Hz.
  • Keycaps: Double-shot PBT low-profile keycaps, not translucent.
  • MCU: Ultra-low power ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit STM32L432 (128KB Flash).
  • Switches: Gateron Low Profile MX Mechanical.
  • Backlight: North facing RGB LED.
  • Switch support: Hot-swappable (Gateron Low Profile MX Mechanical).
  • Connection: USB Type-C.

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