One of the most interesting aspects of the mechanical keyboard community is that it lets builders experiment with unconventional layouts that you might never see on a store shelf. One of the most popular in the last few years has been the Alice, a custom design that mixes the slight angles of “ergonomic” keyboards with a layout that keeps it compatible with most custom keycap sets. Keychron, now firmly pushing into the premium mechanical category, is releasing the first mass-market board with an Alice layout: the Keychron Q8.
Like other members of the Keychron Q line, the Q8 features a heavy all-aluminum body, a choice of Gateron G Pro switches (linear red, clickly blue, tactile brown), interchangeable hot-swap PCB, high-quality doubleshot keycaps in the OSA profile, RGB lighting, QMK or VIA programming, and a premium gasket mounting. You also get the choice between a circular volume knob or a regular key in its place. But it’s the layout that’s the real star here.
The Alice layout was created for the TGR Alice semi-custom keyboard in 2018, developed and sold by keyboard community member Yuk Tsi. The basic design is a 60 percent layout with the central letters and numbers tilted slightly for an ergonomic cant. Critically, while the switches are angled on the PCB, they don’t require any modification to the switches or keycaps themselves. You can use any MX-style switch you want and a typical ANSI keycap set (with a couple of extras like a shortened right Shift key) and be good to go.
The original run of the TGR Alice cost $400-500, and it’s since become a collector’s item worth many times that. Other designs based on the Alice layout are similarly expensive, and come in small batches that are hard to order even if you’ve got the money. The Keychron Q8 is notable on both points. Not only can you order it directly from a manufacturer without needing to wait for a batch to be made, it’s coming in at a relatively reasonable $195 for a fully-assembled board, ready to be customized. Adding on the volume knob is only an extra $10.
For keyboard nerds who’ve been eager to get an Alice-style board since it was introduced, this is a huge deal. Now you now get one at a surprisingly reasonable price, with popular user-friendly additions like an arrow cluster, it has full hardware and software support, and the design is ready for some fairly heavy customization right out of the box. The Keychron Q8 is shipping today.
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.