OnePlus targets a Mac-first, quieter design with its first mechanical keyboard

OnePlus targets a Mac-first, quieter design with its first mechanical keyboard

white mechanical keyboard close-up
Enlarge / We don’t know what OnePlus’ mechanical keyboard will look like yet. But Keychron’s products may hold clues.

OnePlus, primarily known for making smartphones like the OnePlus 10 Pro, is working on its first mechanical keyboard. The company faces a crowded market but boasts keycaps featuring macOS-ready legends and a purported focus on customization, including open source firmware.

OnePlus first teased its keyboard earlier in December. It’s receiving customer feedback to help design the product before testing it next month. An official reveal is expected in February, followed by mass production in March to April. OnePlus already sells various technologies that aren’t phones, including monitors, outside of the US. As of writing, OnePlus’ upcoming keyboard is listed on the company’s US website.

A community post today by OnePlus product marketing manager “Percy T.” revealed that the keyboard would have a “MacBook layout,” suggesting that there won’t be a number pad. Despite its macOS-leaning keycap legends, OnePlus said it will also be a Linux keyboard and work with Windows PCs.

The post claimed it would be easy to switch between operating systems. OnePlus could accomplish this with something like a switch on the keyboard’s side that you slide depending on the OS in use, as the Keychron K14 does. Keychron is helping OnePlus design its mechanical keyboard.

OnePlus’ first clacker will also use a CNC-machined aluminum chassis, whereas many premium keyboards opt for a plastic case and metal top plate. This means we can expect a weighty peripheral from OnePlus. The Keychron Q2, for example, only has a 65 percent layout but weighs about 3.63 lbs. OnePlus’ first post about its foray into keyboards, however, said its customers want a keyboard that’s not too tall, which could have implications for the keyboard’s thickness and its keycap shape.

Working with Keychron, it’s reasonable to think that OnePlus is taking cues from the company’s more popular designs; however, Percy T. claimed OnePlus smartphones inspired the choice of “silky-smooth” aluminum.

“We knew that aluminum had worked great to give our older devices a distinct feel. Thanks to CNC aluminum manufacturing, we can promise the best hand feeling while providing weight and durability for long-term usage and stability,” Percy T. wrote.

Still, we can’t help getting Q2 (and other Keychron keyboard) vibes, especially since OnePlus announced today that its keyboard would also have a double-gasket design to try to reduce the noise of typing on the keyboard and the hatred of those around you. This design worked well in the Q2 to eliminate metallic pinging sounds and the distracting rattling of stabilizers. Although, some of the large keys sounded jarringly different from the rest on the Q2.

For customization, the keyboard will have hot-swappable switches and work with the VIA app for configuring the keyboard’s open source QMK firmware. VIA tends to be less intuitive to start with than finely polished software from big peripheral makers, such as Razer Synapse. But the app allows users of various OSes to use an open source method of keyboard programming, from creating macros and FN layers to lighting (if the OnePlus mechanical keyboard decides to offer that), and without having to reflash the keyboard’s firmware after.

We were fans of Keychron’s Q2 with its quieter double-gasket internals and its solid aluminum build. But hopefully, OnePlus comes up with something that’s more than a Keychron clone and brings a unique identity and value to mechanical keyboards.

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