Price When Reviewed: £77
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The Hexgears X-1 Mechanical Keyboard comes with some bold design inspiration, but is it a viable replacement for the Apple keyboard?
The big sell of the Hexgears X-1 Mechanical Keyboard is that it's a keyboard with mechanical switches designed with users of both Apple and Windows in mind. It also comes with some lofty spiel on its creation, bearing a design supposedly inspired by the Bell X-1, which some of you out there may know as the world’s first supersonic aircraft.
That's all well and good, but really what we want to know is whether it's a decent keyboard or not, and with a successful Kickstarter campaign currently launching it to life this month, no doubt there's a lot of other people wondering the same.
First impressions are good; the keyboard is thin and light, and easy to both stand and set up. We didn't get a case with our review sample, but Hexgears is touting a hard-sided carrying case when purchased. The company is also talking up its 'CNC machined aircraft grade aluminium' case, which is probably the keyboard's only tangible relation to the Bell X-1. In layman's terms, the casing is durable, and nicely cold to the touch.
It's a shame that general sleekness didn't crossover to the keys themselves, which follow a rudimentary design bar one key detail: these babies hang off Kaihua 'Choc' mechanical switches. That's good news for gamers, as the extra bounce given by the switches beneath each key means more effective gameplay. Not being a gamer, I haven't put this to the test, but I can tell you there is some satisfaction gained when typing.
These switches come in a choice of three colours, with a brown variant that gives a gentle, tactile press, and a red one with a linear, easy to press use. Our review sample came with white switches, made to give a sharp, 'clackity' sound when typing, and they hit the spot exactly. It's all very pleasing to the ears.
The keyboard itself comes in either a white shade or a black one; ours was a black model, reminding us of a few gaming keyboards on the market, but without the added clunkiness. Like many gaming keyboards, it has RGB backlighting, giving you a choice of 9 colour modes for when things get dark. The lights ebb in and out of vision, and can cycle or reverse with one tab; a nice function, but like backlighting itself, not really a USP.
Some users may not like that every key gets lit up in this mode, the option to customise certain keys with certain colours not being possible. That said, using the F1 button in conjunction with Function can make the arrow and WASD keys turn red, whilst everything else stays dark and off-radar.
Accessories and Connectivity
Moving onto add ons, the X-1's charging cable is a sturdy, braided make; not especially aesthetically pleasing with all its tangles, but it does the job. Mac users should note that the keyboard carries a Windows command key, with the possibility of an Apple command key being shipped with orders. We didn't receive this key, and Hexgears is unable to 100% confirm its inclusion in the box at time of writing, so just be aware you may have to get one separately if you want to match things up visually with your Mac.
The keyboard is also easy to connect to a number of devices on Bluetooth, and it's simple to toggle between that mode and USB.
Note that there's a 3 month battery life, but that sinks down to 4 hours when using the RGB lighting mode.
The Hexgears X-1 is a nice option for anyone looking for a keyboard with mechanical switches to use with their Apple or Window set up, but users looking for a stylish way to stand out from the crowd may be disappointed.
Its keys look fairly standard on the black model, but the switches themselves make up for it. If you're not a gamer, or not particularly bothered by having switches in general, then it may be hard to see the fuss. Ignore all the fancy talk about aircraft and press-release force from Choc switches, and you won't be disappointed by what's essentially a nicely light and durable keyboard.
One final note: the white model looks better on the whole from pictures we've seen, probably as it's not too indistinguishable from an Apple Magic keyboard. If you simply want an Apple Magic clone with mechanical switches, then this model would be perfect, but bear in mind again that it comes with a Windows command key, making it slightly redundant in that aspect.
The Hexgears X-1 is currently available via Kickstarter; its campaign ends this August 23rd, so best to be supersonic if you're thinking of getting one.
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