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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Hexgears X-1 Review: Mechanical Keyboards Finally Get Sleek

Hexgears X-1 wireless mechanical keyboard

Mechanical keyboards have been the big trend in computer inputs the last few years. They feel great, but they’re kind of like the monster trucks of the desk: big, loud, heavy, and unapologetic. Niche manufacturer Hexgears aims to change that.

The X-1, ostensibly designed after the Bell X-1 hypersonic plane, uses Kailh Choc low-profile switches, a smart key layout, and some sleek engineering to make a full-sized mechanical keyboard that’s about the same size as the more stylish designs that ape Apple’s Magic Keyboard.

While it includes Bluetooth for hassle-free wireless, it also has a lagless USB-C connection with N-key rollover for the gamers among its target audience. An aluminum casing, full RGB lighting, and a choice of two colors and three switches rounds out an impressive feature set, helping to justify the premium $120 price.

The X-1’s laptop-style chiclet keys won’t please everyone, and its battery life drops sharply if you turn on the lights. But those are the only major complaints I can lodge against this thing. It’s beautiful, it travels better than any other mechanical keyboard I’ve tried, its switches are shorter than I’m used to but that’s a more than acceptable compromise for its size and weight. If you’ve been put off by the chunky looks and stodgy insistence on wired designs of most mechanical keyboards, this one might just make you a believer.

Everybody’s Crazy ‘Bout A Sharp-Dressed Mech

Tastes in keyboard aesthetics are quite broad. If you find two users who actually care about how their keyboard looks (which is admittedly a small subset), you’re unlikely to find a common opinion between them. Even so, I’ve yet to hear anything except praise for the look of the Hexgears X-1.

hexgears, x-1, mechanical, keyboard, kailh, low profile,

I ordered mine in black, to match the rest of my desk, but it also comes in grey aluminum with white keys if your taste leans towards Cupertino. The whole thing has around the same footprint as a tenkeyless keyboard, but it’s only three-quarters of an inch tall at its thickest point. I usually forego keyboard legs, but I was happy to use the small fold-out legs in the X-1 just to get a more familiar raised profile.

The flat chicklet keys use white printing that allows the RGB lights to come through as bright as any “gamer” keyboard, and the thin aluminum housing feels elegant and sharp. The aluminum wraps around the curved corners and sizes, only surrendering to plastic on the bottom face of the board, I suspect for the sake of weight and Bluetooth wireless signal.

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