We all get it: mechanical keyboards are the happening thing for gamers. But what do you do you do if you prefer a lower profile, like on a Mac or laptop? Well, Hexgears has the answer with the X-1 Wireless Low Profile Mechanical Keyboard. Working in partnership with Input Club, the team has developed a full-fledged gaming keyboard, complete with your choice of switch, per-key customizable RGB backlighting, and a one of the most unique layouts we’ve seen. The project is launching on Kickstarter on 7/24 but we were able to get our hands on a production prototype to see if it lives up to the hype.
Read on to see whether “lowpro” gaming is right for you!
If you haven’t heard of Hexgears yet, don’t worry; in the States, not many people have but they’re a major player in China. Who you should know of by now is Input Club. We’ve looked at their boards extensively - the Whitefox, K-Type, and the upcoming Kira gaming keyboard - and in many conversations, they’ve made it clear that they believe keyboards aren’t done yet. They can be better and do better than what’s in the mainstream today. More than anything, if they’re going to put their hand on something, it’s going to be made with the end user in mind. What is it they want? What will make this keyboard better for them? In answering those questions, they find their design and in their designs they deliver with the highest quality materials and engineering.
On a recent trip abroad, Hexgears and Input Club decided to collaborate on an exciting new project: the X-1 Wireless Low Profile Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. It’s an affordable alternative to full-size mechanical keyboards that finally gives chiclet lovers a quality option over the standard membrane options on that have always been available.
The X-1 is inspired by the iconic plane of the same name. It’s meant to inspire visions of speed and sleekness and, to that end, is a rousing success. It’s small form factor makes it just short of the length of your average TKL while also including a full number pad. Looking closely at the picture above, you can see they shifted the numpad to the left, usually where you’d find your navigation buttons, and moved each of those onto secondary keys.
It’s a fantastic design that gives you all the power of a full-size keyboard with only a handful of small shifts onto the secondary layer. You could use this keyboard for gaming or work without feeling the punch of a lost number pad. That it comes in such a small package makes it perfect for gaming where you’ll need that extra space for your mouse hand. Why more companies don’t take on designs like this, I’ll never know.
Coupled with that are Kailh’s excellent low profile switches. Despite looking like your average Mac keyboard, the lowpros on the X-1 feature a fully mechanical design from Kailh’s Choc line. The model we were sent featured Choc Whites, which are clicky and tactile, akin to a Cherry MX Blue but with clicks on the downstroke and upstroke (if you like clicky keyboards you owe it to yourself to try any of Kailh’s clickbar switches). They feature a shorter travel distance, too, allowing them to actuate faster and more often than a traditional mechanical keyboard.
Kailh Chocs are also RGB enabled, which the X-1 uses it to great effect. The lighting is bright and vibrant and can be completely customized without the use of software. Five preset effects come on-board, including your spectrum wave, color cycle, breathing, waving, and reactive typing. If you’d rather design your own, though, colors can be applied on a per-key basis, allowing you to set your own layout exactly as you’d like.
I admit, when I first unboxed the X-1, I wasn’t sure I would like the low profile design. I’m a keyboard enthusiast through and through but have grown fairly used to my standard height mechs. By looks alone, you would expect them to be flat and mushy like your average laptop keyboard. It’s honestly surprising when you feel just how much better they are and how much like standard height switches they feel. For the first time, you can have that low profile keyboard you love on your Mac with full mechanical travel and feedback. And if clicky keys aren’t your thing, the X-1 will also have red and brown switch options available too.
For gamers, you’ll find the design of the X-1 to be as versatile as you’ll need for any game. I rarely ever use the numpad when gaming but I do use macro keys quite a bit. The prototype we were sent doesn’t feature macro recording (yet?) but with a program like AutoHotKey, the pad can instantly be transformed into a macro set. Thanks to the low profile switches, playing games feels more responsive than ever. Through the secondary layer, you gain easy access to media controls, Game Mode/Windows Lock, putting your computer to sleep or waking it up, and changing the connection mode.
When connected via USB, it connects at full speed for that ultra-responsiveness gamers are used to. The X-1 also supports four separate high-speed Bluetooth connections that can be swapped on the fly. When I’m done on the computer, I’ll often swap over to connect it to my PlayStation 4 for party chat. Later in the evening, I’ll switch and connect on my tablet with a single two-button combination. Thanks to the CNC milled aluminum body, you’ll also find it’s durable for transport in and out of the house.
If any of this sounds appealing to you, head on over to the product page to sign up for the interest check and be notified when the Kickstarter goes live. Early bird pricing will be $99 and give you the choice between black and white designs to fit your setup.
One thing is for sure, though: Input Club is once again proving that they’re a company to watch. Their collaboration with Hexgears on the X-1 takes the tired chiclet keyboard design and breathes fresh life into it. Chiclet doesn’t have to mean mushy or membrane anymore and the X-1 is an exciting way to find out for yourself.