Review: Hexgears X-1 (Cross-post on R/MK)


#1

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Forgive me, I’m a lousy photographer and I still have an Iphone 6. This is the review of the Hexgears X-1 I posted on reddit. I know that Keebtalk is mostly enthusiasts and customs builders, but I think this layout is nice and even if the first execution of this board wasn’t great, it bears some discussion. Anyway, my review:

After some deliberation (I passed up on the kickstarter), I ended up buying a Hexgears X-1 for work. I’m moving to a new office, and everyone is going to be “hot-desking”: meaning, I keep my stuff in a locker and choose a new seat every day. Kind of like a college library. Or writing a screenplay in a Starbucks. I needed a keyboard that fit the following criteria:

  1. Fits in my locker (a full-size would be too long)

  2. Portable (light, not too bulky)

  3. Numpad: I work in excel often and using a numpad is easier AND There is no point in toting an extra board around the office if it doesn’t improve on my laptop board in some way in functionality

The bluetooth doesn’t even factor in because my work computer will not permit non-approved devices to connect via bluetooth.

It came down to 2 board for me:

  • A Leopold FC980m (my ideal board, but a little too bulky to tote around the office…also, mechanicalkeyboards.com is already out of the silent switch variety that I wanted)

  • Hexgears X-1

I had read about some of the issues people were having with the Hexgears stabilizers and the space bar, but I decided to roll the dice. The board came in a couple of days ago. I haven’t used it extensively yet, but so far, here are my thoughts:

Pros:

  • The carrying case that comes with this board was a smart inclusion. For the price after the kickstarter, the addition of the case is good. I’m glad they considered how people will probably be using this product (i.e. as a travel board)

  • This board is SLIM - but it still has flip-out feet, which already makes it more versatile than most chiclet keyboards

  • The layout - I think this layout it genius. It solves my biggest problem with the TKL, which is that it wastes too much damn space. The hexgears fills that space with greater functionality and I hope this kind of layout becomes more popular, because it is a great alternative to a 96 key for people who really need full-size portability

  • Bluetooth: I havent tested out the bluetooth yet, but (again) I like how they focused on designing the x-1 with the understanding that people will be using this board on the road.

Cons:

  • Too. Damn. LOUD. I ordered brown switches because I am planning on using it in an office, and the board is still freaking LOUD! I know that most OEM mechs have at least a mild pinging sound to them (at least the ones I have owned), but this is ridiculous. It rings at every keystroke!

  • Stabilizers (See: TOO DAMN LOUD ^ ): I havent experienced some of the stab uneveness that people have reported. The right side of my spacebar does have more rattle than the left, but the way I type, I so far have not run into stab problems. However, even the uneveness is a bit of an issue at the price point we’re talking about ($120 off the shelf + $10 shipping). So, not terrible, but not great.

  • Keycaps: I got the black because I figured it would hide dirt better, but boy was I wrong. After 3 minutes typing (maybe), all the keycaps were smeared with grease. I don’t have sweaty hands generally, the keycaps just pick up every touch and every bit of oil on your fingers.

  • Durability: this board doesn’t feel particularly solid to me, which is not a good feature in a portable. You need to know that if you accidentally drop it once it will survive, and I don’t think this thing will. It’s held together with clips.

ETA - I don’t think the following are really cons, I just think these things could have been differently executed:

  • Backlighting: This is entirely a personal opinion, so don’t throw tomatoes, but I think that it is a mistake to allow “RGB” as a desired feature to impede other aspects of design. Here’s my feelings on RGB: most companies will never do RGB as well as major gaming companies like Corsair and Razer. Their software, shitty as it may be, lets you have much more control than onboard firmware. If you want RGB, just lean into the RGB all the way and get an overpriced gaming board with rattly stabs. (Or a Cooler Master, which at least gives you the option of on-board backlighting or software). Unless you are using lighting to indicate what layer you are on, I just don’t see what having a rainbow lighting pattern adds to the experience. It takes up memory and it’s another thing for the engineers to consider. I’m fine with white backlighting, and maybe a single color key on programmable boards so that I know what layer I am working on. But this board is not a true RGB keyboard. All it has is all these backlight patterns that you probably don’t want to run if you are using it in an office setting or a cafe, as an adult working around other adults.

  • Lack of programmability - Programmability isn’t really a feature that I care too much about, since I cant use it much anyway (my work keyboard is a PC and it wont let me download bootmapper client or any other software people use to flash a board, and my home computer is a mac and it also doesn’t play nice with most programming softwares), but if we’re talking functionality, I think even a Vortex-level programmability is a better feature than backlighting.

Look, if I’m being honest I probably jumped the gun buying this board, but I had typed on an early prototype at a keyboard meetup and I thought it was a great idea then. If I had to pick a couple of things to improve for the next round, it would be:

1) improved acoustics (seriously, it’s so fucking loud for a low-profile) and, along those lines, 2) stabilizers

However, I do want to emphasize that I really, really love the layout and overall design of this keyboard. This is the first keyboard I have encountered that feels like it is trying to make full-size functionality portable and that is a big deal to me. I think that I would prefer fewer bells and whistles (backlighting, for example), in favor of a more solid typing experience, better stabs, and less noise.

Please excuse any typos, and my shitty photos. Feel free to ask any questions.


#2

Nice review!

Too. Damn. LOUD.

Seems like a deal breaker for an office. Have you trialed it yet?


#3

I havent taken it in to work yet. I’ll see if I get any complaints. Hopefully none. It’s louder than my home board, which has silent switches, and my laptop keyboard, but I dont know yet if its much louder than a standard rubber dome. The ringing is really what gets me.


#4

How does it stack up against the wired apple keyboard, in terms of sound/noise level? I got one for a friend, but I don’t actually get it until end of January


#5

It’s definitely louder (and if you got the clicky switch, it’s much louder). The keys have longer travel, and feel stiffer (I have the brown switches, which are heavier than the red switches). I think it’s a much nicer board to type on than any of the apple chiclet boards. And it works seamlessly with mac (except for the modifier keys), including even the function row, which shocked me–most mechanical keyboards do not play nice with apple. The only thing is my mac says it doesnt recognize the keyboard, but then it works fine.

The board rings slightly when you type on it, and the switches bottom out very noisily, which apple keyboards don’t.