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OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro review: Let some class weigh in | Technology News

There is something about mechanical keyboards that makes them both nostalgic and functional. Let me tell you I am old enough to have learnt typing on a Remington typewriter, long before computers and keyboards became a thing in India. And those spaced-out keys of the old typewriter, packing a kick every time you hit a key, is exactly what I am reminded of whenever I test a mechanical keyboard. And this feeling just went to another level with the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro.

When the review unit came in via courier, I thought they had sent me the wrong package. The box was so heavy that my son struggled to bring it up from the lobby. It was only when I unwrapped it that I was convinced that this was indeed the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro.

Yes, the first aspect you will notice about the keyboard is its weight. At close to 2 kg, this is by far the heaviest computer accessory I used, let alone a keyboard. And that is because this mechanical keyboard comes with an aluminium chassis and houses a double-gasket mount. This means the keyboard stands proud on your desktop and has a presence of its own.

The design only adds to this. The Esc and Enter keys are in the trademark One Plus red. And even more stunning is the transparent glass-like rotary knob, which you can use to adjust the volume or just mute with a tap. I have to say this is a feature I would like to see on more keyboards. The power button is on the back, alongside a OnePlus alert slider that mutes out distractions like notifications when you are writing or focusing on a game.

The Esc and Enter keys are in the trademark One Plus red. (Nandagopal Rajan/Express photo)

The keys are the hero of this keyboard, though. They have the perfect amount of travel for someone who writes a lot like me. Yes, the keyboard is not as spaced out as some of the gaming keyboards I have reviewed over the years, but this is big enough to accommodate all your needs except for a number pad.

This keyboard is the first to use marble-mallow for the keys, and that gives it a very comfortable matte feel. And I get the feeling this will last long enough as there is no way the aluminium frame is going to wear off anytime soon.

And the keys are just pure love. They offer a great bounce, which is not strong enough to be termed a pushback. This is where the double-gasket and the unique Keychron switch come into play to offer a very unique tactile experience.

I used the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro primarily with the iMac, and I did struggle a bit with the CMD and Option keys, not knowing which one to use at times for copying etc. But I got used to it within a few minutes. Also, the positioning of some of the keys takes getting used to, especially if you, like me, have been on a Mac for too long. The keyboard works with Windows and Linux as well and is plug-and-play in every way as long as you have a USC-C port to hook this in.

This keyboard is the first to use marble-mallow for the keys, and that gives it a very comfortable matte feel. (Nandagopal Rajan / Express photo)

Now, I am no gamer, but over the years, I have realised that a mechanical keyboard makes as much sense to someone like me who ends up typing over 10,000 words a day. That is most probably more keystrokes than any hardcore gamer. However, for gamers, the keyboard offers RGB back-lighting. This can also be customised using VIA online software, which is a much better way to manage than QMK. However, on the iMac, this did not work too well for me as the customisations failed to save. I am sure gamers who do this all the time will not struggle like me.

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This mechanical keyboard comes with an aluminium chassis and houses a double-gasket mount. (Nandagopal Rajan / Express photo)

There is another unique angle to this keyboard, quite literally. The keyboard stand at the back can be used to sort of put away the keyboard and make more space on the desktop when needed. I have not seen this before and found it a very handy feature.

On the flip side, the weight, which a lot of users will love, does come in the way a bit when you are trying to move the keyboard towards you at times when you are writing. It has more to do with muscle memory, as you are just not used to the keyboard being this heavy. Also, I would have preferred a Bluetooth keyboard, as I am just not used to wired accessories anymore. But I guess the battery would be an issue with a keyboard like this.

At Rs 17,999, the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro is a superb option for discerning users. I don’t think it will make much sense for regular users who won’t be able to appreciate the true value of something like this. And even more surprising is how this has come from a company like OnePlus, which is not really in the computer space. Or is it a sign of things to come?

First published on: 06-09-2023 at 12:32 IST


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