As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

System76 Launch review: Linux-friendly keyboard with a USB hub


System76 Launch with RGB
Enlarge / System76 Launch mechanical keyboard.

Scharon Harding

Specs at a glance: System76 Launch
Switches Kailh Box Jade or Kailh Box Royal
Keycaps PBT plastic
Connectivity options USB-A or USB-C cable
Backlighting Per-key RGB
Size 12.17×5.35×1.3 inches
(309×136×33 mm)
Weight 2.09 lbs (948 g)
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $285
Other perks Integrated USB hub, keycap/switch puller,  17x extra keycaps

The Launch is System76’s first mechanical keyboard, but it could be the last keyboard you need. With hot-swappable mechanical switches, legends that won’t fade, a durable build, and a pair of detachable cables, this tenkeyless board can evolve with you.

It’s also open source—from its chassis to its PCB and firmware—allowing for deeper tinkering. There are even some extra keycaps for when you want a new look. And in true System76 style, the board favors Linux users.

At $285, though, the Launch is a big investment, and many won’t like how hard it is to press the keys. The clicky mechanical switches are so tactile that they’ll tire some fingers out.

Linux first

Windows and even Mac-ready mechanical keyboards are easier to find than those that support Linux. There are some available, such as the Keychron Q2, Das Keyboard’s 5QS, and even budget options like the Royal Kludge RK920. The Linux-supporting Launch more closely resembles the Q2 in that it offers a high-end custom experience with unique touches that are rare among prebuilt mechanical keyboards.

The Launch is System76’s first product that supports Linux, Windows, and macOS. Its layout was also designed to play well with keyboard shortcuts on Pop!_OS, System76’s homemade Linux distribution, a company representative told Ars Technica. You can use Pop!_OS’s keyboard navigation feature to surf the web, launch apps, and organize tiled windows and spaces without using a mouse.

No RGB, trying different layouts and (included) keycap colors.
Enlarge / No RGB, trying different layouts and (included) keycap colors.

Scharon Harding

System76 is known for making open source hardware, software, and firmware, so it’s no surprise that the Launch’s chassis and PCB design files are open for modification.

The board uses the open source QMK firmware, and you can update the Launch through the Pop!_OS firmware settings or the Linux Vendor Firmware Service.

Four USB ports for the price of one

Low on USB ports or dealing with a desktop that makes accessing them difficult? The Launch can fix that. Yes, attaching the keyboard to your system requires a USB-A port, but once it’s plugged in, the keyboard adds two USB-C ports (3.2 Gen 2 at up to 10 Gbps) and two USB-A ports (3.2 Gen 2 at up to 10 Gbps) to your setup. The ports live on the Launch’s top edge near the detachable cable.

USB hub.

Scharon Harding

The keyboard acts as a true USB hub, not just a USB passthrough port. Keyboards that use passthrough generally use a cable ending in two connectors, requiring two of your PC’s USB ports. These keyboards usually have an extra USB-A port or two and maybe a headphone jack. The addition of four USB ports in a trim keyboard is my favorite part of the Launch, especially considering how many laptops are cutting ports in favor of slim designs.

My work PC lacks USB-A ports, so I tend to rely on the ports on my monitor. However, my monitor’s sole USB-C port is used to power my laptop, and reaching behind the large display is more awkward than attaching something to the Launch keyboard.

Unique layout and look

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Launch is its split spacebar. Instead of one long spacebar with a single mechanical switch underneath, the key is split into two distinct parts, each with its own mechanical switch and pair of stabilizers.

Split spacebar.
Enlarge / Split spacebar.

Scharon Harding

Out of the box, both keys serve as a space bar, but you can reprogram them. The simplest options are Backspace, Fn, and Shift, since the keyboard comes with extra keycaps with those legends. However, I found it hard to adjust to having a second input available in the spacebar area. I use both sides of the spacebar when typing, depending on which key I last pressed. I thought it would be handy to have backspace within easier reach, but I could never adjust.

The Launch is tenkeyless (with navigation keys and arrow keys) and comes with extra-large Esc and Fn keycaps if you want to replace the Delete or Backspace key.

The keyboard skips dedicated media keys in favor of a compact footprint, but you get access to the functions by pressing Fn and various keys in the navigation column. There’s more to the Fn layer, like RGB control and print screen, but I had to download the app to learn about those functions; the keycaps don’t have secondary legends to help you remember. There are also truncated Backspace and Enter keys, but the latter didn’t interrupt my typing flow.



Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Shopgiftsez
Logo
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0
Shopping cart