The Launch Heavy Configurable Keyboard from System76 – Hands-on Review!
The clickety clack of these keyboards can be heard all the way down the hall, but we just love these keyboards theyre awesome and one thing that I know for sure is that theres quite a few fans with mechanical keyboards within my audience. You guys take this subject. Very seriously – and I dont blame you – I love mechanical keyboards too, and today its time to review the brand new member of the launch keyboard family, the launch heavy. I first saw this model at all things open in Raleigh North Carolina, where a near final prototype was there on display. And now I have the finished product right here in the studio ready for review and in this video Im going to give you guys a full review. I have the new launch heavy right here in the studio and I cant wait to give you guys my thoughts. In fact, I have two of these keyboards in the studio today. Now, if you are wondering why I have two launch Heavies in the studio today, well Ill, let you know later in the review, but before we get into that, I need to give you guys a quick, disclaimer and then well get started. Even though system 76 sent the launch heavy keyboard to the studio for me to review all of the thoughts and opinions in this video are strictly my own, even though it was super awesome of them to provide the review unit. That most of this review is based on that doesnt excuse them from receiving constructive criticism.
After all, the focus on this channel is to be fair but, more importantly, to be honest, so what youre going to get is an honest and unbiased review, just like always and also Ill have time codes in the description down below. So that way, you can go right to the section that most interest you so lets go ahead and get started. Music. First of all lets talk about what this product is as well as its intended audience. The launch keyboard itself is not new. Its existed for a little while now, in fact, I reviewed the original launch keyboard some time ago on this channel and it actually became my keyboard of choice and youve. Seen it in the background of every video Ive recorded since then, launch keyboards are manufactured by System 76, which is staffed by people that take keyboards very seriously, as well as other things that theyre obsessed about and for the most part. I think they did a very good job here. They even gave us PBT keycaps, which are very durable, and I couldnt take them seriously if they didnt. Now, although launch keyboards arent breathtaking, when it comes to appearance, they have a more basic design that actually still manages to look good, but the focus is on functionality. Theyre super customizable even to the point where theres a dedicated app for customizing this keyboard. If you were to order one and Ill be showing this app later in the video when I reviewed the original model, one of the primary criticisms that you guys had was you didnt appreciate the lack of a numpad, but this time around the launch.
Heavy does indeed have a numpad now having a numpad isnt, actually something thats important to me, its, not something that I use all that often, but you know what I know a lot of you guys out there care a lot about that, especially you Gamers. So it was a big deal for you to have a numpad on your mechanical keyboard and now, with the launch keyboard, you can actually have a numpad and thats the primary difference with this model, the launch heavy theres an numpad now so it looks more like a Complete keyboard than the other models, which were well more compact. Another criticism of the original model was its price and thats. Definitely something that Ill be covering in todays video, but first lets take a look around the launch keyboard from the moment that you take it out of the box. It actually feels a bit on the heavy side, specifically heavy in regard to weight. Now the previous model did as well, it felt like a thick sheet of metal. The new model feels exactly the same, but with the numpad, its even heavier than the other models. However, the build quality is pretty much exactly the same and thats a good thing. One of the standout features of the launch keyboard line is the presence of a USB hub and this isnt one of those cheap and slow USB 2 hubs. The launch keyboard features USB 3.2 Generation 1 ports, specifically two of each between USB type, A and USB type c Ill discuss the USB hub, more specifically later in the review so hows, the typing experience well, first of all, theres four different switch types that you could Choose between, if you were to order a keyboard for yourself.
The review unit that was set into the studio was the version with the Jade switches on the order. Page theyll have the switches shown as clicky tactile, silent tactile and also silent linear. Due to that, your typing experience will depend on your choice. My original launch keyboard was the tactile format, but I figured that the Jade version would be a fun difference from what I was used to, and you know what the typing experience is absolutely fantastic. So I have no complaints when it comes to that by now, youve probably noticed the split space bar in the original review. Some people in the comments were very unsure of that aspect because to some of you it seems kind of weird but think of it. This way, when it comes to the keyboard that you are currently using, do you press the space bar on the left side, the right side or in the middle? Well, I have a feeling that most of you actually dont press your space bar in the middle. So while it might seem a bit strange, the split spacebar in my opinion makes no difference whatsoever, at least not to me as I got used to the keyboard. It probably took me around 10 minutes to get accustomed to the split space bar, but after that I dont even think Ive noticed it at all. So for me, when it comes to the split space bar, it doesnt factor in as a positive or A negative and Ill take.
My typing experience is any better for having a split space bar, but its also not any worse, either its pretty much exactly the same. Another feature thats worth pointing out is that the launch keyboards as well as this new model, feature a backlight under the keys. You might not think that this is a big deal. I mean dont. Most mechanical keyboards have backlit Keys nowadays well yeah, but for us Linux users support for that is very Hit or Miss mostly miss. Most companies that manufacture mechanical keyboards dont even try to make it possible for Linux users to adjust the backlight, but with launch keyboards. Linux is not only supported Id call it a first class citizen, but actually Mac. Os and windows are also receiving first class support with this keyboard, because those operating systems are supported as well and thats a great thing, regardless of which operating system you intend on using with this keyboard youre covered, and I think the really awesome thing about that is Even though system 76s claim to fame is selling Linux computers, they dont assume that youre running Linux, if you buy a launch keyboard, even if youre, not a Linux user youll have full access to the full functionality of this keyboard. In fact, lets take a look at the configuration process right now for the launch keyboards theres, a dedicated application called the system. 76 keyboard configurator well, thats, definitely an interesting name. So, basically, what youll do if you order this keyboard for yourself, is download the version of the application that fits your operating system and using that app, you can Implement all kinds of tweaks.
For example, you can remap the keys change. The LED pattern, as well as the color you name it. One of the first changes I made was to disable the F1 key. I have no idea why, but for some strange reason, Im constantly hitting the F1 key and activating help on accident and Im, not just talking about this particular keyboard Id make that same mistake on every keyboard. So, for example, maybe Im typing something in vim and then all of a sudden the help screen appears it appears because again I hit the F1 key on accident and I do that all the time I gave up trying to train myself to stop hitting the F1 Key by mistake and with the launch keyboard, I can literally disable that key. Also, if I dont like the order that the control alt function and super keys are in, I can remap them and using the included key puller. I can physically rearrange the keys to match. Whatever I configure in the app, in fact, the launch keyboard comes with some alternate keys in the Box, some of which are alternate color versions of the primary keys. So you could basically rearrange the keys. However, youd like and then update your config in the configurator app to match the physical layout. In addition, there are several layers when it comes to the Keys and you could think of layers as alternate key Maps using configurator. You could change the LED color of each layer that way, itll be obvious, which one is active, theres, actually a second layer configured right out of the box.
If I hold function, the purpose of some of the keys will immediately change. For example, the page up and page down become volume up and volume down on that second layer, also, zero, hyphen and equal become LED, toggle, LED, darken and led brighten respectively. Another aspect of the launch keyboard that I quite like is that any changes that you make are saved right into the keyboard itself, and this means that you wont have to have the configurator app running in order to make sure that your changes are in effect. Even if you plug the keyboard into a completely different computer, your settings will literally follow the keyboard. You could also export your settings to back them up and even import a colleague settings to see how someone else might have configured theirs. One common question that I get is whether or not you could purchase your own keys from a third party and really go crazy. The short answer is yes, you can absolutely buy third party keys to take customization of this keyboard to the next level. However, theres going to be some asterisk here, specifically, some of the keys in the launch keyboard are a custom non standard size. Most of the keys are Universal, though so, even if a few of the keys may not be a standard size that doesnt really stop you from customizing the keyboard. In fact, I went ahead and played around with this myself. As you can see right here, I was able to customize quite a bit of it now if youre curious about the specs of the keys.
That way, you can order the correct keycaps from a third party Ill leave information that I received from system 76 on the screen right now. That might help you figure out, which ones to order Ill, also leave a link in the description down below for the keycaps. That I ordered for mine so lets talk a bit more about the built in USB hub. Having USB ports built into the keyboard is really nice and Im, especially thankful that system 76 didnt cheap out and Implement a USB 2.0 hub, believe it or not. Some of the more popular mechanical keyboards out there still feature USB 2 ports even to this day and thats if they even include a USB hub at all, a lot of them dont so having USB 3.2 ports on the keyboard is definitely a plus speaking of USB Id be remiss if I didnt test the performance of the built in hub specifically. Does it become a bottleneck when you plug in something like a USB hard drive or flash drive? Does it impact transfer speed at all? So, in order to test that I plugged in an external SSD and then I ran the command that you see on the screen right now sure its not going to be a 100 exact metric. But it will give us a close enough approximation and, as you can see Id say, the speed is pretty good, of course, keep in mind that its always possible that the device that youre plugging in could itself be a bottleneck, at least once I accidentally plugged in This keyboard to a USB 2 port on accident, while wondering why my transfer speeds were so slow when I corrected the situation by plugging in the keyboard to a USB 3 Port.
Well, everything was solved so as long as you make sure to plug in this keyboard into the proper port with a proper cable. Then you shouldnt have any issues when it comes to Performance. So far, the launch heavy keyboard seems like a slam dunk, and you know what it actually is, its a very awesome keyboard. In fact, I liked it enough to where I bought my own, which actually came in right before I hit the record button. So now I have one of my very own that I bought with my own money. However, there were a few concerns that I had with this keyboard that Im going to tell you about right now, and the first concern is how difficult it is to find a matching Palm rest for this keyboard. Whenever I use a keyboard, I prefer a palm rest of some sort. It just feels more comfortable to me, and these are very easy to find on sites like Amazon, among others. When you purchase a palm rest for any mechanical keyboard, you basically just choose the one that matches its length, usually theres, about three different standard choices when it comes to the length of the Palm rest with a launch keyboard that I reviewed last time, I purchased a Few Palm rests to try out, and I did so without putting any thought into it. The ones that I ordered were a perfect match. So I guess that means that the original launch keyboard was the standard size.
However, when it comes to the launch heavy literally, none of the Palm rests on Amazon, not a single one were a fit, and this could only mean that the launch heavy is of a non standard size for this review. I purchased three Palm rests to try out and I try to get as close as I possibly could to the length of the keyboard when I ordered them, but none of them were an exact match. So this means that if you do use a palm rest of this keyboard, its going to look a little strange since theres going to be an extra inch or two on either side – and this is a little puzzling to me – because I feel like system 76 – is Normally spot on when it comes to attention to detail, so I find it a bit strange and even a little embarrassing, that the width of this keyboard doesnt seem to fit any known Palm rest that I could find sure I could get a saw and change the Width of my wooden Palm rest myself, but considering how poorly I did in wood shop class back in school Im, not going to attempt that anyway, when it comes to the launch heavy, not fitting any industry standard Palm rest size. I just cant. Imagine what the mindset was. My previous model seemed to fit a standard size palm rest. So why doesnt this one? Another downside is the price. Previously I used the Logitech g915 and that keyboard cost about the same as the original launch keyboard that I reviewed, but that keyboard didnt have the flexibility.
This one has when it comes to customization, and not only that the g915 doesnt feature your PBT keycaps, which means that, in less than a week of usage, that keyboard looked very worn down, so paying the same price as the g915 for a keyboard that had more Customization and higher quality keycaps. That seemed like a no brainer to me, but I did mention the price is a downside and the reason for that is because the launch heavy costs more than its counterparts, an extra one hundred dollars to be exact. This puts the launch heavy at 299 US dollars as much as I love this keyboard, an extra 100 for an additional three or four inches of keys. Doesnt quite add up to me. Another minor annoyance is that some of the keys are of a non standard size like I mentioned earlier, not many, but those few other Keys might be a bit of a process to find her placements for, but even with that minor issue, this keyboard is the most Customizable in general than any Ive ever used in the past now earlier in the review, I mentioned that I have two of these keyboards in the studio. One of them was sent to the studio by System 76 for me to review and the other I purchased with my own money, so yeah, even though I find the price to be on this steep side. I really do like this keyboard and I like having more keys that I can customize.
So even though I dont use a numpad, I can actually find use for the numpad. I have more keys to customize, so that means more options. Also, I want to support a company thats, giving me a first class citizen experience with a professional keyboard without someone having to reverse engineer it in their spare time and put it up on GitHub, so theres definitely a lot to love about this keyboard. And again, I love it enough to where I bought one for myself, but to be fair, I have a bit of an unfair Advantage when it comes to justifying my purchase, I own a business so its easy for me to consider the cost difference to be part Of my own production costs for producing this, video for everyone else lets just say say that significant other approval when it comes to the cost of a keyboard maxes out at around 150 dollars and any price beyond that generally involves buying cheesecake Music. So should you order a launch heavy keyboard? Well, I really do like this keyboard, a lot in fact its my favorite keyboard of any keyboard that Ive ever tried as a Linux user. I have first class support when it comes to the configurator app that you use to configure this keyboard and Mac OS and windows users arent left out, which means that system 76, despite being primarily a Linux company, they dont, discriminate, and I think thats awesome the keyboard Itself feels like a premium product and well, it is the build quality is awesome.
I love the customization, its very satisfying to type on, and I love the USB hub, thats included as well. However, I did bring up some downsides. One of those was the fact that this particular keyboard doesnt fit standard Palm rest and thats a little annoying to me because using a palm rest is very important to me. Also the price it costs 299 dollars. So this keyboard is an investment now I do feel that if you do invest in this keyboard, you will not regret your purchase. It is very, very awesome. I love it, but you have to make that choice. For yourself, you have 299 dollars is too much to pay for a keyboard Ill leave that up to you anyway. What did you guys think of this review and the launch heavy keyboard? Let me know in the comments down below and in the meantime make sure that youre subscribed to learn Linux TV, because I have some awesome content coming very soon. Thank you.