May 30, 2023

OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro Review: A Refined and Fully Assembled Mechanical Keyboard

In partnership with Keychron, the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro brings unique switches and keycaps to a premium aluminum frame.

The OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro is a great mechanical keyboard for enthusiasts. The switches, keycaps, and software can all be altered. But the beauty of OnePlus’ first entry into this space is that its components make for a compelling, fully assembled product and an easy entry for novices into the world of mechanical keyboards.

OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro features a CNC-machined aluminum frame, custom keycaps and switches, and an 81-key layout, all of which combine for a premium typing experience.

The Keyboard 81 Pro is available in two pre-configured models. Either Winter Bonfire switches and darker gray letter keycaps or Summer Breeze switches and lighter gray keycaps. Both options are 81-key models—indicated by the product’s name.

I tested the Summer Breeze switch model covered with mostly lighter gray keycaps. Looking at both colors online, I didn’t have a preference between the two shades of gray keycaps. Red is OnePlus’ accent color, so the escape and return keys are in that bold color. The clear rotary knob positioned at the top of the right side is a neat touch. All the colors and shades complement each other against the beautiful 6063 aluminum frame, which has been CNC-machined, polished, anodized, and sandblasted to reach that state.

There are plenty of premium design finishes, but the bar for adjusting the keyboard angle is the most notable. Instead of feet that fold out from the back to tilt the keyboard, the bar rotates around for a nearly limitless amount of angles. On top of its functionality, it adds a touch of design elegance.

OnePlus calls its keycaps Marble-mallow, which it says extends “keystroke lifespan, enhanced wear resistance” with “upgraded tactile feedback.” The feel is certainly noticeable. The feel was akin to a soft-touch rubber, so it was instantly tactile but still felt soft under my fingertips. The texture makes you want to keep your fingers in constant contact with the keyboard.

The feel of the keycaps paired with the custom Summer Breeze switches made for a compelling typing experience. The switches have a 0.5mm tactile peak point and felt bouncy, soft, and smooth all at once. They were remarkably easy to get acquainted with. Of course, the typing experience is an extremely personal one, as evidenced by the hundreds of mechanical keyboard switches and keycap combinations available by third-party sellers. I loved the Keyboard 81 Pro’s minimal sound and typing feel thanks to its flexible Polycarbonate plate, double gasket design, and PCB-mounted screw-in stabilizers. I suspect it could be an accessible experience for a wide range of other people as well.

The quiet nature of these switches makes this keyboard a suitable option for people in an office or working next to others. For example, it was much quieter than Apple’s default Magic Keyboard that comes with its iMac. You might even say the Summer Breeze keyboard option is near-silent.

The Keyboard 81 Pro can be connected with Bluetooth or a wired cable. It has USB-C on the back but does come with a USB-A adapter if needed for the computer side. I had no problem using Bluetooth, but I swap keyboards around enough that I have a USB-C cable in place, so I used that the majority of the time for this Keyboard 81 Pro.

The switches are hot-swappable, meaning they can be removed easily and at any time. The OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro comes with basic pullers in the box for removing the keycaps and switches. There’s nothing fancy about the tools, and if you plan on swapping the components regularly, you might want to invest in something better. Otherwise, they’re fine for occasional use.

The other part of customizing the keyboard is using QMK/VIA to re-map the keys. I’ve used the program before, so I was familiar with it. But I’ve also used enough other keyboard programs to appreciate it as one of the better, user-friendly options that works across multiple platforms.

If you are new to mechanical keyboards or less technically savvy, changing the functionality of keys to do other things will take time to get acquainted with on first use. Using the application, however, shouldn’t be insurmountable for anyone wanting to do it.

Using the Keyboard 81 Pro with a Mac meant a lot of shortcuts were exposed by having a function row available. Still, I used VIA to change the knob from muting when pressed to a pause button, but I kept the volume adjustment when rotating it. I also changed the page up and page down keys to skip songs forward and backward, along with a few other minor things. These things only took a few minutes to complete and functioned as expected.

If you like changing the lighting, you can assign those options to different keys instead of needing to hold FN while pressing other keys, which is the default way out of the box. You can even invoke Siri with the stroke of a key if that’s what you really want to do. Of course, VIA is more powerful than that, but it doesn’t need to be a difficult process for people just getting started.

The OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro is available on the company’s website, starting at $219 with the Winter Bonfire switches. The price goes up to $239 for the Summer Breeze switches. This keyboard is a partnership with Keychron, so you can also find it on Keychron’s website.

Keychron makes some of the best pre-built mechanical keyboards. They have premium materials and a ton of different options. It’s probably for those reasons that OnePlus partnered with the company to help them manufacture the Keyboard 81 Pro.

You can essentially think of the Keyboard 81 Pro as another Keychron option with a couple of unique, custom options. Using it in person, it still felt like a Keychron product, which, again, is a great thing. The luxurious 4.16 pounds weight was intact, along with the attention to detail. In this case, it’s not choosing between OnePlus and Keychron; it’s really just about choosing the right option for your tastes.

How-To Geek has reviewed a number of Keychron keyboards in the past, including the Q5 QMK, so if the Keyboard 81 Pro doesn't quite meet your needs or wants, I recommend checking out the company's other offerings.

There aren’t a lot of choices with the OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro. It comes in two switch options and only one key layout. So if the 81-key size is too big or small for your desk, then there’s not a lot of wiggle room. Luckily, the Summer Breeze switches are a neat, ultra-quiet option that I think a lot of people could enjoy.

The $239 price is definitely on the high side, but it isn’t outrageous for a well-built mechanical keyboard. The finishes and components all reflect the cost. So even though it might seem counterintuitive, the Keyboard 81 Pro makes a great entry-level mechanical keyboard for a novice. It’s a perfect foundation to alter and tweak for years into the future that should be durable enough to last as long as you want to use it.

OnePlus Keyboard 81 Pro features a CNC-machined aluminum frame, custom keycaps and switches, and an 81-key layout, all of which combine for a premium typing experience.

Switch optionsColorwaysBacklightConstructionKeycapsSupported operating systemsHot-swappableBattery capacityConnectivitySoftware customizabilityWeightNumber of KeysBrandNum PadBattery lifeProsCons