System76 Launch - A Very Well Built, Highly Configurable, Open-Source Keyboard

Written by Michael Larabel in Peripherals on 10 June 2021 at 12:20 PM EDT. Page 1 of 2. 46 Comments.

Last month System76 launched their Launch Configurable Keyboard. They sent over this new open-source keyboard for some brief testing and I must say the build quality has been top notch and while this is their first keyboard they are bringing to market, with their US manufacturing expertise that began with their Thelio computer cases, it has carried forward with their Launch keyboard. This keyboard is beautifully crafted and among the most durable (and heaviest) keyboards I've used in the past two decades. It reminds me of the IBM Model M from a quality perspective but with its own unique advantages.

The System76 Launch Keyboard is the first fully open-source keyboard we have tested where all of its CAD designs are publicly available -- assuming you have the equipment to fabricate it yourself. But besides the hardware schematics being open-source and publicly available, the firmware is also fully open-source and out there for those wanting to tinker or inspect it. The keyboard as well relies upon its own open-source PCB design that allows for individual RGB LED key backlighting controls and other features. That firmware, by the way, is updateable via FWUPD+LVFS!

Like the Thelio cases used by their workstations, the System76 Launch Keyboard is manufactured directly by the company at their facility in Denver, Colorado.

The keyboard is milled out of aluminum and very heavy and rugged. I love the feel of the keyboard itself and has some very nice weight to it, thus can't help but reminisce over the IBM Model M days of quality... Understandably, not everything though is crafted in-house with the System76 keyboard relying on Kailh MX sockets and Kailh Box Jade or Kailh Box Royal switches.

Also exciting with the System76 Launch Keyboard is the USB 3.2 integrated hub. Unlike some keyboards out there offering a basic low-speed USB Type-A hub, the System76 Launch has an integrated hub providing USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C and USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports. Very convenient! Also works out well for pairing with the System76 Thelio lacking USB ports on the front of the chassis.

Meanwhile, on the software side they have the System76 Keyboard Configurator that is a GUI-driven application for altering the keyboard key assignments, LED backlight controls, and other configurable functionality. For Linux users the configurator is readily available with System76's Pop!_OS distribution or as an AppImage for other distributions. System76 even makes the software available for Windows and macOS.

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