Premade mechanical keyboards often ignore Linux support. Users frequently report success operating the basic functions of a mechanical keyboard, but many of these peripherals do not accommodate software for controlling advanced features, such as macros, with Linux. Since last year, Launch System76 keyboard has been trying to address this problem. But the number crunchers will be more interested in the new Launch Heavy.
Released this week, the Launch Heavy is a number pad-equipped version of the 84-key launch system. As detailed in our System76 Launch review, the keyboard is one of the most customizable Linux-focused mechanical keyboards one can find. However, the absent number plate made the launch an instant “no” for many. Now, the newly released Launch Heavy addresses many of the shortcomings of its smaller counterpart, but not all.
As you can see, Launch Heavy’s 105 keys aren’t a traditional layout. System76 was making its way with the keys to the left of the numpad, ditching some of them completely. But compared to Launch, Launch Heavy adds keys above the numpad for media control. Unfortunately, there are still no volume control buttons out of the box.
System76 has been gracious enough to update the mechanical switches on offer with its keyboards since we reviewed the launch in March. In addition to the ultra-hard Kailh Box Jades and tangible Box Royals (each requiring 75g of strength to activate), you can get Launch Heavy and the rest of the lineup with the quieter and tactile Kailh Box Silent Browns (50g) or a lighter muted pink (35g) .
You don’t have to hold on to any of those, though, because the keyboard’s keys are easily removable without a soldering iron. But for $300, you might want to start with switches that you’ll be happy to use right away.
Oh, did we forget to mention the launch price? It’s only $14 more than the smaller version but it’s still quite an ask for a keyboard. Many will prefer one of the best wireless mechanical keyboards, something with volume keys, or build their own mechanical keyboard for this price range instead.
However, the Launch Heavy (2.8 pounds, to be exact) has some standout features for those willing to spend the money.
System76’s mechanical keyboards, which also include the 70-key Launch Lite, are some of the few mechanical keyboards that claim to support Linux (they work with Windows and macOS, too). Distribution of Pop! _OS Linux by having Heavy Launch support keyboard shortcuts inside, like organizing tiled windows without a mouse or opening apps.
The Launch Series is also impressively easy to use, from its QMK-based open-source software for programming its switches, open-source chassis, and PCB to its hot-swappable keys, which include two separate spacebars. Perhaps the series’ most useful feature is the hub above the edge of the keyboard with four increasingly neglected USB-A ports.
Although the Launch Heavy’s price is still hefty, there’s enough here to be a unique consideration for number-crunchers, especially Linux users, looking for a customizable mechanical keyboard.
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