System76 currently offers pre-built desktops, laptops, and servers meant to complement its Pop!_OS open source operating system. The company said in March 2020 that it would expand its lineup with a keyboard. On Wednesday, it offered more details about that peripheral in a public Git repository spotted by Phoronix.
We already knew that System76 wanted its first keyboard to be highly configurable and tightly integrated with Pop!_OS features like Auto-Tiling. Last year, the company also said it wanted to reimagine the keyboard’s basic layout to make common keys easier to reach, reducing wasted space by shrinking the spacebar, etc.
Now we’ve gotten a glimpse at what System76 has been working on for the last 11 months. The public Git repository showed that the Launch Configurable Keyboard is expected to feature an open source PCB, chassis, and firmware; swappable keycaps and switches; and an integrated dock with two USB-C and USB-A connectors.
System76 said the chassis would be constructed from milled aluminum, and Phoronix reported that it would be manufactured in Denver, Colorado. The company also said that “each pocket, port, and hole is designed and precisely machined so that swapping switches and plugging in cables is easy and secure for the user.”
That configurability is core to the Launch Configurable Keyboard’s design. (Which, given the name, shouldn’t come as a surprise.) System76 said the keyboard would ship with additional keycaps for greater customization and support for a utility called the System76 Keyboard Configurator meant to offer easy button remapping.
The ability to remap specific keys might prove critical because System76 made sweeping changes to the standard keyboard layout. Just look at this diagram:
The company said it plans to offer extra keys, a keycap puller, and a switch puller with each unit. The PCB will purportedly accept "any RGB switch with an MX-compatible footprint," such as Cherry MX RGB or Kailh BOX switches, which should make it easy for mechanical switch enthusiast to use their preferred equipment.
Like the many of the best gaming keyboards, System76 said the Launch Configurable Keyboard would also offer independent RGB lighting for each key, n-key rollover support, plus a detachable lift bar that "can be magnetically secured to add 15 degrees of angle to your keyboard for ergonomics."
We're still missing two critical pieces of information: the Launch Configurable Keyboard's launch date and price point. System76 originally said it expected to release the keyboard in the summer of 2020, but now that we're a few months into 2021, it's still unclear when the product will be available to purchase.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.