Linux-ready Launch Heavy is a $300 mechanical keyboard for number crunchers- Newstheusanewshubs

system76 launch heavy mechanical keyboard

Prebuilt mechanical keyboards often neglect Linux support. Users frequently report success in getting a mechanical keyboard’s basic functions to work, but many of these peripherals don’t accommodate software for controlling advanced features, like macros, with Linux. Since last year, System76’s Launch keyboard has been trying to address that problem. But number crunchers will be much more interested in the new Launch Heavy.

Released this week, the Launch Heavy is a numpad-equipped version of the 84-key Launch. As detailed in our System76 Launch review, the keyboard is one of the most customizable Linux-focused mechanical keyboards one can find. However, an absent numpad made the Launch an immediate ‘no’ for many. Now, the newly released Launch Heavy is addressing many, but not all, of its smaller counterpart’s shortcomings.

The full-size Launch Heavy makes up for some of the Launch's (pictured) shortcomings.
Enlarge / The full-size Launch Heavy makes up for some of the Launch’s (pictured) shortcomings.

Scharon Harding

As you can see, the Launch Heavy’s 105 keys aren’t a traditional layout. System76 had its way with the keys to the left of the numpad, getting rid of some completely. But compared to the Launch, the Launch Heavy adds keys above the numpad for media control. Unfortunately, there are still no buttons for controlling the volume out of the box.

System76 was gracious enough to update the mechanical switches offered with its keyboards since we reviewed the Launch in March. In addition to the supremely stiff clicky Kailh Box Jades and tactile Box Royals (each require 75 grams of force to actuate), you can get the Launch Heavy and the rest of the lineup with quieter, tactile Kailh Box Silent Browns (50 g) or lighter, linear Silent Pinks (35 g).

You don’t have to stick with any of those, though, since the keyboard’s switches are easily removable sans soldering iron. But for $300, you’ll probably want to start off with switches you’re happy to use right away.

Oh, did we forget to mention the Launch Heavy’s price? It’s only $14 more than the smaller Launch but still a massive ask for a keyboard. Many will prefer one of the best wireless mechanical keyboards, something with volume keys, or building their own mechanical keyboard for that price range instead.

Still, the Launch Heavy (2.8 lbs, to be exact) has some standout features for those willing to spend the money.

System76’s Launch mechanical keyboards, which also include the 70-key Launch Lite, represent some of the few mechanical keyboards that claim Linux support (they work with Windows and macOS, too). The vendor pushes its Pop!_OS Linux distribution by having the Launch Heavy support keyboard shortcuts within it, such as organizing tiled windows without a mouse or opening apps.

The Launch series is also an admirably tinker-friendly one, from its open source, QMK-based software for programming its keys and open source chassis and PCB to the hot-swappable switches, which include two for the split spacebar. Perhaps the series’ handiest feature is the hub on the top of the keyboard’s edge with four increasingly omitted USB-A ports.

While the Launch Heavy’s price is still overwhelming, there’s enough here for it to be a unique consideration for number crunchers, especially Linux users, seeking a customizable mechanical keyboard.

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