System76 Launch Lite keyboard ditches the USB hub in favor of a smaller form factor
System76's "Launch" keyboard has been wildly popular with the Linux community thanks to its open source firmware, ability to be customized, and excellent build quality (it's made in the USA). Many people love the "split" spacebar too. Even though System76 is a Linux-focused company, its keyboard is obviously compatible with Windows and macOS as well.
The Launch keyboard uses a USB-C connector to interface with the host computer, but you can utilize either a USB-C to USB-C or USB-C to USB-A cable to connect it -- depending on what ports you have available. Launch even serves double-duty as a USB hub, allowing you to plug USB devices directly into it. And yes, the keyboard features RGB lighting too.
System76's Launch keyboard is already tenkeyless and rather small, but apparently, there has been a desire for an even smaller offering. And so, tomorrow, the company will begin selling exactly that. Called "Launch Lite," it is a very similar keyboard to the regular Launch, but in a smaller form factor and with fewer keys. System76 is also launching silent brown and silent pink switch options.
Unfortunately, the reduced footprint means the USB hub feature found on the standard Launch is not included on the Lite. Whether or not that is a deal-breaker will really be a matter of personal preference. I rather like the USB hub aspect of the regular Launch, as you can plug a USB mouse directly into it, for instance, freeing up ports on the computer. However, it is not an essential feature to me, and I could absolutely live without it.
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"Launch Lite has all the same bells and whistles as Launch that users love: custom multi-layer layouts, solid aluminum chassis, RGB LED patterns, magnetic angle bar, and secure open source firmware. Where the two keyboards differ is that the Launch Lite forgoes the USB hub in favor of more portability at a more affordable price. As a 67 percent keyboard, the Launch Lite's smaller form factor results from merging the function row keys with the number row," says System76.
The computer-maker further says, "As with Launch, users can customize their layout with the System76 Keyboard Configurator application. There, users can configure up to 4 layers, LED patterns, and add media keys or brightness controls. Changes are saved directly to the keyboard’s open source firmware, meaning a user can plug Launch Lite into a USB-C or USB-A port on any Linux, Windows, or Mac computer, customize their layout, and bring that custom layout with them to use at another workstation without having to reconfigure the same layout on the next machine."
System76 says you will be able to buy the Launch Lite keyboard here starting tomorrow. What the company has failed to share, however, is exact pricing. The regular Launch sells for $285, and all System76 has said thus far, is the Lite variant will cost less than that.
[UPDATE] System76 tells me Launch Lite will cost $199.