In its early pre-pandemic days, Keychron made a reputation for itself with its collection of inexpensive mechanical keyboards — together with a number of low-profile ones that stay a rarity to this present day. These boards didn’t essentially enchantment to fans, however have been greater than adequate for many mainstream customers who wished a unique form of keyboard. Final 12 months, Keychron upped the ante with the launch of the Q1, an enthusiast-level, totally customizable hotswap keyboard with a 75% structure that had quite a lot of similarities to the closely hyped GMMK Professional. Since then, Keychron has expanded this collection with the 65% Q2, which acquired fairly rave critiques on the time and now the Q3.
The QMK-compatible Q3 clearly follows within the footsteps of the Q1 and Q2. It makes use of the identical double-gasket design that ought to make for a comparatively bouncy typing expertise (although in my expertise, there’s much less bounce than I might’ve anticipated), and the general design is just about the identical, with the exception that it’s a tenkeyless (TKL), so that you get a full keyboard with standalone arrow keys and a full row of operate keys, however with out the numpad. The physique is made out of aluminum and the entire unit weighs in at a hefty 4.5 kilos. Partially, that’s as a result of Keychron opted for a metal plate right here.
You may choose to get a bare-bones model the place you provide your individual switches and keycaps for $154 (or $164 if you wish to get the non-obligatory quantity knob), or a completely assembled model with keycaps and your selection of Gateron Professional Crimson, Blue or Brown switches for $174 (or $184 with knob).
For the additional $20, I believe getting the assembled model is a no brainer, provided that the keycaps and switches will price you considerably extra and even if you wish to change them, you could possibly at all times reuse them in one other undertaking (as a result of who solely has one keyboard, proper?). The double-shot PBT keycaps aren’t the best (and the OSA profile takes a little bit of getting used to), however they’re completely serviceable and whereas some reviewers have reported points with legends that weren’t printed very properly, that was not a problem on the unit I acquired. Twisting the knob feels fairly satisfying, too.
Keychron presents three colour decisions for the Q3: black, silver gray and navy blue, which all include matching keycaps in the event you go for the totally assembled model. I obtained the blue model and actually loved the look.
My assessment unit got here with Gateron Brown tactile switches, which I don’t love. They’re OK switches, however simply not my model. I had a contemporary set of Akko CS Jelly Black linear switches, that are just about my go-to possibility for funds linears today (or Gateron Yellows, which Keychron sadly doesn’t provide as an possibility for its Q collection).
The enjoyment of customized mechanical keyboards is which you can modify them to your individual preferences. Today, with hotswap being the usual, you’ll be able to simply strive completely different switches as a substitute of simply choosing the mediocre horror that’s the Cherry Brown. However on the similar time, the Keychrone Q2 received over a whole lot of customers as a result of it was just about nice out of the field. It was a straightforward board to advocate to first-timers. That wasn’t the case with the unique Q1 (Keychron has since launched a second model), and sadly it’s not true for the Q3 both.
In some ways, the Q3 is paying homage to the Q1 in that it may be nice, however it’s important to put a bit of labor into it. In the event you’re an fanatic in search of this sort of design, the Q3 might be proper up your alley, however out of the field, it suffers from fairly a little bit of case ping (that’s, a quiet however positively audible high-pitched sound that resonates by means of the case if you hit a key and that may shortly get annoying). It solely takes a couple of minutes to take the board aside, minimize up a Band-Help and carry out the “power break mod” the place you strategically place these items of Band-Help near the screws that maintain the board collectively, and also you’re in enterprise. Whilst you have the board open, you’ll be able to go for the tape mod and perhaps add some extra sound dampening to the underside of the case and with perhaps quarter-hour of labor, a Band-Help, some masking tape and perhaps a little bit of polyfill (there’s some sound dampening materials already included, but it surely’s not very efficient), you’re finished and the board will sound considerably higher. And let’s face it, in the event you’re an fanatic, you have been going to do all of these issues anyway.
If all of that sounds prefer it’s means an excessive amount of work for a keyboard, then the Q3 positively isn’t for you. You may go for the Q2, which is a superb gateway drug into mechanical keyboards in the identical worth bracket, and if you would like one thing fancier, your choices are limitless.
Possibly it’s the bigger measurement or perhaps the general design had already been dialed in earlier than the Q2 launched, however the Q3 appears like a slight step again for Keychron. Now, as I mentioned, in the event you’re an fanatic and in search of a TKL, which isn’t a format that’s extensively out there, I believe the Q3 is an effective possibility. In the event you’re not locked into the TKL structure, simply get a Q2 or perhaps the NovelKeys NK87 (which begins at $135 for the polycarbonate case and $225 for the extra comparable aluminum one).