I perceive why it took Goldilocks a number of tries earlier than she discovered her porridge good. I’m having the same expertise with Keychron’s Q collection of mechanical keyboards. I’ve been switching off between the compact 65% Keychron Q2 with a knob and the most recent launch, the Tenkeyless Keychron Q3. It’s the most recent keyboard that works greatest with my day-to-day wants.
The Keychron Q3 is the third obtainable structure from the corporate’s Q-series lineup of totally customizable DIY keyboards, and I’m discovering it to be an ideal dimension. (There are six layouts in all, together with this full-size version.) The six additional buttons on the fitting aspect provide somewhat room for expandability with out tacking on a ton of additional house on the board. What’s essential to me is that my desk isn’t overtaken by keys that I’m not utilizing on a regular basis. I additionally desire a keyboard that I can totally service myself.
Knob-on or off?
First issues first: Would you want a knob? The Keychron Q3 is out there with an optional knob within the upper-right a part of the board. That appears to be the mannequin getting dinged probably the most by consumers, because the knob has a humorous placement that’s crammed between buttons. I requested the knobless model for my evaluate unit, as a result of Keychron made the knob too delicate on the Q2. I wasn’t about to have music blasting in my ears whereas looking for my writing zen.
The predominant distinction between the Q3 and its siblings is the keyboard structure. I already talked about that the Q2 is a 65% board. The Q3 is an 80% tenkeyless, which suggests it has every little thing however the quantity pad. (There’s additionally a 100% version in the event you want the quantity pad.) You get the Insert, Home, and End buttons, together with Page Up, Page Down, and Delete. There are additionally three additional buttons on the prime of these six which are programmed to take a screenshot, fireplace up a digital assistant, and shuffle via RGB backlight settings.
The excellent news is that these keys are totally programmable utilizing the indie VIA app, which works on PC, Mac, and Linux. Granted, you’ll have to purchase a brand new keycap to make its image match its new operate, however the means is there. I’ll discuss concerning the VIA expertise and adjusting the RGB lighting later.
Keychron despatched me the Carbon Black totally assembled model of the Q3 with inventory OSA profile PBT keycaps, which have a little bit of a dip within the center. It’s additionally obtainable in Silver Grey, Navy Blue, Shell White, and a Retro fashion, which seems to be like a grey hue scraped off your favourite library catalog keyboard. I used to be not too keen on the inventory keycaps on the Q1 and Q2, that are additionally OSA profiles, so I swapped them out for a set of Keychron’s OEM profile Dye-Sub PBT Keycaps in Unicorn. I desire the flat-top and refined texture on the purple, pink, and white PBT keycaps I’ve now.
Swapping keycaps continues to be a simple feat
Swapping out the keycaps on the Keychron Q3 meant I bought to take aside the board and see the way it fares for DIYers. It’s straightforward to do, however it will probably really feel intimidating in the event you’ve by no means performed this form of factor earlier than. Even I paused earlier than stepping into, and that is the fourth Keychron board I’ve tinkered with. While you possibly can swap out a cap or two with the usual elimination instrument, tackling the entire board requires a screwdriver and spudger to take off the aluminum plate.
If you’ve learn my Keychron Q1 evaluate, it’s the identical drill: the keyboard comes with a magnetized screwdriver and Allen wrench within the equipment. There’s even a change puller, although I by no means used it.
You begin by eradicating the underside case, which requires you to flip over the board and take away the screws in every nook. I hate that I’ve to do that each time I need to swap keycaps, however on the very least, it encourages me to wash between swaps.
Then, you flip it again over to take away the highest aluminum body, exposing all of the mechanical elements beneath. As with the Keychron Q1, there’s a daughter PCB below the aluminum body, which serves because the change controller between Mac and PC mode. You’ll must unhook it earlier than you possibly can totally expose the principle PCB and get to swapping.
I mentioned it in my final evaluate, and I’ll repeat it for you and myself: regardless of your expertise with mechanical keyboards, watch Keychron’s YouTube channel earlier than doing anything. I had a detailed name with the Q3 as a result of I used a too harsh instrument on the daughter PCB cable. It’s a rookie transfer from me, however I’m additionally an individual who suffers from having no persistence.
Once the keyboard is free from its aluminum body, swapping out keycaps is customary apply. It took me lower than half an hour to swap out 88 keys with my remover instrument, which I desire over what Keychron bundles with this board (although the one they embody isn’t unhealthy!).
That daughter PCB board that permits you to change between Mac and PC is somewhat tough to tuck again into the case. I did have a second the place I’d screwed collectively half the aluminum body, solely to understand the opposite half wouldn’t seal as a result of I didn’t layer items appropriately. Again, because of this you watch the YouTube video earlier than diving in.
I’m so happy with the ultimate look of Keychron’s purple and pink keycaps paired with the Q3’s black body. All that was left to do was work out the best way to program the RGB to finish the aesthetic.
VIA is best than bloatware
I’m nonetheless somewhat intimidated by VIA, the indie software program obtainable for QMK-supported keyboards, together with Keychron’s boards. VIA is fairly user-friendly in the event you follow the fundamentals, however it will probably get complicated in the event you attempt to do something greater than reprogram a key.
Adjusting the south-facing RGB lights for the Keychron Q3 isn’t like doing so on a Razer or SteelSeries mechanical gaming keyboard. There is not any big piece of software program in your Windows machine that does the bidding for you, neither is there a responsive interface that permits you to see per-key lighting. Instead, it’s a must to belief your instincts and ensure you’re urgent down the fitting buttons as you program.
After a little bit of YouTube sleuthing—God bless the mechanical keyboard group—I lastly discovered that Keychron’s keyboards use layers inside VIA. So I flipped over to the RGB choice throughout the software program and positioned the suitable instructions to get pink backlighting throughout the entire board. It took me somewhat trial and error earlier than I spotted what was occurring, nevertheless it made sense as soon as I figured it out. I do desire a real-time graphic interface once I’m doing this, so maybe it’s time Keychron figures one thing out for keyboard customers who don’t need to undergo this sort of puzzle-solving.
How it sorts
The Keychron Q3 is a hot-swap keyboard, which suggests you possibly can swap in 3-pin and 5-pin suitable MX mechanical switches. The Q3 is out there with Gateron G Pro Red Linear, Blue Clicky, or Brown Tactile switches. They’re all nonetheless co-created with Gateron, which makes the most effective Cherry MX knock-offs. All switches come pre-lubed apart from the Blue switches. My evaluate unit is supplied with Brown switches tuned for workplace work and the occasional recreation. They’re somewhat louder and slower than the Red ones, however I’ve all the time most well-liked Brown for running a blog.
As with each mechanical keyboard I evaluate, I put it via the paces in Monkeytype, a web based typing take a look at I exploit to get a generalized evaluation of how briskly I can sort on a board. On the Keychron Q3, I managed as much as 123 phrases per minute (WPM) with round 80% accuracy, which is about how I sort once I’m dashing via my notes. At 98% accuracy, I managed as much as 119 WPM.
I obtained that mark a number of instances via testing the keyboard, so it was good to see consistency. And there’s proof within the pudding: I managed all my WWDC 2022 protection with the Keychron Q3, which was comfy to make use of all through!
An straightforward solution to DIY
I’m somewhat late to evaluate this specific keyboard, nevertheless it meant I may expertise the Keychron Q3 as an precise every day driver. The Q3’s comfy typing expertise and obtainable keys for my line of labor make it almost the right keyboard for running a blog on-line. Though if you’re into the thought of the DIY, take heed that you have to take aside the board any time you need to swap out a whole set of keycaps.
VIA is the one different caveat when deciding on a Keychron mechanical keyboard over the opposite mainstream choices. However, there’s sufficient documentation round this particular keyboard line and its software program to assist any newcomer to the passion determine it out as they go alongside. For that cause, Keychron continues to be the keyboard model I recommend to these trying to put money into one thing user-serviceable.
You can buy the Q3 barebones for $164, sans keycaps and switches. If you resolve you need the knob, it prices $174 for the barebones model and $194 for the totally assembled model. Or you possibly can pay an additional $200, for a total of $184, to have Keychron bundle in keycaps and switches for you. I nonetheless assume the worth is well worth the set of keycaps and switches that can inevitably turn into backup if you order your subsequent group purchase.