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Keychron Q3 Review: A Great Beginner Custom Keyboard

Keychron has been on a roll this 12 months, releasing its line of enthusiast-grade-yet-affordable customized mechanical keyboards with its Q-series. Today, we’re wanting on the third entry within the line-up, the Keychron Q3. Like the Q1 and Q2, it incorporates a totally aluminum case and a gasket mount design for a gentle, satisfying typing expertise. It’s additionally accessible totally assembled with switches and keycaps or at a reduction in the event you’d prefer to convey your personal. This time round, Keychron has opted for the normal TKL structure, making it match for mainstream typists and avid gamers who aren’t able to make the soar to a compact type issue.

Retailing for $154 for a barebones package and $174 for a completely assembled model (plus $10 in the event you’d like an aluminum quantity knob), that is but once more the most effective methods to improve your typing expertise with out breaking the financial institution or going all-in on customized switches and keycaps.

Specifications

Keychron Q3 – Key Features and First Impressions

Like the Q1 and Q2 earlier than it, the Keychron Q3 is out to make a giant first impression. It’s a heavy, premium-feeling keyboard and comes packed to the gills with fanatic tier options, like gasket mounting and screw-in stabilizers. It additionally comes with doubleshot PBT keycaps in putting colours that match the blue, black, or grey case choices. If you’re inclined to spend a bit of additional, you’ll be able to even buy your Q3 with a wide array of custom keycaps, switches, and accessories (like change lube) and save purchasing round from a number of retailers.

The ethos behind the Q3 appears to be “fanatic options for much less.” That begins with the case. While we’re all used to the standard design of gaming keyboards — an aluminum high plate and plastic backside — at this level, the Q3’s case is constructed from strong aluminum, high and backside. The plate (which is what the switches snap into and also you see because the “high” of many gaming keyboards”) is product of metal. Fully assembled, the Q3 weighs round 4.5 kilos. It has a heft that’s instantly spectacular, particularly in the event you’ve by no means used a customized keyboard earlier than.

That design consideration extends to the within of the keyboard too. Sandwiches between the plate and PCB is a layer of froth to dampen keystrokes and quiet typing sounds. Below that, there’s a skinny layer of froth within the case to cut back hollowness — although it’s so skinny, I’m unsure it’s actually doing a lot. 

That’s okay, although, as a result of the design of the aluminum case and metal plate is intentional. Since metal is a denser steel than aluminum, when ringing sounds from typing hit it, they deaden it out. At least in idea. 

Between the 2 halves of the case are silicone dampening pads. The metal plate can solely do its job if the highest and backside case are separated. Otherwise, these ringing sounds merely bypass the plate totally and reverberate by the underside of the case. This is a manufacturing unit model of the so-called Force Break mod that’s develop into common amongst keyboard modders (whom usually use tape, not rubber) and a simple manner to enhance the sound of a keyboard. Unfortunately, the implementation right here falls brief and people reverberations occur anyway, undermining that backside foam — nevertheless it’s a straightforward repair, which I’ll clarify shortly.

One of the most well-liked options of this line-up is its gasket mount implementation. This is reasonably new within the mainstream house, and for years the whole lot screwed collectively rigidly to keep away from flex. Gasket mounting, then again, locations strips of soppy foam across the plate to be squeezed between each halves, not screwed. This higher isolates typing sounds in comparison with older, tray-mount designs, and may present the keyboard with a little bit of flex. This isn’t one thing you’ll normally really feel when typing usually on the Q3, however is definitely seen whenever you press down on a key. It additionally ends in a softer typing expertise total and makes the keyboard really feel nicer to make use of.

The PCB, or circuit board, driving the typing expertise helps hot-swappable switches with particular sockets that come soldered on the again of the board. It has been a staple function of Keychron’s keyboards for a while, and I’m completely happy to see it return right here. New switches launch weekly, it appears, and easily with the ability to unplug the change you’re utilizing and plug-in a brand new one makes attempting new choices and exploring the pastime simpler than ever. It additionally helps customizable per-key RGB that’s programmable by VIA and QMK, a free and highly effective open-source keyboard firmware.

Another spotlight you discover with the Q3 is its stabilizers. To maintain the bigger keys from toppling over, they’re supported by a pair of dummy switches referred to as stabilizers, related by a wire. Most keyboards include plate mount stabilizers that snap into place and have a tendency to wobble, trigger rattle and fewer stability. Here, they screw proper into the PCB for a agency, secure match and are manufacturing unit lubed to chop down on rattling sounds which may interrupt the in any other case clean typing sounds. 

If you select to purchase the model that’s assembled for you, you’ll have your alternative of Gateron Pro switches and doubleshot PBT keycaps that match the colour of the case you select. The switches are nice; they put Cherry to disgrace. They come manufacturing unit pre-lubed and are clean and ping-free out of the field, neither of that are true of Cherry and even regular Gateron switches. If you determine to lube, you can also make them even smoother and improve their sound barely.

The keycaps, then again, look nice however wouldn’t be my first alternative. They’re positively higher than the singleshot ABS caps Keychron used to make use of, however they function a tall OSA profile that takes some getting used to. Still, the colour schemes they’ve gone with are excellent. 

One of the extra attention-grabbing issues with this keyboard is that it’s capable of be bought with a quantity knob or an F13 button. This knob has gotten blended suggestions as, properly, it appears to be like a bit of bit awkward. Still, for people who need a devoted quantity curler, it’s there. If you don’t, you’ll be able to all the time map these controls to secondary capabilities and get an additional F13 button as an alternative. I personally prefer it and have a customized knob on the best way (professional tip: guitar knobs with retention screws work properly!).

Around the again, you’ll additionally discover a change to swap between Windows and Mac default layouts. This is, in reality, a hardware-based layer change and both might be fully remapped inside the software program.

Finally, as I touched on earlier on this overview, the Q3 is totally programmable utilizing QMK or VIA. These are open-source firmware that rewrite how your keyboard capabilities. That means you’ll be able to remap keys, even giving them twin capabilities for layer entry when held and their regular output when tapped, after which take these modifications wherever you go. It’s releasing and lacks the bounds of most OEM software program packages. 

That mentioned, in the event you’re coming from Razer, Corsair, or Logitech, you’ll discover that it lacks core gaming options. There are not any timers, no lighting integration, and the macro programming is way more easy. If you need to document a key mixture to set off a hotkey — like Alt+1, for instance — you’ll have to manually kind within the keycodes utilizing a particular syntax. If you depend on these capabilities, it’s value investing in a separate programming software program. 

Still, there’s a cause individuals love QMK and it’s merely this: you can also make your keyboard actually your personal in a manner that’s not doable with out it. Once you get used to your customized layouts with main and secondary capabilities (as much as 4 layers, the truth is), it’s arduous to return. 

Keychron Q3 – How Is It?

The Keychron Q3 is, by and enormous, an ideal keyboard. Compared to most of what you’ll discover at this worth, pre-made and customized, it’s properly completed and satisfying to make use of — nevertheless it’s not excellent.

Let’s go over the place Keychron earns its wins first. Right off the bat, the general construct high quality stays glorious. The Q3 feels each little bit of its asking worth. From the packaging to the primary time you decide it up in your hand, it’s a powerful improve from nearly all of pre-made keyboards on the market at present. 

I even have to understand how cost-effective this keyboard is. At $174 for the assembled model, it’s a steal for what you’re getting right here. Even in the event you plan on altering switches and keycaps, that Keychron is just charging one other $20 from the Barebones model is beneficiant and a very good deal. The value can be a nice demonstration of how way more cost-effective customized keyboards might be when mass manufacturing enters the chat.

Another win right here is the screw-in stabilizers. These are Keychron-branded however are fairly good. Out of the field, they had been generously lubed and didn’t rattle. I did return and add some dielectric grease to melt the texture of the important thing press, however total the sound and really feel was manner higher than you’d count on included stabilizers to really feel. 

With that in thoughts, there have been a few odd steps again right here. Remember the silicone drive break pads I discussed? They don’t work properly. I’m unsure in the event that they’re too skinny or there’s not sufficient of them, however the two halves of the case contact and it causes the Q3 to sound hole and pingy out of the field. This could also be rectified sooner or later, however within the meantime, you’ll be able to repair this by stacking two small squares of masking tape within the 4 corners of the underside case. It fully removes the hole sound and ping because the metal plate is ready to do its job.

The flex on this board can also be lower than prior boards, although that’s not precisely the Q3’s fault. The floor space of the keyboard is bigger, and with out splitting it into two smaller items, it takes extra strain to flex the keyboard down on the conventional alpha keys. So, as a gasket mount implementation, this actually comes all the way down to isolation greater than bounce for regular typing. Press it on the high or sides, nearer to the gaskets, and also you’ll see some main motion, although.

The out-of-the-box sound could be very light-weight and considerably muted. The keycaps and Gateron Pro switches make up most of this impact. Making the sound deeper and a bit louder is so simple as including a little bit of painter’s tape on the again of the PCB. I used two layers of Frog Tape and am very proud of the general sound. You may also change out the keycaps and lube switches to switch the sound. 

Here is my closing construct, tape modded and drive break modded, with lubed Gateron Pro Reds, and GMK Dracula clone keycaps (despatched to me accidentally by an Aliexpress vendor however that look good right here):

Final Thoughts

The Keychron Q3 is one other winner on this line-up of entry-level fanatic keyboards. It’s points with the silicone pads across the case require modding to get the perfect sound, however just like the Q1 and Q2 earlier than it, this can be a nice platform to construct out your personal customized keyboard expertise and see what this quirky, enjoyable, and addicting pastime has to supply.

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