Keychron Q3 Review: Odd Knob Out
Mechanical keyboards have gone from bricks with noisy solenoid switches to rectangles with hundreds of varieties of switches and keys to suit your needs. The problem with the hobby is that it is very expensive, which is evident in fantastic but expensive boards like the Fashion Designs Fashion Eighties. Even some of best gaming keyboards can get expensive with all the bells and whistles included.
This is where boards like the Keychron Q range come in. The Q series offers enthusiast level features at affordable prices and is almost constantly in stock. The Keychron Q3, the company’s latest, is a keyless gasket-mount board that ticks all the boxes when it comes to features, but lacks some in the typing experience thanks to a stiffer-than-expected feel. and a more hollow sound than expected. . The Q3 is offered either bare (starting at $154) or fully assembled with a rotary knob for $184.
Keychron Q3 Specifications
|Switches||Gateron G Pro Brown|
|On-board storage||5 profiles|
|Multimedia keys||Rotary or configurable button|
|Cable||6 feet, braided|
Design for the Keychron Q3
The Keychron Q3 is a keyless (TKL), gasket-mount mechanical keyboard that comes with an aluminum chassis, sound-absorbing foam, screw-in stabilizers, dual-socket PBT keys, rotary encoder, replaceable circuit board with warm, adjustable RGB lighting, Windows and Mac support and QMK/VIA software support.
Gasket mounting panels use foam pads, which are placed on top and under the switch plate. In doing so, the foam pads provide ample structural integrity, eliminating the need for screws, while providing a more even sound and a comfortable amount of flex. However, the Q3 didn’t live up to my testing because the typing feel wasn’t as responsive as we’d expect from a quality gasket-mount keyboard and the sound was just hollow.
When I saw the Keychron Q2, I was very impressed as the board apparently solved all my issues with its predecessor such as the hollow body, lack of flex and stabilizers. However, it looks like the company has backtracked with the Q3.
The first thing I noticed when I took the Q3 out of the box was the rotary knob, which looks very odd. The button is placed where the F13 key would normally sit, and while that’s not the worst place, it certainly isn’t the best. I would have preferred to see the potentiometer located at the top right, where the pause/pause button would be, because who actually uses it anymore? Now this board is also available in a buttonless version, and if you like soldering, the rotary encoder can be desoldered for a standard MX switch.
At just under four and a half pounds (2 kg), the Q3 is heavy, but its weight doesn’t improve the acoustics, which is typically the case for other enthusiast-grade mechanical keyboards. Mechanical keyboard enthusiasts like to spend more on their board by purchasing weighted bars to help dampen noise. This is especially evident in many KBDFans boards, such as the KBD75, which has a cutout on the backplate for weight bars, usually brass.
Since the Q3 is a large and heavy board, the aluminum case feels extremely hollow, which surprised me because there is foam between the PCB and the switch plate, as well as under the PCB, as well as silicone tabs on the bottom plate.
Reviewing the Q3 made me wonder why there aren’t many gasket mount TKL keyboards. My first thought was the weight, but you can still get a light switch plate, like FR4. Instead, Keychron opted to use a steel plate, which is far too heavy for a TKL gasket riser board.
I use the Q2 (65%) as a daily driver and tend to forget that it also has a steel switch plate as it had a lot more flex before I even removed some screws. I’ll discuss this further in the Typing Experience, but while this board is far from unpleasant, the mounting gasket implementation feels lackluster.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve had with previous Q-series boards (and Keychron’s K8 Pro) was the substandard key quality, and that trend continues with the Q3. The keycaps are very poorly printed, especially on the backspace key, which says “backspace” with a space between characters. You still get dual shot PBT keycaps with an OSA profile if you can look past the awful impression.
While mechanical keyboard enthusiasts have leaned towards clip-on stabilizers for easier access, screw-on stabilizers still perform better than most plate-mount stabilizers, and that’s what Keychron chose. One of the things I praised the Q2 for was its improved stabilizers, but it looks like Keychron went back to the Q1’s stabilizers because those things tick and rattle a ton, even with the decent amount of lubricant in which they are coated. If you want to solve this problem, we have a guide on some mods you can do for your stabsamong others, for your Q3 or any mechanical keyboard.
As with all Q-series boards, you get the switch in front of the case to switch between Windows or Mac and a USB Type-C port. Plus, like the rest of the range, you get QMK and VIA support instead of the bloated, half-baked remapping software that some keyboard makers use.
Almost all keyboards these days connect via USB Type-C, and the Q3 is no exception. The included cable has USB Type-C connectors on both ends, but Keychron also includes a Type-C to Type-A adapter. The cable matches the royal blue housing extremely well and the quality of the jacket is solid.
Typing experience on the Keychron Q3
Before I started typing with the Q3, I was expecting a bunch of bounce, because that’s what I got with the Q2 after the company improved their joint mounting design. However, the amount of bounce felt like nothing more than subtle tapping.
Three flavors of switches come with the Q3: Gateron G Pro Red, Brown, or Blue. Our test sample came with Browns, which I’ve never been a fan of because, to me, they look like a linear switch trying to decide whether or not it wants to be tactile. However, I have always been a fan of the Gateron G Pro line of switches as they have almost no stem wobble.
Since the PCB is hot-swappable on the Q3, I wanted to see if I could get this board to flex a bit more using the heaviest switch I had on hand, my NovelKeys Cream Arc switches. Cream Arcs are linear switches that use progressive springs, which have an operating force of 75 grams and a bottom of 120g. In the end my experiment worked and the heavier than usual linears increased the flex by a decent amount.
I really like the OSA (Spherical Angle OEM) keys. The rounded top felt like my fingers were cradled. The company also sent me a set of their dual-injected ABS keycaps, and I think they’re much better than OSA’s.
Gaming experience on the Keychron Q3
In 2022, some of the best gaming keyboard companies tried to implement features like extremely high polling rates and switches so light that a subtle gust of wind would operate them. The Keychron Q3 isn’t a gaming keyboard, so it’s no surprise that it doesn’t offer any of these features. However, I’m a gamer, so I wanted to test it.
One of my favorite first person shooters, the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, still has servers populated, so I changed my class and started. Since modern warfare was released in 2007, my PC could get more than 144 frames. With that frame rate advantage, I got a bit competitive.
I needed to be able to strafe as fast as possible, and the 45g weight of the Gateron G Pro Browns was perfect for closing the gap between too light and too heavy.
Software for the Keychron Q3
I always say it, and I’ll say it again – VIA is the best keyboard software because of its ease of use and feature library. However, the Q3 is a TKL, so almost every key you need is pre-configured, even scroll lock.
Although I’m not a fan of the rotary knob location, it’s still a rotary knob and with VIA’s support you can do almost anything with it. Instead of using the button for volume control, I configured it to adjust the brightness of my monitor. I also replaced the dedicated voice assistant key to put my PC into sleep mode and F1-F2 for RGB brightness control.
The Q3 supports up to four profiles, which is a good number, especially with a TKL with lots of keys. However, this card falls short compared to the Q2, which supports five layers. It’s nitpicking, but I couldn’t ignore it.
VIA and QMK offer many RGB adjustments, such as hue, saturation and brightness, they are not offered per key.
I’m quite disappointed with Q3, especially the quality of Q2. However, for $184 (rotary knob version), you still get a gasket-mount mechanical keyboard with plenty of customization options. For $20 less, you can get the Q3 in barebones form with the rotary knob. The Q3 is also available without a rotary knob at $174 entirely and $154 barebones (without keys or switches). If you insist on having a rotary and like the TKL layout, this may be for you, although that button is in a very odd place.
Keychron fired his shots at typing experience; the hollowness of the chassis and the lack of flex when hitting were surprising. It’s not a bad keyboard, but Keychron has made better ones, and I’d really like to see it evolve more and more, no matter what size board they sell.