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Keychron Q3 QMK Mechanical Keyboard Review: Just Your Type

Rating: 8/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $174
Keychron Q3 QMK keyboard on desk
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

Keychron’s tenkeyless Q3 QMK keyboard features a sturdy CNC aluminum frame, hot-swappable switches, velvety keystrokes, and a full range of customization options. Beginners and enthusiasts, Mac and Windows users alike, this keyboard is for you.

Have you heard of deck flex? The Q3 QMK hasn’t. Its stalwart build quality is just one of many major upsides to this Keychron board. Flaws exist, but are far and few between. Here’s what you should know before making this your main typing piece.

Here's What We Like

  • Immaculate keystrokes
  • Stylish design options
  • Wooden wrist rest
  • Hot-swappable
  • Durable build quality

And What We Don't

  • Software setup
  • Pinging sound on some keys
  • No angle adjustments

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Build Quality and Form Factor

Keychron Q3 QMK keyboard on desk
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

  • Weight: 2000g (4.4lbs)
  • Connection: USB-C, Type-C to Type-A adapter included
  • Chassis: CNC Anodized Aluminum
  • Switches: Gateron G Pro
  • Hot-swappable: Yes
  • Stabilizers: Screw-in PCB stabs
  • Keycaps: Double-shot PBT

The Keychron Q3 QMK is made of top-quality materials, and you’ll know it as soon as you unsheathe it from the box. The extremely smooth CNC-milled (Computer Numerical Control) anodized aluminum chassis arrived without a blemish in sight. It, along with four rubber feet on the bottom of the board, ensure absolutely no movement on your desk as you pound away at the keys. Take your pick between Carbon Black, Silver Grey, and Navy Blue base plates with keycap finishes to match.

I received the fully assembled non-knob version for review, but you can also select barebone versions of both the Knob and non-knob versions in ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) layouts. The barebone versions (coming in at $154 and $164) will get you the PCB (Printed Circuit Board), case, and steel plate—you can then load it up with your favorite switches, stabilizers, and keycaps.

Note: If you purchase the Fully Assembled version, you’ll receive keycaps for both Windows and Mac.

The stock double-shot OSA PBT keycaps are excellent. Their sleek OSA (like OEM and SA keycaps combined) curve helps your fingers land comfortably on the key you’re aiming for, helping to fight double-key presses. Most cheap mechanical keyboards, and many expensive options at that, offer keycaps that love to show off everyday oil and grime. The Q3 QMK’s grey keycaps, on the other hand, are great at hiding this unsavory sight—and they’re easy to clean, too.

The Carbon Black version is accompanied by black, cool grey, and light red accent keycaps for an understated, simplistic look.

The Silver Grey board features light grey, grey, and yellow accent keycaps for a distinguished design sure to fit in just as well at the office as it does in your gaming setup.

The Navy Blue variant is a sea of beautifully saturated dark blue, soft blue, and cyan keycaps that works as well as a desk centerpiece as it does a keyboard.

Following the three-choice theme, you can choose Gateron G Pro Red, Blue, or Brown switches. I prefer Brown switches because you get the tactile feel of a mechanical keyboard with a much softer “click” than Blue switches. Regardless of which switch you choose, they all come pre-lubed; this puts the Q3 QMK’s typing experience leaps and bounds ahead of most other out-of-the-box boards.

Each keystroke is silky smooth from top to bottom, a stark contrast to inferior boards with overly-stiff switches and rattling stabilizers.

They’re also hot-swappable, so if you’re feeling 3-pin Cherry MX Red switches one day and 5-pin Gateron MX Blue switches the next, just take off the keycaps using the included keycap puller, remove the switches with the switch puller, and drop your choice of switch right in—you don’t even need to unplug the keyboard.

Speaking of stabilizers, or stabs, this area is another win for the Q3 QMK. The stock stabs are more than sufficient for a sturdy enter key and proper space bar inputs no matter where you tap it. But if you’re looking for more, feel free to swap them out yourself with just a few screws. You may think the ability to remove the stabilizers would cause ironic instability, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’m also impressed with the quality of power cable provided. It’s braided, nicely matches the color of the board, and comes with an adapter for Type-C to Type-A if you don’t have a Type-C port on your computer.

Continuing the accessories theme, the wrist rest was surprisingly wooden. The box wouldn’t lead you to believe it, but this comfortable, smooth piece of craftsmanship is made entirely of wood. I was skeptical at first, but I’m fully converted after a few weeks of testing. My Q3 QMK feels almost unusable without it—it does become slightly discolored over time, but the comfort stays the same day to day.

Note: You’ll also receive a keycap puller, switch puller, screwdriver, and hex key to customize your board.

This is a common, commendable theme of the Q3 QMK—it’s solid, but if you don’t like it, customize it. Even if you’re just looking for a change of pace, the hot-swappable switches, easy-to-change keycaps, and removable stabilizers are ready to accommodate.

Durability and Noise Level

Keychron Q3 QMK keyboard on desk
Marcus Mears III / Review Geek

The keycaps, switches, and stabilizers are top-notch, but what about the PCB, sound-absorbing foam, and silicone gaskets? Does the internal plate and exterior aluminum case offer enough protection? And what about the noise level, any metallic pings?

Starting with the PCB—the “brain” of the keyboard—I noticed absolutely no problems. Using the Key Tester tab in VIA, 100% of the board worked properly out of the box. I never had problems with ghosting when doing typing tests or gaming, and double typing issues were non-existent.

The sound-absorbing foam does what it can, but it definitely doesn’t hide the metallic pings this board makes. Some keys sound better than others, but you’ll know the ping when you hear it. The silicone gaskets are the same story; a neat idea utilizing a double-gasket design to minimize metal-on-metal contact, but ultimately, you’ll still hear this board over your headphones when you type.

The durability of this keyboard is second to none. The exterior casing is a tank, the internal steel plate keeps everything locked-in, safe, and secure, and as the switches, keycaps, or stabilizers wear out over time, it’s quick and simple to replace them.

Customization Options

Keychron VIA software

Here’s where Keychron’s quality contrasts from the board a bit. This board is plug-and-play, but it is not plug-and-customize. Keychron’s customization software, VIA, takes some work to get up and running. First, you’ll need to download and install the software from GitHub.

Note: VIA is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. Be sure to select the right installation for your OS.

This is where you may expect the user-side work to end; but it’s not. Open VIA and you’ll see a “Searching for devices…” prompt. Head to Settings and enable the Design tab. Then, search for and download the keyboard’s JSON keymap file (Keychron doesn’t link to it from the instructions page, you have to find it yourself—you can also find it on the Q3 QMK product page).

Now, head back into the VIA Design tab, click Load, select the JSON file you just downloaded, and… maybe edit your RGB lighting.

Keychron VIA Q3 QMK lighting

Tip: You will have to import the JSON file every time you start VIA. You can also select File in the top left corner to import the JSON file instead of heading to the Design tab.

Many users’ customization journeys, including my own, came to a screeching halt at this point. When you head to the Configure tab and choose Lighting from the left nav bar, you may see a blank screen, forcing you to restart the app. If this is the case with your Keychron Q3, you’ll need to flash the newest version of the firmware on your board.

Jump to the How to Flash Firmware page on Keychron’s website, download the correct firmware for your keyboard, download QMK Toolbox, and follow the steps onscreen. You’ll need to remove your space bar, hold down the reset button and plug in your power cable, then locate and flash the latest firmware.

That’s quite a bit of work to customize your keyboard’s lights, but now that it’s all set, how does it work? Just okay.

The macros and key remapping tools work well enough, but the Lighting tab is lackluster even when it works. You won’t see an RGB preview here, that keyboard diagram is only for remapping and macros. My Q3’s lighting effects were stuck to Static even after following every step provided. I had to restart from square one to get my board back in working order, but the lighting effects themselves are unique and the LEDs are vibrant.

Software is the main area holding the Q3 QMK back—otherwise, it’s almost perfect.

Comparisons: Q2 and Other Options

The Keychron Q2 QMK is a smaller, lighter board, weighing in at 1645g (3.6lbs) and measuring 327.5mm in length (12.9in). Compare this to the 2000g (4.4lbs), 365.1mm in length Q3 QMK, and there’s a sizable difference if you’re tight on desk space.

The same levels of build are available for purchase, fully assembled and barebone. The colors are the same across generations as well, Carbon Black, Silver Grey, and Navy Blue. Switches aren’t any different, Gateron G Pro Red, Blue, and Brown. In fact, everything but the color of the stabilizers and form factor are the same. If you’re looking for a 65% board, go with the Q2. If you want more functionality and heft, go with the Q3.

I don’t have a better recommendation for a keyboard. Something like a Ducky One 3 may give the Q3 QMK a run for its money, but it comes down to personal preference at the top of the performance charts. If you’re looking for a cheaper, wireless Keychron keyboard, check out the K2 lineup.

Ducky One 3 SF Daybreak Keyboard

Excellent build quality, astonishing aesthetics, top-of-the-line performance.

Should You Buy the Keychron Q3 QMK?

I highly recommend this keyboard for beginners and enthusiasts alike. With a truly wide range of customization options, heavy-duty durability, serious style, and typing feel rivaled by none, there are few reasons not to recommend the Keychron Q3 QMK. One of them is the software; if you understand going in that it’s a bit of a process, you’ll have a much better time than if you’re expecting a plug-and-customize experience.

That said, once you get your favorite lighting effects saved and rarely have to use the software, or don’t care much about RGB lighting in general, this board is a pleasure to type on. If you don’t like how it feels today, change it tomorrow—Keychron made it as easy as a few switch pulls and unscrews. And if you’ve never used a wrist rest made out of wood, give this one a try.

Rating: 8/10
Price: $174

Here’s What We Like

  • Immaculate keystrokes
  • Stylish design options
  • Wooden wrist rest
  • Hot-swappable
  • Durable build quality

And What We Don't

  • Software setup
  • Pinging sound on some keys
  • No angle adjustments

Marcus Mears III Marcus Mears III
Marcus Mears III is the Reviews Editor for How-To Geek and Review Geek. He’s a lifelong technology enthusiast with over three years of experience developing prose that keeps readers in the know. With hundreds of articles across a number of tech publications like MakeUseOf and iGeeksBlog, Mears’ work helps readers around the globe learn to make the most of their devices and software. Read Full Bio »