Keychron Q3 Mechanical Keyboard review: A premium and customizable TKL

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Hero
(Image: © Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: Keychron Q3 is a premium TKL mechanical keyboard for Mac and PC with an optional rotary knob in an entire aluminum body. It comes in barebones or fully assembled versions, is hot-swappable, has OSA PBT keycaps, and is fully customizable with QMK/VIA software.

Pros

  • +

    TKL layout

  • +

    Barebones or fully assembled versions, both hot-swappable

  • +

    Premium 100% aluminum body

  • +

    Customizable through QMK/VIA software

  • +

    Comfortable PBT keycaps, multiple body colors

Cons

  • -

    Pricey

  • -

    No wireless

  • -

    No number pad

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When the world was pretty much shut down, I had to find a hobby to keep myself occupied since Disneyland was out of the picture. In 2020, I started dabbling in the world of mechanical keyboards, starting with the Keychron K2, and I have accumulated a nice collection ever since.

While the K2 is a fantastic beginner's mechanical keyboard, I've kept wanting more and more. So when Keychron began releasing new keyboards in its high-end and premium Q-series lineup, I had to get my hands on them.

The Keychron Q3 is the latest in the Q-series, and it's an 80% tenkeyless (TKL) layout. This means it pretty much has everything except the number pad, and you can get it in a version with or without the knob. If you are the type of person who doesn't need the most compact keyboard but doesn't do a lot of number entry, then the Keychron Q3 is a great mechanical keyboard to consider.

Keychron Q3: Price and availability

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Full

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Full (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

The Keychron Q3 is currently only available direct from Keychron's website. It comes in six different versions, depending on what you need: Barebone ISO, Barebone ISO Knob, Barebone, Barebone Knob, Fully Assembled, or Fully Assembled Knob. The barebone versions will need your own separate switches and keycaps, but the fully assembled versions include your choice of Gateron G Pro Red, Brown, or Blue switches and come with OSA PBT keycaps. There are also three body colors available: carbon black, silver grey, and navy blue. If you opt for the fully assembled versions, you'll get keycaps that match the body color you pick.

Starting cost for the Keychron Q3 is $154 for Barebone versions sans knob, and it goes up to $184 for Fully Assembled Knob.

Keychron Q3: A solid TKL with full customization

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Gateron G Pro Brown Switches

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Gateron G Pro Brown Switches (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

Like the Q1 and Q2 that came before it, the Q3 is made with 6063 aluminum, which goes through an entire machined, polished, anodized, and sandblasted. The result is a rather hefty body that weighs over four pounds. Since this is an 80% TKL layout, it's bigger than my daily driver, the Keychron Q1, and it definitely weighs more. The surface of the aluminum is anodized, giving it a more matte appearance — this won't be attracting fingerprints like crazy.

The Keychron Q3 has a double-gasket design with silicone padding between the top and bottom casing. Combined with the default Gateron G Pro Brown switches I have and OSA PBT keycaps, I get a nice thocky sound as I type. There isn't much metallic resonance or ping, and the bounce that it gives feels quite nice. Since the keycaps that come with the fully assembled version are PBT, they're higher quality than ABS keycaps — they won't wear out as much, and they don't get shiny from all of your finger oils. The OSA keycaps from Keychron are a combination of OEM profiles with SA-like spherical shapes. While I normally prefer the uniform DSA profile, I find Keychron's OSA caps fairly comfortable to type on.

The Keychron Q3 is an incredibly beautiful and premium-feeling TKL mechanical keyboard.

Keychron gives users three options of switches when going the fully assembled route: Gateron G Pro Reds, Browns, or Blues. My unit came with Browns by default, which is my preference since I like tactile switches. Reds are quieter, and blues are loud and clicky. But again, the Keychron Q3 is hot-swappable, so you can replace these Gateron switches with something else later down the road if you prefer. But having the fully assembled options is great if you just want to get a keyboard and use it immediately.

A common feature with the Q-series boards are south-facing RGB lights, and the Q3 has them, just like its predecessors. South-facing RGB lights mean that the LEDs are towards the typist rather than the top of each key. This illuminates it better when using non-shine through caps, which is what most of the mechanical keyboard community uses. However, if you're a fan of shine-through keycaps, then the south-facing LEDs may not be the best choice. But for the majority of compatible keycap sets out there, especially in group buys, they usually are not shine through.

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Rotary Knob

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Rotary Knob (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

You can get the Q3 with a rotary knob, and everything is customizable, including remapping through VIA/QMK.

The best part about the Q3, aside from the fact that it is an 80% TKL board, is that you can get an optional rotary knob, and the entire board is customizable through VIA/QMK software. At the moment, you'll have to download a keymap JSON file from the product page and load it in VIA each time you want to remap keys, but it's better than nothing. The VIA software is free on both PC and Mac, and is easy to use. You'll be able to remap individual keys, change layers (Mac and Windows both are its own layer), and even customize the RGB lighting effects. And if you go with the knob version, you can change the rotary function, as well as the press.

And like the other Keychron keyboards, everything you need is included in the box. You'll get keycap and switch pullers, extra keycaps for Windows users, a screwdriver, a hex key, a Type-C to Type-C USB cable, and a Type-A to Type-C adapter. The cable itself will match the color of Q3 you purchase.

Keychron Q3: The TKL layout isn't for everyone

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Tkl

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Tkl (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

It's a matter of personal preference, but the TKL layout of the Q3 may not be for everyone. Those who need a number pad will be missing an essential feature. Those who prefer more compact sizes (like 65% or 75%) may not like the Q3 size. However, for those who enjoy TKL boards, the Q3 is an excellent premium option from Keychron.

Another negative is the fact that there is no wireless connectivity on the Q3. Since the Q3 has an all-metal body, it would be hard to have a good wireless signal. Thankfully, Keychron has a great alternative in the K8 Pro if wireless connectivity is a requirement.

The TKL layout may not work for everyone, and there is no wireless connectivity.

Lastly, while Keychron is a mechanical keyboard brand that I often recommend for beginners because of the affordable price, the Q3 (and the other Q-series boards) are not as inexpensive. Most of Keychron's offerings are under $100, so the starting price of the Q3 at $154 can be a drawback for some. But for those who really want to get into the mechanical keyboard hobby, the Q-series from Keychron is a great "premium" mechanical keyboard at a reasonable price, making it a nice starter board. After all, once you get deep into the hobby, you'll find other boards that are way more expensive — I'm talking several hundred to thousands of dollars (yes, really!)

Keychron Q3: Competition

Keychron Q1 Hacker Premium Coiled Cable

Keychron Q1 Hacker Premium Coiled Cable (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

When it comes to the best mechanical keyboards, Keychron is one of the better brands that we recommend, especially for Mac users. Keychron is also its own biggest competitor because it offers a wide variety of different board series, so it cannibalizes into its own sales.

For example, I mentioned that the Q3 is a TKL, but it lacks wireless connectivity. If you need that, you'll want to check the Keychron K8 Pro. This one is also a TKL layout, but it has wireless connectivity with up to three devices and can also be customized through QMK/VIA software, though it needs to be plugged in to do so. However, the body is plastic with the option of an aluminum frame, and it lacks the option of a rotary knob.

If you are interested in the Q-series from Keychron, but don't like the TKL layout, then there are Q1 or Q2 boards, which are 75% and 65%, respectively. These both have the entire metal body, double mounted gasket design, are hot-swappable, come in either barebones DIY or fully assembled versions, have optional knobs, and are customizable through QMK/VIA. It really just comes down to your preference of layout and size. Plus, Keychron offers multiple color options for these boards, so pick the one that goes with your setup the best.

Keychron Q3: Should you buy it?

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Side View

Keychron Q3 Navy Blue Side View (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

You should buy this if ...

  • You are looking for a TKL layout mechanical keyboard
  • You don't need wireless connectivity
  • You want a customizable and premium mechanical keyboard

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You're fine with the Apple Magic Keyboard and similar alternatives
  • You need a number pad or want a smaller layout
  • You want a wireless mechanical keyboard

Those who are in the market for a great TKL mechanical keyboard that is premium, hefty, and customizable in every aspect should give the Keychron Q3 a try. The full metal body is a solid choice and definitely gives it a high-end look and feel. And you have plenty of options on how you want it: barebones DIY (with an option for ISO for those outside of the States) or fully assembled with matching keycaps and your choice of Gateron G Pro switches.

Those who want a rotary knob can also choose it. It comes in three eye-catching colors (with keycaps that match the body), so you can pick the one that looks best for your desk and setup. And with the double-gasket design, typing feels fantastic and produces an excellent "thock" sound. Plus, you can use QMK/VIA software to remap any of the keys, including the rotary knob, however you see fit.

However, like the other Q-series boards, the Q3 definitely is not one of Keychron's inexpensive mechanical keyboards. The TKL size may not suit everyone's needs, and it lacks wireless connectivity. Still, if you're in the market for this kind of mechanical keyboard, you can't go wrong with Keychron, especially with a relatively affordable price tag compared to other boards in the hobby.