Mechanical keyboards come in a variety of form factors, with each person preferring one form factor over the other. There is no “right” form factor and it boils down to personal preference. Some might prefer full-sized layouts with numpads, while others might prefer something smaller like a 60% keyboard, while others can’t live without dedicated arrow keys.
Basically, there’s something for everyone and there really isn’t a “right” choice. That being said, the folks at Keychron have sent over their latest keyboard – the Keychron K3 which features a low-profile design that’s wireless and features a hotswap design. Is this the keyboard for you? Read on to find out.
For gamers or typists who are after a mechanical keyboard, Keychron is a company that you might be familiar with. The company creates affordable mechanical keyboards that don’t break the bank and are perfect for those who want a more tactile keyboard or if you’re just diving into the mechanical keyboard hobby for the first time.
With the Keychron K3, this is the latest entry in the company’s lineup of keyboards. It sports a 75% form factor, low-profile switches and keycaps, and also support for Bluetooth connectivity, a bit of a rarity when it comes to mechanical keyboards.
It also supports various platforms such as Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Design & Build Quality
Top: 60%/HHKB layout Bottom: Keychron K3 75% layout
Right out of the box, the Keychron K3 is a rather sleek-looking keyboard featuring grey accents for the modifier keys, and a dark grey finish for the alphas, with a single reddish-orange Esc key. This is a nice touch as it gives the keyboard a pop of color, breaking up the monotony of the different shades of grey.
What really surprised me when I took the keyboard out of the box was how light it was. I, personally, am used to and prefer heavier keyboards as I feel that this provides a bit more stability when typing, but I can also appreciate how light the Keychron K3 is as it means that it’s great as a travel keyboard.
Despite it feeling so light and being incredibly thin, it is surprisingly sturdy thanks to the aluminum frame, and there was no perceivable flexing or bowing when typing. The keyboard also features individual backlit RGBs with 18 different variations to choose from. Unfortunately, as there is no accompanying software, you cannot customize the RGBs, nor can you remap the keys. Instead, you will have to turn to third-party software or use tools like Microsoft’s PowerToys if you’re on Windows.
Height difference between a regular keyboard versus a low profile keyboard
The switches that came with the keyboard are the Keychron black optical switches. These are linear switches meaning that the press from the top to the bottom is one smooth motion with no “bump” that you might get from a tactile switch like browns, or a clicky sensation that you might get with blues.
For those who are unfamiliar, optical switches are meant to represent the “next-generation” of keyboard switches. A regular mechanical switch works by the stem of the switch pressing down against a metal leaf contact, which then completes the circuit and registers the keystroke.
An optical switch, on the other hand, uses a beam of light so when the stem is pressed down, the beam is broken. This then sends a signal to the computer to let it know the key has been pressed. Optical switches are designed to provide a faster response time compared to regular mechanical switches.
However, any differences are most likely negligible in day-to-day use.
As I am used to regular profile keyboards, typing on a low-profile keyboard did take some getting used to. If I had to describe the experience, it could be described as an upgraded version of typing on a laptop keyboard.
However, the switches did provide decent sensory feedback, so if you hate how mushy laptop keyboards can feel, this is most definitely an upgrade over that.
Keychron does offer a variety of switches to choose from, such as more traditional mechanical switches, to optical switches, and even then you can choose between linears, tactiles, or clickies, which brings us to our next point.
A more tradition switch versus a low-profile switch
The Keychron K3 is offered in either Gateron Low Profile mechanical switches or the Keychron Low Profile optical switches. The latter option will be hotswappable which means that the switches can be taken out and swapped for another one without the need for desoldering.
Do note that you can only hotswap with other optical switches as the design of the PCB is different from regular mechanical switches, so that’s something to keep in mind.
The folks at Keychron were kind enough to send over two other types of switches – the Optical Reds and Optical Whites. These switches, along with Optical Blacks, are all linear switches. The main differences between them would be the actuation force, which is how much force you need to exert per keystroke for it to register, with the blacks being the heaviest at about 50gf.
This is versus the reds which have an actuation force of 40gf, while the whites have an actuation force of 30gf.
Making it hotswappable is a good idea because some people might realize they prefer a switch that’s heavier, or a switch that’s more tactile. By not offering an easier way for users to swap their switches, users can even mix and match switches where they might opt for linears for the alphanumerical keys, and tactiles for modifiers, and so on.
However, from my personal experience at trying to swap out the switches, I found it incredibly difficult to try and pry the switches free. While I did eventually get a couple of them free, the idea of having to repeat the process for 70+ other switches was simply not very appealing.
The included switch puller simply could not grab onto the switch securely enough, and half the time it kept slipping and I was worried I would eventually damage the switch or the PCB.
One of the key selling points of the K3 is its wireless connectivity, a feature that is still something of a rarity when it comes to mechanical keyboards. The K3 uses Bluetooth 5.1 so if you have a desktop or laptop that supports Bluetooth connectivity, connecting it wirelessly should be pretty easy and straightforward.
Now some of the concerns regarding wireless keyboards would be its latency. During my testing of the keyboard, I did not notice any delays from when I pressed a key and when it registered on my screen. If there are any delays, it is not noticeable at all. Maybe that might change if you’re playing games that might require a faster reaction time, but for regular typing and day-to-day use, any lag is pretty much imperceptible.
As for battery life, since I wasn’t sure how much battery the keyboard had right out of the box, I decided to plug it in and leave it overnight to charge. On its website, Keychron boasts that the K3 has 34 hours of battery life. This may vary depending on how much you use the keyboard throughout the day, but it shouldn’t matter because even if it runs out of juice, just plug it into your computer via the cable and you can continue using it while it charges.
There is a small LED indicator next to the USB-C port to indicate the battery life, although it isn’t very detailed. It will blink red when the battery is below 15%, and will show a green light when it’s fully charged.
The travel case is sold separately, but it might be a good investment
The Keychron K3 is not your typical mechanical keyboard that you can expect from more mainstream brands. It is small, it is compact, and it is extremely portable when you combine it with its carrying case. If you tend to work on the go and hate laptop keyboards, then this would make the perfect travel companion.
If you’re someone who works from home and wants a keyboard that doesn’t take up too much space on your desk, this is also a worthy contender. For those who are getting into the mechanical keyboard hobby and want a hotswappable keyboard that also offers wireless connectivity, the Keychron K3 is a good place to start, especially with its starting price of $74.