Technology

Keychron K3 Review: The Perfect Travel Keyboard

keychron-k3-review-the-perfect-travel-keyboard

Mechanical keyboards come in a variety of form factors, with each person preferring one form factor to the other. There is no such thing as a “right” form factor and it all comes down to personal preference. Some may prefer full-size layouts with number pads, while others prefer something smaller like a 60% keyboard, while others can’t live without dedicated arrow keys.

Basically there is something for everyone and there is really no “right” choice. Apart from that, the Keychron staff have sent in their latest keyboard – the Keychron K3 with a flat, wireless design and a hot-swap design. Is that the keyboard for you? Read on to find out.

introduction

For gamers or typists looking for a mechanical keyboard, Keychron is a company you might be familiar with. The company develops affordable mechanical keyboards that won’t break the bank and are perfect for those who want a more tactile keyboard or who want to immerse themselves in the mechanical keyboard hobby for the first time.

With the Keychron K3, this is the latest entry in the company’s keyboard palette. It has a 75% form factor, flat switches and keycaps, and support for Bluetooth connectivity, which is a rarity in mechanical keyboards.

It also supports different platforms like Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.

Design & Build Quality

Above: 60% / HHKB layout Below: Keychron K3 75% layout

The Keychron K3 is immediately an elegant keyboard with gray accents for the modifier keys and a dark gray finish for the alphas with a single red-orange Esc key. This is a nice touch as it adds a pop of color to the keyboard that breaks up the monotony of the various shades of gray.

What really surprised me when I took the keyboard out of the box was how light it was. Personally, I’m used to it and prefer heavier keyboards as I feel that this provides a little more stability when typing, but I can also appreciate how light the Keychron K3 is as it makes a great travel keyboard.

While it feels so light and is incredibly thin, the aluminum frame makes it surprisingly sturdy and there were no noticeable bends or kinks when typing. The keyboard also has individual backlit RGBs with 18 different variants to choose from. Since there is no associated software, you cannot adjust the RGBs or remap the keys. Instead, you’ll have to turn to third-party software or use tools like Microsoft PowerToys when you’re on Windows.

Typing experience

Height difference between a regular keyboard and a low profile keyboard

The switches supplied with the keyboard are the black optical keychron switches. These are linear switches, meaning that the top-down push is a smooth, “bump-free” motion that you might get from a tactile switch like brown or a clicking feeling that you might get with blues.

For those unfamiliar, optical switches are said to represent the “next generation” of keyboard switches. A normal mechanical switch works by pushing the switch shaft 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. When the stem is pushed down, the beam is broken. This then sends a signal to the computer informing it that the button has been pressed. Optical switches offer a faster response time compared to normal mechanical switches.

However, differences are most likely negligible in daily use.

Since I’m used to normal profile keyboards, typing on a low-profile keyboard took some getting used to. If I had to describe the experience, it could be described as an updated version of typing on a laptop keyboard.

The switches provided decent sensory feedback, however. So if you hate how squishy laptop keyboards can feel, this is definitely an upgrade over it.

Keychron offers a variety of switches to choose from, e.g. B. conventional mechanical switches or optical switches. Even then you can choose between lines, tactiles or clickies to get to the next point.

Adaptability

A more traditional switch compared to a low profile switch

The Keychron K3 is offered in either mechanical Gateron low profile switches or optical Keychron low profile switches. The latter option is hot-swappable, which means the switches can be taken out and swapped for another without the need for desoldering.

Note that you can only hot swap with other optical switches as the circuit board design is different from normal mechanical switches. So keep this in mind.

The folks at Keychron were kind enough to send two other types of switches – the Optical Reds and the 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 apply per button press to register, with blacks being the heaviest at around 50gf.

This compares to the reds, who have an actuation force of 40 gf, while the whites have an actuation force of 30 gf.

It’s a good idea to make it hot-swappable, as some people may realize they’d prefer a switch that is heavier or a switch that is more tactile. With no easier way for users to swap out their switches, users can even mix and match switches where they may choose lines for the alphanumeric keys and tactiles for modifiers, and so on.

However, based on my personal experience trying to swap out the switches, I found it incredibly difficult to unlock the switches. While I eventually got a few of these for free, the idea of ​​having to repeat the process for 70+ other switches just wasn’t very appealing.

The included switch puller just couldn’t grip the switch securely enough, and half the time it kept sliding and I feared I would eventually damage the switch or circuit board.

Wireless connection

One of the main selling points of the K3 is its wireless connectivity, a feature that is still a rarity on mechanical keyboards. The K3 uses Bluetooth 5.1. So, if you have a desktop or laptop that supports Bluetooth connectivity, connecting wirelessly should be pretty simple and straightforward.

Now, some of the concerns about wireless keyboards would be latency. While testing the keyboard, I haven’t seen any delays since I pressed a key and registered it on my screen. If there are delays, this is not noticeable at all. Perhaps that can change when you play games that require a faster response time, but for regular typing and everyday use, any lag is next to imperceptible.

Not sure how much battery the keyboard had right now, I decided to plug it in and leave it to charge overnight. On its website, Keychron boasts that the K3 has a battery life of 34 hours. This can vary based on how often you use the keyboard throughout the day. It shouldn’t matter though, because even if you run out of juice, just plug it into your computer using the cable and you can keep using it while it’s charging.

Next to the USB-C port is a small LED indicator that shows the battery life, although it is not very detailed. It flashes red when the battery is below 15% and glows green when the battery is fully charged.

Conclusion

The travel case is sold separately, but it could be a good investment

The Keychron K3 is not your typical mechanical keyboard that you can expect from more mainstream brands. It’s small, compact and extremely portable when you combine it with the carrying case. If you tend to work on the go and hate laptop keyboards, this is the perfect travel companion.

If you work from home and want a keyboard that doesn’t take up too much desk space, this is a worthy contender too. For those interested in the mechanical keyboard hobby and want a hot-swappable keyboard that also offers wireless connectivity, the Keychron K3 is a great place to start, especially with a starting price of $ 74.

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Katherine Clark