The Keychron Q3 Pro Special Edition is a TKL design but with the addition of some customisable keys. … [+]

Keychron

Regular readers will know that I have a terrible weakness for mechanical keyboards. I love a well-made keyboard because if you spend as much time typing on a keyboard as I do each day, having a great keyboard makes work much more enjoyable when writing for hours.

The latest keyboard to land on my desk for review is the Keychron Q3 Pro Special Edition, an impressive keyboard that offers many features for the money. The Q3 Pro is a full metal wireless keyboard weighing 2.3kg. The keyboard has double gaskets, PBT keycaps, screw-in stabilizers and a TKL (Tenkeyless) design.

TKL keyboards have a full-sized layout but are missing a numeric keypad on the right side. However, the Q3 Pro Special Edition has a column of customizable macro keys on the left side, plus a programmable rotary knob made from aluminum. With the addition of the special keys, the Q3 Pro SE is almost as large as a numeric keypad design.

The Q3 Pro SE is available in Carbon Black, Olive Green and Silver Grey finishes.

Keychron

As well as offering Bluetooth wireless connectivity with connections for up to three separate Bluetooth devices, the Q3 Pro SE can be hard-wired with a USB-C cable. The Q3 Pro SE also has a hardware switch for macOS and Windows compatibility.

The body of the Q3 Pro SE is made from a CNC-milled piece of 6063 aluminum that’s polished, anodized and sandblasted to give it a premium finish. This feels like a high-quality keyboard with real heft and solidity. The switches on the Q3 Pro SE are all hot-swappable and can be populated with 3- or 5-pin MX switches from manufacturers like Cherry, Gateron, Kailh, Panda, etc. No soldering iron is required so you can choose and change the sound and feedback.

KSA makes the keycaps used on the Q3 Pro SE from PBT. They have a superb design with sharp legends and a different tilt on each row, making them comfortable to type on. Each switch has a south-facing RGB backlight with 22 customizable settings. The backlights can be further fine-tuned by changing the hue, saturation, brightness, effect speed, as well as different lighting modes. The backlights can even be remapped using QMK/VIA software.

The Keychron Q3 Pro SE has a rotary dial that’s programmable and four special macro keys that can be … [+] customized using the VIA software.

Keychron

At the heart of the Keychron Q3 Pro is an ultra-low-power ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit STM32L432 chip (MCU) equipped with 128K flash memory. This provides developers with more flexibility for programming and customizing the keyboard. The polling rate is 1,000Hz when using the USB-C wired mode. In wireless mode, the polling rate drops to 90Hz, which is still perfectly responsive for most users except, perhaps, for the fastest and most avid gamers who will want to use a wired connection.

On the left side of the Q3 Pro SE are four rectangular macro keys that can be customized and assigned with different actions by using VIA software. This can simplify the input of complex strings or key combinations, reducing repetitive workloads considerably. I tried programming the keys as I wanted to have a single key press to close and open windows, save documents and put my Mac mini to sleep. However, I didn’t find using the VIA software especially easy, but with a bit more reading, I will get the hang of it.

Above the four macro keys, an aluminum rotary encoder can be customized to deliver key or macro commands like zooming in and out, adjusting screen brightness, brush size, volume levels, selecting video clips or photos, or backlight hue. It’s a high-quality knob with clicking detents that make it very satisfying and precise.

Weighing 2.3kg, the Keychron Q3 Pro Special Edition is a solid product.

Keychron

The Keychron Q3 Pro SE can be ordered as ready-built or barebones. There’s a choice of Red, Brown and Banana MX switches or your own. Interestingly, the Banana switches offer an early tactile bump followed by an exceptionally smooth travel. I haven’t tried the Banana switches yet, but I want to try them.

No detail has been overlooked with this keyboard when it comes to the tactile feedback of the keyboard. Keychron has integrated PCB-mounted, screw-in stabilizers for a smoother typing experience. The stabilizers reduce the wobble, especially on the big keys such as the space bar, shift, enter and delete keys. For those keen on customizing, the stabilizers can be replaced with aftermarket stabilizers.

Finally, a row of 12 function keys along the top of the keyboard can double as media keys in macOS or Windows. Those keys can also be reprogrammed as the user wishes and there is a second layer of keys that is programmable both for macOS and Windows.

The keycaps on the Q3 Pro SE is fitted with KSA keycaps which are made from PBT.

Keychron

Verdict: Typing on the Keychron Q3 Pro SE is pure joy. There’s less flex in this keyboard than in the basic Q3 version. There’s such a high-quality feel about the whole product and Keychron has paid a lot of attention to every detail. If you want a high-quality mechanical keyboard with a similar feel to the excellent Mode Sonnet model, then the Q3 Pro SE is a good buy. I love its customizable keys, but I wish the VIA software was a bit more intuitive to use and to assign macros to the special keys below the dial.

Pricing & Availability: The Keychron Q3 Pro Special Edition is now available fully assembled for $214. Alternatively, the Q3 Pro SE can be bought as a bare-bones kit for $194. Finishes available are Carbon Black, Olive Green and Silver Grey.

More info: keychron.com

Tech Specs:

  • Dimensions (W x L): 144.16 x 414.98mm.
  • Height: Front – 17.82mm (without keycaps) / Back height – 31.37mm (without keycaps).
  • Feet height: 1mm.
  • Angle: 5.52°.
  • Weight: 2.3kg ±10 g (fully assembled).
  • Case material: CNC machined aluminum.
  • Plate material: Polycarbonate.
  • Keycaps: KSA double-shot PBT keycaps.
  • Switches: Keychron K Pro (fully assembled version).
  • Stabilizer: Screw-in PCB stabilizer.
  • Backlight: South-facing RGB LED.
  • Hot-swappable: Yes. (3-pin & 5-pin MX).
  • MCU: Ultra-low-power ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit STM32L432 (128KB Flash).
  • Polling rate: 1,000Hz (wired) / 90Hz (wireless).
  • N-Key rollover (NKRO): Yes (wireless and wired modes).
  • Battery: 4,000mAh rechargeable li-polymer battery.
  • BT working time (backlit off): Up to 300 hours.
  • BT working time (backlit off): Up to 100 hours (lowest brightness).
  • Bluetooth: Version 5.1.
  • Compatible systems: macOS/Windows/Linux.
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth / Type-C wired.