I’ve always been a fan of clicky keyboards—my college PC had a mechanical keyboard and I loved the feel of the substantial “clack” every time I pressed a key. (Though, admittedly, I was less fond of the sound when my roommate borrowed my computer to play Tetris late at night.) I used mechanical keyboards up until I switched over to an iMac, and I’ve never been entirely happy with the low-profile Apple keyboard, though I’ve gotten used to it over time.
Recently I got a chance to try out the K3 Ultra-Slim Wireless Mechanical Keyboard from Keychron, and have put it through its paces. The K3 has a lot of similar features to the K2, which GeekDad Mordechai reviewed a couple of years ago. It’s still an 84-key keyboard, with no number keypad; the arrow keys and home/end/page up/page down are squeezed onto the right side of the keyboard. Mine is set up for the Mac, but it also includes keys for Windows that you can swap out (and a switch at the top to change between Mac/iOS and Windows/Android). It still has the amazing light features—you can see those in the little video below. (It’s a little cheaper if you opt for the white-only backlight.) You can cycle through the various light shows using the light bulb key at the top right. Some have dynamic lighting that shifts or changes, and some have responsive lighting based on your keystrokes.
But there are two primary differences: first, the form factor. The K2 was already compact, but the K3 is even slimmer, losing the frame around the edge. It’s a seemingly small change, but it does make the keyboard look especially tiny—though it still felt comfortable to type with. My main issue was that I’m so used to having a separate number keypad (and that Enter key at the corner) that I often hit some of the random keys in the lower-left corner of the keyboard when intending to do something else.
The other difference is more significant: the K2 used Gateron mechanical switches—as Mordechai mentioned, you could choose from three different options, depending on your desired level of clackiness. The K3 has an option between Gateron Low Profile mechanical switches and Keychron optical switches, with six options for each. My review sample uses the Keychron optical switches: the button itself has a mechanical spring so you get the feel and sound, but it triggers an optical switch on the keyboard. That also means the keys are hot-swappable—you can easily pop off the keycap and change the switch using the included tools. I suppose you could mix and match different switch types—for instance if you wanted extra-clicky for the letters but softer for function keys.
My keyboard came with the brown switches (“tactile” behavior and “gentle” sound level according to the chart), but after trying it for a while I swapped them out with the blue (“clicky” behavior and sound level) and it felt a lot more like my old mechanical keyboard. The red keys have “clicky” behavior and “quiet” sound level, which might be a good option if you like the feel but your co-workers are picky about the noise—though it’s still clickier than my Apple keyboard.
The keyboard can be used either wired or wireless via Bluetooth (there’s a small switch at the top edge), and one of the great features with the Bluetooth mode is that you can sync it with up to 3 different devices, using fn+1, 2, or 3. (The 1, 2, and 3 keys have a little Bluetooth icon on them to remind you.) Being able to swap between my Mac and my iPad and my Apple TV without having to disconnect and reconnect is very handy!
Keychron also sent me a leather keyboard case—it’s a simple pouch with a button-and-string closure, and it fits their compact keyboards (but not their full-size options). This would be handy for traveling, but will likely get less use since I’d always have the keyboard out with my desktop computer.
Or … I would if my teenage daughter wasn’t so entranced with this keyboard. After setting it up, I’d come down to my desk and find random notes on my computer that she’d typed simply because she loved the sound and feel and lights (I used the setting that made it look like an explosion each time you tapped a key). She’s been lobbying hard to claim it for the PC she’s building, maybe as a graduation gift, but we’ll see. Personally, I’m finding that at least for my desktop computer I prefer having a full-sized keyboard, so I may look into a Keychron K1, the full 104-key with the number keypad, and give up the K3. Of course, that solution doesn’t satisfy my other teenage daughter, so… I may have some leverage to bargain for chores or something.
If you like keyboards that give you more tactile feedback, the Keychron line is worth checking out (and especially if you love the colorful lights). You can see a comparison chart of the various keyboards here.
Disclosure: I received a sample of this keyboard for review purposes.