The Keychron Q3 Max is one of the best keyboards I’ve ever used. That isn’t exaggeration or hyperbole, it is genuinely one of the most premium, quality and top notch boards I’ve laid my, frankly grubby, hands on. It’s open source, customisable, and one of the best built keyboards I’ve used. Honestly, it’s a work of art. Like, what other keyboard brand gives you spare external and internal screws just in case you strip them and need to replace them? No one! So yeah, while this isn’t as flashy in feature-sets as an analogue keyboard, it’s a top quality board that I can highly recommend. Now, with that clear, let me explain why.

First off, a brief tour of the board. This is an ANSI layout – the only option available right now – which means it isn’t my ideal choice, but for this board, I’ll make do. It’s a TKL layout, with a few interesting changes. Print Screen, Scroll Lock, and Pause have been replaced by screenshot, siri and RGB mode buttons, and the F keys row has been shifted left in order to fit their knob. Yes, this is the knob version – even the box makes that clear. No but seriously this has a rotary encoder knob, tucked between F12 and screenshot. This is, undeniably, the wrong place for this. There isn’t enough room here to comfortably grip the knob’s head and twist. Haha… Ok, I’ll stop the jokes now. In all seriousness though, it just isn’t in a convenient place. I’m sure my pudgy fingers don’t help, but you’ll struggle to use this comfortably. Moving to the top side, you’ll find the USB C port, wireless switch, and mac/PC switch. The Q3 Max supports three modes: wired via the USB C port; bluetooth with up to three separate devices; and wireless with the included 2.4GHz dongle. The dongle comes with a USB A to C adapter which lets you keep the dongle on your desk, and gives you easy access to the cable to charge the board when needed. The USB C cable comes with a C to A adapter too, and the cable itself is a rather nice braided affair. 

Before we dive inside this thing, I should explain what this feels like to type on. I opted for Gateron Jupiter Banana switches which are tactile switches with 59gf of pressure required. They have a shorter than average travel at 3.4mm, and 2mm of pretravel. To me, these feel amazing. They are somewhat similar in feel to the Glorious Panda switches I use daily, and I must admit that the construction of the board only makes the typing experience better. The feel, and sound, is softer, more muted, and an awfully lot more premium than I’m used to. Have a listen…

For typing, this is an excellent experience. The box lists this as a productivity tool, and I wholly agree. I can happily type away on this all day with no problems. Part of that also comes from the keycap set. These are doubleshot PBT non-shine-through caps with a KSA profile. That’s somewhat cupped, and the caps themselves are pretty dished too. This makes for a remarkably comfortable feel for me, and the side profile of the shell aids that too. It’s pretty tall up at the top, and so you might want a wrist rest to go with this, but even without I had a pretty good time with it. 

Cracking this thing open is beautifully easy. There’s just eight gold-plated looking hex bolts holding the chassis together, and then you’ll need to carefully remove the battery connector to separate the two halves. The battery is listed as 4000mAh which gives the Q3 Max plenty of runtime. On top of the battery is a plastic panel, then a thin layer of foam, then a rubber-coated layer of foam, then there’s the PCB, another layer of foam, and another PET film sheet, then the top aluminium shell. No wonder this sounds so good! 

From an electronics standpoint, the two main things to know here is that the main microcontroller here is an STM32F4, a fairly beefy ARM Cortex M4 chip – the same core I use in the Open Source Response Time Tool actually! That’s what’s running the show, although for the wireless features, that’s run by this little add-on board. There’s an external antenna that uses this plastic cut-out in the top of the case to get the signal outside the otherwise enclosed ali shell, and just as a note on attention to detail, the PCB has two of these tiny little cable clamps to secure that antenna as it traverses the board. How thoughtful is that? Considering most would just hot-glue the antenna in place, this is refreshingly detailed. The switches are hot-swap by the way, so if you get the barebones kit, or just want to swap out the switches once you get one, that’s no problem. The only thing that’s soldered is the knob. 

With this all back together, I think it’s time to talk gaming. While this doesn’t have quite the same competitive advantage that the Endgame Gear KB65HE I reviewed last week has with its magnetic hall effect switches, the short travel of these banana switches do feel great. It’s pretty responsive and easy to control, and sure does feel premium to use. If gaming was all you wanted to use your keyboard for, I think the KB65HE is a better choice, but if you’re a developer or someone who does a lot of typing, this might be the better choice. 

I mentioned that the Q3 Max was customisable, and that it is. It uses QMK as its firmware of choice, which means you can use VIA to customise it rather easily. As of filming, you will have to upload the design file first before it’ll recognise it, but that’ll get sorted when the changes get merged with VIA. Customisation is pretty easy – the only thing that left me scratching my head was the knob config choices – you can control what it does, but at least right now you have to know what commands to enter to get it to do something other than volume control. I’m sure that’ll be improved too in time. This also helps reveal a few extra functions that aren’t laid out on the keyboard as secondary functions, like the RGB controls at the top left. Of course, for things like that Siri key, you can swap that to do something more useful if you don’t have a Mac – or don’t like giving companies endless data on you. The only downside is that the only spare keys that come in the box are the windows and ALT keys to swap for Command and Option, plus a lock key. You can always get a set of caps from Keychron to be able to mix and match if you’d like though.

We should probably talk about the price tag. It’s $214, which after import taxes is probably around £200 shipped to the UK. That is definitely premium, although it’s pretty obvious where your money goes with this thing. The sheer heft makes it suitable to be a lethal weapon, and the quality this thing exudes makes it clearly worthwhile. With that said, you’re probably going to pick up a wrist rest, maybe some keycaps, and maybe even some other switches to try out, so that $214 is the minimum price tag. I appreciate that might price you out, although when it comes to the semi-custom keyboard market, remarkably, that’s actually not that bad. I do wish the knob was in a better place, and I do actually wish the keycaps were shine-through because this does have RGB lighting, but it’s barely visible and doesn’t do the job I want a backlit keyboard for, which is actually lighting up the keys. Both of those things can be fixed, but still. This is one of the best keyboards I’ve used, and if it sounds like it’s for you, I highly recommend it.

  • TechteamGB Score