Switch stems: MX
Physical layout: ISO
Logical layout: UK QWERTY
Frame colour: White
Frame top material: ABS
Frame bottom material: ABS
Primary LED colour: RGB
Hotswap sockets: Yes
Switch mount type: Plate
Built-in audio port: No
Built-in mic port: No
OS compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux
Weight: Ca. 1,250g
In this era of light, compact keyboards, the likes of the Ducky One 3 mechanical keyboard seem to have become the exclusive domain of 'old-school' PC enthusiasts or pro gamers and streamers.
But as an old-school PC enthusiast (and professional writer and editor) myself there is something to be said for the traditional mechanical clacker, with its tall, loud keys making that satisfying 'thunk' noise with every keystroke. And for me, the best keyboards have to take what could be a daunting chore and turn it into a pleasing experience.
And that's certainly what the Ducky One 3 does for me. Of the three size options, I received the full-size version of the keyboard for testing. The other are the compact Classic 60 version and a TKL version (with the four arrows and the nine shortcut command keys above them to the right of the main keys, with the F bar on top, but missing the number pad to the far right). I have used it as my main keyboard for a number of weeks now, for both work (including writing this review) and play, and I don't care if it's a spoiler alert; it's a real smash.
Ducky One 3 review: Design and build
Saying the Ducky One 3 keyboard is sturdily built would be something of an understatement. This biggest version weighs around 1,250 grams – almost as much as some small laptops. Nestled in its bulky ABS frame is a full-size keyboard with a TKL pad and tenkey number pad, along with F keys and volume-control buttons on the top line.
It's available in a few colours, but our sample is the white Chinese Zodiac version. We received the Year of the Tiger variant, while any order could include either that or a Year of the Ox one (which will change the look of your spacebar along with a few symbols on your swappable keys).
It's reassuringly sturdy, and it's got legs to lift the keyboard for a more comfortable typing experience (and to be able to lift it over a monitor's protruding stand foot on a compact desk, for example). It's a USB keyboard, and the thick, braided cable both prevents tangling, cuts and pinching and looks and feels premium and classy too.
Ducky One 3 review: Features
Fn+F10: Toggle between backlight modes
1st: Wave mode
2nd: Alpha Mode
3rd: Tetris Mode
4th: Color Cycle Mode
5th: Rain Drop Mode
6th: Circle Ripple Mode
7th: Random Reactive Mode
8th: Aurora Mode
9th: Reactive Mode
10th: Breathe Mode
11th: 100% Full Backlit Mode
12th: Backlight Off
All above modes can be adjusted with the following key sequence:
Fn + ←: Decrease speed
Fn + →: Increase speed
Hold Fn + F10 for 3 seconds to turn off all backlight.
Modes 8-11 can be adjusted using the following:
Fn + F5: Adjust Colour Red (R) brightness. 10 Levels.
Fn + F6: Adjust Colour Green (G) brightness. 10 Levels.
Fn + F7: Adjust Colour Blue (B) brightness. 10 Levels.
Fn + F8: Erase Red, Green and Blue colour settings.
Fn + Spacebar: Activate Colour Palette to display various different colours, press on the desired colour, and all the keys will automatically change to match.
The Ducky One 3 keyboard uses Kailh sockets that can be easily hotswapped using the spares and tools included with the keyboard, the keys are tall with full mechanical travel, but that doesn't explain the enormous weight for a keyboard. That's due to the extensive RGB LED pack that lights up the keyboard in a way only the best and flashiest gaming keyboards do.
This RGB LED lighting can be fully customised to various settings, either constant or moving lighting or reactive based on your keystrokes, and programmable to any colour. While some of those look amazing, modes such as the Aurora can start to feel overwhelming to sensitive old farts like me after only a short time. Much more interesting, and entertaining (and maybe even helpful to your typing accuracy) are the keystroke-reactive versions, which can create flashes, ripples or short-lived trails of your recent keystrokes. And all of those can be set in any colour you want using relatively simple key commands (we've listed the main ones to the side here).
If you're not a fan of any of this, you can set a constant colour too, or simply turn the backlighting off altogether (though in that case, we'd question why you chose this keyboard over cheaper non-backlit options).
Ducky One 3 review: Typing experience
The experience of typing on the Ducky One 3 is a fully involved one, both due to the full mechanical design and the interactive light show. There is a definite 'clacking noise' when typing, of course, but the EVA foam sound dampeners do reduce it ever so slightly. The resistance in the keys is tangible, but not so much so that I ever got tired from writing for extended periods.
However, I can easily imagine that fans of lower-profile keyboards would not get on with this one for very long, as it requires considerably more active movement of your fingers and hands while typing, simply to travel across and scale the keys than it would on your laptop-style keyboard.
The Ducky One 3 isn't then going to convert many doubters to the gospel of the fully mechanical experience, but it does preach very effectively to its existing choir indeed.
Ducky One 3 review: Price
The full-size version of the Ducky One 3 currently retails at around £170 in the UK, which is a considerable outlay for a keyboard, so is firmly priced out of the casual-user market. However, for the more serious-minded gamers and streamers, it can still be justified as a worthy investment, as the makers claims excellent longevity (and we can confirm that after several weeks of constant use, it still feels absolutely like new, at least) and with the included spares and hotswapping tools.
Should you buy the Ducky One 3 keyboard?
Like stated just above, it's not the cheapest keyboard around. It's not even the cheapest full-size RGB LED keyboard around. But it's definitely one of the best mechanical keyboards I've ever used, and with its clean but stylish design and highly customisable RGB LED backlighting, it can be both just as flashy as the most out-there gaming keyboards, or as neat and understated as any office keyboard – albeit with considerably more bulk. It won't convert Apple Magic Keyboard fans over to the full mechanical side, and the weight is borderline weapons-grade, but we wholly recommend it for anyone who wants a quality keyboard with an active, involved typing experience.