Keychron C3 Pro: Two-minute review
The Keychron C3 Pro keyboard thrives in a league of its own with a price point that’s below $40 while offering features usually reserved for the heavier hitters with money to spend.
To get a good keyboard for less than $50 usually means sacrificing a lot to give the illusion of more premium-priced products. When it comes to performance, the most obvious cut-back in the design are the key switches, lack of programmable keys and the like. Regardless of how one uses the C3 Pro, the mechanical keyboard is backed by a sophisticated gasket mount design and sound-absorbing foam that keeps keystrokes relatively quiet.
Having a black and red design aesthetic, the ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) chassis feels durable. Adding comfortability are three adjustable typing angles and curved keycaps. If there’s anything exactly wrong with the C3 Pro’s design its the location of the USB-C port that sits near the back-panel center.
The awkward placement can be a nuisance but it also allows better cable management as there are both vertical and horizontal nooks. This can be a problem for those who want to travel with the keyboard, but the average desktop user won’t think much about it after installation.
The C3 Pro is a mechanical switch keyboard with a 1000Hz polling rate and ARM architecture with 256KB flash storage. With N-Key Rollover into the mix, you have an incredibly solid gaming keyboard that goes a bit beyond casual usage.
Serious gamers who need quick keys or maybe more pronounced media keys may find trouble with the C3 Pro, but considering its price, anyone with those complaints should probably spend the extra money on the best mechanical keyboard they can afford and save themselves the trouble.
For most users though, it won’t matter if you use this keyboard for gaming or general tasks, the keystrokes will always feel good. They are tactile and springy enough for quick multiplayer rounds of Call of Duty or writing editorials through Google Docs.
The C3 Pro’s versatility is also one of its biggest assets, featuring the ability to switch between Windows and macOS keysets. All users have to do is hold the function key and tap the CAPS Lock.
Add QMK/VIA software support and there’s some crafty customization that can take place when using the C3 Pro. The open-source nature even contributes to some intricate backlight effects due to the per-key lighting that only comes in red. Interestingly enough, there are over 14 types of red back lights to choose from though many may have an issue with the singular color type.
Overall though, the Keychron C3 Pro is a masterpiece of customization, performance, and price, and is absolutely one of the best keyboard offerings we've seen so far this year, and it will be hard to beat.
Keychron C3 Pro: Price & Availability
Priced at just $36.99 in the US, the Keychron C3 Pro is currently available in the US and the UK through both Keychron’s website and Amazon. Australian residents are out of luck, however. At least for now.
Considering the budget nature of the C3 Pro, it stands tall against various rivals in both gaming and creative sectors. When it comes to rivals within its price point, the Logitech G213 Prodigy and Roccat Pyro RGB lean more into gaming. The Logitech G213 Prodigy provides more gaming specific features, tenkey number pad, and dedicated media keys in exchange for Mech Dome switches at the same price.
Meanwhile, the Roccat Pyro RGB has mechanical switches alongside dedicated media keys but is a bit more expensive at around $80. Considering those are more serious gaming keyboards, they lack the versatility provided by the C3 Pro. For someone looking for a keyboard on a budget, this is definitely something to consider.
Keychron C3 Pro: Design
As mentioned above, the Keychron C3 Pro’s black and red design adds a bit of flair to the ABS chassis. Despite the plastic material, it successfully rides the fine line between being lightweight but flimsy and sturdy but heavy, giving it the right amount of strength without adding too much weight.
This means that the C3 Pro can also survive a rough time in a backpack alongside some reasonable drops to the floor. Part of that may come from the internal keyboard plate material being made out of steel. The backlight design comes in over a dozen modes that affect the keys alongside light bars that run along the side. And while the all-red LED looks fine and also helps save on cost instead of per-key RGB lighting, some other solid color options would have been nice.
To make sure that users are on the correct operating system layout, there’s a small LED light that sits next to the CAPS Lock notification, which is a nice touch. The C3 Pro is also made to be configured with different keycaps so you can personalize its look somewhat. By itself, the key placement is laid out well enough while allowing users to easily switch between layouts for Windows and macOS. Considering there aren’t any additional media buttons or anything, the function button works well with the function keys.
Comfort really takes centerstage in this the design, starting with three separate typing angles, and the key quality if outstanding, making it great to type on. If anything, the biggest design issue I have is the location of the USB-C port on the back panel near the center. The trade-off is that there is both a horizontal and vertical nook for better cable management, but it can still be a pain sometimes.
Keychron C3 Pro: Performance
The Keychron C3 Pro was billed as a keyboard that’s ideal for “gaming and work.” When it comes to casual gaming experiences, it does more than a good job. Having a 1000Hz polling rate and N-Key Rollover makes the experience of playing fast paced shooters like Doom Eternal, El Paso, Elsewhere and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III a blast.
Keystrokes were springy, tactile, and responsive, and the additional foam padding underneath the switches also ensures that this keyboard won’t disturb anyone in the office with a whole lot of clickity clack.
As mentioned previously, switching between Windows and macOS is as easy as hitting the function button neat the CAPS Lock, and when using a Macbook, users can easily set spaces, change brightness, and more. In an interesting touch, there’s an AI assistant button for Apple users who need Siri to make an appearance.
Users looking to customize their button layout can use either QMK or VIA for support as the keyboard also has a 256KB flash storage. Serious gamers who want more dedicated macro buttons in addition to other functions are going to have to pay a bit more or leave the mechanical switches aside for something less.
Though less complex shooters like the ones mentioned above will work more than fine with the C3 Pro, gamers into macro-heavy games like League of Legends and high-level Fortnite play might want to look elsewhere. Again, within the bounds of its $36.99 price point, the C3 Pro can hang in there with rivals double its price even if some features are missing.
Should You Buy the Keychron C3 Pro?
Buy the Keychron C3 Pro if...
You want a cheap yet quality keyboard
At $36.99, there isn’t a better budget mechanical keyboard for gamers who have to get general task work done as well.
You are ambidextrous for Windows and macOS
Users who love both Windows and macOS are going to appreciate the C3 Pro a lot.
Don't buy it if...
You need a more gamer-centered keyboard
Serious gamers or individuals with e-sports aspirations may want to spend the money for something that offers a bit more in terms of feature set.
You want a colorway and backlight that’s more than red
While the black and red colorway looks great, it would be nice to have other color options available.
Keychron C3 Pro: Also consider
If my Keychron C3 Pro review has you looking for other options, here are two more keyboards to consider...
How I tested the Keychron C3 Pro
I tested the Keychron C3 Pro over a week’s time. When using Windows, some of the games played included Palworld, Alan Wake 2, Robocop Rouge City, El Paso, Elsewhere and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. When not working, Google office suite and Adobe Photoshop were used as well. For macOS, Google Office suite and Adobe Photoshop were used as well.
Since 2020, I’ve been covering various gaming laptops, monitors, keyboards and more for TechRadar. As a PC Gaming enthusiast, I can definitely help anyone who is looking for a quality keyboard for various price tiers.
We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.
First reviewed February 2024