Ducky One III SF Keyboard Review: All Yellow

This keyboard boasts stylish, high-quality hardware, but stumbles at the finish line due to mediocre switches and a macro system that could potentially break.
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Pros

  • Stylish hardware
  • Great keycaps
  • Lots of extras

Cons

  • Mediocre switches
  • Confusing and potentially breakable macro system
  • No programming software

Our Verdict

I wanted to like the yellow Ducky One III, and I do appreciate its high-quality keycaps and unique casing. However, the just-okay switches and confusing pure-hardware programming system make it hard to recommend against competitors.


For a brand, Ducky might sound like a silly name, but for keyboard enthusiasts, it’s a serious one. This Taiwanese boutique has been making high-end mechanical boards for 15 years, considered a reliable source for pre-built boards, rivaling even artisanal builders. So when they offered me a review unit, I naturally said, “Send the yellow one.”

The slightly confusing One III is Ducky’s flagship keyboard design, available in full-size, TKL, “mini” 60%, or the easier-to-use 65% seen here in the “SF” model. It’s packed with high-quality components and flashy LEDs, its packaging is impressive and compact, not to mention its colorful angular appearance.

But two things let this otherwise excellent keyboard down: the switches (standard Cherry MX Brown) and the software (there isn’t any).

Design and Features of the Ducky One III SF

About the One SF III, or at least this one, the first thing you notice is that it’s very yellow. Don’t worry, this board and its other sizes come in a rainbow of colors, plus some cool special editions like Doom and Fallout.

ducky-keyboard-detail

Its aesthetics aren’t just surface-level: these are high-quality PBT keycaps, with dual-color legends, meaning they feel great under your fingers and will never wear out. I should note that Ducky made a somewhat odd choice to add a stabilizer to the shrunken right Shift key. This might make finding compatible replacement keycaps a bit more difficult, which is already tricky for the somewhat odd 65% layout.

In the box, I was pleasantly surprised to find some extra keycaps, letting you have some white and red variations. The circular Ducky logo keycap feels fantastic, as does the unique brand keycap puller and matching yellow braided cable. The style extends even to the yellow foam beneath the metal plate, and even the yellow stabilizers.

ducky-alternate-keycaps

Even the typically quite mundane and boxy keyboard case gets a bit of style and shine. The sides are highlighted with unique and pleasing angles, while the bottom features a printed metal plate and dual-layer keyboard feet. The keyboard boasts a range of premium features, including hot-swappable switch sockets for further customization, internal foam for sound isolation, and extensive options for macro recording and programming.

Ducky claims the keyboard has “perfect weight distribution and balance,” which I suppose is nice. But remember, this is a device that typically won’t be moved around frequently. It also claims the stabilizers are “balanced tuned,” though I didn’t notice anything particularly noteworthy about them.

How’s the typing and gaming performance?

In truth, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the switches or typing experience either. While the keycaps are excellent and finely textured, the switches beneath them leave something to be desired.

Ducky has equipped this version of the One III with tactile (a slight bump, no click) Cherry MX Brown switches. While there are various switches to choose from, they’re all fairly old-school Cherry offerings: Black, Blue, Red, Speed Silver, or Silent Red. It’s all there… and that’s about it. Gamers might prefer linear switches (Red or Silver) as the tactile bump of Brown switches can make them trigger slightly slower.

ducky-switches-sockets

To be frank, there are better switches available for high-end keyboards, even ones in the mid-range price like this. These switches aren’t bad per se, it’s just that the competition has raised the bar to this level. Brands like Razer and Corsair offer factory-lubed switches, while smaller players like Keydous offer factory-customized special switches. Even the Kailh BOX switches found in 8BitDo retro keyboards and the sub-$50 G.Skill KM250 are smoother and better.

My feeling is that Ducky, as a well-known brand, is sticking with Cherry’s tried-and-tested switches to bolster its brand appeal. Again, there’s nothing wrong with MX Browns. But it’s a bit like your grandpa insisting he only drives Ford trucks when Tacomas are both more reliable and cheaper.

 

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Please note that you can swap the switches for any standard MX-compatible switches you prefer. However, for a keyboard in this price range, you should expect premium switches out of the box, not just adequate ones.

Is the Ducky One III SF worth buying?

I really wanted to love the Ducky One III. My initial impression was of high quality and unique color choices. The full-yellow keyboard in a sea of black and white (one of many options!) was refreshing, and I liked the extra visual flair and included Alt keycaps.

But now that standard Cherry MX Brown switches don’t quite cut it anymore, even for budget-conscious boards, there are better products out there. The lack of software, coupled with the confusing (and potentially non-functional) programming options, left me quite disappointed.

Certainly, the One III can be turned into an excellent keyboard. But doing so requires a significant amount of additional time and money. When there are already some great keyboards on the market that don’t require you to do anything extra out of the box, it’s hard to recommend the Ducky over many of its alternatives.

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