Ducky One 3 SF Aura Review
Ducky is a legendary brand in the keyboard scene. Their popularity may have passed its peak at this moment (though nothing says that they can't get back to that level) but it's undeniable that the brand has been instrumental in making high quality, smaller form factor mechanical keyboards the standard in the (pro) gaming scene, and we've got brands like this to thank for helping raise the standards when it comes to mass produced gaming keyboards.
This One 3 SF Aura is the newest version of their flagship line of keyboards, and it's very clear that Ducky knows what the community wants if you look at the specs of this keyboard. We've got case foam, plate foam, a hotswappable PCB, and factory lubed stabilizers, and all of that comes in a translucent and transparent design that's meant to be the ultimate light show.
Is the Ducky One line of keyboards still relevant in 2023 or are there better options out there? Read our full Ducky One 3 SF Aura review to find out.
"It's not the most state of the art gaming keyboard out there, nor is it the most feature-packed product that you can buy, but at the price that Ducky is asking for this keyboard it's hard to imagine anything better than what you're getting here"
Ducky One 3 Aura SF - First Impressions and Packaging
The Ducky One 3 Aura SF is definitely an eyecatcher. That's immediately obvious even before plugging the board in thanks to the translucent case design, revealing what's under the hood. There isn't that much to see due to the fact that there's a layer of case foam on the bottom but it's definitely an interesting design. The yellow PCB foam material draws the eye as well, giving the board a little pop of personality that it wouldn't have had if the PCB foam would be black or white in my opinion, so I like that design choice.
For those who aren't that deep into the keyboard world: these foams that I'm mentioning are meant to improve the overall typing and acoustic experience. They dampen the sound that the board produces, making for a deeper and 'thockier' sounding keyboard. Foams also help eliminate any instances of case ping, whereby a keyboard can sound hollow and plasticky, so I love the fact that Ducky has included foam where it counts. I'll speak more about the performance and the typing experience later on in the review though.
Back to my first impressions then. Once I plugged the keyboard in I let out an audible 'wow'. This board is without a doubt the brightest keyboard I've ever tested, and the translucent keycaps in combination with the transparent sections of the case makes for an utterly fantastic lighting experience. When I was gaming in a dimly lit room I even found the RGB lighting to be somewhat distracting because it is so bright. If you're a fan of pretty RGB lights and you want to get yourself a keyboard that satisfies your desires then you really shouldn't look any further.
When it comes to the unboxing, we get the usual Ducky affair. Inside the box you'll find a quickstart guide, some stickers, a braided USB-C cable, a keycap puller, a switch puller, and a set of additional keycaps that allow you to make the board your own. There's also a regular escape key in the box since the escape key that's installed by default is a rounded novelty keycap with the Ducky logo on it. It's a cool touch and I left it on since it didn't bother me, but it's good to know that you can swap this out for a normal one if it doesn't quite tickle your fancy.
Size & Dimensions
Features and build
The One 3 Aura comes in a full size version as well as a 60% and a 65% version. I've been testing the 65% version, but other than the size there shouldn't be any major differences between the various versions.
I've always said that I feel like the 65% form factor is the ideal compromise between size and usability, and I still believe that. Most users can get by without a numpad and an F row, but losing the arrow keys can definitely hamper productivity for a lot of people, so if you're looking to try out a smaller keyboard I would recommend you to start with a 65% form factor. As with all smaller keyboards, you can still access all the keys that a full sized board houses by pressing a combination of the Fn key along with the corresponding key, so you're not losing out on functionality.
The One 3 Aura SF has a compact case design that's entirely made out of plastic. Despite this, the keyboard doesn't feel flimsy or brittle. I can definitely get the frame to flex by applying pressure at certain point, but there's no creaking or noticeable problematic bending when using the board normally.
On the bottom you'll see four thin rubberized strips that do a fine job at keeping the board in place. There are also two sets of flip up feet, allowing you to tweak the typing angle of the board to your liking.
Something that bothered me during testing was the fact that my particular board doesn't sit completely flat. The rubber feet seem to be a tiny bit uneven when it comes to their thickness, leading the board to 'rock' ever so slightly. This is most apparent when pressing keys near the top right, so whenever I'm using the backspace key I can notice the unevenness. I assume that this is merely an issue with my unit since I have never had these problems with any Ducky keyboard before but of course I can only talk about what's in front of me so I'm mentioning it.
The detachable USB-C cable that comes with the board is of decent quality, but luckily the One 3 Aura SF leaves room for custom cables, so if you've got a fancy coiled cable or anything like that you should be able to use it with this board, unless you've got a very thick connector piece.
As we've come to expect from Ducky in recent times, there's a generously dense layer of PCB foam to be found, along with case foam at the bottom. Combine that with very nice PBT keycaps and you've got yourself a keyboard that's ticking a lot of enthusiast boxes already. I've always really liked Ducky's keycaps and that's no different here. These pudding-style keycaps are translucent in order to allow more light to shine through, though the top portion is opaque in order to make the legends on the keys more legible.
Speaking of legibility: it's okay, but not the best. That's expected with a board that focuses on dazzling you with its looks and RGB lighting, but I felt like I should mention it anyway. In certain modes and lighting colors it can be hard to read the (sub)legends, while the sublegends, but you can always change the lighting mode to something more neutral if you really need to see exactly which keys you're pressing so I don't think that this is a big issue.
Performance and every day use
Whereas Ducky keyboards used to only come with Cherry MX switches, they now offer a variety of switches from Cherry MX, Kailh, and Gateron. That's good news for people who want to try something else than the ubiquitous Cherries, and if you're not sure what switches you'll like you can rest assured because this is a hotswap keyboard. These have become more and more common over the past year or two, so this isn't exactly a unique selling proposition anymore but it is always good to know that you can swap your switches in under 30 minutes in case you want to try something different.
My board came with Kailh Jellyfish switches. These are linear switches that come pre lubed and have a transparent housing, which of course makes the RGB lights on the One 3 shine even brighter. The switches themselves have an actuation of 50g, making them on the lighter side, and they operate extremely smoothly. I wouldn't call myself a switch expert, but over the years I've become exposed to a pretty wide variety of switches (partially due to a keyboard building phase I had during the first COVID lockdown) and as a consequence I find it harder and harder to deal with scratchy or subpar switches. I can definitely say that I really like these though. I wouldn't go through the trouble of lubing these if I were to use this board as my main keyboard; they're smooth and enjoyable to use straight out of the box. They're on the medium end when it comes to volume and they're on the clackier side.
Ducky boards have always been about the typing (and gaming) experience rather than any potentially gimmicky additions, so you're not getting any extra screens, dials, or knobs on this board. What you do get is an amazing typing and gaming experience. This is definitely one of the best mass produced keyboards I've ever used, if not the best. I know I've said this a lot in recent years, but that's also a consequence of the bar in the keyboard world being set higher and higher. Thanks to the plate and PCB foam there's no case ping whatsoever, and the board produces a pleasing and natural sound without any undue echo effects mixed in there. The stabilizers have also been lubed in the factory and while the lubing application is a bit random at times (which is usually the case with factory lube) I do find the stabilizers to be of very high quality for a mass produced gaming keyboard.
One thing that I wish Ducky would add to their offerings is optional software. It's cool that you can configure everything on the board: this board allows you to customize the lighting entirely, and you can also record macros to your heart's content, but all of that comes with a rather steep learning curve, and with a board that's focused on RGB and looks like this one it would be cool to just be able to configure a cool custom lighting pattern in a piece of software as opposed to spending half an hour tinkering around with the board itself.
Conclusion & Recommendation
If this review seems a bit short of to the point it's because there isn't much to criticize about the One 3 SF Aura. It's a fantastic feeling, looking, and sounding keyboard that you can use straight from the factory with no tweaks at all, even if you're somewhat experienced with mechanical keyboards and thus have higher standards. Of course this won't live up to custom built keyboards that cost multiples of what Ducky is asking for the One 3 SF Aura, but if you're just looking for a reliable mechanical keyboard with a great typing experience and a fantastic lighting experience then the One 3 SF Aura should be on your list.
It's not the most state of the art gaming keyboard out there, nor is it the most feature-packed product that you can buy, but at the price that Ducky is asking for this keyboard it's hard to imagine anything better than what you're getting here if all you care about is the typing experience and the RGB show. It's not revolutionary, but it's all done to a very high standard, which means that the One 3 SF Aura gets our Staff's Choice award.