Ducky Shine 3

Review: Ducky Shine 3 Mechanical Keyboard

A few weeks ago I posted some rambling commentary about choosing your input devices.  That post then spiraled into an overview and my thoughts on the EC Technology High Quality 8200 DPI Programmable Laser Gaming Mouse … yes, really.  That’s the name they gave that thing.  Regardless of the obnoxious name, the mouse is excellent and has continued to function perfectly well and provide a great experience since I reviewed it.

Now, let us consider the companion product – a good mechanical keyboard.  This one has a far simpler name, the Ducky Shine 3.

Before we take a look at the Ducky Shine 3 (DK9008), it is important to understand the differences between a mechanical keyboard and a dome-switch (or non-mechanical) keyboard switch.

Dome-Switch Keyboard
Dome-Switch Keyboard (Credit: Wikipedia)

The vast majority of keyboards today use a dome-switch switch to register a key press. This switch consists of the key itself, which sits on top of a silicon dome that has a contact point in the center, this sits above the PCB board of the keyboard itself. Beneath each dome is an electrical circuit that is open, by pressing the key down, the dome compresses and the contact point hits the circuit and closes it – this results in the keyboard sending the keystroke signal to the computer. There are a few different ways on how the PCB and dome are configured to close the circuit and register the keystroke, but this is effectively how it works.

Dome-switches are typically a full stroke style switch. Meaning that you have to bottom out the key press in order for the switch to actuate and register that you pressed the key. As a result of the keys themselves pressing into a soft dome membrane, they are also among the quietest keyboards available. The dome also prevents a predictable and consistent tactile feel to each key stroke.

Mechanical switches, on the other hand, are specifically designed with tactile feel and precision in mind. There are a number of different mechanical switch types that provide a different feel, sound and weight to the keys themselves. The most popular, or most well known brand of switches are Cherry MX switches. You’ll find these switches on the vast majority of high end mechanical keyboards, such as the Ducky Shine 3.

Cherry MX Switches
Cherry MX Switches (Credit: http://evolianume.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-65.html)

Just like the membrane switch, there are different types of mechanical switches available.  Unlike membrane switches, the differences are intentional and provide options on what type of keystroke and tactile feedback the user wants.  Cherry MX switches are defined by a color coding system.  Black and Red are linear switches while Clear, Brown and Blue are tactile switches.  Additionally, green and grey switches are available but are typically only used in keyboard space bars.

120px-Mx_brown_illustration Cherry MX Brown: Doesn't provide an audible click upon actuation. Requires slightly less force to actuate. Does have a tactile "bump" feeling when the keystroke is actuated.
120px-Mx_blue_illustration Cherry MX Blue: Provides an audible click upon actuation. Requires slightly more force than Brown. Does have a tactile "bump" at the same time it clicks when the keystroke is actuated.
120px-Mx_black_illustration Cherry MX Black: Completely linear, does not provide tactile feedback or audible sound when the keystroke is actuated. Tends to feel less crisp as a result as well as providing lighter effort compared to Brown and Blue.
180px-Mx_red_illustration Cherry MX Red: Identical to the Black switch with the only difference being an even lighter effort required for keystrokes.

It is important to note that all mechanical keyboards are noisy, far louder than any non-mechanical keyboard.  As described above, some switches add additional audible queues when keystrokes are registered.

OK, so what about the Ducky?!?

Why in the world did I waste your time talking about switches?  Well, that’s because most mechanical keyboards give you options on which switches you can get, the Ducky Shine 3 is no exception.  The mechanical switches I covered above are all available options on the Shine 3; and now that you’re armed with that information, you can appropriately choose which switches you want in your Ducky – because, yes, you want need this keyboard.

The packaging itself isn’t terrible, nor is it over the top.  I think it’s about right for what you get.  Included in the box is a small instructions sheet for managing the modes and programming the keyboard as well as a key pulling tool, alternate space bar and red WASD key caps (which I’ve chosen to use).

Ducky Shine 3 - Package Contents
Ducky Shine 3 – Package Contents

The keyboard itself is pretty hefty, it weighs in at 2.90lbs.  Not quite as heavy as my steel chassis 1986 IBM XT keyboard, but heavy enough to let you know that you have a serious piece of equipment here.  The extra heft is largely due to the solid aluminum chassis and dual layer PCB.  The keys themselves are UV coated and laser printed for plenty of durability.  Overall, this is a solid, well built piece of hardware.  In fact, it would probably make a great impromptu weapon should the zombie apocalypse begin…

Cherry MX Brown Switches
Cherry MX Brown Switches & Individual LEDs Per Key

How about some detailed specifications from Ducky …

  • Model: DK9008S3
  • Place of manufacture: Taiwan
  • Interface: USB
  • LED Color: Red, Blue, Green, White, Magenta, Orange
  • Languages: US, Thai
  • Switches: Cherry MX Black, Blue, Brown, and Red
  • Keycaps: UV coated, lasered printed
  • Backlight modes: 7 total (including off)
  • Backlight area: Full (100%), and User customizable
  • Backlight effects: Full (100%), Breathing, Wave Marquee, Snake Marquee, Reactive mode, Ripple mode
  • Multi-media keys: Mute, Volume Up, Volume Down
  • Accessories: Dust cover, USB cable, keycap puller, red WASD keycaps, user manual
  • USB Acceleration: Adjustable USB repeat delay time and USB repeat rate

I’ve been using this keyboard on my gaming rig for about three months now, and I have to say it is simply amazing.  The LED backlighting is everything you could want from full on blingy show to perfectly functional in a dark room to completely off.  The Cherry MX Brown switches are incredibly precise and the solid nature of the keyboard prevents it from sliding around on your desk when you start smashing keys in a fit of rage while gaming.  Yes, it’s also durable as hell.   I certainly wouldn’t play keyboard baseball with it, but it can take a beating without a problem.

Admittedly, I switched to this from a Logitech MX 3200 wireless keyboard and mouse combo – so my basis of comparison may be a bit skewed.  But I truly believe that for $149.99 this keyboard is unbeatable.  Period.

Oh, speaking of that whole baseball and Logitech MX 3200 keyboard & mouse combo… keep an eye out.  We’ll have a fun video coming soon on how to properly use your defunct keyboard and mouse.

Ducky products are notoriously difficult to get a hold of.  They only come to the US about every three months and sell out very, very quickly.  I highly recommend checking out http://www.MechanicalKeyboards.com to get yours.  Their customer service is top notch and you can even view what they have on order and when it should be in stock.

Now I have to go get myself all limbered up for some baseball.

Pickles

The Associates Press tech geek, web bastard and general jackass.

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