Tom's Hardware Verdict
The Ducky One 3 Mini Aura Edition brings back everything that made the original One 3 Mini so good while turning the dial on its RGB lighting. It’s a solid keyboard, but its compact design won’t be for everyone.
Small in size but big in features
Programmable without software
RGB light show
Consistent, satisfying typing
No software for lighting or advanced programming
Legends are difficult to read
RGB on rainbow is non-adjustable
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The Ducky One 2 Mini single-handedly catapulted 60-percent mechanical keyboards into the mainstream. Before it found its way onto the desks of major streamers and eSports athletes, the ultra-compact form factor was reserved near-exclusively for keyboard enthusiasts. Fast forward to today, and major brands like Razer, Corsair, and Steelseries have all released their own spin on the layout, complete with gaming-grade technology and features, stealing at least one spot on our list of the Best Gaming Keyboards.
Last year, Ducky leveled up and released the One 3 Mini. The Mini brought with it a series of improvements jovially referred to as QUACK Mechanics. It included a renewed focus on sound and feel, guaranteeing doubleshot keycaps and sound dampening materials in the case to provide its best typing experience yet. It succeeded in one-upping itself and delivered what was and is a great line of gaming keyboards.
The new, Ducky One 3 Mini Aura Edition includes all of the same improvements brought with the One 3 Mini and puts them in a frosted translucent case, topped with translucent switches, and capped off with side-lit translucent keycaps. It’s not so much a reinvention as it is a makeover, but is easily the flashiest product Ducky has ever released. The original One 3 Mini was a very good keyboard, but if you can’t live without bright RGB and a keyboard that will become the most eye-catching thing on your desk, the Aura Edition is the way to go.
Ducky One 3 Mini Aura Edition Specs
|Switches||Cherry, Kailh, or Gateron|
|Onboard Storage||6 profiles|
|Media Keys||Secondary functions|
|Connectivity||USB Type-C to Type-A|
|Cable||6 feet, braided|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||12.2 x 4.2 x 1.6 inches|
Design of the Ducky One 3 Mini Aura Edition
Mini is right: the One 3 Mini Aura’s Edition’s tiny form factor looks absolutely tiny on a desk. Its 60-percent form factor is about as streamlined as keyboards come without delving into the niche world of niche keyboards like the ErgoDox or Planck EZ. It includes only the most necessary keys and trims off everything else: no function row, no number pad, no arrow keys or navigation buttons, and certainly no media keys. What’s left is a keyboard that takes up the bare minimum of space while still having all of your usual numbers, letters, and punctuation.
That doesn’t mean you’re losing that functionality, however. With the exception of the number pad, every missing button is accessible as a secondary command by holding the Fn button and pressing a key combination. In fact, the Ducky One 3 Mini manages to provide extra functionality compared to even full-size keyboards, which I’ll go over at the bottom of this section.
Before we get there, it’s worth taking a look at just how Ducky has shaken things up with this release. This new version features a fresh case and keycap design aimed at highlighting its bright RGB backlighting (and believe me, it’s very bright). Available in white or black, the case is made of frosted plastic and lights up with the per-key lighting, albeit mostly under the keys.
The keycaps are also frosted, so instead of having the legends light up, the entire side of the key does. Oddly, the tops are completely opaque. One of the core tenets of the One 3’s QUACK mechanics is that the keycaps be doubleshot. That second shot uses white plastic, making each button look a bit like an ice cube.
With backlighting off, it looks good, but once those RGB LEDs begin to shine, the keyboard comes to life. It is genuinely one of the brightest keyboards I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen quite a few that go for a similar aesthetic. It’s an impressive display of backlighting, or godawful if RGB isn’t your thing, but if you’re considering this keyboard, it’s probably safe to say you’re inclined toward the dazzling backlighting.
The translucent case gives you a sneak peak into the internal design of the keyboard too. There’s a bright yellow layer of silicone between the plate and PCB to dampen keystrokes and another layer of white foam in the bottom of the case. It also confirms that there are no down firing LEDs on the bottom of the PCB; a missed opportunity to even out the lighting throughout the case and go all-in on RGB.
There aren’t any additional ports built into the keyboard, but the bottom does reveal a set of DIP switches that can be used to customize some of the features of the keyboard. Toggling any of the four switches changes a basic function. Ticking the first switch enables a function row toggle, for example, so a key combination can lock your numbers to act a F1-F12 natively. Ticking the second turns on N-Key rollover, while the last change swaps the right Windows key between Windows and Menu functions.
The keyboard also features a pair of two-stage tilt feet to help you find a comfortable typing angle. With the shorter feet flipped up, I didn’t have to use my palm rest, which has become a staple in my reviews.
Keycaps are an important part of any keyboard, but that goes double for the Aura Edition. They’re thicker than average pudding keycaps and are made of polycarbonate plastic, which feels and sounds better to type on. They have both top and side legends so you can identify its masses of secondary functions.
The side legends are light green, but the top legends are white-on-white, which makes them hard to read. The translucent plastic also allows you to see white spurs around the side of the keycaps where the two layers are bonded together. It doesn’t look bad, exactly, but it’s a bit strange to see lines around the edges of the keycaps. Turning on the backlighting makes the top legends almost impossible to read, which is a problem if you’re not a touch typist.
Underneath the keycaps, the keyboard comes with your choice of a variety of Cherry MX, Kailh, or Gateron switches. Our sample was sent with Kailh Jellyfish switches, which are a lightweight linear switch that comes pre-lubed from the factory. But most importantly, it uses a completely clear-top housing to let the RGB shine brightly through the keycaps and into the case. The switches are also hot swappable, so you won’t need to solder if you decide to try new switches in the future.
As with any 60-percent keyboard, there’s a significant learning curve for anyone attempting the layout for the first time. Even as a veteran, I found myself regularly checking the side legends to make sure I was pressing the right button, even days into my testing cycle. The advanced programmability it offers helps with this, but anyone planning on picking up the One 3 Mini from a full-size or tenkeyless keyboard should plan on spending multiple days memorizing the layout until its key combinations become second nature.
With that in mind, the Ducky One 3 Mini really lacks nothing in actual functionality. All of the functions of a standard tenkeyless keyboard are present here, including less used buttons like Pause and Scroll Lock. There are secondary keys for arrows and navigation and editing buttons. There’s a full suite of media buttons for playback and volume control. Ducky has even built-in mouse controls, so you can control your pointer even without a physical mouse present.
The possibilities don’t end there, either. The keyboard offers rich programming abilities for both lighting and macros, all of which can be stored across five profiles. There is no software, which would be helpful for speeding up some of the programming process, but not needing software is one of the benefits many people like about Ducky’s Mini line-up.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the programming possibilities it offers.
One of the highlights of the Ducky One 3 Mini was its advanced, software-free programmability. It’s no exaggeration to say that it offers some of the deepest onboard programming among any keyboard available today. That starts with its rich lighting controls.
Most mechanical keyboards come with a selection of built-in lighting presets, and the Aura Edition is no exception. Using a Fn command, you can cycle between ten presets that include the usual rainbow wave, breathing, and reactive typing modes. There are also options for increasing the brightness of effects, which is also pretty standard.
It doesn’t take long before the One 3 Mini sets itself apart, however, as customizing the color of the presets is done through a built-in RGB color mixer. Holding the lighting key combination causes Z, X, and C to light up Red, Green, and Blue and each can be tapped to dial in your exact hue. If you’d rather pick and choose, you can tap the Spacebar and the entire keyboard lights up in a color palette that you can simply tap to select the hue you like best.
Things don’t stop there either. Selectable color is one thing, but very few mechanical keyboards allow you to customize your own static lighting scheme without software, but the Ducky One 3 Mini does exactly that. With another key combination you can tap the keys you would like illuminated and change the hue for each one.
All of this is very, very cool and shows that it’s possible to offer these kinds of features without demanding software be installed. But as much as I like it, I really wish there were a software option as well to speed up the process. There are also some quirks, like the lack of a simple brightness option (you have to adjust the levels in the palette). The rainbow preset, which is the most showy of the bunch, is also completely non-adjustable, which is baffling.
Another excellent bit of programming magic comes with macros and keymaps. The keyboard supports on-the-fly macro recording. Using a key combination, you enter Macro Recording mode, choose the key you would like to map, and then send your text string. Another quick combination exits recording. This same procedure is used to swap the location of keys.
The One 3 Mini Aura Edition ups the ante by also allowing you to remap secondary functions. Most keyboards “lock” these keys in the absence of software. Here, you follow the same procedure as remapping keys, but instead of tapping a letter you would like to change, you tap the key combination for the secondary command. This means you can completely change the stock layout of every layer and then save each to the keyboard’s on-board memory across six profiles.
This also applies to the function button itself, which is inconveniently placed in the bottom right by default. Another key combo allows you to reorganize your modifier keys, which includes the Fn button. Within just a few seconds, I was able to position it on the left side of the keyboard, which is much more convenient for accessing the oodles of commands beneath your right hand.
The programmability of the One 3 Mini is top-tier among pre-built keyboards, but just like learning the form factor, you’ll need to climb a significant learning curve to wrap your head around it all. As powerful as it is, performing all of these remaps isn’t intuitive, and I kept the user manual close at hand the entire time. You can do a lot, but there are multiple steps that each need to be mastered, which takes time that a software option could save.
The typing experience on the Ducky One 3 Mini Aura Edition is the best of any Ducky keyboard I’ve tested to date. With the combination of its QUACK mechanics (dampening pad, doubleshot keycaps, and pre-lubed stabilizers) and new switch options, the feel of typing is smoother, softer, and sounds better than last generation’s One 2 Mini.
My sample was sent with Kailh BOX Jellyfish switches, which are linear and lightweight with an actuation force of only 50 grams. They come pre-lubed with a light coating of oil, so keystrokes have a consistent glide without any scratchiness or spring ping. Their light weight makes them easy to bottom out, which brings out the higher-pitched sound of the doubleshot keycaps.
Using such a small keyboard isn’t for everyone, and there’s a significant learning curve if you’ve never tried one before. The layout pushes everything but the main keyset onto a secondary layer. You don’t lose functionality (in fact, you gain features), but you’ll need to devote time to memorizing the location of each secondary function.
Compared to other 60-percent keyboards, I found the One 3 Mini Aura Edition easier to use, but I had to customize it to get there. Accessing secondary functions such as Home and End is done by holding the Fn button. Like most compact keyboards, this button is on the bottom right, right in line with the buttons those keys are assigned to. It leads to some uncomfortable finger acrobatics that usually leaves me reaching for a 65-percent or larger keyboard.
The One 3 Mini Aura’s Key Switch feature remedied this by allowing me to remap the position of the Fn key, an ability most other keyboards don’t offer without software. I was able to move the Fn key to the left side of the board, replacing Caps Lock, which made accessing those secondary functions and arrows much easier. There’s still a learning curve in memorizing all of their locations, but without the finger crunch, the biggest pain point (literally) is removed.
Once you’re up and running, the typing experience is good. The silicone pads under the keys and behind the PCB do a good job of dampening keystrokes, so bottom outs are isolated and have a consistent sound across the board. It doesn’t use a gasket mount for flexy or bouncing typing experience, but it’s not rigid either. The keycaps feel nice thanks to their slight texturing and familiar Cherry profile.
Apart from being small, the spacing, contouring, and layout of the keys is all very traditional. For pure typing, I averaged 108 words per minute on MonkeyType, which is about my average. In real world writing tasks, I suspect this would be a bit less once those secondary functions and key combinations are factored in.
Even though Ducky has done a great job of adding back all of the missing keys as secondary functions (as well as some extras), this still wouldn’t be a keyboard I would choose for productivity. Downtime improves as you memorize the layout, but having to hold Fn for navigation and editing is less efficient for typing and data entry. If you don’t do these things often, it may not be a big deal, but for students and typists, a bigger form factor is still the better choice.
Likewise, the white version is really only a good fit for touch typists. The white legends on a white background are difficult to read. This only becomes more true when the bright RGB backlighting is turned on. Given how much of an RGB showcase the keyboard is, it’s surprising that it doesn’t feature backlit legends to solve this problem.
The Ducky One 3 Mini Aura Edition isn’t a gaming keyboard, but the company’s Mini line-up has long been a popular choice for gaming. Its small form factor and on-board programming make it a good choice for gamers that need extra mousing space and can’t use software (such as during a tournament).
The 60-percent form factor looks downright tiny compared to a full-size keyboard or even a TKL, and that works to your benefit in first-person shooters. Turning down your sensitivity is a time-tested way to improve your accuracy, and the lack of a number pad or even a navigation and cluster gives you more room to sweep your mouse. This isn’t a playstyle I’ve ever been very good at, but simply being able to keep my hands closer together made for more comfortable play over longer stretches.
The on-board macro recording is also very nice. It’s not as intuitive as software recording (I had to have the manual open on my phone the first few times I tried using it), but once you know the routine, it’s possible to record in-game macros in less than 30 seconds. If you know you’re going to be using a skill rotation a lot in the next match, you can set a macro in the pre-game lobby without needing to Alt+Tab into another window.
This functionality also allows you to remap keys and create custom layouts for individual games. The keyboard supports five profiles (six if you include the un-modifiable base layer), so you can arrange unique layouts for different games and apps. The level of on-board programmability is impressive, to say the least, but I wish there were a software option to speed up the process. Remapping one or two keys this way is no big deal, but when you’re creating a whole layout of custom keymaps, you’re going to be there a while.
Responsiveness is top-notch. The keyboard uses a 1,000 Hz polling rate which scans for key presses a thousand times per second. Even though many gaming keyboards are beginning to boast about 2,000 Hz, 4,000 Hz, or even 8,000 Hz polling rates, the One 3 Mini felt just as responsive during my return to Battlefield 2042 and lacked nothing in the feel and bounceback of its switches.
The Ducky One 3 Mini Aura Edition is a glowed up version of an already good keyboard. There aren’t many new features outside of its frosted case and keycaps, but it remains a great choice for gaming and typists who value desk space over dedicated keys.
Its 60-percent form factor isn’t going to be for everyone, however. If you crave dedicated arrow keys and navigation buttons, the Ducky One 3 SF is a solid alternative for only $20 more. If you crave something less showy but even more programmable with powerful software, the Steelseries Apex Pro Mini delivers all that and more, like high-speed wireless, but you’ll pay for it.
If you can get on with its tiny shape and can’t live without RGB, the Aura Edition is definitely worth considering. Ducky knows its stuff and has been making excellent keyboards for years. This latest release is no exception, it’s just a little — okay, a lot — more showy.
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Chris is a regular contributor for Tom’s Hardware, covering mechanical keyboards, peripherals, and content creation gear.