A mechanical keyboard is the way to go if you want the best performance. But because of their quality, mechanical keyboards are rarely described as "budget-friendly." The choices in the lower end are rather scant, and it becomes even more so if you need a full-sized keyboard. Heeding the calls of the empty-pocketed, Cougar is set to fill in the void with its Attack X3 mechanical gaming keyboard.
With an exposed aluminum backplate and red LED backlighting, the Attack X3 abandons traditional aesthetics in pursuit of modern virtues. In addition to looking pretty, the exposed back plate also makes the keyboard easier to clean and help add some nice ambiance around the keys.
Despite having an aluminum backplate that covers the entire front-face of the board, the Attack X3 barely moves the scale with a weight of just 900g (31.7oz). A large contributing factor could be due to its plastic rear cover. It just doesn’t feel as durable as most other mechanical keyboards we’ve tested.
The keycaps are the cheapo laser-engraved ABS plastic stuff. We aren’t going to dock points for this as the Attack X3 sits on the border between budget and premium. To their credit, the keycaps are quite thick and should last you until you can get something higher-end.
Although Cougar may have cut some corners in build quality, it’s insistence on using top-grade Cherry MX switches pleased us. Our review sample carries the Cherry MX Blue switch, but it’s also offered in Brown, Black, and Red flavors. Cherry MX Blue has a distinct bump at the actuation point accompanied by a sharp click. It’s embraced by typists and gamers alike, but may not be the best option in an environment that demands silence.
A subtle feature Cougar snuck in is the extended Ctrl and Alt keys on the left. Since most games make frequent use of them, they’ve been enlarged for easier access. The Cherry stabilizers under the larger keys work very well at keeping them steady and aren’t at all mushy.
The Attack X3 has N-Key Roll Over that can be toggled for compatibility with older motherboards. We dropped a textbook on ours and all the keys registered without a hitch.
It’s nice to see that there’s dedicated volume adjustment keys, but what’s nicer still is that the Attack X3 can store up to three profiles of macros on board. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the Attack X3 offers full-board programmability, meaning every single key can be configured to hold a custom macro. Not only are macros helpful for gaming, they’re also great for chaining hotkeys in productivity suites.
The Attack X3 can be configured using Cougar’s UIX System. It doesn’t have the best looking interface, but it’s easy and intuitive to navigate. Lighting options are a bit restricted: The Attack X3 is limited to only three brightness levels and a breathing effect. The LEDs are also only available in red, so your inner artist is out of luck when it comes to lighting.
It bothered us that the Start key on the left side has been switched out for a function key. Since the Attack X3 has the ability to disable the Start key on the fly, we don’t see why the Start key can’t be installed on both sides.
Price is often the best incentive. The Cougar Attack X3 is aggressively priced at $89.99, undercutting many of its competitors with the same switch. Feature-wise, it covers the essentials a gamer would need to survive on the battlefield. Evaluating it overall, the Attack X3 is not a top-cut board and definitely won’t be your last, but you will undoubtedly cherish its solid performance for the time that it sits on your desk.