The Cougar Attack X3 RGB is eye catching. As a tech enthusiast, I spend a piece of my downtime on YouTube and tech sites seeing what’s new from my favorite manufacturers. When I saw the Attack X3 RGB and its suite of features and customizations, I knew I needed a closer look. Featuring genuine Cherry keyswitches, bright per-key RGB illumination, floating keycaps, and a healthy amount of onboard storage, this keyboard represents a great value while still having room for improvement.
The world of mechanical keyboards has exploded. In just the last few years, the competition has raised dramatically, with even DRAM manufacturers releasing their own models. Add the RGB craze into the mix and you have a recipe for dozens and dozens of rainbow cycling slates that to that look very similar. When we dig in, however, the differences become apparent and all the more important the more advanced models close in on the $200 mark.
Cougar Gaming, founded in 2007 by a team of engineers, has made a name for themselves by making distinctive products that tend to come in cheaper than the competition, while still delivering on their promises of high quality. In the case of the Attack X3, it’s clear that sacrifices had to be made to keep the keyboard at the $100 mark, but what’s being offered at that price is impressive.
The keyboard features a full 104-key layout with secondary functions mapped F1-F12, Scroll Lock, Pause Break, and Page Up/Down. It uses genuine Cherry MX switches in red, blue, brown, black, and silver, a clear cut above most of the sub $100 price bracket. Users can choose between 6-key and N-key rollover, used with a fast 1000Hz (1ms) polling rate. It also features on-board memory, allowing you to store up to nine lighting/layout profiles and 30 macros to the board itself, saving you from needing driver software if you switch computers. These are broken into modes of three profiles each if you prefer to organization to your settings.
Even with illumination turned off the keyboard looks nice. It features an angular design with the left and right sides shearing down at a steep angle. Underneath the key bed is a brushed aluminum plate that lacks the anodization commonly seen in aluminum frames of this type. The rest of the frame is made up of black plastic, which looks nice but, back to back with aluminum, feels cheaper. A nice braided cable is also included, requiring two USB ports. The floating keycap design returns again in the X3 RGB, allowing you to see the clear switch housing underneath. More importantly, it allows the lighting to really shine out and look fantastic.
Lighting isn’t the end all be all of a keyboard, but it’s a feature Cougar is charging a $25 premium for, so it should look good. Boy, does it. We’ve looked at a number of RGB keyboards in the past, some even with white mats under the keys, but the the Attack X3 RGB is so far the most vibrant we’ve laid hands on. There are 9 presets on board, everything from breathing and pulsing, to rainbows, static colors, and even color “rain” from the function keys. Everything can be customized or even replaced in the Cougar UIX software.
UIX is a powerful suite that is easy to navigate but still rough around the edges in places. For users who just want to set an effect and go, there are many presets to choose from that are all color customizable. You can also completely customize your own hues and effects with up to eight layers of design on each. In the $100 price range, this is exceptionally good. The most complex and impressive lighting profiles require layering, so to see that capability here is great. Actually writing these changes to the onboard memory takes longer than it should, though, so there’s a trade-off to that extra freedom and the ability to unshackle yourself from software if you switch machines.
Another neat feature is that macros can be imported and exported to other Cougar devices. If another user has a macro you like, you can simply have him save it and send it to you for an easy import. Lighting profiles, too, can be imported and exported, though there doesn’t seem to be a large community around them right now. In time, this will hope develop as more users get their hands on the keyboard.
Cougar has had to make some sacrifices on the Attack X3 RGB. Extra ports are entirely absent: no USB pass throughs or audio jacks despite what appears to be a punch-out for a USB slot on its rear. There are no cable routing options on the underside, and I would have preferred an entire aluminum top rather than a strip in a plastic frame. There is also no wrist rest, which is a noticeable omission for the cost of this keyboard.
With the Attack X3 RGB, Cougar has delivered a keyboard that not only looks great but also offers more functionality than its peers. An above average selection of genuine Cherry MX switches, exceptional luminescence, great on-board options, and on-board memory all make this board a great choice for the gamer on a budget. The sacrifices made to achieve that price point are disappointing but understandable and, in this reviewer’s opinion, liveable for the cost savings. Want a genuine Cherry mechanical keyboard with full RGB customization without breaking $100? The Cougar Attack X3 RGB has you covered.
The product discussed in this article was provided by Cougar for the purposes of review.