Arturia KeyLab Essential MK3 vs Minilab 3: Best Budget MIDI Keyboard?

Arturia KeyLab Essential MK3 vs Minilab 3

The Keylab Essential Series from Arturia has a reputation for maintaining a sweet spot in their whole lineup, where the products contain most of the core features that make their keyboards stand out, but cuts off a bit in terms of the build and hands-on controls. So which one is better Arturia KeyLab Essential mk3 and Arturia Minilab 3?

The short answer is – “The Arturia KeyLab Essential Mk3 is a solid choice that delivers better value for money while having more controls, a comparatively bigger screen, and a more environmentally aware build.”

Arturia KeyLab Essential mk3 vs Arturia Minilab 3

The Arturia KeyLab Essential Mk3 offers more controls, a larger screen, expanded functionality, and a better software bundle compared to the Arturia Minilab 3. It’s recommended for those seeking a budget MIDI keyboard with additional features and versatility, while the Minilab 3 is a suitable choice for those prioritizing compactness and simplicity. To get a more clearer picture let’s dive deep into this.

SpecificationArturia KeyLab Essential mk3 Arturia Minilab 3
Key Count49-key or 61-key25-key
Controls9 knobs, 9 faders, 16 RGB backlit pads8 knobs, 16 RGB backlit pads
Control ScriptsYesNo
Software BundleThe Gentleman, Melodics, Loopcloud, Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab V, UVI Model D and moreAnalog Lab Lite, Ableton Live Lite

Variant Options and Design

The Arturia KeyLab Essential Mk3 offers two variants: a 49-key and a 61-key version, both available in black or white finishes. While an 88-key model hasn’t been officially announced, it may be a possibility in the future. The overall design of the KeyLab Essential Mk3 is quite similar to the Arturia Minilab 3, featuring nine knobs and faders on the right side that provide comprehensive access and control over a wide range of parameters in Arturia’s SoftSynths. However, the KeyLab Essential Mk3 comes with control scripts specifically tailored for various popular DAWs, such as Ableton Live, allowing for seamless mixing and intuitive recording.

Arturia KeyLab Essential MK3

Enhanced Screen and Controls

One notable difference that keen-eyed fans will immediately notice is the comparatively larger screen positioned in the middle of the keyboard on the KeyLab Essential Mk3. This larger screen greatly improves navigation and preset switching in Analog Lab and other instruments, providing a simplified and more intuitive user experience. Additionally, four contextual buttons located below the screen offer broader control over plugins, further enhancing flexibility and creative possibilities.

Expanded Functionality

The KeyLab Essential Mk3 takes functionality to the next level. It introduces a second bank for the eight pads, allowing users to take full advantage of a 16-pad drum rack with a bit of modification. The Mk3 also incorporates new scale and chord modes with different presets, a hold function, and an arpeggiator, offering musicians more options for experimentation and creative exploration. Moreover, Arturia has upgraded the pedal input in the KeyLab Essential Mk3, enabling users to utilize an expression pedal for more nuanced control, going beyond mere sustain functionality.

Arturia Minilab 3

Software Bundle and Sustainability

Arturia keyboards typically come bundled with software, and the KeyLab Essential Mk3 is no exception. In addition to the usual software bundle, the Mk3 provides access to native instruments like The Gentleman, Melodics, and Loopcloud, alongside Ableton Live Lite, Analog Lab V, and UVI Model D. Notably, Arturia has taken a commendable step towards environmental responsibility by constructing the Essential Mk3 using 40% recycled plastic and packaging materials that are 100% recyclable.


Despite the eco-friendly approach, the KeyLab Essential Mk3 comes at a significantly lower price compared to its Mk2 predecessors. 

Final Verdict

Overall, the new KeyLab Essential Mk3 provides a better sense of utility in comparison to its predecessors. Regardless of whether you are in the Arturia Software lineup or just like your own custom build, the layouts and features in the Arturia Keylab Essential Mk3 have an overall neat and clean design that provides a wholesome sense of transparency in terms of music. Sure, the Minilab 3 still holds as one of the best keyboards you can get right now, but the KeyLab Essential Mk3 has tons more value for money, alongside other nifty features which you won’t find on their predecessors, thus making it a solid choice for a budget MIDI keyboard.

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Nafiul Haque

Nafiul Haque has grown up playing on all the major gaming platforms. And he got his start as a journalist covering all the latest gaming news, reviews, leaks, etc. As he grew as a person, he became deeply involved with gaming hardware and equipment. Now, he spends his days writing about everything from reviewing the latest gaming laptops to comparing the performance of the latest GPUs and consoles.