Unfortunately that time has come for me to return my Das Keyboard Model S Professional
and start writing my review.
I already wrote some initial thoughts that were largely glowing. The Das Keyboard is a joy to type on.
It makes putting words down feel better. More permeant.
You’re hammering words into existence. Even though I can still hit backspace or delete just as easily on the Das Keyboard, there is a feeling of permanence with every key stroke that a standard rubber dome or laptop keyboard doesn’t have. Each key stroke feels important, worth making.
For a writer, that means the world. I mean this with all sincerity, I enjoy typing more now that I’ve discovered the Das Keyboard and mechanical keyboards.
Yes, A keyboard is just a keyboard. And is a computer is a computer. And a text editor is a text editor.
But if you’re going to dedicate a large portion of your life to putting words down on screen or typing code, maybe a keyboard isn’t just as keyboard. Maybe a computer isn’t just a computer. Maybe a text editor isn’t just a text editor.
Do you know what it feels like to wake up and just want to type? To want to write, to create? With the Das Keyboard, I find myself wanting to write, and when I’m not writing and typing, I feel like I’m wasting my time.
I sit at my keyboard when I’m surfing around, and I’m just itching to type. I want to type. I want to create.
There are pen and paper people who swear by certain pens and how they love writing with those pens. I finally get that now.
I’ve become addicted to the tactile feedback that each key stroke provides. The sound and feel of each keystroke is a bit like a really good typewriter.
The Das Keyboard allows you to actuate keys before you fully press a key in, unlike standard keyboards. When you actuate a key, an audible click happens. Not only is it very satisfying, but that noise and feel helps create a different typing experience.
All Das Keyboards uses mechanical key switches that register key presses, unlike non-mechanical keyboards that use rubber domes or scissors switches. Frankly, the difference between them is not all that important for the average person to know. But do know this: Mechanical key switches are exponentially more tactile, responsive and expensive.
If you’d like to learn a lot more about the nitty, gritty details of mechanical keyboards and what makes them different than other keyboards, this is a pretty good place to start. There was a time when basically all keyboards were mechanical, but the race to the $200 computer left us with some casualties.
The Cherry MX Blue switch that this keyboard uses in action. Notice the bump. That’s what makes the clicking sound. You can also feel that bump, which allows you to learn to not press keys all the way down to the keyboard base.
With a standard keyboard, you have to mash the keys until the keys hit the bottom of the keyboard. That’s the only way to ensure that key presses actually register. This is both a very unsatisfying way to type and a good way to overuse your fingers and hands, exposing you to repetitive stress injuries.
Maybe I’m not a baseball player with a favorite bat, but I am a writer with a favorite keyboard.
The Das Keyboard helped me discover the world of mechanical keyboards. Note: For writers, programmers and computer enthusiasts, this can be a dangerous world to enter. Suddenly a keyboard isn’t just a keyboard.
You’ll enter a world of tactility and key switches. You’ll hear stories about legendary keyboards from bygone eras. You’ll even be tempted to start buying vintage keyboards to see how each one feels.
That’s how I ended up with the Apple Extended Keyboard, which is what I’m typing part of this review on. My home office is now commanded by a battleship-sized keyboard that clicks, clacks and hammers each key into this world. And I love it.
At my work office, I’ve been using the Das Keyboard every day and loving it. At home I’ve been using the Apple Extended Keyboard and loving it. They feel and sound very different, and yet come from the same mindset — that typing is serious business that requires serious tools. I enjoy both keyboards like a car lover enjoys multiple cars or musician has different guitars.
I’m tempted to seek other other mechanical keyboards and build a small stable of keyboards that I rotate between. For vintage keyboards, I’d love to try a IBM Model M and an Apple Extended Keyboard II (this is slightly different from the keyboard I’m using).
While I will be using a 22-year-old keyboard as one of my main keyboards moving forward, I’d actually recommend going with a brand new mechanical keyboard. Vintage keyboards are buyer beware and are often as expensive if not more so than a new mechanical keyboard (I bid $200 on a never-been-used Apple Extended Keyboard II and lost by almost $100). Vintage keyboards are also no longer being produced, so if you fall in love with a particular keyboard and it breaks, you may never be able to reproduce it.
The advantage of going with a Das Keyboard is that you should be able to buy a replacement keyboard for years to come should the need arise. And a good mechanical keyboard can last years (my Apple Extended Keyboard was made when I was six). If you buy a Das Keyboard brand new with its key switches rated for 50 million key strokes, it could be a decade or more before you need to replace your keyboard.
It’s not all roses and letters being hammered into this world. There are negatives to the Das Keyboard. First, the keyboard is loud.
For the typist, this is not a bad thing. I’d argue that audible feedback helps enhance the typing experience, making a typist faster and me accurate, while also making the typing experience more enjoyable. But typing in an office is not a solo sport. Your coworkers can hear your keystrokes.
The Das Keyboard is not just slightly louder than a standard keyboard. It’s not noticeably louder. It’s in a different league of loudness.
Everyone will know when you’re typing. Some of my coworkers really hammer their keyboards, and so when they type their keyboards make noise. But with the Das Keyboard, no matter how faintly you type, keys make an audible click each time you press them down.
I’d argue that many work environments are too quiet. Quietness makes it hard to work because it interferes with concentration when silence is breached. The sound of people typing on keyboards provides naturally background noise that helps people concentrate. In an office field with mechanical keyboards, there would be a soothing background symphony of people typing, somewhat similar to how offices used to sound in the days of typewriters.
In my office, however, there is everyone else typing away at membrane and scissor key keyboards. And then there is me hammering letters into this world. I’m Thor swinging around a war hammer in a library.
People are bound to notice. It’s hard to get a good gauge on how my co-workers really feel about the Das Keyboards sounds. I did have a coworker ask me the first day that I brought the Das Keyboard in if I had gotten a new keyboard.
And she wasn’t even the closest person to me. So, yes, people notice. But then she also later said that the keyboard is oddly soothing.
Offices used to be filled with the click, clack of typewriters. Now keyboards today are mushy and silent. Offices can be dreadful places. I’d like to think that an office filled with mechanical keyboards would be a livelier place to work.
But since I don’t work in an office filled with click-clacking, and you probably don’t either, we have to live in this world. And in this world, I’m the only person in my office typing away at a keyboard that sounds like machine gun fire when I really get going.
My coworkers are nice people, and I don’t work somewhere where people demand absolute silence. If you do, you might want to try the quieter, albeit still-louder-than-usual, Das Keyboard S Professional Silent. Das Keyboard make it clear that the Silent model is tongue in cheek, but it is quiter.
The brown Cherry MX switches on the Das Keyboard Silent do not make an audible click with each key being pressed, unlike the blue Cherry MX switches which have a distinctive clicking sound (here is a nice primer on the differences between the Cherry MX blue and brown switches)
This is what the Cherry MX Brown switch looks like in action. No bump, no click.
The other negative of the Das Keyboard is looks. It’s not a bad looking keyboard, but if you have an Apple wireless keyboard like I have, it doesn’t look very modern or sleek. Its a big hunk of black plastic.
I imagine that Darth Vader would marvel at the craftsmanship of the Das Keyboard. If the Death Star had to be rebuilt, a Das Keyboard would like fitting at the command station.
But for those who would like a clean, modern looking desktop, the Das Keyboard may be difficult to swallow. It is large, made of black plastic and is wired. In addition, the Das Keyboard is big. It’s thick, it’s tall and it’s wide.
It’s just big. Have we settled that?
It’s not that much bigger, however, than a standard full-sized keyboard, but many of us are working on laptops or wireless laptop-style keyboards.
I’d probably prefer a tenkeyless model of the Das Keyboard. I rarely use the numberpad, and it just serves to push my mouse farther away from my keyboard, causing strain on my right shoulder. Narrow keyboards are more ergonomic, and getting rid of the number pad is the easiest way to produce a smaller keyboard.
That being said, the Das Keyboard is significantly smaller than the keyboard I’m typing that on right now. I have found the Das Keyboard to be comfortable to type on for long periods of time. I’m not sure if I can say the same for the Apple Extended Keyboard. It’s the widest keyboard that I have ever seen, and it causes my mouse to float way out in right field.
I’ve had a bout of RSI in the back of my right shoulder that I believe might be due to the wideness of the Apple Extended Keyboard (this is not a normal occurrence for me). I have to actively monitor and make sure that my mouse doesn’t stray too far from my keyboard.
The Das Keyboard doesn’t seem to have this issues. I’d still like to see a smaller, tenkeyless model offered. Perhaps with something that doesn’t have a built in USB hub either. The USB hub is nice and does come in handy on the Das Keyboard, but if they were going to make a smaller model, it’s the kind of thing that they could save space by getting rid of it.
Also, a tenkeyless model without a USB hub would be cheaper. Das Keyboards start at $129. A $99 model might be able to bring in more people.
Some people will balk at the price. You can get a keyboard for under $20 brand new. So, why pay 6-7 times that for a keyboard?
For some people who just buy the cheapest computer they can find and go through them every few years, a mechanical keyboard is not for you. But for those who value the tools they use, the keyboard is the biggest way we interact with personal computers.
A mechanical keyboard should last for years longer than a cheap rubber dome keyboard. I went through a rubber dome keyboard every 1-3 years.
Beyond that, I can’t really think of any negatives. You have to keep in mind that I have come from years of using mushy, sticky, inexact keyboards. Those keyboards are largely negatives. In comparison, using the Das Keyboard feels like winning a prize.
In the end, the only thing you really need to know about the Das Keyboard is this: I’m buying my own. I have to send this one back, and I’m a little sad to see it go, but I’ll be starting a new adventure with a new Das Keyboard (most likely the all black Ultimate model) that I hope lasts for many, many years to come. Although, I may be tempted to get the Mac model (I used my review unit with both a PC and a Mac).
I’ll miss you Das Keyboard. May you continue to click and clack for years to come.