Tag Archives: Das Keyboard

Das Keyboard Model S Professional Review

Click, clack.

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.

My desk is covered in keyboards

Right now there are four different keyboards on my desk: Apple Extended Keyboard, Das Keyboard, Apple Wireless Keyboard and Matias Slim One.

They made keyboards a little bigger 20 years ago. That’s the Das Keyboard in the background for comparisons sake (and Apple Wireless Keyboard in the way back). The Apple Extended Keyboard types like an absolute dream though. Don’t let it’s plus-sizeness fool you.

I’m testing a bunch of keyboards for review. I should have reviews up of the Das Keyboard and Matias Slim One in a few weeks after I use them more. I’m hoping to eventually test the Matias Tactile One as well ( the Matias One keyboards have a button to switch between typing on your Mac and your iPhone/Bluetooth-enabled phone or tablet). The Apple Wireless Keyboard is my normal keyboard, and I picked up a vintage Apple Extended Keyboard for comparison sake.

Please let me know if there is anything about these keyboards that you want me to address in my review. Also, let me know if there are other keyboards that you want me to test.

Episode 37: Blogging for tenure

We start off by discussing the Das Keyboard that I’m testing out for review purposes. Jeremy may have never heard a louder keyboard before.

But for the author, the Das Keyboard feels heavenly and the loudness is an asset. You owe it to yourself to at least try a mechanical keyboard before you die. This isn’t my final review, but early results are very positive.

Why shouldn’t someone who writes, programs or types for a living think very deeply about the device they use to do most of their work? Why do we spend so much time picking out our actual machines, software, even mice and so little on our keyboards?

I’m typing this entry on a Apple Extended Keyboard that I got off of Ebay to compare modern vs. old mechanical keyboards. It’s huge little a battleship, but man does it feel good, even though it is 20 years old.

We then take Google Drive for a spin and discuss how we think it stacks up against Dropbox and iCloud. If you’re interested in setting up a writing workflow with an iPad, I highly recommend you check out this post. I bring this up because any good mobile workflow will need one of these three services.

We also discuss academic writing in the Internet Age. Why is so much scholarly work locked up in academic journals that no one reads?

Is it time for academic blogging? Can you get tenure in your Mom’s basement?

I apologize for my audio sounding weird at the end. I’ll investigate what went wrong with my microphone.

Listen to this week’s episode:

 

Download the MP3

Show notes:

On writing

This is my second day using the Das Keyboard full time. I can’t tell if this is on account of me being just a massive tech nerd or if it really is about the keyboard itself, but I couldn’t wait to wake up this morning and start typing on this keyboard. It was like Christmas for a writer.

Wanting to write — anything at all — is every writer’s dream. We don’t dread verbal diarrhea. There is no such thing as too many words. Those can be edited away.

We dread those lonely, days, weeks, months and even years when we feel like we have nothing to write, nothing to say. I suppose how much the physical act of writing is enjoyable plays into that equation as well. I don’t enjoy writing with pens and pencils for anything beyond short note taking and brainstorm.

I’d never be a writer if I had to write everything by hand. My hand writing is atrocious. I don’t write particularly fast, and I find that when I truly get on a writing tear — and all writers know what a writing tear feels like emotionally — my hand begins to give out long before my mind and muse do.

I suppose that if I lived in a different time with different societal norms, someone would have really impressed into me the importance of good hand writing, and I would have had to work at it relentlessly or I wouldn’t have been able to get an education. As it is, I had to take extra hand writing lessons as a kid growing up. Perhaps, this is why I’m such a good typist and why I love keyboards and computers.

With pen and paper, I’m behind the curve as a writer. I’m someone whose teachers deemed his hand writing unworthy, and by extension, given the times, his very writing unworthy. To live in a world where hand writing matters is to live in a world where hand writing is the core of writing, and the ideas and the words themselves fade into the background.

As I methodically strike these keys, and as they click and clack back at me, my words are appearing for anyone to clearly read, to judge on their very merits as words and ideas. And my words can be shared with anyone all over the world — hardly something that I could have dreamed of when sitting in extra sessions during lunch in grade school to learn how to make my writing easier to read.

The only thing holding back my writing now is my mind. I can be as wild and free as I want to be, and I can share my thoughts with anyone that wants to read them.

It’s hard to say why I couldn’t wait to wake up this mourning and start writing, but I do know this: Without a good keyboard, I wouldn’t be sharing these thoughts with you. For me, a keyboard and computer are much more than tools; they’re my voice to the world.

Das Keyboard initial thoughts

This is not a full review. I use products for at least a week before I review them. Something like a keyboard probably deserves longer, but I do have some initial thoughts on the Das Keyboard Professional:

  • The Das Keyboard is a mechanical keyboard, like how keyboards used to be made up until the early 1990s. The reason that computers come with non-mechanical keyboards is because they are a lot cheaper to produce, and most people shop on price, not quality. Here is a pretty good primer on mechanical keyboard. We had a little write up about mechanical keyboards a week ago, but we’ll have much more in-depth content coming soon.
  • It is louder than a non-mechanical keyboard, but not as loud as I expected. My wife agrees. But is is many times louder than my Apple Bluetooth keyboard, which is on the quiet side for a keyboard.
  • The sound is not distracting. The sound really lets you know that you have fully pressed the key. There is no guesswork, unlike with a lot of keyboards. To compensate people really mash those keyboards to make sure there key presses actuate.
  • The keyboard does feel great. There is no denying that it has a much more substantial feel than my Apple Bluetooth keyboard. My wife, who is not a tech geek like me, was immediately impressed by the Das Keyboard. The whole keyboard has a very substantial feel, from the keys to the base of the keyboard. The keyboard weighs 3 lbs. There is no chance of this keyboard sliding around your desk during heavy typing sessions.
  • My wife is watching a YouTube video right in the same room as me, and she isn’t yelling at me for how loud the keyboard is. It’s kind of like the white noise of productivity.
  • My cat likes to lay on my keyboard when I type. He is not laying on the Das Keyboard right now. He is a few feet away. The keyboard might be too big and noisy for him to see comfortably lounging around on.
  • You don’t need to press the keys all the way in to get them to actuate. So, you don’t need to mash your keyboard to get the words to show on screen. I imagine that once I get used to the amount of force needed to actuate the keys, typing might become a little easier on my hands, wrists and arms. I haven’t figured out how to type on this keyboard yet and find myself bottoming out on a lot of keys, like I do with my non-mechanical keyboards (which is the only way to use them)
  • Since we’re not a Mac-specific technology site, Das Keyboard sent me the Windows keyboard to review. This means that I need to spend sometime mapping keys to get the Das Keyboard to function as I want it to with my Mac under OS 10.7 in my home office (right now none of the function keys work properly and I have no command key).
  • I’ll also be testing this keyboard out on my Windows 7 machine in my work office. Certainly, if you have a Mac, you should get the Mac version of this keyboard or any other, unless there isn’t a Mac version. It takes a bit of work and some third-party software to get this to function like a true native Mac keyboard.
  • Speaking of my work office, I’m very curious to see what my coworkers think of this keyboard. It’s louder than my current keyboard at work, and will it disturb our open office environment.

I’ll more thoughts on the keyboard in the coming weeks. We’re reviewing a bunch of keyboards in the coming weeks because we feel that keyboards and input devices have become an overlooked part of usability. Ask yourself, why did you get your current keyboard and mouse?

Most people don’t have good answers. The reasons that I have my Bluetooth Apple keyboard and mouse is that they look great. And I don’t think that’s a bad reason for having something.

The Apple Bluetooth keyboard is one of my favorite keyboards ever. It’s certainly the best keyboard that I have ever owned and the best Apple keyboard that I have used in a long time. Apple went through through a keyboarding dark age after the Apple Extended Keyboard II left us, and while the current crop of Apple keyboards are nowhere near that class of keyboard, they are pretty good for non-mechanical keyboards.

But is pretty good good enough for someone who spends more than eight hours a day sitting at a computer, usually typing something? We’ll find out.

Clicky keyboards ctd.

Justin Williams reviews the Das Keyboard:

So…how does it type?

Amazingly.

Every key press is substantial and satisfying. The keys have a slight inset to them that allows your finger tips to rest comfortable in them. As you push down on the keys, you are greeted with the classic “click-clack” noise of the keyboards of yesteryear. At first the amount of noise coming from my keyboard was incredibly distracting. Working around others it also made me a bit self conscious about my typing. As the week progressed, though, I started to notice the noise less and less. Das Keyboard does makea quieter version of their Windows keyboard. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar Mac variant made its way to market someday.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies:

Aesthetics don’t matter when it comes to getting your work done, but it is hard to not notice the large keyboard that dwarfs my MacBook Air, Cinema Display and Magic Trackpad. It feels incredibly out of place on a modern Mac desktop. If all you care about is aesthetics, don’t even bother trying to use one of these things. You’ll hate it. If you are consistently dressing up as Darth Vader, Das Keyboard will make a lovely addition to your attire.