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Review of Das Keyboard 713

My old keyboard was so crusted up with junk from years of abuse that I found myself struggling to depress most of the keys on the left side. So I decided that it was time to find a new keyboard. My plan was to steal the keyboards of my co-workers and try them out when they aren't around. But as this plan was underway, Das Keyboard asked me to review their newest keyboard. I used it for a few days to see if their website's claim of 'the best keyboard on the planet' is valid. Read on to learn more.

First of all let me say that it sounds great. There's something really satisfying about the thunderous racket created by a nice tactile keyboard. The buttons move smoothly and lightly. As I type these words I find myself typing very fast. Ironically, I have to turn up my speakers just to listen clearly to the NPR program quietly playing... and this leads me to my first point. There are no volume control keys. So I have to navigate through various menus to put the volume control widget back on my toolbar. I haven't needed it for years, but this keyboard has none of the bloated keys that over populate a modern keyboard. Save for the 2 keys added for windows 95, this is practically the same layout as the first keyboard I called my own in the 80s. The keyboard is also available without any markings on the key- although my keyboard had them.

Then I hear the ping that tells me that I have mail so I apple-tab to go to my Mail program and then... crap. Did I mention that this is a windows keyboard? The alt key and the windows key are obnoxiously transposed, requiring me to rewire my brain to get to the program I need. It's not the end of the world- and of course it only matters if you are using a Mac. But since I switch daily from the laptop keyboard to a desktop keyboard, I suspect that I would slowly go mad as I was never able to reliably remember which key was alt and which key was apple. To say nothing of this meaningless preferences button which does nothing. Of course the OSX preferences panels contain an option to remap these keys, but I'd have to reset it every time I went home. And I just don't like the idea of monkeying around with this sort of thing twice a day.

So I decide that just for now I will use my mouse to navigate from app to app. This makes my heart cry a little bit- I don't much care for my mouse. He sits there lonely, the tool of last resort as I instead opt to use ridiculous keybindings requiring 7 fingers of syncronized chording. It only inflames my carpal tunnel, but I don't have to move my arm. But times of desperation call for us to rise up to the challenges that come before us.

Now Das Keyboard has the USB ports on the right hand side. I've plugged in 2 devices: the first is a little spinner wheel that I use for editing video, and the other is a little RF broadcaster for a wireless Logitech mouse. And like most of you, I'm right handed. So as I fling my mouse around, I find myself constantly bumping into the 2 giant USB plugs that now overlap my mousepad. My old keyboard had the mouse ports at the top and I never had this problem.

The toggle lights are completely invisible unless on, hidden cleanly within the black plastic surface. The num lock key doesn't seem to do anything, although I assume that's a mac thing. And scroll lock... well now seriously, who among us relies on that in any serious way? Maybe I should just remap those keys, along with the windows 'preferences' key to be the volume up, down, and mute key I'm missing.

But it's black. It's sexy. It's loud. It feels good to type on it. Which takes me to the big question: is this really worth shelling out $130 plus shipping for? For me the answer is a no. It feels great to type, but the lack of volume controls, the mac keys, and most of all, the irritating position of the USB ports make it an inferior keyboard in all practical ways except for the simple act of typing. But if you are a left handed windows user, you might feel differently. As for me, I'm going to have to keep searching for my perfect keyboard. This one is close, but it's just not it.

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Review of Das Keyboard

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:07PM (#24002135)

    Before you say a keyboard has great tactile feedback try the Kinesis Freestyle. But don't take my word for it:

  • by Xtense ( 1075847 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:08PM (#24002159) Homepage

    Why don't they sell keyboards without these stupid windows-keys? I keep my old IBMish clone keyboard in top shape just so I don't have to endure getting used to such a gap in-between of Ctrl and Alt, and a much shorter space. I have no use for these additional keys, and I bet I'm not the only guy around who despises them. Why aren't old-style keyboards on the market? That's what I want to know.

    (And yes, I realize this is probably a years-old question)

  • by Captain Jack Taylor ( 976465 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:12PM (#24002237)
    Seconded, proud owner of two. Not using them though, as I find the springback to be hard on my fingers during gaming sessions. I prefer softer keyboards and will probably go over to scissor keys.
  • Das Keyboard user (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jordibares ( 1276026 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:12PM (#24002243) Homepage
    The only wish would be easier cleaning, the rest is just great.
  • by geomobile ( 1312099 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:14PM (#24002257) Homepage
    ...a keyboard that has keys that are displays?

    When remapping characters to keys the display should change accordingly.

    Preferably with a nixe tube [] kind of look.

    Please someone tell me there is something like this.
  • by El Cabri ( 13930 ) * on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:16PM (#24002291) Journal

    Frankly, the issue is a bit old. Who cares ? These keys do a few useful things under Windows, and I, for one, have grown used to count on them for shortcuts that wouldn't exist without some third party, custom configured hotkey app.

  • by Televiper2000 ( 1145415 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:22PM (#24002423)
    My favourite keyboard was bottom of the line Logitech wireless. Unfortunately I was unable to recover from the blue vodka cruiser incident. Right now I have a Logitech Access keyboard. It's fairly quiet, the keys are good enough, and it has all those fancy buttons. After 3 years of service I'm almost ready for a new one. I bought my daughter a Saitek. It's a full keyboard with the feel of a laptop keyboard. It has an odd feel at first but it's very comfortable and quiet to type on. It's also a very vibrant pink.

    $130 for a keyboard? Maybe if I'm actually typing all day long.
  • by doctor_nation ( 924358 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:23PM (#24002433)

    I wonder if that was the keyboard in Wanted...

  • by Depili ( 749436 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:24PM (#24002463)

    I have one of them and they are just a trusty old KT-2001 "ergoforce" keyboard sprayed black, it's sticker on the bottom and usb-id both confirm that.

    While KT-2001 is quite excellent keyboard, the das keyboard is just plain overprized, also it comes in only the us layout.

    Pity that I only have a tech demo kt-2001 as an alternative, as it's candy colour-coded spring stiffnesses are quite ugly, but atleast it has scandinavian layout.

  • by lenski ( 96498 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:38PM (#24002745)

    Mee too. I replaced an old GoldTouch with the FreeStyle and haven't looked back.

    Nearly perfect keyboard for my ancient wrists and fingers. (I am 51; 38 years of typing, 33 years on wristbending keyboards, has *ruined* my wrists and hands.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:39PM (#24002771)

    The keyboards that come free with any Dell (something like $10 if you order them separately) are the best I've ever used. They aren't super noisy, yet have great key response. They have zero unnecessary keys, which means they're a lot smaller and fit easily into keyboard trays. They are very sturdily-built; the last one I had lasted 6 years, and the only reason I replaced it was that they released a newer model that even more compact.

    I recently managed to get several of them, which I'm now keeping in storage in case Dell ever decides to phase them out for any reason. They're free, and they're great.

  • by Provocateur ( 133110 ) <shedied&gmail,com> on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:43PM (#24002849) Homepage

    for the small desktop (Think Sam Lowry's sliding desk in Brazil). So I can put the mousepad where the numeric keypad is supposed to be. I think HappyHacker has them, the high keys but without the Model M feel; I wish the keys were more low profile and ergonomic.

    e17 let me remap PrintSc and ScrollLock to be volume up/down; they're adjacent to each other. The Pause key brings down an xterm Quake-console-style (yeahconsole to be specific, like tilda or YaKuake).

    and might i add, yeah sure remap the Windows key. I'd rather ditch CapsLock. Was fine in my COBOL days. And it was shiftlock, so either shift key would release that lock on my portable typewriter. If they had CapsLock and shift keys working like this it would be alright. Dang just get off my lawn you kids...

    But what about you heavy coders out there, won't DasKeyboard mess you up when it comes to braces, brackets, parentheses, underscores, and whatnot?

  • by lenski ( 96498 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @12:44PM (#24002861)

    Forgot to mention: Not having a separate numeric pad keeps the mouse within reaching distance of the part of the keyboard that I actually use.

  • by 26199 ( 577806 ) * on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:01PM (#24003129) Homepage

    Still -- several years after they stopped making them.

    Seriously, if someone could point me to a better keyboard that's under 4000 USD, I'd pay a significant finder's fee. Until you've used a really good keyboard you don't appreciate just how much they're worth ...

    (It puzzles me how people who work with computers all day seldom think to try anything beyond a $20 keyboard.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:02PM (#24003141)

    In my opinion, Apple's new aluminum keyboards (especially the wired ones) are awesome. Great to type on, and they have a nice low profile. One USB port on each side.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:06PM (#24003233)

    I have two personal favourite keyboards: The Model M and KeyTronic.

    The IBM Model M is great at home where it doesn't disturb other people. My typing speed on it is higher than any other keyboard I have ever used. I attribute this to a few things:

      - The click sound lets me know a keypress has been registered.
      - The keys are harder to push at first, but easily complete the stroke after the initial effort. This eliminates keying adjacent letters, and it also eliminates keying letters erroneously from resting your fingers on the keys.
      - It's heavy. This means it doesn't move when you use it.
      - It takes a lot of abuse. I mean a LOT of abuse.
      - No windows keys.
      - Keys are where they are expected. No cramped up T-arrows with totally useless power/sleep/explode keys above. Backslash and backspace are generously proportioned, making for easy keying, and they are where they belong. Enter key is where it belongs, and shaped appropriately. Shift keys are the correct size. Caps lock has the detent to the right of it.
      - Keys are labelled correctly. Some crap modern keyboards don't put the SysRq on the front of the key, and they miss the numpad arrows and editing labels.
      - Keyboard tits are noticable and easy to find.
      - Keycaps are removeable, replaceable, customizable (sadly, not anymore, though), and are easily cleanable, although you won't *NEED* to clean a keyboard this well built.
      - Cable is easily replaceable. VERY easily replaceable.

    The KeyTronic is a reasonable substitute for use in environments that are best kept quiet (such as in a cube, in an office though, just close your door). It's faults:

      - Softer keypress makes it easier to accidentally miskey.
      - Lack of positive response from keys slows my typing speed down.
      - Enter key is misshapen, along with tiny and mis-placed backslash and backspace keys.
      - Backspace, SysRq, etc aren't labelled correctly.
      - Has windows keys.

    I find that people who learned to type either on a manual typewriter or an IBM selectric (no surprise there) prefer the Model M. It's stronger key resistance and noise helps keep typists on cue.

    Just my 2 cents...

  • the midas touch (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chawry ( 699690 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:44PM (#24003889)
    These days, my favorite is the gold touch keyboard [] from key ovation. It has very good feel and travel (though without the m-series clicks), a highly adjustable, split, ergonomic design, windows meta keys that exist but are placed out of the way in the left corner, and no bulky number pad. I've been typing on one for years now, and I can never go back!
  • by John_Booty ( 149925 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:47PM (#24003923) Homepage

    And I've noticed that my Unicomp keyboards have more spring tension than any of my Model M's, including a factory-sealed 1993 model I bought last year. (Thus eliminating keyboard wear as a factor)

    I wrote to Unicomp about this and they sent me a very detailed reply. Their answer, essentially, is that the original Model M spec allowed quite a variance (40%, or +/- 20%) in spring tension. Whereas Unicomp's springs all fall within about 20% range of variance centered around the original Model M specifications.

    So yes, there are Model M keyboards with more tension and there are Model M keyboards with less spring tension relative to the Unicomp keyboards.

  • by zerOnIne ( 128186 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:48PM (#24003943) Homepage


    Seriously pop the caps off, run the sucker through a dishwasher, alone. Let it dry for a couple days, and presto, practically-new keyboard for you.

    As a side note, never, ever try this with a membrane keyboard.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:57PM (#24004121) Journal

    Unfortunately the Das Keyboard isn't as heavily constructed as the Model M. I can pick mine up and twist the sides and the frame flexes slightly. I doubt it would survive an encounter with an intruder. It doesn't have as much curve as the Model M does either, so it's slightly less comfortable to type on.

    But it's still an excellent keyboard. Keyboards are for typing, and the Das Keyboard excels at it. I don't change the volume from my keyboard, that's what the mixer is for. I don't plug USB devices into it, I have a hub for that. I don't use a Mac, but if I did, remapping the keys is easy.

    Every one of the issues the reviewer weighs is a non-issue. This is one of the best keyboards on the market, and at $130 is worth every penny. It's still no match for a $2 Model M from Goodwill though.

  • by petard ( 117521 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:11PM (#24004399) Homepage

    They introduced per-keyboard control of the modifiers [] in OS X 10.5. If yours and CmdrTaco's comments are any indicator, though, they did not make this easy enough to find.

  • by bmajik ( 96670 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:22PM (#24004561) Homepage Journal

    When the MS natural keyboard first came out i completely scoffed at it, as it was both goofy looking and from Microsoft.

    Additionally, at the time I was only using Sun and SGI machines so I had no need to try learning to use one.

    Fast forward a few years, and as luck would have it, I found myself working at Microsoft in Redmond. I quickly learned to love the original natural keyboard, especially because of its backward tilt / massive wrist rest. None of the subsequent kb designs had this feature, and IMO, it was the #1 most useful ergo keyboard feature. I asked around a bit and IIRC, the unconventional tilt was patented by someone else and we opted to not continue paying royalties on it.

    I too regret that our company started dicking with home/end and arrow key layouts. Not to mention the completely unforgivable "FLock" fiasco. I started collecting Natural keyboards out of other peoples "PC recyle" piles (years ago, hardware people didn't want would get piled up in the major hallways of buildings, and it was "officially" meant for our PC recycling partner, but if you nabbed this hardware and put it to good use nobody much complained).

    I built up a supply of original Natural keyboards thinking that our company would forever have its head in the dirt and never make an unmolested arrow-key / no fLock unit, much less one that had the proper direction of tilt / wrist rest.

    Well, as another poster pointed out, the "Natural ergonomic keyboard 4000" is excellent and satisfies on all points. the Natural is still a bit more substantial and has better wrist support and hand angle, but the 4000 is a modern replacement that is natively USB and I find it satisfactory enough that I am finally retiring my 10+ year old natural KBs in favor of 4000s.

    Internally, one of our hardware guys (who had a long list of employees that were pissed off at our KB offerings) beamed with pride when he first unveiled the 4000 to us because it really is the first credible successor to the original Natural KB.

    As an aside, almost all of the key letters have rubbed off of all my natural KBs :) The thumb-strike regions on the space bar are completely de-textured. I showed a few to my wife and she couldn't fathom how someone could wear a keyboard so much :)

  • by mritunjai ( 518932 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:25PM (#24004615) Homepage

    Best Keyboard for unix geek... is a Sun Type 7

    * Damn good tactile feedback
    * Heavy
    * Has 15 (yes fifteen) extra function keys
    * Dedicated meta, compose and alt-graph keys.
    * 3 USB Ports (on top, not sides), including a hidden one for mouse.
    * Comes in a variety of native layouts
        - Traditional PC
        - UNIX (American)
        - UNIX (British)

    Country kit is $70 and comes with a keyboard and (a damn good ambidextrous) mouse. Choose carefully. Part numbers are google away.

  • by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @03:33PM (#24005609)

    Perhaps off topic, but from that link:

    Another relevant factor is that the older technology used on the IBM keyboard's controller PCB requires more power to operate than newer keyboards. The IBM draws around 112mA from the interface, whilst a modern keyboard draws 1.2mA. These figures are with the 3 status LEDs (NumLock, CapsLock, ScrollLock) off. Each of these draw around 12mA when lit on both keyboards.

    That's pretty amazing. I wonder where are all the press releases from Greenpeace and others about how WASTEFUL the Model M is?

  • by clintp ( 5169 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @04:42PM (#24006883)

    Daisy wheel and golf ball? They're not loud when compared to a barrel printer.

    Barrel printer? They're not loud when compared to a chain printer. Until 1992 we had an IBM-1403 [] that we kept around just for re-printing the source code books every month.

    (Yes, we kept the source code printed out for taking support calls in the programming department. It was easier to page through the source in book form to find out why things happened than to find the right floppy disks, load up the code, load up the editor, and then page through at 24x80... Documentation? Pffft! Spec? Pshaw!)

    We had an upper-case only chain, though. So mixed-case text was always a bit of a puzzle to figure out. Fortunately the programming language was case insensitive.

    Even the linefeed/pagefeed was loud.

    PS: And don't fuck up the linefeed/carriage return sequence. At 75 inches / second a bad print job could ruin a box of paper in a few minutes.

  • by nitehorse ( 58425 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2008 @05:03PM (#24007203)

    The Unicomp keyboard is kind of flimsy compared to an original Model M; however, PS2 to USB adapters are very hit-or-miss so it's a pain to use a Model M with a modern computer.

    I think it's safe to say that I'm more obsessed with the Model M than pretty much anyone else I know - I have a dozen of them (both classic Model M #1391401s and several of the Space Saver editions sans numpad on the right), but I was getting really tired of needing the special cable (on the ones that have a detachable cable) and a PS2/USB adapter for each one to use it. I have more computers without PS2 ports these days than with, so USB is kind of necessary.

    So... with a friend's help, I learned how to design electrical circuits so I could manufacture a new brain for the M. [] is the PCB layout, and [] is the source code for the firmware that runs on the microcontroller.

    I'm actually typing this comment on a Model M I bought on eBay, but it's running my firmware on my board, talking USB natively.

  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2008 @05:15PM (#24007385) Homepage

    Tried going to a standard keyboard to do some programming and it was hell. I could never go back.

    That's sort of where I am. I bought the Natural keyboard because I did a fair bit of typing (I'd have been 12 or so, at the time) and I thought it was neat. The Windows key was handy. I did almost all my typing on that thing for a long time.

    Then as I got to college, I found typing code on their Dells (standard dell $2 keyboard) was annoying after an hour or two. Typing a paper would get annoying to painful after 2 hours or so. My laptop was better (for some reason) but still happened after long enough. When I had a long paper to type, I'd set the laptop on a table and pull out my old Microsoft Natural and get it done with no problem. Larger hands made normal keyboards much less comfortable (where at 12-14 they fit just fine).

    Then I got my job two years ago. As I did more and more programming (because I was more familiar with the code base so I could do longer chunks without having to go look stuff up for a few minutes), programming got more and more painful (again, $2 Dell run-of-the-mill keyboard).

    So I looked around my house, found my old MS Natural, and took it to work. I seem to be able to type faster on it, but more importantly I have to type for hours and hours straight, for a few days straight, before typing starts to get annoying and painful.

    Some times when there is lots to be typed or programmed, I'm not sure I'd get nearly as much done if I had to use a standard little keyboard due to rest breaks.

    People laugh. Some people (especially those who can't touch type) think the things would be worse to type on. But the proliferation of split keyboards over the last 12+ years shows how useful they are.

  • Re:Caps-Lock key (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YGingras ( 605709 ) <> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:21AM (#24012693) Homepage

    Try the Colemak layout and enjoy caps-lock as an alternate backspace.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990