Office upgrade: Das Keyboard 4 Professional

I wore out the keys on my old keyboard awhile back, and have been stuck using an extremely low end keyboard for a few months. Cheap keyboards have a bad habit of taking a moment to recognize a keystroke. This particular keyboard takes just a fraction of a second too long to recognize my shift key, so I end up trying over and over and over to type a capital letter. I finally had enough and invested in a new keyboard.

I had a few requirements:

  1. It has to be USB. My keyboard lives at my desk, connected to a computer that is physically attached to my desk. I don’t have any need for a flaky wireless keyboard.
  2. It has to have a volume control. I’ve been stuck relying on an AutoHotKey script to give me volume control because my cheap keyboard didn’t have it. I much prefer a dedicated control.
  3. It has to have a number pad. For some reason most “programmer” keyboards are missing the number pad. I love my number pad. I use it all the time. I’m not willing to give it up.
  4. It has to have mechanical keys. If you’ve never used a mechanical keyboard, you don’t know what you are missing. They feel wonderful. They sound wonderful. The keycaps can be replaced when they get worn out.

After much research, I settled on the Das Keyboard 4 Professional.

Sorry the photo is awful. The lighting in my office isn't that great for photography, but is great for programming.

Sorry the photo is awful. The lighting in my office isn’t that great for photography, but is great for programming.

It uses Cherry MX Brown switches, which are a nice compromise between a gaming and a typist experience. The keys themselves feel great, with just a hint of texture. The placement of the keys is better than my cheap keyboard. My fingers can find all the function keys and numbers on their own.

There is a big volume knob on the right. There is a cutout along the right edge, so I can slide my hand along it to turn the volume up or down. It has a satisfying gentle click click click when the volume knob is turned. It has a sleep button that is flush with the keyboard. This is nice, because it is easy to quickly go to sleep, but difficult to hit on accident.

It is USB 3.0, with 2 additional USB 3.0 ports on the back right corner of it. I’m using one of the ports for my wireless mouse. It freed up a port on the back of my computer, eliminating my need for a USB hub, while solving the occasional signal strength issues I’ve had in the past.

The keyboard is HEAVY weighing in at 2.9 lbs. It is solidly built and should last pretty much forever, but I wouldn’t want to travel with it.

One other neat feature is n-key rollover. This means the keyboard will never drop a key, no matter how many you hit at once. I’m not sure how they accomplished this, as the USB protocol is limited to 10 simultaneous key presses at a time. I’ve been able to press 20 keys at once on the Das Keyboard without it dropping a single key, so they must have found a way around the protocol limitation. You can test your keyboard’s rollover here if you are interested.

The only thing I don’t like are the LEDs for the num lock, caps lock, and scroll lock indicators. They are ridiculously bright when viewed from certain angles. Like blindingly bright. I’ll probably end up putting a bit of tape or something over them to dim them.

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