Das Keyboard Professional Review

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Das Keyboard Professional Company: Das Keyboard (Metadot Corporation)
Platform: PC

For most people, hunt-and-peck typing is the most they aspire to. If you slowly search for keys to press with your two index fingers, you probably don't care what kind of keyboard is sitting in front of your web browser. But gamers, like the top touch typists, care a lot about their keyboard. It's important the action is good, that the keys are responsive and that the keyboard doesn't seize up if you strike too many keys at once. For those people, the Metadot Corporation is introducing a redesigned version of the Das Keyboard Professional under its Das Keyboard brand.

Kyle Ackerman

The Das Keyboard Professional is a very particular beast, and a small number of you will think that it is absolutely the best keyboard on which you've ever placed your fingerpads. Most of you will be completely indifferent, and a small faction of you (particularly die-hard massively multiplayer online game fans) will absolutely loathe it. The Das Keyboard Professional is superbly engineered, and does everything it attempts spectacularly. The real question is, to what extent do your keyboard needs overlap with its design goals.

Das Keyboard ProfessionalVisually, the Das Keyboard Professional is stunning. It is a minimalist black slab that looks equally good on a slob's lap as it does on a CEO's desk, and wouldn't seem out of place as a prop in an art film. But that minimalism comes at the price of features (both useful and vanity) that gamers often want. The keys don't have that backlit glow that so many gamers love, and there are no media control buttons (that on some keyboards even pointlessly waste system resources) and no LCD panel. None of those are strictly necessary for a gaming keyboard, but many gamers like having macro buttons to which complex actions can be mapped. Yes, there are additional peripherals that can be purchased for that function, but as a gaming keyboard, such keys seem mandatory nowadays, and the Das Keyboard Professional doesn't have them.

But let's step away from gaming for a moment. For a typist, the Das Keyboard Professional is simply amazing. It's such a superb piece of equipment for an advanced touch typist that it is more of a pleasure to type this review on the Das Keyboard Professional than on the plebian keyboard it sits before. That said, it's an odd relic. The keys have a resistance and strong click that helps rapid typing, and perfectly mimics the action on a late-model electric typewriter. (Das Keyboard touts the keyboard's gold-plated key switches designed by Cherry Corporation.) It's nothing like the computer keyboards many younger gamers (and even corporate drones) have used all of their lives. That makes the typing audience for the Das Keyboard Professional largely limited to elder typists (who don't like that newfangled action) and really fast touch typists. Ordinary typists just won't care very much, and several who tried the keyboard in our offices found it a little jarring to use.

Another factor that really helps a fast touch typist is useful for gamers. The keyboard allows for up to 12 keys to be pressed simultaneously. Some keyboards (particularly the one that came free with your computer) will stop registering keys long before that threshold. I really wish I'd had the Das Keyboard Professional back in the day when I was trying to play Star Control 2 as a multiplayer game – with two people running ships from the same keyboard, the Das Keyboard Professional would have let us maneuver properly without keys locking up. But other gaming keyboards come close enough, and rarely does a gamer (as opposed to a strong typist) actually need to use 12 keys at the same time (unless macroing an intense sequence of commands).

I really appreciated that the keyboard came with two USB 2.0 ports. Far too many keyboards use older USB hubs that are simply limiting. Sure, most PCs (particularly gaming rigs) have a lot of USB ports, but if the keyboard is going to help me bring them away from the PC, they should be useful, and the keyboard has the six-foot cable that is really the working minimum for a decent gaming keyboard.

Fundamentally, while the responsiveness on the Das Keyboard Professional is wonderful, it doesn't have the macro ability that gamers want in a dedicated gaming keyboard. Certainly, it's possible to purchase an external gaming keypad to take care of your macroing, but when there are other solid keyboards with that ability sold at a lower price, the Das Keyboard Professional is going to have a tough time breaking into the gaming market. At least it doesn't require any drivers – just plug it in and start typing.

So who should get the Das Keyboard Professional? Talented typists who miss the feel of an electric typewriter. If that sounds like you, the Das Keyboard Professional will give you the kind of glowing feeling that will make you want to keep transcribing long after you've reached the end of a tape. Also, if you are more concerned with technofashion than price, this glossy black keyboard is the kind of thing a character in a William Gibson book is typing on. Those folks also need this keyboard. If you're the average gamer, the responsive clicks are probably alienating, and the lack of macro keys is severely disappointing, particularly for $129.00.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 9, 2008 10:08 PM.

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