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Computerized Investing > October 2010

Das Keyboard Model S Professional

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

Around the office, my quest for the perfect keyboard is well-documented. I go through keyboards faster than I go through shoes. I am partial to "clicky key" keyboards instead of the "quiet key" models that dominate the market today. For those of you who have been using computers for more than 15 years or so, you may remember the legendary IBM Model M keyboards considered by many to be gold-standard in keyboards. These workhorses were purported to be able to handle over 100 million keystrokes.

The problem with making such durable keyboards was that companies didn’t make money by selling replacements. As result, over the years the durability of computer keyboards has fallen off significantly. Admittedly, unless you are a serious gamer or typist, most people don’t think twice about the keyboard that comes with a new computer. However, as I have discovered, the right keyboard can have a significant impact on how quickly and accurately you can type, as well as how your hands and fingers feel after prolonged use.

Up until a couple of months ago I was using a Unicomp keyboard. In 1996, Unicomp purchased the buckling-spring keyboard technology—the technology behind the legendary IBM Model M—from Lexmark International. This brute of a keyboard is about as sturdy as they come and provided a satisfying clicking noise when typing. However, I found the keys to be so stiff that after only a short amount of time typing, my fingers would start to tire.

Luckily, I ran across Das Keyboard (for those of you with any German knowledge, this means The Keyboard). Almost immediately I discovered that this is, in fact, THE Keyboard, offering a pleasing combination of style and comfort that any serious typist would love. After using it for a couple of months, I don’t dispute the company’s claim of making “The best keyboard in the world. Period.”

Setup

The Das Keyboard is ready to use right out of the box. There are no drivers to install; all you do is plug it in and start typing. Keep in mind that the cord actually has two USB plugs—one for the keyboard itself and the other for the two built-in USB ports. I am using my Das Keyboard on a Dell XPA 420 desktop running Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit) and didn’t have a problem getting it to work. According to the company, the Das Keyboard Model S is compatible with Windows 2000 or higher, Linux, and Mac OS X or higher.

Design

When it comes to electronics, I place a heavy premium on function over form. However, many manufacturers try to “glitz” up their offerings to make up for a lack of functionality. Luckily, the designers of Das Keyboard didn’t take that route. The keyboard is extremely minimalist—black keys with white laser-etched inscriptions, a high-gloss finish, and blue LED indicator lights for the Caps Lock, Number Lock and Scroll Lock. My only real complaint—if you can even call it that—about Das Keyboard is that its high-gloss finish does attract a lot of fingerprints and dust.

Some reviews I have read about Das Keyboard criticize the lack of multi-media keys to adjust the volume or to advance or repeat music tracks. However, I never find myself using those keys anyway, so I don’t have a problem with their omission.

There is also a Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate with blank keys. This is intended for touch typists or those aspiring to be one.

The Das Keyboard also sports two high-speed USB 2.0 ports built into the right side of the keyboard. While this is a nice feature, I always forget they are there.

Performance

Although I really like the look of Das Keyboard, the keys themselves are what steal the show. Honestly, unless you have actually used this keyboard, it is almost impossible to relate what an absolute pleasure it is to use. I have taken my fair share of ribbing from people who have heard me singing the praises of this keyboard. After all, it’s just a keyboard, right?

The experience begins underneath the keys with the gold-plated switches produced by German-based Cherry Corporation. These switches produce an audible and tactile “click” that, to me, makes Das Keyboard so satisfying to use. Since I have my own office, the sound my typing generates isn’t that much of an issue. However, if you work in an office cubicle, your co-workers may not appreciate the noise. For those looking for a quieter version, there are Das Keyboard Silent models that are not as loud.

These same gold-plated switches give the Das Keyboard unmatched durability. According to the company’s press materials, these key switches are designed to withstand 50 million keystrokes, compared to 10 to 20 million for the typical keyboard on the market today.

While reading about Das Keyboard, I learned a new term: “n-key rollover.” This a feature of certain high-end keyboards whereby each key is scanned completely independently by the keyboard hardware, so that each key press is correctly detected regardless of how many other keys are being pressed or held down at the same time. By contrast, the typical keyboard on the market today can only support a limited number of keys being held down at any given time—otherwise, you will run into phenomena known as “ghosting” or “jamming.” This can be a problem for very fast typists or for gamers. However, das Keyboard offers full n-key rollover, using the PS/2 adapter that comes with it. If your computer doesn’t support PS/2 connectors, you still get six-key rollover with the USB connection.

Much to the chagrin of my junior high typing teacher, I never became a true touch-typist. However, I am still able to pound out about 50 words a minute using my modified “hunt and peck” method. When I first got my Das Keyboard, I found that I was making more typos than usual, mainly because the keys are much softer and more sensitive than the Unicomp keyboard I had been using. Once I got used to the spacing of the keys and their receptiveness, I found that my typing speed actually increased by about 20%. For someone who does a lot of typing, whether that is articles, e-mail, blogging, or instant messaging, having a keyboard that will actually speed the process is invaluable.

Bottom Line

Of all of the items I have reviewed for this column, the Das Keyboard is, without a doubt, my favorite. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I ended up buying the review model that was initially lent to me. Even at $129, I feel that it is well worth the price. For someone who spends a good part of his day working at the keyboard, I am able to tell the difference this keyboard makes—both in the speed and accuracy of my typing, as well as the reduced stress on my fingers. For this reason, I am fond of saying that Das Keyboard is “Dr. Scholl’s for the fingers.”

Das Keyboard Model S Professional
Das Keyboard
www.daskeyboard.com

$129 for Model S Professional and Ultimate ($135 for silent models)

Pros:

  • Arguably one of the best keyboards on the market today
  • Found to improve typing speed while reducing finger fatigue
  • Two built-in USB 2.0 high-speed ports

Cons:

  • For the casual user, cost may be hard to justify
  • High-gloss finish tends to collect fingerprints, dust and scratches
  • Not for those looking for a quiet keyboard

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


Discussion

Judson from CA posted over 3 years ago:

Wayne, Have you seen the Matias Tactile Pro 3? Like the Das Keyboard Model S, but a tad more expensive.


Wayne from IL posted over 3 years ago:

Thanks Judson. I haven't but I will but it on my list to try and review in the future. Wayne


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