Typing on a $130 keyboard
So, what does typing on the Das Keyboard Professional actually feel like? I compared it to Apple's Extended Keyboard II earlier in this review, and that's not entirely inaccurate: both units have flatter keys than the Model M, and they both have less travel time and softer springs. That means you don't have to push as hard, which (in theory) should minimize fatigue.
Surprisingly, however, I found the Das Keyboard a little cramped. That's not because it's any smaller than the Model M. On the contrary, the home row is actually slightly wider overall. However, Metadot opted for slightly narrower key caps with larger gaps between them. This difference amounts to something like half a millimeter per key, but it still caused me to make more typos at first. (Though perhaps the Das Keyboard's shorter overall height also played a part in that.) Take that impression with a grain of salt: I've been using a Model M on my desktop for about six years, so I'm a bit like a grouchy old man asked to part with his favorite chair.
Softer feel or not, the Das Keyboard Professional's keys are very clicky. The clicks have a somewhat higher pitch and a less plasticky sound than those on the Model M, so they actually sound a little more like an old typewriter. If you're hoping paying $130 will get you the same feel as the Model M without the deafening noise, prepare to be disappointed. For the reasons I explained eariler, however, auditory feedback is a good thing for typists.
I expect some may want to actually see and hear the device in action, so I've filmed myself typing away on both the Das Keyboard and the Model M. Enjoy:
While we're on the topic of noise, I noticed a strange issue with my review unit: the keys hum. You can't hear it in the video, but hitting a key or slapping the underside of the keyboard produces a resonating musical sound not unlike a faint A3 note. After further tinkering, I think the noise comes from the springs inside each key. While you may not hear anything if you're listening to music or wearing headphones, it's definitely unsettling. I was even more unsettled when I plugged my Model M back in, because as it turns out, it also produces a sort of ringing sound—just on a higher pitch. I must've gotten used to it over the years, because I think it's fainter and easier to tune out, a bit like a subdued wind chime.
All things considered, though, I think the Das Keyboard Professional feels just great to type on. It doesn't really replicate the touch and feel of the Model M, but after about a day of use, I'd be tempted to say it's actually a little more comfortable. Keys require little pressure to hit, and at certain moments, I feel like my fingers are simply gliding over the keyboard instead of painstakingly pressing down on each key. Coupled with the clickiness, that makes for some very satisfying typing.
Some readers may wonder why I'm comparing the Das Keyboard to the Model M and not a more recent dome-switch keyboard. That's essentially because the two designs are like apples and oranges: clicky keyboards are in a league of their own in terms of tactile feel, and you can't really replicate that without mechanical key switches. The Das Keyboard and Model M both feel crisp, responsive, accurate, and satisfying to use, whereas every dome switch keyboard I've typed on has felt mushy and spongy. If you've tried both keyboard types and prefer the dome-switch variety, then the Das Keyboard isn't for you. Simple as that.
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