Taking a closer look at the animal
Now that the boring part is out of the way, let's have a look at the Das Keyboard Professional. The first two keyboards to bear the Das Keyboard name catered to an exclusive niche, since they had completely blank key caps. That made them inaccessible to all but experienced touch-typists.
By contrast, the third-gen Das Keyboard is available both with and without marked key caps. Metadot dubs the blank version Das Keyboard Ultimate, but we're looking at the version with marked key caps today—the Das Keyboard Professional.
Without the blank keys gimmick going for it, this keyboard really needs to stand out because of its tactile comfort alone. That's apparently what Metadot had in mind, because the Das Keyboard Professional really doesn't have many frills. You get 104 normally placed keys (including Windows keys), three LEDs, a dual-port USB 2.0 hub, and that's pretty much it. Much of the company's attention seems to have gone into the details, like the glossy finish, stylish lock indicators, 6.6-foot USB cable, support for up to 12 simultaneous key presses, lack of "F-lock" nonsense, and of course, the clicky key switches.
Incidentally, prying off key caps needn't involve a screwdriver or very much brute force. The caps simply slide off the little cross-shaped key switch nubs, although they stay securely in place unless you actively try to tamper with them.
I can't say I approve of the glossiness, since this device is after all designed to come in contact with human hands on an day-to-day basis. Even Metadot apparently expects the keyboard to collect smudges quickly, because it throws a little wiping cloth in the box. Nevertheless, the Das Keyboard looks good. That's a welcome change from the Model M and its more recent copycats, which are about as retro as New Coke and Rick Astley music videos. Unless you're still using a CRT monitor and an old-fashioned ball mouse, the Das Keyboard should look more at home on your desk than other clicky offerings.
The Das Keyboard is a good deal lighter and more compact than the Model M, as well. (Metadot quotes a weight of 2.6 lbs, while the Model M weighs more than double that according to my bathroom scale.) Those are nice pluses for folks with small desks and LAN party addicts. On the flip side, you can't use the flat area at the top to store pens and other knick-knacks, and the Das Keyboard probably doesn't make a good weapon. Keep that in mind next time you get into a fight over code formatting rules or Joss Whedon shows.