As I’m writing this post, I pretty much don’t have to worry about doing a word count — or more accurately a character count. That’s because I’m writing it using a soon-to-be released Das Keyboard Model S Professional for Mac and my wife can hear every single key I hit.
Like most Mac users (of a certain age), I haven’t used a keyboard with mechanical switches in probably 20 years, at least since my Apple Extended Keyboard was retired. And for the past five years, pretty much every keyboard in the house has been the chiclet style that showed up on MacBooks, then shipped with Mac desktop systems. I have no complaints about those keyboards, mind you. I find them easy to work on, quiet and the fact that I can switch between multiple desktop systems and a trio of laptops without the keyboard changing appreciably has meant no ramp up time when moving between computers.
But I do have a soft spot for old-school, mechanical things. The wall-mounted rotary phone hooked up to a land line in my office is probably a dead giveaway there. So when I was offered the chance to try out a new Das Keyboard for Mac, featuring honest to goodness mechanical switches, I had to give it a try.
After unboxing the review sample, my first impression of the keyboard was that it is big. Not just a larger footprint than Apple’s keyboards, but much chunkier as well. It tips the scales at 3 pounds. It’s also very black, something that the Mac crowd isn’t all that accustomed to, after our past five years or so of brushed aluminum. The keyboard ships with a wiping cloth, which seems a bit strange (a can of compressed air I could see, but a wiping cloth?), until you use it for a few minutes and realize the shiny black housing attracts streaks, smears and dust at a rate that puts an iPad to shame. Yeah, you’ll need that cloth.
The letters on the keyboard also take a little getting used to. Apple uses capital letters in a large size font and centers the labels right in the middle of each key on its current keyboards. The Das Model S Professional is labelled with lower case letters in a very small font that’s tucked up in the left corner of the key. You get used to it, but the sight can be a little unnerving if you are a hunt and peck typist.
That’s about it as far as quibbles go. The keyboard itself was easy to hook up. It has a full 6.6 foot long USB cable and no drivers are required. The keyboard also functions as a USB 2.0 hub (with two ports), but to make the most of this, you’ll need to use 2 USB ports on your computer (the included cable has two prongs to accommodate this). The expected Mac specific keys are there, including media controls.
The real point of this keyboard is the mechanical switches. Instead of the rubber dome mechanisms used by most modern keyboards, the Das Model S Professional uses Cherry MX mechanical key switches with gold contacts. This means a tactile response that most current keyboards simply can’t match. Keys require a slight push down, audibly click and then bounce back up. It’s very retro (the IBM Model M keyboard is often invoked) and once you get going, the process of typing begins to feel quite — well — mechanical. I may not actually type faster when using this keyboard, but it sounds as though I do.
The gold plated switches mean extended durability. Its ability to support 6-key rollover (or six keys being pressed simultaneously) means really fast typists or hardcore gamers should be happy.
If you work in a cubicle farm, like to annoy your colleagues and lean toward passive aggressive techniques, then one of these keyboards is just the ticket. Trust me, thirty seconds after plugging it in and starting to key in data, everyone in a ten foot radius is going to know about your rad new piece of kit. If you’re a power typist, you may actually find yourself being more productive too.
Das Keyboard Model S Professional for Mac, available from Daskeyboard.com.
Price: $133 (pre-order for $113)
Wired: Mechanical feedback is precise, doubles as a USB hub, 6-key rollover means better results for fast typists and gamers.
Tired: It’s a bit of a beast so if your workspace is optimized for a standard Apple keyboard it might be a tight squeeze; the black plastic case doesn’t really fit the Mac color scheme and the shiny parts attract dust and grease like a magnet; it’s going to get loud (but you knew that).