Mechanical keyboards have been in the spotlight over the past few years, with the market growing exponentially and dozens of companies designing and promoting myriads of new products. The technology itself is definitely not new, with the first mechanical keyboards coming out over three decades ago, but they quickly faded away after the introduction of electronic/membrane keyboards that were selling for a fraction of the price. Today, mechanical keyboards are high up on the list of extra peripherals that enthuaists are interested in purchasing for their PC systems.

Introduction

As manufacturing costs came down, mechanical keyboards started finding their way into the consumer market about a decade ago. While still much more expensive than typical membrane keyboards, their market prices were becoming relatively affordable for people that were willing to pay the premium price for a better user experience. At that time, the market was very limited and only a few companies dared to tread towards it, let alone base their foundations on it.

In this review we are taking a look at two mechanical keyboards from Das Keyboard, the renowned US-based designer of mechanical keyboards. While their first keyboard was not a mechanical keyboard, every keyboard after that first one was, and nowadays the whole brand name is essentially bound with the design and marketing of quality mechanical keyboards. The company has supplied us with both their highly popular Das Keyboard 4 Professional and their newest Das Keyboard Prime 13, which are of similar design but are targeted at different target groups.

Packaging and Bundle

Das Keyboard 4 Professional

We received the Das Keyboard 4 Professional in a wide, yet thin white cardboard box. The box itself is of good quality and, with the combination of additional cardboard packaging and polyethylene foam pieces inside it, it is offering excellent shipping protection to the keyboard.

We found no bundle inside the box of the Das Keyboard 4 Professional. Considering that it is a product targeted towards professionals, the company rightfully does not expect them to worry about fancy items such as stickers. A keycap puller would be nice, if only for cleaning purposes. On the other hand, inside the box we found a 35 cm ruler, which doubles as a magnetic tilt stand for the keyboard. Although the presence of a ruler is not a breakthrough innovation, it certainly was rather creative for the designer to replace the keyboard's simple tilt mechanism with an item that can actually be of some use one day in the office.

Das Keyboard Prime 13

The box of the Das Keyboard Prime 13 is of equal size to that of the Das Keyboard 4 Professional, offering the same level of shipping security. The artwork and the aggressive phrasing however clearly hint that this keyboard has an somewhat different market focus.

Inside the box we found a quick start guide with very basic information about the keyboard and a keycap puller. There is no ruler here, the Prime 13 is a standard design with feet for tilt.

The Das Keyboard 4 Professional Mechanical Keyboard
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  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    For example, my logitech media keyboard (membrane) uses painted characters but the keycaps and plastic case and it stays the same color (black, means no clear ABS) Reply
  • Murloc - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    what if I don't care about the paint chipping as long as it works? Reply
  • Krause - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    Then you're clearly not looking for a high end mechanical keyboard. Reply
  • AlexanderTheSexy - Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - link

    For an actual high end mechanical keboard, you would have to look at the original high end keyboard from IBM. The model M. Build like a tank, and still sought after by many. Fetching prices of around $100-400. You can find more information on this page: http://www.clickeykeyboards.com/
    Nowadays, there is a newer model build by http://www.unicomp.com/.
    Honestly, once you get used to typing on such a keyboard, you never go back. Just give it a try.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    My rubber logitech media keyboard has 0 issues being my daily companion for near 10years. Reply
  • buxe2quec - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    Look, I have two mechanical keyboards, one at home and recently another one at work.
    We all know that rubber keyboards don't last as long, but we'll know that 1 million key presses are already more than enough and the 50 millions of mechanicals are not a REAL need or advantage (unless maybe you are in harsh environments like industrial? maybe!).

    We buy mechanical for the feeling and for the noise.
    Someone also for performance in gaming (not me) and someone else for status (again not me, but read the internet and you see it immediately).

    Membrane keyboards last forever (unless they are 5 dollar a piece) and are fine for almost everyone.

    Still, the feeling and sound of mechanicals makes me feel good :)
    Not a need.
    Reply
  • Jetpil0t01 - Sunday, January 15, 2017 - link

    Perfect example would be any of the Razer Blackwidow boards, custom switches rated to 80 million presses... But the braided USB cable reliably frays and breaks inside 6 months and its not a spare they sell. Also the LEDs aren't rated to last anywhere near that long, so it's all really just marketing when it comes down to it.

    Really you should be buying a board based on size, USB hub, media controls and wrist wrest, not switches or longevity. That's coming from someone who has purchased everything from Das and Cherry boards all the way down to cheap Indian and Chinese "fake" boards and really the typing experience and durability has very little to do with price.
    Reply
  • Washuai - Monday, January 23, 2017 - link

    Speak for yourself. I got into mechanical keyboards, because I was annoyed by replacing membrane keyboards that kept having keys that stopped actuating. I am nice to my hardware ( well outside of something about my fingers wearing not just letters off, but grooves in cheap plastic keys). Keys stopped working on a so called indestructible silicon roll up, board I liked. I was tired of stuff that kept failing and dug in with research and found mechanicals. Honorable mention to compaq membrane board I bought in emergency as was only thing available for sale; That one did not die, but was not what I wanted, still have it, just in case.
    Quiet typing and changing ergonomic needs, mean I probably will never go back to membrane. I do measurably better wpm on mechanical, while my wrists and forearms thank me for lighter touch actuation.
    On an expensive keyboard ( or even just office work horses), who wants some keys that stop being legible in a year? A blank keyboard looks better than that.
    I don't mind blank, but I've learned I'm in the minority. Businesses actually need labeled boards. Replace a heavy traffic keyboard with one with blank keys and observe. The results will surprise you and you will have pranked.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    It's true, durability is a non-reason for purchasing a mechanical keyboard. It's more like a checkbox feature used by marketing departments to help people feel justified in spending 20x more than necessary to get a keyboard for their computers. The same is true of proclaimed performance benefits in computer games that simply cannot be measured or proven valid.

    The bottom line is that mechanical keyboards exist in the present time because they can be sold for a higher profit due to customer perception that's been built partly on nostalgia for older generations of such keyboards (IBM Model Ms, for example) and partly on the mythology invented by marketing departments. Their increased margins are all the excuse a company needs to produce and sell a $200 keyboard.

    I write novels and other lengthy works of fiction (mostly fluff and source material for RPG worlds) and have done so on membrane and mechanical keyboards. The membrane boards I use last just as long and even if I only got 2 years of use out of each one, at $10 each, they'd be a far better value than a $100-200 mechanical keyboard that worked for ten years.

    However, pointing that out will just stir the pot up because people who have purchased mechanical keyboards will naturally seek to avoid negative feelings. It's fundamentally human to seek good feelings and the average mind will simply find a way it thinks is rational that refutes your claims.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Thursday, January 12, 2017 - link

    sorry that's not entirely accurate. it's not all customer perception. I don't have any nostalgia for an IBM model (never owned one) and don't care longevity or other marketing crap. I tried a mechanical keyboard and its biggest advantage is the nicer typing feel. The presence of an actuation point on certain variants means i don't have to bottom out the keys, and can therefore type faster and lighter. And therefore it feels nicer. in that regard it's objectively better and i didn't have to perform various mental tricks to rationalize it.
    I'm certainly not in the minority here either.
    Reply

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