As keyboards “advance,” my typing gets worse. This has nothing to do with age, but more that the newer keyboards or (shudder!) touchscreens simply aren’t as conducive to typing long strings of text as the old electric typewriters on which I was taught. The less feedback I get, the slower I type, and with more errors.
If you’re the same way, and if your keyboard is used more for forming sentences and paragraphs than issuing command-key shortcuts or launching virtual attacks on virtual warriors, then Metadot’s Das Keyboard 4 Professional for Mac is a worthy investment.
Das Keyboard 4 is more about typing than about appearance, after all. Unlike Apple’s continued push to get smaller/thinner and do away with cables, the Das Keyboard 4 is exactly as large as a keyboard should be. It takes up space on your desk because a keyboard needs to in order to be functional with a complete number pad and properly placed/sized arrow keys. Even the function keys are full size, making them easy to hit when necessary. However, only 13 are available for use, as Metadot used the remaining space for the screen brightness and media control buttons/knob.
The round knob you see in the image above controls the computer’s volume, and how great is it to actually have a rotating knob for that again? I’ll gladly take that over hardware buttons or an on-screen slider.
The Das Keyboard 4 rests flat on your desk, which isn’t quite as ergonomic as a downward slope, but is better than the incline most people use. If you do prefer the incline, a magnetic footbar (complete with ruler!) can be placed on the underside of the keyboard. This lifts the back pads off the desk, however, so the keyboard is more likely to shift a bit during typing. In addition, if you’re not using it, you’ve got a 16″ ruler you need to find a place to store.
Connection is handled via the surprisingly long 6.5 foot USB 3.0 cable that also powers the two USB 3.0 ports behind the Das Keyboard logo.
Of course, the selling point of the Das Keyboard are the keys themselves. More specifically, the key action. The high-performance, gold-plated switches are built to last, and the craftsmanship behind them provides solid, comfortable typing. The keys are sturdy and balanced, which is great for speed and accuracy. However, the edges are somewhat sharply cut, causing them to feel like they’re digging into your fingers and thumbs when you don’t come down on them directly (as with the space bar).
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional for Mac comes in two switch styles: brown and blue. I reviewed the brown switch model, which is built to provide a softer tactile experience, but still provide more feedback than you get from Apple’s keyboards. Call it a middle ground between those and Metadot’s blue switch model, which provides a more “clicky” tactile bump for even greater speed as you don’t have to push the key down as far for it to register.
Be warned that although the audio feedback of these clicky keyboards is useful to the typist, it can annoy those around you. A coworker told me the noise would drive him crazy, but he often listens to sports talk radio at the office, so I’m not sure he has a clear understanding of what noise is.
One other feature worth noting is that the Das Keyboard 4 supports full n-key rollover (NKRO). I didn’t activate it much—I’m not that fast, so it’s not necessary for me—but it’s there if you want it.
Overall, I found I greatly preferred the Das Keyboard 4 Professional for Mac when typing longer documents, such as Technology Tell reviews or that novel I’m never going to finish. The tactile feedback is great for speed and accuracy when your eyes are elsewhere. For gaming or just holding modifier keys down when using the mouse in Photoshop and such, the switches aren’t a tremendous benefit and therefore aren’t worth the investment.
Ultimately, then, whether you should consider a keyboard upgrade depends upon the type of user you are. If you take Apple’s wireless keyboard with your iMac and never bother to question it, you probably don’t need to spend $179.00 on a replacement. But if you know better and always try to swap it out with Apple’s wired keyboard with the number pad, then obviously you’re seeking a better typing experience, and have advanced to the point where you should start looking to third-party manufacturers. Let that search begin (and likely end) with Das Keyboard.
Provides: Keyboard input with tactile feedback
Compatibility: USB input, designed for Mac
Price: $179 – brown switch model; $175 – blue switch model