Chad Perrin: SOB

22 April 2009

Das! Daaaaaaaaas!!! (Das Keyboard Ultimate)

Filed under: Geek,Review — apotheon @ 07:46

A friend of mine — a friend for more than twenty years now (holy shit I’m old) — ordered something for me as a birthday gift. It was supposed to arrive by UPS last week, around the 15th, I think. It turns out that somewhere along the way, between the friend (call him n8), Metadot (the vendor), and the shipper (UPS), a letter in my address got lost. As a result, it didn’t arrive last week.

n8 got in touch with me to let me know there was a problem. I called up UPS on Saturday and corrected the address error. The UPS representative told me the address had been corrected and the package was rescheduled for delivery. He told me it would arrive on the 21st.

Das Keyboard Image

It was about 1630 on Tuesday when I realized it probably wasn’t going to arrive. I called UPS again, and made the necessary corrections again. It was rescheduled (again), this time for today. Today, it actually arrived.

I was a little mystified to see that the package was a cardboard box that looked about the size and shape of a computer keyboard retail box — maybe just a little bigger. I brought it inside, sliced through the tape, and opened it up. Inside was an actual retail-style computer keyboard box with a picture of Das Keyboard on it. Yes, really.

Truth in advertising: the box contained a Das Keyboard Ultimate. This thing is a $129 keyboard — a keyboard I have craved for about as long as I knew it existed. I mentioned wanting such a beast in my HP Wireless Elite Keyboard and Mouse review, and I remember n8 had asked me for some details about what makes the Das Keyboard so great. Little did I know he was plotting against me.

Quit stalling.

Okay, okay, I’ll share what I think of the thing.

  1. It is really clicky. I love how clicky it is. I might not like it so much if someone else was using it nearby while I was trying to work, but when I’m using it, it’s very satisfying. It’s loud, dammit, like keyboards were meant to be.

  2. The tactile feedback of it is most excellent. The key shape is most excellent. The key arrangement is most excellent. All of these things contribute to faster, more precise typing than not only my ThinkPad keyboard, but also my HP Wireless Elite keyboard. It feels amazing, and this helps immensely with my typing. Right now, I’m away from home, typing on my ThinkPad keyboard in a coffee shop — and by comparison, typing on this thing feels like I’m pushing my fingers through molasses.

  3. I’m already beginning to feel the improved typing speed effects, not only because of the physical design of the thing, but also because I’m looking at the keyboard to double-check myself far less often. I’ve only used the thing for a few hours, and so far everything about the keyboard’s hype appears to be true. If you aren’t a touch-typist, though, stick to something with marked keys (obviously).

  4. It looks awesome. Seriously. This is one badass-looking keyboard.

  5. It would be really inconvenient attached to the computer at the living room desk, because when guests want to look something up online I’m sure some of them would be discomfited, or even entirely helpless, faced by an unmarked keyboard. Also, attaching it to the computer at the living room desk would be problematic because that thing gets used more for gaming than anything else; when it’s being used for gaming, there’s other gaming in the room, and there may be headsets in use, all of which makes for a bad circumstance in which to make loud clacking noises.

Das Keyboard LED/Logo Image

I’ll be moving this keyboard into the room I call my “office”, where it won’t bother anyone, it’ll help encourage productivity, and it’ll make my working environment look just that much more . . . badass.

Now, I just need to get my hands on an IBM Model M in reasonably good shape to refamiliarize myself with how that feels, so I’ll be able to do a head-to-head comparison (edit: or maybe just a Unicomp Endurapro).

What I’ve discovered about comparing this thing with the HP Wireless Elite, though, is not so much that it’s better, but that it’s better for some purposes, and the HP Wireless Elite is better for other purposes. Some of the very things that make Das Keyboard Ultimate so exceptional are the same things that make it inappropriate, or at least less perfect, for other things.

In the end, if you have your own isolated working space, and you’re a lover of high-quality keyboard engineering, it’d be hard to do better than Das Keyboard (or even do anywhere near as well).


  1. It does look cool.

    Is there any particular advantage to not having labels on the keys? I mean, other than the obvious (“I’m such a badass touch typist I don’t have to bother with silly key labels”).

    Comment by Brian Martinez — 22 April 2009 @ 09:05

  2. Yeah — the marketing BS from Metadot about how it discourages you from staring at the keyboard all the time (using the markings on the keys as a crutch) and thus helps improve your touch-typing skills; it turns out that isn’t BS. It really is helping already, even if only a little bit, after a couple hours’ worth of cumulative use. Since I don’t have the temptation to look at the markings on the keys, I don’t second-guess the muscle memory of my fingers, and don’t end up wasting as much time as a result.

    I’m also getting a better habitual (what interface designers tend to call “intuitive”) grasp of where certain very rarely used keys are located than I had before this, because I can’t rely on my ability to identify them by sight.

    Comment by apotheon — 22 April 2009 @ 10:04

  3. oi, I’d be hard pressed, as decent a touch-typist as I am, to use such a keyboard.

    Comment by Joseph A Nagy Jr — 22 April 2009 @ 10:42

  4. It does look pretty cool without the keys but I would have to agree with you. It would not be a very good living room keyboard since most people would be intimidated by the fact its unlabeled. I think most people could do it though, at least in my experience, everyone I know looks at the screen rather than the keyboard while they type. Great review, glad you enjoyed the keyboard so much!

    Comment by Susan @ Builder Wire — 23 April 2009 @ 07:59

  5. I stand by my Kinesis Advantage (; it too is “clicky”, and like the Das Keyboard, it is mystifying to anyone not use to it; unlike Das Keyboard, though, it has a shape which has rolled back the wheel of time for me, in terms of how my wrists feel. Thanks to 2+ years with this keyboard, my bench press and military press weights have doubled in a year and my wrists are not the weak link in the lift. Compared to a few short years ago, when I was convinced that I’d lose the use of my right hand by the age of 50. In addition, its design finally forced me to become a true touch typist, although I still tend to use only 4 fingers in a fairly high speed (50+ WPM sustained) manner. In is, however, utterly useless for gaming; on those rare occassions, I use a Belkin Nostromous gaming keypad.

    Also, I swear by the Evoluent vertical mouse (; I got it at a good open box price from Newegg some time ago, and it took has made a world of difference.


    Comment by Justin James — 23 April 2009 @ 10:00

  6. wow, that keyboard design look really sleek !! I love it’s function. Now thats really cool just that it is too expensive :[

    Comment by Melayu Boleh — 25 April 2009 @ 03:55

  7. Susan:

    I’m actually rethinking the decision to keep the Das Keyboard out of the living room, now. I think I might keep it in the office until I get my hands on a Unicomp Customizer.

    The Customizer is the new incarnation of the IBM Model M. Unicomp apparently “bought” the design for the Model M, and is producing its Customizer line with Model M construction (complete with buckling-spring switches). Once I get a Customizer, I’ll see how it compares to my Das Keyboard Ultimate, and if I like it enough I’ll move the Das Keyboard to the living room and keep the Customizer in the office.

    Justin James:

    Since well-constructed traditional layout QWERTY keyboards don’t cause me any wrist or hand problems (only crappy keyboards and mice do that), I think I’ll avoid spending $170 more than the Das Keyboard Ultimate costs to get a Kinesis keyboard. I don’t have much use for the vertical mouse design, either, at this point, because I shop carefully when buying a mouse and only get those that don’t actually cause me any problems. I also use keyboard driven interfaces so much that the mouse is a relatively minor concern anyway.

    I’m glad those things work for you, though. We really do need to look to our health first, especially as it applies to our abilities to do our jobs, and thus to afford to look after our health. I guess one might call it a virtuous circle — taking care of health helps make money to help taking care of health.

    Anyway, as I said, I’m glad you found what works for you. I’m also glad I don’t have the need for those, since they would cost me a lot more than what I’m currently using, even when I splurge on a really nice keyboard.

    I touch-type between 85 WPM on a bad day and probably somewhere around 110 or so on a good day. Generation 3 Das Keyboard Ultimate seems to support that just fine, without any issues at all, so I’m happy — and, in fact, it actually seems to be improving my typing speed, as I already mentioned.

    Comment by apotheon — 25 April 2009 @ 12:14

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All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License