das keyboard

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Input devices are one thing that not many people think about. People go for the nice widescreen monitors, and they might not think about viewing angles or colour accuracy. People will go for a bling-bling case with fancy lights, and they might not think about how noisy it is. People will then go for the cheapest mouse and keyboard they can find.

I’ve previously spent an upwards of $50 for “Ergonomic” keyboards – my current standard is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 having it both at work and at home, with a spare kicking around in my closet.

At work our standard is a cheap $10 Lenovo OEM keyboard that comes free with every computer we purchase. It’s a standard layout, nothing fancy. It is paired with a $10 optical mouse, also standard two buttons, scroll wheel. People are happy with this. Some people went with the 4000 upon my recommendation. However there are a few ‘special’ individuals.

At work there is one hardcore Linux fanatic who brought in his Kinesis Advantage keyboard, and another guy brought in his Logitech gaming keyboard. One other co-worker splurged and purchased the Das Keyboard Ultimate S Silent.
I’ve seen reviews of this but never had the chance to use it in person. I had toyed with the idea of going with a mechanical Steelseries or Razer board, but did not like the non-standard layouts with the oddly placed function or escape keys. I also very much like the standard insert/del/home/end/pgup/pgdn block.

When I tried out my coworker’s Das Silent, I really liked it but couldn’t bring myself to spend the money. After I realized that my forearms started to burn with a lot of typing, I thought about it some more.

The layout of the 4000 is perfect, but the rubber domes are tiring. For a while when I was Hackintoshing, I switched to the Apple aluminum keyboard. It felt great for a while because of the short travel, but I started noticing fatigue after a couple weeks of use, and it has FN in place of Insert making it impossible to remap. The ThinkPad keyboard would be great (I have a T420s and T61p at home) but it’s missing a numpad.

I thought about it for a while longer and decided to take a leap of faith and get a Das Keyboard of my own. I had settled on the Cherry MX Browns because it’s relatively quiet, and has the same release/actuation point – the only real drawback of the Cherry MX Blues. A very good guide to mechanical switches can be found here: http://www.overclock.net/t/491752/mechanical-keyboard-guide

After three days of typing on it, I’ve learned to not bottom-out when typing. This reduces the noise quite significantly – apparently if you bottom out it’s actually louder than the Blue switches. It also makes it faster to type, because you’re travelling less!

The blank key caps get lots of comments, confuses most people who try to use it, and best of all, my forearms are much less tired after a day at the office.

Some of my friends scoff at the idea of paying for a nice keyboard, but I figure if you’re spending 9 hours a day on something, you’d better get something that is damned comfortable.

I will probably end up with a second S Silent for home use. After which I’ll need to look into buying a nicer chair…


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