New PC needs a New Keyboard

I've been using a Microsoft Natural Keyboard (orginal - v1) for ages. My 3rd one, actually. Been lasting quite a while too. But I've been lusting after a good mechanical keyboard for a while, a figured the new PC was a good time to splurge.

I looked at the Rosewill RK-9000 models. That review will teach you all about Cherry MX switches and how the Blue, Brown, Red and Black switches differ (and why).

My old Microsoft keyboard isn't mechanical, but I'd say the feel is probably similar to browns. But it's hard to say, w/o physically touching some and comparing. Blue switches are nice, but might be a tad   too much force for my taste.  Especially at home, where I also game (Blue's actuation and release points tend to make them less desirable for gaming where repeated key smashing is often needed). The Rosewills are cheap (relatively speaking), and I don't need a USB hub or other frills, but their quality control seems to leave something to be desired for now. So I went hunting.

So other than a good keyboard for touch typing and gaming, I had a few other needs:

  • Full height Function keys. I dislike the half-height rectangular size some keyboards use. Too small for my taste.
    Alas, no one seems to make mechanical keyboards with Function keys down the left (handy for Alt-Fn combos), so that's a non-option.
  • Standard 'T' arrows and numeric keypad is needed.
  • Must fit in my keyboard drawer. My old keyboard was 19" wide, which is about pushing it (gotta have room for the mouse too). So nothing bigger.

Some non-goals:

  • The PC sits a foot away with convenient USB ports and audio jacks, so no need for this in a keyboard.
  • Media keys. Meh. I've had t hem on work keyboards for years, and even when I try to use them, they wind up going idle. N/A for me.
  • Macro keys. Cute, but I've had them a few times before, and again, meh.
  • Price is largely irrelevant. $100+ is a given. Considering I just dropped $2K on the new box and how much I type, a great keyboard is worth the money. Based on past history, it should last me for years too so money well spent.

One thing I'll miss is the oversized Win keys on my old keyboard. All the ones I've looked at have normal sized keys for them. The bigger size was convenient. Ah well. Time marches on...

I'm also unsure of the palm rest. The old Microsoft keyboard had one, but many don't. I'm undecided how useful I find it. Guess I'll find out...

One thing I've noticed is many (most) mechanicals (and non?) put the Function keys across the top in clusters of 4 (F1-4, F5-8, F9-12), and most put F1 directly over the left Alt key. That makes Alt-F3 etc hard to  do one handed, and Alt-F5 to Alt-F8 downright impossible. The old Microsoft keyboard had F1-6 and F7-12., much more practical. Seriously wishing I could find a good mechanical with Fkeys down the left...

I was considering Razer's Black Widow. The 2013 adds improved anti-ghosting and a matte finish to the key tops (and +$30 over the earlier models). They do something really interesting as they use Cherry MX Blue switches which need 60g of actuation force, but despite that the Black Widow needs 50g (and they need less travel distance too). I haven't figured out how they do it, but sounded promising.

Alas, the only local store I knew that stocked them is Fry's, and they were totally sold out.

So I hemmed and hawed, and finally decided what the hell and splurged on Das Keyboard.

They've been around for ages making high end mechanical keyboards. I've lusted after them for over a decade. Their Professional model S comes in Cherry MX Blue and Brown flavors. At $129 per it was hard to decide sight unseen, but they have a 30 day money back guarantee (Our Engagement To Happiness) spelled out clearly and in detail, so I ordered one of each. I figured worst case I send one back, if I decide not to split them at home and office.

And guess what arrived today? :-)

This entire post has been typed on the tactile click model (i.e. Cherry MX Blue switches). I've still got the tactile soft (Cherry MX Brown switches) in its box. It's been 30 minutes so hard to say. So far what I've noticed:

  • Wow! It's really clicky. I can't remember using a keyboard with this kind of feel since the old IBM keyboards made of adamantium and weighing 4000lbs <g>
  • Loud too. Definitely what you don't want an office mate using. [Or a great way to drive out unwanted office mates...]
  • Solid. Well built. Definitely looks and feels like a quality product.
  • Shiny. The non-keyboard surface is verry shiny. I can just see what a fingerprint and dust magnet it will be.
  • No palm rest, and the shape of the keyboard is not 'natural' (split, angled and physically a mound not flat). Going to take a while to get used to the shape (I've used natural keyboards for >10 years now).\

It comes with one cable split at the end into 2 USB plugs, one of them capped with an optional PS2 adapter. I've only got the PS2 connector jacked in right now due to the shape of my desk, using the PS2 extension cord I've used for ages. The 2 USB ports on the keyboard are on the top right next to where I keep my mouse, and the new PC has lots of USB ports, so I don't mind the no USB hub, and may never bother.

I'll try to live with this for a week and see how it goes. Given the crisp feel I suspect the slightly lighter touch of the other model will be preferable, but will see. Time to hop off to a game or three and how it it handles.