As discussed earlier, I got a Das Keyboard Ultimate S Silent for work. It’s a normal layout 104/105 keyboard, with two USB ports on the right, no key legends, and high quality Cherry MX Brown keyswitches. It’s pretty expensive, too.
|The Das Keyboard Ultimate S Silent (pic courtesy Das Keyboard)
The keyboard also supports full N-key rollover, if you plug it in via the included PS/2 adapter. Either way around, it’s going to use either one USB port and your PS/2 port, or two USB ports. No drivers are required. It’s also really heavy.
N-key rollover? What’s that?
Rollover is the number of keys that can be pressed simultaneously before either keystrokes you didn’t press appear, or keys you did press don’t appear. For a work keyboard, rollover isn’t important, since you aren’t usually hitting multiple non-modifier keys at once, but for an extremely fast typist, rollover can matter. For a games keyboard, rollover is critical.
Most cheap keyboards only have 2-key rollover. Try and press something like QAZ or ESC at the same time and see what your keyboard does - most cheap keyboards won’t handle that and only two keys will be output.
The Das has full N-key rollover if you use the attached PS/2 adapter, and 6-key rollover if you use USB (the limit of the USB protocol). But there’s a catch.
The way in which the Das implements the key scanning for N-key rollover means that it prioritizes keys which are to the left side of the board if you depress multiple keys very close in time to each other. So if you depress, say, FDSA nearly at the same time, but you know that you actually hit the F first, it will be scanned last and the output from the keyboard will actually be ASDF. This usually isn’t a problem.
Blank keycaps! Ouch.
The Das has no keycaps. While looking totally boss and severely discouraging others from using your keyboard, this does have one good side effect - it forces you to touch type. You don’t have much option. The Das does include tactile markers on the F, J, and numpad 5 keys, so you do have something to work with.
From personal experience, I can tell you that the lack of keycaps isn’t a huge problem if you’re a competent typist. The biggest problem by far is punctuation along the rightmost half of the top row - little used characters such as %^&* and such. I’ve trained myself to run numbers off the keypad now, which is likely a better way to do things regardless.
It does throw people for a spin who need to use my computer, so I still keep a USB keyboard nearby to plug in, just in case.
The Das uses Cherry MX Brown keyswitches, which provide a softer tactile feel, and aren’t very clicky. Note though, when they call the Das “silent”, they are being very optimistic. It’s still much louder than a membrane switch keyboard, but not annoyingly so.
The Browns trigger only a small amount of the way through their travel, unlike membrane switches which typically have to be depressed all the way. The reduction in travel and tactile feel is one of the main features that makes the keyboard nice to type on.
The Das is a great keyboard to work on, but it’s expensive. There’s a few things in its favour, but it’s got a few downsides. Some of these may be down to drivers and updates though.
- Looks great
- Build quality is high, has solid weight and feel
- Keyswitches aren’t annoyingly loud
- Standardized layout
- Lack of fancy features and blinkenlights is a plus in an office environment
- N-key rollover
- Side USB ports
- Lack of key legends gives it a pretty steep learning curve, especially for passwords
- Requires two USB ports or 1 PS/2 + 1 USB port to run
- N-key rollover has some quirks
- Really expensive, even for a mechanical keyboard
- Sometimes thinks that shift or ctrl are being held down (software, not physical). Pressing shift and ctrl fixes this. This may be a driver/OS issue.
Overall, it’s a good keyboard. But for home use, since I play a lot of games and want key legends, I didn’t decide to go for a Das there. What I went with is for the next article.