My Cherry MX Board 1.0 still looks better
It's cheaper, is a full keyboard, is supplied with an optional hand rest, has a variable White backlight, and comes in Red or Brown Cherry MX switch versions.
Mechanical keyboard aficionados spend years (and an unconscionable amount of money) searching for typing perfection. One recent pocket-crushing contender in this arena is the Das Keyboard 4C TKL, which retails at $139 (or £139 in Blighty). The Das Keyboard 4C is a conservative affair. While other mechanical keyboards ( …
During the UK lockdown I decided (like a great many others) to invest in a proper set up rather than sitting hunched over two laptops all day.
I desperately wanted a sun keyboard (usb type 6 or 7, but UK layout with full size enter key was a must) but to my surprise there weren't any on eBay! I did find a company in London claiming to sell new ones for something like £45 but I think that didn't include shipping.
I then went though a tonne of keyboard reviews, decided that I'd try two different ones made by 'Havit' (Chinese) which were around £50 each and both included a 'gaming' mouse.
The full size keyboard is based on Cherry Blue (probably knock-offs) switches and the 60% one uses Browns. I wasn't really aware of the difference until I tried them. Blues for me equal very tired fingers and a lot of noise and the browns were a lot nicer but still a bit noisy.
The 60% keyboard had the advantage of Bluetooth and switching between three devices. I started using the odd combination of one keyboard but two separate mice.
I spend a lot of time in Linux shells and the immediate problem for me is that I use both the up arrow cursor and the forward slash but they're on the same button.. I can choose which of those it is by default but I still always type the wrong thing and it's a nuisance that I just can't deal with....
Cue yet more keyboard review reading.... And I discovered another Chinese brand called 'Durgod' which uses genuine cherry switches, no backlights and has very genuine-looking excellent reviews. Another £120 down and I now have a retro-looking white Durgod with proper keys in the right places but no numeric keypad - it's fairly similar in layout to this Das Keyboard. I opted for the Cherry MX Silent Red switches and I'm really exceptionally pleased with them.
I think it's likely that once I've got myself a much larger desk I shall be buying another Durgod the same and selling on the Havits (although I'll be meeting the mice)..
I've somehow from someone unwilling to consider paying more than about £20 on a keyboard to someone who's sunk over £200 on three... I did look at the eye-wateringly expensive Happy Hacker keyboard but I'm not convinced I'd survive without dedicated cursors and for a keyboard costing about £300, the build quality looks shockingly bad.
Based on a recommendation from a fellow commentard, I bought a Durgod TKL from the big river place's returns dept ("warehouse"). This one has regular reds which still make significant noise when they bottom out (I'm not a subtle typist).
On the whole I've been very happy with it, but would probably have gone for the silent reds if I knew then what I know now. The only weird thing is that the ~# keycap has the legend the wrong way round, but I've been working with Unix so long that this one's in muscle memory.
If not this keyboard, I probably would have gone for the Razer Blackwidow or maybe the Corsair K63
Based on these recommendations, I gave a Durgod K320 a go: I've been looking for a new TKL for a while now, something with "MX Noisy Reds" in it, and haven't found very much that took my fancy. Pleased to say it's every bit as good as implied. I stuck a set of Drop MT3 keycaps on it which complements it quite nicely.
With the same conditions of UK layout, I also failed over some time to source a Sun Type 7 - I found instead a Type 5 to USB adapter - https://drakware.com/product/Sun2USB (this was available for shipping + exorbitant customs charge, via popular e-junk retailer).
I have already had the Type 5 (which works wonderfully). I rather suspect more Type 5 than 7 keyboards to have existed.
Though I've never used a Type 7, I suspect it to be more like the Type 6.
"the "UNIX" country layout type"
Eek! So you mean a small enter key which is easy to miss and a totally blank, dead key somewhere over near the escape key?
Please tell me they don't also have caps lock and control reversed :-D
I used to work for Sun in the UK and there was a very annoying mixture of US and UK keyboards around - the one best suited to the 'C' locale usually resulted in my swearing at it
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> You want me to play Alien: Isolation with the lights on. What sort of wuss do you think I am?
Not wanting to critique your game playing technique too much, but if you need to keep looking down at the keyboard when playing a game in which you're being stalked by something which can insta-kill you, I suspect you might not last too long.
Still, I can remember when playing Doom on the family PC, in the dark, on an early Win95 PC which didn't come with DOS sound drivers. As a result, I'd had to switch the game over to using the beeper for the sound effects. Which is a bit of a brutal downsampling - it's akin to expecting to hear the purr of a well tuned Porsche engine, and instead being treated to the noise of a backfiring tractor.
As a result, after several minutes of quiet wandering around a mostly-depopulated level, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I rounded a corner and came face-to-face with an imp, who snarled and threw a fireball at me, which the beeper translated into something sounding like a bag of nails being used to smash a glass bottle.
I turned the sound off after that ;)
I'm told there are people who don't actually need to look at the keys when they are typing, so lighting probably isn't an issue for them.
Them, showing off, hitting keys with all their different fingers.
Me, I need to see where my index fingers need to go.
Huh, I've been typing for nearly 40 years and still need to look at the keyboard otherwise I get completely lost. At my first programming gig a cow-orker who did things with a mainframe was formerly a secretary and she could type without ever looking at the keyboard. Witchcraft, if you ask me. She also used to tell me off about my spelling. Often.
There's two little ridges on the f and j keys, if you put your first finger of your left hand on f and the first finger of your right hand on j then you can reach all the keys without moving your hands. It's called touch typing. It's easy to get a computer to teach you, that's how I learnt (though I learnt on a dedicated word processor with an A4 sized green screen!)
I have recently reached a point where I can actually finger-guess where the right number keys are, without looking. Which is, kind of, strange, because I should have learnt it while learning to touch-type, but somehow, I didn't and it only happened recently, when I need to use numbers a lot :)
Another good option might be the TKL CODE keyboard from WASDkeyboards.com.
It's not perfect, the keycaps are wearing off on one of mine around the ASD side of things, but otherwise it's been holding up and working well. It's got the Cherry MX Clears, which are a little less clicky, though I still get crap when on conf calls that they can here me banging away. A headset seems to have solved that issue... otherwise I just mute and ignore them.
What I'd *really* like would be a TKL with added function keys on the LEFT side of the board, sorta like the old Northgate OmniKey keyboards (still got one stashed away) and also a plethora of more function keys above the top row function keys.
To me, the big reason to go TKL is to bring the mouse in closer, so I don't get carpal tunnel or pain the shoulder from putting the arm way way way out of the right.
Anyway, the CODE has a nice white backlight, it doesn't slide around on the desk, and just works well. No fancy programming stuff, it's not a gaming keyboard, but one to work with and hopefully pass on down to your kids.
A more perfect keyboard would have doubleshot keycaps out of ABS so that it's even more durable, but that's a minor quibble which I'm sure will be rectified by someone in time.
Given that UK retail prices include 20% VAT and that the exchange rate is less than 1.3, there's not presently the discrepancy that you imagine.
When there is a larger discrepancy, it's usually because sufficient people will complain vociferously, but part with their money regardless, so why would you sell it cheaper?
We call this the "Adobe Price" as they started it and their reason is the relative price and eggs, bread and milk are more expensive in the UK (this was asked at a trade show), so obviously they consider us made of money and so fleece at every opportunity. I'm out of ideas for how to get our own back.
We'll pay an extra ~10% in sales tax (it varies depending on where you live). Your sales tax -- 20% VAT -- is already rolled into the price.
The awful reality is that the unit probably cost $25 to make. The answer to the price question is "Because they can" -- the price you pay for something is not connected to what it costs to make but what you're prepared to pay for it. Its the modern way.
Looked at these when I was trying to find space-saver keyboards for my little desk at home, but the lack of a UK enter key and the location of "#" was the deal breaker.
Still not found a good compromise, but I'm using cheap reduced size (no bezel around the keys) 'boards until I do.
Ideally, I'd like to KVM between the two systems I want to use and put my Model M in the middle of the desk, but unfortunately work security rules prevent any devices being shared between the two systems I need to use (although they are both plugged into the network, but one has a dedicated VPN for all network access other than the encrypted traffic to the router.)
I've never been sure quite how many people actually use the numeric keypad in day-to-day use.
I know I've seen people who deal with numbers all day long use them for rapid number entry, but that's about it (oh, and some games use them in cursor key mode to get diagonal movement), but I largely ignore the extra keys, and am quite happy working on keyboards without them (like now). Some programmers seem to like them. Does one of the IDEs they have functions mapped to the numeric keypad, like EDT did on VT terminals on DEC mini's?
Actually, the keyboard I'm using right at this moment is an IBM SpaceSaver II keyboard from the HMC of a Series z9 HMC (when the mainframe was being decommissioned, they were going to throw it out so I nabbed it!) This is like a normal full travel keyboard with arrow keys and the 6 keys above them in the right place, but with the numeric keyboard completely hacked off. Oh, and a trackpoint. Not a buckling spring keyboard, but pretty good.
tbf the DEC LK201 keyboards were a thing before desk-rodents were commonplace. Well, IME at least. I actually came to like All-In-Bits' use of the keypad as a bunch of function keys, though I never quite understood why it was chosen in place of the actual function keys; nor why the latter were numbered the way they were.
The IBM SSKs are nice, much the same as you describe in that they're a PS/2 buckling spring without the keypad; though the massive bezel still makes them nearly as big as an original PC keyboard.
Does one of the IDEs they have functions mapped to the numeric keypad, like EDT did on VT terminals on DEC mini's?
I have the EDT/EVE keypad functions so ingrained in muscle memory that I still use a version of emacs hacked to implement them on every OS I've ever used.
I did something similar during holidays at college, data entry clerk at a local business. The machine in question was some IBM midrange horror but the keyboard was lovely, though I still never appreciated what I was using at the time. IBM 5251 twinax beastie, probably weighed more than I did, its beam-spring keyboard was a delight to type on. As if the tactility wasn't enough, it had a clunker with enough enthusiasm to make the desk shake with every keypress just so you were absolutely certain it'd done it. Even as a rubbish typist I could get up to machine-gun-like speed using that thing's keypad.
But as I moved on to writing tangles of C and too much time playing chase-the-clicky-box with the mouse on badly-designed GUIs, keypads are now a thing of the past for me.
My post talked about people entering numbers frequently as the first group that do use the numeric keypad.
When I was working at a council back in the early 1980's I worked next to the data prep. team that keyed data in from various slips and returns, so I know that people do use these keys. But they are probably now a minority of computer users.
For plenty people, a tenkeyless keyboard is a great option.
The review says it's ideal for smaller desks, but this misses a much more important advantage - it puts your mouse or trackball much closer to your keyboard. Also I like it because it makes it easier to centre the qwerty part of my keyboard up with my screen, which my OCD seems to require. While still keeping my trackball close enough.
I've worked for years with typists who never even look at the keyboards that they are typing on, all they look at is the screen - they never look down at all if they have a decent keyboard. Most of them started off just watching the little golf balls spinning around, I started watching the levers fly up and down.
One of the the things missing from (some) typing trainers is a ghost keyboard on the screen highlighting the typed character.
When I mess up, I have to look down. It breaks the flow of things. Having it on screen means I no longer have to look down.
Anyone remember Typing of the dead? (Its sequel is available on Steam, and is Very NSFW)
Just over year ago I got a technet keyboard. Nice tactile switches - moderately noisy, metal chassis, no number pad and backlit (with various backlight options). I liked it so much I immediately bought a second one - from Amazon of all places. I can't remember exactly but I think they were about 20 squids each.
You can't get *decent* mechanical keyboards (the sort that'll live for a decade or more) for much less than this is going for. Ergonomic ones routinely cost two or three times as much.
It looks good to me (though I'm not interested in it because RSI means I'm forced to use ludicrously expensive ergonomic keyboards -- and, because spending that much money is a sort of mind control, I'm forced to evangelise them at every possible opportunity too QWERTY SUCKS even when it makes no sense and is SPLIT KEYBOARDS FOREVER obviously shoehorned into the FNORD conversation.)
Can't help with the ergonomic ones, but yes you can get decent mechanical keyboards that last a good while and the company is even mentioned in the article - Unicomp. It's a direct descendant of the IBM Model M and built in the same factory; not quite as robust as the old Model M, it does well enough.
I'm typing this on my modified Unicomp PC 122 5250 that recently celebrated it's 10th birthday and it hasn't been molly-coddled during that time.
I didn't say you couldn't get mechanical keyboards: I said they weren't going to be cheap. This is not a bad thing, as you still save money in the end because the thing'll take many times longer to wear out than a cheap keyboard would. It's Vimes's "Boots" theory of socio-economic unfairness applied to keyboards.
(Ergonomic *everything* is much more expensive. It doesn't matter: my trusty Maltron might cost a lot but I bought it in the early 2000s, have used it to the exclusion of everything else, and it still works. The keyswitches wore out once and were replaced: doing the replacement cost about £70, and was worth every penny. It *is* important that you have a method in place to avoid the possibility of ever spilling anything on the keyboard!)
One thing this review doesn't mention is how the key tops are labelled.
I bought a black Cherry MX3000 a while back and although the key action is superb, the key tops are not. They're printed with some kind of white resin ink that seems to be porous. It rapidly accumulated grime and turned grey and has proved uncleanable. Oh for the old IBM-type double shot moulded key tops!
Another Cherry in my possession has laser engraved key tops, which, although not as good as double shot, are at least immune to the MX3000 problem.
It seems that pretty much all keyboards are labelled after the key tops are fitted these days, so the way this is done is a very important factor.
"No backlight" is kind of a weird complaint to hear about a Das Keyboard. The whole gimmick of the original Das Keyboard was that it came without any glyphs on the keys so you could show off that you're a touch-typist.
Note: I do not own any DK products or stock, nor do I have any commercial relationship with them. My current favourite keyboard is a TKL with cherry brown switches, so a similar format to this, but mine has ridiculous RGB backlighting because I LIKE IT WHEN IT LOOKS LIKE NYAN CAT and I just turn off the backlight if I'm playing something that's meant to be scary like Stalker or Metro.
I've got a black Topre keyboard, and had a choice of white or black lettering. Thought it would be big and clever to go for black lettering but I do find myself regretting it at times, in certain lighting conditions (e.g. home office) it's not easy to read at all.
If you're after a TKL keyboard the question is why? Travel or space issues. So I find this (and the overpriced Logitech G915 TKL) just too big. In a another post (on mice and traveling) I say I have have used a Vilros keyboard+mouse for over 2 years. The keyboard is a little small, I'd like one 2cm or 3cm longer but it works for me where space is an issue. Traveling with it has been fantastic.
I would pay more for a premium product and I've tried a lot of of the smaller keyboards, at great cost. It's seems there is an almost an inverse relationship between cost and life span of the product (and cost and usability).
I've also found bluetooth drops too many characters and USB ports are a precious commodity, so a single wireless USB for both the keyboard and mouse is mandatory for me. And the best has been a cheap, little undersized, but perfectly usable Vilros.
Pity as I love the feel of a good keyboard. And having learnt touch typing on manual typewriter I appreciate the feel of modern keyboards.
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