Das Keyboard is known for keyboards that espouse a more mature aesthetic--some of its devices have no backlighting, there’s no configuration software, and the chassis designs are simple and black--and with the new Prime 13 (opens in new tab), the company continued the trend.
Indeed, the Prime 13 is a rather iterative device, sharing much of its DNA with other full-size keyboards in the Das Keyboard family, such as the Model S Ultimate (opens in new tab) and Das Keyboard 4 Professional (opens in new tab). It has the same back panel design that sports a lip around the edge, as well as the top-right bump out that houses the single USB passthrough port.
Like the aforementioned keyboards, the Prime 13 also has Cherry MX switches, and in a nod to the “professional” marketing angle, it’s limited to Browns, which for office types are often the happy medium between Reds and Blues.
Stare Into The Light
It’s rare that a single (and rather common) feature is worth discussing much, but in the case of Das Keyboard generally and the Prime 13 specifically, the white LED backlighting is actually quite noteworthy.
Das Keyboard is not known for adding backlighting to many of its keyboards. Its design approach has been “less is more,” and although that’s attractive to many consumers--especially those working in office settings--the lack of backlighting can be problematic.
With respect to the savants that can use keyboards like the character-less 4C Ultimate (opens in new tab), if you work late at night, or game, you most likely want backlit keys, and Das Keyboard fans who have been longing for that option will be happy to see it. True to form, though, Das Keyboard opted for simple white LEDs instead of RGB or even the nearly standard gamer red LEDs.
Although several of the F keys perform double duty as media and lighting controls, Das Keyboard moved the secondary characters to the side of the keys. This is excellent design. It’s all too common to see uneven backlighting on keys that have two characters. Typically, LEDs are positioned at the top of the switch casing, so any character located near the top of the key cap are well-lit, but the secondary characters are often dimmer. It’s not a great look.
What Das Keyboard did is flip the switch casings around so that the LEDs are at the bottom, and then added the secondary character on the side of the key cap, facing you. The net effect is that the secondary characters on the F keys are as bright as the primary characters. Being on the side, they’re also located in perhaps a more ergonomic spot, right in your eye line.
Do note, though, that the secondary characters on the number keys and numpad are on the top of the key caps, small and dim.
A final quirk of the lighting system is that after 10 minutes of inactivity, the lights will fade, ostensibly in an effort to conserve electricity (although considering how little power LEDs draw, this would seem to be mostly an empty gesture).
And All The Rest
In addition to laser-etched keycaps, the Prime 13 is built with an aluminum top panel. An aluminum top panel certainly looks sharper than plastic, and it adds to the overall rigidity of the keyboard, but it really has little effect on the typing experience. However, the backplate is also metal, so between the two panels, the Prime 13 enjoys strong build quality.
The Prime 13 comes with no software, so it’s a total plug-and-play device. Das Keyboard stated that it has exceptionally wide OS support; the Prime 13 will work with Windows, macOS, Chrome OS and Linux systems.
I was surprised to find that many of the wider keys on the Prime 13 had a terrible rattle, and even more surprised that the noise was caused by the Cherry stabilizers. I find that I typically prefer the performance of Cherry stabs over Costar-style, but there is scuttlebutt that Cherry stabs have issues. Some people find them “mushy,” for example. On this model of the Prime 13, although the performance of the wider keys seems to be unaffected, the extra noise is grating. Were this a purchase and not a review unit, I would consider sending this Prime 13 back and requesting a replacement.
You can get the Prime 13 in the standard 104-key U.S. layout, as well as in the 105-key configuration for UK, Germany and Nordic regions. In the U.S., the keyboard costs $149 and is available now.
Das Keyboard knows its audience. The Prime 13 is essentially a variation on a theme, but it will serve a segment of users that love the Das Keyboard aesthetic but want some backlighting to augment the look. It’s designed as a professional keyboard, but gamers who don’t care for complex lighting and software and outlandish designs will be attracted to the Prime 13, too.
|Das Keyboard Prime 13|
|Layout||Full-size, 104 key (available in 105 key)|
|Switches||Cherry MX Brown|
|Additional Ports||USB Passthrough|
|Cable||6.5 ft braided with two USB plugs|
|Dimensions||18.03 x 6.77 x 1.22 inches (45.80 x 17.20 x 3.11 cm)|
|Weight||2.9 lbs (1.32 kg)|
|OS Support||Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS|