There are really three things that I always tell people to invest money in when buying and setting up a new computer system. The first one is the display, since this part of the system will typically outlast the computer unit several times over. The second device is the mouse. Finally, the keyboard.
While there are is an ocean of choices out there when it comes to keyboards, very few are made well. Most of the keyboards you find on the market today are terrible. Keys fade easily, keys become sticky/stuck, poor materials, and sometimes functions break down after extended use. Because your computing experience is so deeply tied into the keyboard, it's important to know what you're getting.
Things to look for in a keyboard:
- A company known to make quality keyboards
- Key finish: you'll want a keyboard that looks like it'll last through heavy use
- N-key rollover: does the keyboard flake out after 3 or 4 simultaneous presses?
- Quality key-travel
- Build quality: do the keys look like they're loose and are going to pop?
In our experience, keyboards with tons of added fancy features tend to lack on the build quality side. Either keys will become stuck after use (not register), or the letters or coating will fade. For example, we have seen so many keyboards from Logitech fade with use. The black coating on the keys will eventually rub off, revealing a unsightly white plastic.
If you're a serious touch typist and or spend a lot of time playing games, there is no exception to investing into a good keyboard. That's why, we pick the Das Keyboard (opens in new tab) as one of the best keyboards you can buy.
We pick the Das Keyboard Ultimate because of its quality but also due to its blank nature.
The Ultimate is completely blank. There are no letters or symbols on the keys at all. All the keys are black, and because the plastic is black, you'll never experience fade. Of course, you'll struggle to get around if you're not a good touch typist. Yes, this keyboard is not for the two-finger key pecker. It's a serious keyboard. Das makes a version of the ultimate with labels, but we prefer the blank.
What makes Das Keyboards great? First and foremost: quality. From the very first key stroke, you can immediately feel the high quality in the keyboard's structure, key mechanism, and key travel. The following are specs for the Das Keyboard Ultimate:
German-engineered mechanical key switches:
Das Keyboard compares to the legendary IBM model M. Its best-in-class mechanical gold-plated key switches provide a tactile and audio click that makes typing a pure joy. The keyboard has been designed to produce greater speed and accuracy by providing responsive tactile feedback using gold-plated, slightly clicky, best-in-class, 40-million actuation mechanical key switches.
Model S allows full n-key rollover and supports up to 12 simultaneous key presses.
USB 2.0 hub:
The high-speed USB hub allows you to sync and charge your iPhone, iPod or any USB compatible devices.
Extra-long USB cable:
Das Keyboard sports a 2-meter (6.6ft) cable that goes through your desk grommet to keep your workspace neat and tidy.
Indeed the focus on the keyboard is clearly quality. There aren't any fancy controls, LCD screens, and unnecessary clutter. The focus is entirely on the typing experience. There are no distractions, just pure typing pleasure. We were previously using a chiclette keyboard, like the Apple aluminum keyboard, which is actually very good. We have a very positive impression of the Apple keyboard, but moving to the Das Ultimate instantly improved our typing experience.
Because you can hear and feel your typing, you type more confidently. The clickiness part of the keyboard may annoy some users, or at least annoy nearby people. However, it's your fingers that are doing the typing, so that's what you should care about most.
Those who have used some of the original Keytronic keyboards will feel at home on the Das Keyboard. But the Ultimate feels even better.
After several days with the keyboard, we're convinced that the Das Keyboard Ultimate is really one of the best products that serious computer users should invest in. Best of all, when you have the completely blank Ultimate, people won't be able to immediately screw with your computer if they happened to sit down in your chair.
Our friends over at Ars Technica have a review of the Das Keyboard Professional, which is the same as the blank Ultimate but with key inscriptions. Gizmodo also did a quick review of the Pro, which has lettering.