We review the Das Keyboard 4C Professional, a straightforward tenkeyless keyboard with Greetech Brown switches.
Das Keyboard has a reputation for simple and clean-looking, high-quality keyboards. But there was some confusion when the company announced its new 4C Professional and 4C Ultimate models. The marketing materials were vague about which switches the keyboards used, and many of us erroneously jumped to the conclusion that they were Cherry switches.
Oddly, Das Keyboard wouldn't clarify that information for us. So once we got our hands on a sample, we started yanking off keys and found Greetech switches underneath.
Why the change? The company won’t say, although a representative was adamant that it had nothing to do with saving money. He further noted that this by no means indicates Das Keyboard is moving away from Cherry switches, generally speaking. Even so, here we are with a keyboard sporting Greetech switches, as opposed to Cherry. You can read into that whatever you want.
The model we have on hand is the Das Keyboard 4C Professional. I am not brave enough to attempt using the 4C Ultimate's blank key design:
The tenkeyless, 87-key 4C Professional is, as you would expect, nice and compact. It’s a relatively hefty device though, and between its weight and four long rubber feet (about an inch and a half long each), the keyboard simply does not slide around or shift on a desk at all.
The whole thing feels incredibly sturdy, thanks in part to its anodized aluminum top plate. In order to create any flexion at all, you have to roll up your sleeves and put your back into it. The Greetech brown switches have gold-plated contacts, and they’re rated for 50 million keystrokes. There's also a model with blue switches for a clickier experience, if you'd prefer that.
You can clearly feel both switch points on the keys, and the kickback is quite strong. As a result, you also get a distinct feel for the shallow pre-travel. The 4C Professional claims an actuation force of 60g (max).
The space bar and the wider keys employ a Greetech brown switch in the middle that's flanked by two Cherry stabilizers.
Das Keyboard has taken to including a thin riser with the 4C series. It’s bright red to match some of the lettering, and it has magnets that firmly affix it to the bottom of the keyboard. It’s worth noting that with the riser attached, the keyboard is far more likely to slide around on your desk. Its hard plastic edge doesn’t exactly offer the same grip and friction as the rubber feet.
The keyboard is plug-and-play, so there’s no software to fiddle with. It sports a long (6.5-foot) cable with a single USB connector; the keyboard end is wired directly into the board, a decision Das Keyboard says it made because a removable USB connection is too unreliable over time.
The USB end of the cable connects the keyboard to your computer and also powers the 4C Professional’s two-port USB 2.0 hub. You can find the hub tucked underneath the left edge of the keyboard, out of sight. The two USB ports in the hub are spaced about 17mm apart, which should accommodate even bulky USB devices (charming-but-chunky USB flash drives, we’re looking at you).
There are no dedicated media buttons on the 4C Professional, but the Esc and F keys pull double duty; with a press of the Fn key (located on the right side of the keyboard), the Esc key puts the system to sleep, and the F keys offer volume and playback controls.
The F12 key doubles as a Windows key disable control. We like that Das Keyboard conveniently places the Fn key on the right side of the board. This makes disabling the Windows key a quick, one-handed maneuver.
The keys are not back-lit. Although a lack of back-lighting no doubt appeals to a certain subset of prospective customers, it’s an omission that may be tough for others to swallow.
The keys are set inside of the chassis a bit, which makes cleaning slightly more difficult and will probably result in a generally dirtier keyboard. It’s basically designed to be a crumb-catcher, as opposed to, say, Corsair's K90. At least the aluminum top plate cleans up easily.
The concave key caps feature silk-screened characters with a clear UV hard coating, as opposed to prettier laser-etched keys. Some may balk at the look of printed key caps. Indeed, that telltale “sticker” look is painfully apparent. Das Keyboard said that the silk screen plus UV hard coat method is superior to laser etching, stating in a recent Tom’s Hardware AMA that the “durability of the print and the key surface is dramatically increased”.
That is perhaps true, although there’s an argument to be made that, well, who cares? Is it better to have nicer-looking key caps that fade over time, or less attractive ones that last longer?
The 4C Professional is the opposite of flashy, on purpose. Being tenkeyless, it’s nice and compact. And its simple, black austere look is attractive. The lack of extra dedicated media buttons further contributes to the clean look.
At this point, we would discuss software and accessories. In the case of the 4C Professional, though, there’s no software at all. And the only accessory is the riser mentioned above.
Like the overall design of the Das Keyboard 4C Professional, the interior and construction of the keyboard is simple, solid and clean.
The top part of the chassis is held on by 10 hex screws. With that metal plate removed, you can see that there are strips of foam padding serving to prevent the top plate from bending. They also likely dampen the sound a bit.
The aluminum backplate assembly is secured to the bottom plastic tray by seven small Phillips screws. One on the upper-left corner also holds a wire connector for the USB ports. Two more tiny silver Phillips screws adjacent to the USB ports need to be removed, too. Instead of running directly through the body, three of those screws tighten down tiny metal tabs that keep the backplate assembly snug. With all nine screws removed, you can pop the backplate assembly right out.
Looking at the PCB, you can see that the welds for the USB ports are nice and tidy, as are those under the key switches.
There are some smaller details to note, too. For example, some may prefer a removable USB cable, but Das Keyboard opted for a built-in connection, and the simple rubber bumper should protect the cable from tug- or pull-inflicted damage. Even the small black strip of tape securing the USB wire is placed precisely and as flatly as possible.
The observable craftsmanship in this keyboard is excellent.
By default, the 4C Professional offers six-key rollover, but you can toggle on NKRO with Fn+F11. The NKRO is enabled via the USB cable and does not require a PS/2 adapter. The 6KRO worked just fine in our tests, and using the Microsoft Applied Science and Aqua Key tests, we confirmed that NKRO was excellent as well. We were unable to find any flaws.
I recorded myself typing on the keyboard; playing with the WASD keys, directional keys, and space bar to simulate gaming; and clacked a few keys individually to get a simple, clear example of the sounds you'll hear. To capture and evaluate the nature of the sound, I used a condenser mic positioned above the keyboard (approximately where my head would normally be), where the projected sound was most likely to be identical to what reached my ears.
One thing I noticed right away is that there’s an extra high-pitched metallic “ping.” I’ve noticed a similar effect with Corsair's Vengeance K90. And it's curious, because those two keyboards have very different backplate constructions. The 4C Professional is more of a bowl design, with that aforementioned foam underneath the top plate, whereas the K90’s switches are perched right on top of the backplate with no bowl whatsoever. So it goes.
The 4C Professional has a rather “active” sound. I can live with it (and have for weeks), but some users may find the constant “ting” aggravating.
For its size, this is a hefty keyboard, but the weight seems to jibe with the sturdy build quality. You get the sense that you could whack a baseball with this thing and it wouldn’t cause any damage. Not that we'd recommend it.
The USB hub is a strong feature, as it offers users those extra ports and enables the NKRO capability, sans PS/2 adapter.
Few would doubt the overall quality of the 4C Professional, based on Das Keyboard’s reputation, but many are no doubt wary of the Greetech switches on board. The jury remains out for the time being, unfortunately, but we can say that if Greetech switches are in any way inferior to Cherry, we were unable to detect as much in our time with this device.
The fact that Das Keyboard has been so cagey and awkward about the decision to go with Greetech on this generation of keyboards certainly raises questions, but the answers may only come with time.