A golden touch

When a standard keyboard isn't good enough, Das Keyboard delivers

GCN

THE GCN LAB rarely tests input devices because they are so prevalent and standardized these days. 'A mouse is a mouse, and a keyboard is a keyboard' is pretty much the rule. So it was with some reluctance that we agreed to review Metadot's Das Keyboard Professional. A keyboard that costs $129 would have to be something special. Thankfully, especially for fast typists, Das Keyboard is.

Germany-based Cherry Corp. ' one of the best manufacturers in this field ' designed the heart of Das Keyboard. When you take it out of the box, you will be struck by its slick appearance and rugged feel. It is a solid piece of technology.

But its true strength becomes apparent after you attach it to a computer via the USB 2.0 cable and begin to use it. As soon as you touch your first key, you'll be hooked. Behind each key is a gold-plated backing that adds stability and a firm feel when you press down. You can't actually see the gold plates, but they are back there performing an important function in a critical area, like the connectors in the airbag system of your vehicle. Because they are gold, they aren't subject to the same corrosion that degrades most metals, and they should last for a long time.

Besides feeling great, with a gentle pushback force to match any tactile pressure, Das Keyboard also offers audio feedback in the form of a surprisingly satisfying click. The distinct sound can best be described as the traditional noise of a keyboard clicking, but your current keyboard probably doesn't make it ' at least not at this volume. My guess is that the sound engineers for motion pictures probably use a keyboard like this when they need to insert effects for an actor who is supposed to be typing loudly.

In the lab, as in many other places, we type nearly every day, so it has become almost as natural as breathing. And then Das Keyboard comes along and makes typing actually fun. There is some pleasure involved in having instant tactile and audio feedback at your fingertips. The one drawback is that the sound will increase the volume in your office. Besides the possibility of annoying coworkers in surrounding cubicles, multiplying the effect by, say, 40 or so people in a shared space would create a constant clicking buzz.

The gold-plated key backings offer more than just a nice touch and click. They also make the keyboard more functional, especially for fast typists. A feature called n-key rollover allows Das Keyboard to accept as many as 12 key clicks at the same time without jamming. So if you are a really fast typist, Das Keyboard can keep up with you. Try hitting a bunch of keys really fast on your current keyboard or make a fist and lightly punch it, and you will likely see what happens when you don't have n-key rollover. Only one of the keys will be recorded or your computer will produce that high-pitched whining sound it emits when it can't decipher multiple inputs. With Das Keyboard, every letter will be recorded in the order it was pressed.

A couple of extra features help the keyboard integrate into an office environment. The cable that connects it to a computer is six feet long, which is a good length. Some people might ask why the keyboard isn't wireless, but having a cable makes the keyboard more reliable. Wireless keyboards tend to have slower response times, and Das Keyboard is all about precision timing. Wireless keyboards also tend to go into sleep mode to conserve battery power, which adds time ' if only a little ' while the device wakes up before you can start typing again.

Another reason for the cable is the USB hub on the side of the keyboard. That handy feature puts two extra USB ports right next to you, and the cable is needed so that any devices you plug into the keyboard will be powered. We have seen this feature on Apple keyboards and liked it, but it has not made it onto many PC keyboards.

Das Keyboard works with PCs, Macs and systems running Linux. It is an amazing little keyboard that is perfect for anyone who types a lot and wants to put a little spring into their step ' and their fingers.

Metadot, 512-346-0360, www.daskeyboard.com

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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