Das Keyboard Prime 13 – Review

Das Keyboard sent me the Prime 13 about a month ago, and I’ve been using it ever since. As a software engineer, the keyboard plays in important role in the ability to complete my job functions as a software engineer.  Beyond the hours spent typing code, I also look for features to make my job easier.  I was excited to try this one.

This keyboard sells for $149.00 and is available at www.daskeyboard.com.

You can read my review below, skip to my conclusion, or visit the technical specifications.

Initial Reaction

Weighing in at nearly 3 pounds (2.9 to be exact) and featuring an anodized aluminum top panel, this keyboard is both extremely sturdy and stylish.

If you’re interested in the detailed technical specifications, click here, or just keep reading for the review.

What I Like

As I mentioned in my initial reaction, this is a hefty keyboard.  Whether intended or not, the weight is an important feature and the more I use it the more I notice it doesn’t slide around on my desk like other keyboards do.

As a coder, I use my function keys much more often than the average typist. The fact that these function keys are full-size is a major bonus. Many keyboards out there don’t have full-size function keys, making them a pain to use. Along those lines, this keyboard doesn’t have a “special key row” above the function keys, which my old keyboard had. I don’t miss this. Since using the Das Keyboard, I’ve not once opened outlook, or a chat window while trying to press a function key.

I’ve wanted to use a mechanical keyboard with Cherry switches for a while, and this was my first experience with one. Not only did I like Cherry switches much more than I thought I would, after only 5 minutes of typing I already started seeing an improvement in my typing speed and accuracy which was quite surprising to me.

As with any new keyboard, I did have to get adjusted to the new travel spacing, but it was very intuitive, and I adjusted quite nicely.

I’ve noticed that many keyboards either don’t have indicators on the actual keyboard, ordaskeyboard-logo-on-prime13-mechanical-keybaord they don’t have notifications on screen (it’s either/or). The Prime 13 has both lights for Caps/Num/Scroll Lock, and toast notifications. I like this very much. I want to have the toast notification when I get in a hurry and turn off NumLock, and I want to see that NumLock is on when I come back to my computer after walking away.

Being able to adjust the keyboard backlighting is nice, although I never do.

The aluminum plate adds a nice look to the keyboard. Just looking at the thing you know it’s going to be a good typing experience.

I don’t need keyboard backlighting, nor do I need a USB pass-through, and I like a clean desk, so I was initially disappointed that this wasn’t a wireless keyboard (though, good luck finding a decent wireless mechanical keyboard). Having said that, because the weight of the keyboard keeps it in place well, the cable doesn’t move around, which keeps my papers behind the keyboard nice and neat. Though I would still prefer a wireless keyboard for cleanliness, this isn’t a con for me since it hasn’t had any negative effect.

What I Don’t Like

As for things that I would change, there aren’t very many, but here they are.

mechanical-switches-prime13The keyboard backlighting has 7 levels of brightness, including off. This is great. However, there are some inconsistencies in the brightness level of some of the keys.  This could be by design, or it could be a small oversight.  Either way, I’m not a fan of it. Without getting into specifics of why, the end result is that the Function keys, which share media controls, have lighting for the Function and the media control, for example, “F5” and “Previous” are the same key, and both symbols have the same level of brightness.  However, the number row keys don’t share brightness with the character it represents, for example, “2” is bright, but “@” is dim.

The thing I would change the most about this keyboard is the media controls which are embedded with the Function keys.  This means simple functions like mute, volume down, volume up, etc. are accessed via two keystrokes, which is more than a little annoying. If this keyboard had designated media buttons, that would be a major bonus.

It’s not a big factor for me because I don’t use the USB Pass-through, however it is a little disappointing that a keyboard as new as the Prime 13 has USB 2.0 instead of 3.0.

I was also disappointed that not all keys sound the same. As I got used to typing on the keyboard, it became less noticeable to me and it hasn’t affected my typing any, but it was still an initial disappoint that a keyboard with this quality would have those inconsistencies. The following keys have a different sound than the main keys:

  • The spacebar is more “hollow”
  • The backspace key has a “tinny” sound
  • The enter key has a “blunt” sound
  • The shift key has a “tinny” sound, though not as noticeable as the backspace

Conclusion

It has been an absolute joy to type on this keyboard over the last several weeks, and it lives up to the reputation that comes with the Das Keyboard brand.  I would recommend this keyboard to anyone who is looking for a quality mechanical keyboard.

Technical Specifications

Keyboard Layout

  • Standard 104-Key: US layout with n-key rollover
  • Standard 105-Key: UK, DE, and NO layouts with n-key rollover

Switches

  • Cherry MX Brown (Soft Tactile) mechanical key switches
    • Feel: Soft Tactile
    • Actuation Force: 45g
    • Tactile Force: 55g
    • Lifetime: 50 million actuations
    • Total travel distance: 4mm
    • Pre-travel distance: 2mm
    • Operating Point: 2mm
    • Reset point: 2mm
    • Keycap stem: MX (Cross)

Key Caps

  • Black thermoplastic key caps with white laser-marked inscriptions

Interface and Connectivity

  • One USB 2.0 pass-through
  • 2m (6.5ft) USB braided Y cable with dual USB type-A connectors, gold plated (fixed, not detachable)

Backlighting

  • 1 Zone: entire keyboard
  • Color modes: 1 color, White
  • Brightness: 7 modes/levels which include off
  • Lighting Mode Memory
    • When keyboard is plugged into the computer and upon a power down/powering off of the computer, the keyboard will remember and return to the last used lighting mode/brightness level.
    • Default brightness level: 3
  • Keyboard will auto-dim after 10 minutes of inactivity

Compatibility

  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS, ChromeOS, and Linux Operating Systems
  • Compatible with USB 1.1 and 2.0 standards
  • Compatible with USB KVM switches

System Requirements

  • One USB 1.1 or 2.0 port (for keyboard)
  • One USB 2.0 port (for USB pass-through port)
  • No custom driver required

Product Dimensions

  • Length: 45.80 cm (18.03 in)
  • Width: 17.20 cm (6.77 in)
  • Height: 3.11 cm (1.22 in)
  • Weight: 1.32 KG (2.9 lbs)