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Das Keyboard Ultimate Gaming Review
This is not your average keyboard
Keyboards, while being absolutely essential for nearly every computer application, barely register on the importance scale for most buyers. As long as it works and has all of the basic keys and functions nobody really cares what's connecting them to their computers. That is, unless, you type for the majority of your work day or you're a gamer and need the accuracy and function of a higher tier keyboard. High performance mechanical gaming keyboards provide a precision typing platform for fast-paced gaming as well as speedy touch typing for work. It should be noted, however, that this keyboard was not really designed for gaming and really only benefits from in this respect from superior build quality and key response.
Enter: Das Keyboard Ultimate.
Video Highlighting the sound of the Das Keyboard Ultimate
Upon first opening the box you'll find a glossy (read: fingerprints!) black enclosure with matte black keys. These keys also have no markings or labels to identify themselves to the user. This keyboard assumes that the user has mastered touch typing and does not require labels to operate it.
Some key features:
- Enhanced 104-key layout
- Cherry MX Blue mechanical key switches with gold contacts (clicky tactile - more on this later)
- Full n-key rollover (with both USB and PS2 adapter plugged in simultaneously, 6 with only USB) n-key rollover means that potentially every key on the keyboard could be pressed simultaneously and each and every key would register at the same time. This is extremely beneficial for very faster typers as well as gamers that require a variety of button combinations in their play.
- Two-port USB hub on the right side (1.1 and 2.0 compatible)
- Blue LED identifier for scroll, number, and caps lock
- Extra long 6.6ft cord
Pros and Cons of the Das Keyboard Ultimate
- Extremely high build quality - This keyboard weighs 3lbs and feels very solid under your hand. The weight also keeps the keyboard stationary while typing.
- Gold-plated key contacts with quality Cherry MX Blue switches that provide a wonderful tactile sensation and reassuring click while typing.
- 2-port powered USB hub built into the keyboard - Charge your iPhone or connect your digital camera without having to reach behind your case or unplug other peripherals.
- N-key rollover - A great feature that you've never known you've been missing. Try holding down both shift keys while typing "THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG". How garbled is your text?
- Extra long cable for tricky desk setups and mobility.
- Black on black color scheme that fits with most case and monitor setups.
- "Geek cred" for having a keyboard with no lettering provides a "Wow!" factor when most people see it for the first time.
- The blank keys will force you into becoming a better touch typist.
- The clicky sounds produced by this keyboard could become annoying for those in the general vicinity.
- If you are not a strong typist the blank keys could become frustrating (Many recommend setting a picture of a normal keyboard layout as your desktop for easy reference)
- From a gaming perspective other keyboards could offer more in the area of macro keys and custom layouts.
- The shiny black finish is very prone to collecting fingerprints.
Das Keyboard and Mechanical Keyboards in General
Mechanical keyboards are nothing new. In fact, they have been around since the dawn of personal computer and were popularized with the ubiquitous IBM Model M keyboard. What makes them so different from the keyboards often bundled with today's mainstream "Big box" computers is in the guts of the hardware itself. Most mainstream keyboard use a "dome" style key in which a rubber dome is position over the contact and when a key is pressed the dome deflates and the contact is pressed by the underside of the key. This requires that the key be pressed all the way to the bottom of it's path for the keystroke to register with the computer. A mechanical switch, however, uses a tiny spring and pin system which leverages the users downward force on the key such that once it has traveled a certain distance the key will quickly "click" on to the contact. This means that there is less wasted time for the user as you do not have to bottom out the key in order to make contact. It is very difficult to describe the difference without having a mechanical keyboard and dome keyboard side-by-side for comparison. Once you have felt the difference, however, you will probably notice that the mainstream dome keyboard now feels "mushy" and less responsive. The Cherry MX Blue switch, shown to the right, is also the "clickiest" of the traditional switch types and the sound it produces can become quite addictive to the operator of the keyboard. Warning: If you frequently type near coworkers or significant others in a relatively quiet setting they might not be so understanding of your new found addiction.
Price and Comparison
The Das Keyboard Ultimate is only one in a sea of high performance mechanical keyboards which includes many brands that are respected in the gaming scene for their durability and function. There is also a brother to the Das Keyboard Ultimate in the Das Keyboard Ultimate Silent which uses the Cherry MX Brown switches. Below are keyboards in a similar price/performance range.
At approximately $120 retail (sometimes found with free shipping option) the Das Keyboard Ultimate is not cheap. In my opinion the build quality and excellent performance both justify this price tag.
All keyboards mentioned use Cherry MX switches of some type. For reference I will include the basic differences between the three main types.
Cherry Black: Non-tactile & non-clicky
Cherry Blue: Tactile & clicky
Cherry Brown: Tactile & non-clicky
Steelseries is a relative newcomer to the peripheral market, but they have gained a fast and loyal following in the gaming community. They are known for their durability and feature sets. The 6Gv2 offers a slightly modified layout and the keys are powered by the Cherry MX Black switches. These switches also require a bit more pressure to actuate, but are generally preferred by gamers for their non-tactile nature. At around $85 this keyboard also bests the Das in terms of affordability.
Razor Black Widow
Razor is a company mostly known for their excellent gaming mice. Recently they have broken into the keyboard scene and offer a competitive product with the Black Widow and big brother Black Widow Ultimate. These keyboards both offer the same Cherry MX blue switches we've talked about before and the Ultimate version includes a backlit blue LED keyboard. Clocking in at about $70 and $115 respectively, these keyboards are still a bit cheaper than the Das.
Thermaltake Meka G1
Thermaltake was originally known for their cases and cooling peripherals. Recently they have jumped headfirst into the eSports world and have been releasing gaming keyboards, headsets, and mice. The Meka G1uses the Cherry MX Black switches common in the latest gaming setups. It comes complete with USB passthrus, mic/headphone jacks, and n-key rollover. At around $110 this keyboard is priced closely with the Das Keyboard Ultimate.
As an owner of the product being reviewed I must mention that a lot of research was done before I committed to a new gaming keyboard purchase. After much deliberation I decided on the Das Keyboard Ultimate and I have not been disappointed in the slightest. The heft of the base, solid feel under your hands, stylish keys and enclosure, and wonderful tactile feel and click have endeared me to this keyboard. If you desire a high quality mechanical gaming keyboard than sits well on the traditional end of the spectrum between no frills function and over-the-top custom additions this keyboard is definitely worth a look. If you require lots of macro sets, custom layouts, or crazy LEDs on your keyboard you might want to look somewhere else.
Check out the keyboard on Amazon
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