Das Keyboard Model S Professional for Mac review
Finding a great keyboard for a Windows PC is never a problem. For some users, a traditional mechanical keyboard with real keys is the business, in contrast to the mushy and shorter-lived membrane keys used in mass-produced devices.
But some of the best mechanical keyboard brands we’ve come across simply don’t cater for anything other than the Microsoft key layout. Respected keyboard brands that limit their platform support include Cherry, Ducky, Diatec Filco and Topre.
Gamers are now seeking out more mechanical keyboards, and gaming peripheral suppliers like Razer, SteelSeries and Corsair have recognised that demand and will now sell you a high-grade keyboard. But only with Microsoft Windows key layouts, as practically all such gaming is on Microsoft’s platform.
Flying the flag for Mac users who appreciate the tactile feel of a mechanical keyboard is Das Keyboard. The American company has a small range that covers most bases: there’s the standard Model S Professional keyboard for Windows users, an Ultimate edition with totally blank keys for proud touch typists, and the Das Keyboard Model S for Mac reviewed here.
All three use Cherry MX Blue switches for the best, clicky feel and positive feedback. Additionally, Das Keyboard makes both of its Windows keyboards with Cherry MX Brown switches too, which give some touch feedback but with lower noise levels.
The Das Keyboard Model is quite distinctive in its piano black-effect top surface with angular top-right corner detail.
The lower section of the keyboard chassis is more conventional matt black plastic, with substantial rubber plates in each of four corners to deter desk slippage. Fold-down feet are also included at the rear, although we found that as soon as the keyboard had been raised very little rubber was in contact with the desk and the keyboard would too easily wander around.
A long USB cable is attached at the centre of the back edge, with a substantial rubber grommet to reduce cable strain. At cable’s end are two USB 2.0 plugs; one for essential operation, the other to provide additional current from a PC’s spare USB port, to help power any desktop peripherals plugged into the two-port USB 2.0 hub on the right. To identify plugs, one bears a keyboard graphic, the other the word ‘HUB’.
Das Keyboard Model S Professional for Mac includes two USB 2.0 ports on its right edge
Only one version of the Das Keyboard Model S For Mac is available, with US key layout. Used with a UK Macintosh, you’ll still find the £ sign, for example, at Shift-3. British Mac typists will lose access to the § and ± symbols, though, normally found to the left of the 1 key. The Return key becomes single- rather than double-height, and the left Shift key is extended, pushing the `/~ key to left-of-1 position.
Typing action can be a divisive matter and is of course ultimately a personal choice. But with its full complement of Cherry MX Blue switches, we found the Das Keyboard to be quite divine to type upon.
Unlike the Alps-based Matias Tactile keyboards, for example, the chassis is better damped, so that you don’t feel the casework unduly resonating and amplifying the clatter of switches.
The Blue switch has a marked and positive click point near the top of its travel, with some gentle resistance beyond as your fingers follow through to the bottom. Like any keyboard fielding Cherry MX Blue, the Das Keyboard is certainly one of the louder keyboards you’ll find, but also potentially the most satisfying. We found typing could be incredibly swift with this type of switch.
The key caps follow the traditional shape with shallow concave sculpting to guide fingertips into place. Keys are a satin-matt black with white character legends laser etched on each, in lower-case script to the top-left corner of each key.
The typeface on the keys is a little unusual, a modern vetically compressed font, quite square and angular and not so easy to read. It has a 1970s sci-fi feel to it that’s bucking any current trend. Out of date already perhaps, but it’s equally less likely to date any more anytime soon.
Across the top row are function keys numbering F1 to F13. Two additional dedicated keys to their right control Apple display brightness, down and up. There are also some basic media transport keys – Previous, Play/Pause and Skip – marked in blue on F6, F7 and F8. These, and the mute and volume adjustment keys on F9, F10 and F11, are accessed in conjunction with a blue ‘fn’ key that resides between Option and Control keys, to the right of the spacebar.
A less common addition is a Sleep key, marked with blue crescent moon graphic, and sited on the F1 key. Dab the Fn+F1 combination and a connected Mac will go straight to sleep mode.
For a Mac’s super key – the Command or Apple key – only the word ‘command’ is printed without the ? Bowen knot symbol.
The Caps Lock key activates a blue LED that shines through the black plastic in the corner, below the company’s lower-case 'das keyboard' graphic.
There are no OS X specific keys as found on Apple keyboards, such as Mission Control and Launchpad shortcuts.
It’s also worth noting that the fn key on the Das Keyboard Model S Professional For Mac does not map to the same key on Apple’s keyboards. That’s an issue with the new Dictation shortcut in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (fn, fn), although it’s easy enough to swap keys in System Preferences/Dictation & Speech.
If you work on a Mac and like Cherry MX Blue mechanical switches in your keyboard, those criteria currently point you to just one model in the world that we’re aware of – the Das Keyboard Model S Professional for Mac. But don’t feel you’ve had to settle on it by default: Das Keyboard’s keyboard is a solidly built unit in a modern-retro black lacquer style, using premium switchgear. An option for UK key layout would make it even more attractive but it still deserves our recommendation as one of the very finest keyboards you’ll find for the Apple Mac today.