Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been obsessing over getting a mechanical keyboard. Mechanical keyboards are “clickier,” provide more tactile feedback and don’t need to be fully pressed down to register a key. Most modern keyboards use rubber domes instead of mechanical key switches, which are cheaper and quieter, but pretty much worse in every other way. Because you don’t need to depress the keys as far to register a press, mechanical keyboards should theoretically cause less hand strain, and since most of what I do all day is type, anything that could make for a more enjoyable, less RSI inducing experience is worth looking into.
Although I’ve been aware of mechanical keyboards for about four years, I never bought one because I’m not really old enough to have fond memories of the best mechanical keyboards from the past, like the Apple Extended and IBM Model M. Also they’re not cheap.
The two mechanical keyboards I’ve been considering are the Matias Tactile Pro, and the new Das Keyboard model with a Mac layout. I’ve considered the Tactile Pro before, but the second version didn’t get the greatest reviews and had a really ugly sticker across the top of it. Version three has been out for a while, gotten good reviews, and did away with the branding on the keyboard. The Das Keyboard model I’m looking at is just now becoming available with a Mac layout, but has gotten good reviews in the past.
The primary difference I’ve looked at between these two is the use of different key switches. The Matias uses a version of Alps simple white key switches (similar to the Apple Extended), where the Das uses MX Cherry Blue key switches (common in mechanical keyboards on the market today). Both types work differently, and so they give each keyboard a different feel when pressing keys.
If you want to get a sense for what the Das Keyboard might be like, you can maybe find another keyboard that uses the same key switches at your local Best Buy, or other big box electronics retailer, branded as a gaming keyboard. The one that I found was the ridiculously named “Razer BlackWidow Ultimate,” which wasn’t on display but had a cut out where the arrow keys are to let you tap on. If you’ve never used a mechanical keyboard, it’s worth doing just to get a feel for how much different they really are.
In the end, I decided to order the Tactile Pro mostly because it was hard to find a keyboard I could try that used the same Alps key switches, so if I got the Das I’d still wonder about it and end up ordering both1). I’ve also heard good things about the Apple Extended keyboards, and it was on sale at OWC. I should get it soon, so I’ll post my impressions once I’ve spent some time getting used to it.