I’ve written before about how much I love my Tactile Pro 3 keyboard. The clicky-clacky racket it makes continually annoys my family, Katie Floyd, and the MPU listeners. After listening to everyone talk about the daskeyboard, I decided to see if it could unseat my Tactile 3 in my own private keyboard deathmatch. Having used the daskeyboard now for about a month, I can report it is an excellent keyboard. As an aside, if timing is everything, I really screwed the pooch on this one since last week appears to have been the week for Internet keyboard porn, as evidenced by Shawn Blanc’s epic comparison post and Merlin’s shorter post about retiring his own beloved Tactile keyboard.
While the Tactile 3 uses the traditional ALPS switches dating back to Apple’s own legendary Apple Extended II keyboards, the daskeyboard uses Cherry MX Blue switches that give the keys a tactile “bump” when the key is about halfway depressed. There is a most excellent animation over at daskeyboard.com.
I’m not sure where the ALPS switch actually triggers the keypress and I guess that is the point. You don’t get that same feedback to your fingers that comes with the Cherry switch. They are both loud as hell but the ALPS switch has a little ring on the upstroke that never bothered me but made Shawn Blanc a little nuts.
I’d never used a Cherry switch keyboard before the daskeyboard arrived and I could immediately tell a difference. The Cherry switches are a bit firmer and the typing experience is, for lack of a better word, “tighter”. I don’t have the gear to test the amount of force required for a key press but it sure feels like the daskeyboard needs more force than that Tactile 3. However, the Cherry switch’s feedback really good. You can actually feel the switch engage with your fingers.
You really need to try both of these keyboards if this is a big deal for you but I’d categorize the Tactile Pro 3 ALPS switches as bit softer in feel than the Cherry switch daskeyboard. You’ll feel the difference immediately. Even though I’ve been using a Tactile Pro 3 Keyboard for some time, I prefer the Cherry switches.
Nevertheless I still sat on the fence about this daskeyboard. There are a lot of little things that the Tactile Pro 3 does better than the daskeyboard.
The daskeyboard’s keyboard font is a mess. It is a blocky font that isn’t very easy to read. The Tactile Pro 3 keyboard uses a cleaner font and also includes a legend on each key for alternative key combinations.
The Matias keys are laser etched on the keys for longevity. After using the daskeyboard for a month, the printing on the left command keyalready looks like it is wearing thin.
I also prefer the Tactile 3’s USB port placement. The Tactile 3 includes three USB ports with one on each side and an additional one in back. The daskeyboard has two USB ports both on the right side.
I think when it comes to make a decision on a mechanical switch keyboard, it is really all about the switches and you’ll pick whichever keyboard has the best feel, no matter how ugly the keyboard font is.
Initially, I was pretty sure I’d be buying the daskeyboard rather than returning the review unit. As much as the Tactile Pro 3 gets right, I prefer the feel of the daskeyboard switches.
However, in the name of science I took alternating weeks on the daskeyboard, Tactile Pro 3, and my Apple Bluetooth Wireless keyboard. I didn’t run a typing test but Shawn Blanc’s increased spead on the mechanical switch keyboards doesn’t suprise me. I don’t however find that a compelling reason to switch to a mechanical keyboard because I rarely type from a sheet of paper and the bottleneck for most things I write is in my brain, not my fingers.
The big suprise in this review process was the discovery that when using my Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard, my RSI aggravations were almost non-existent. This got me thinking about my own experiences with RSI and, upon reflection, I often get cramps in my fingers when working from my iMac but not nearly so often from my MacBook Air with its little chicklet keys. In working through this, I had my own little eureka moment as I realized that keyboards with less travel are not as hard on my RSI as keyboards with more travel. (This is obvious in hindsight.)
So at the conclusion of this process, I realized that in my case I’m not using either of these beloved noisy mechanical keyboards but instead sticking with this tiny Apple keyboard. That’s right. The keyboard deathmatch was not won by any of the heavyweight contenders, but a sneaky flyweight. My own inadequacies aside, if I were not contending with RSI, I’d be writing a check to buy this daskeyboard. Despite its imperfections, I prefer the Cherry switches.