I spend a lot of my life in front of a keyboard. I have tried other sorts of things here and there but suspect I’m stuffed with anything other than a keyboard. A physical keyboard. I do not like the lack of physical feedback from virtual keyboards. I get by with phone or tablet, swiping + predictive text works well enough but awkward for composing slabs of text and editing. I am most at home with a full keyboard.
Keyboards come in all shapes these days including small ones, big ones, some with less keys, some with all the keys, some with colours and flashing lights. Keyboards even have their own culture and groupies, depending on where you hang. “tenkeyless” is a bit of thing at the moment referring to keyboards that don’t have a numeric keypad. When I was working vendor-side, I had a series of thinkpad laptops (initially IBM then Lenovo which took over IBM’s laptop division) and work supplied an external keyboard for the office. Both the laptop and external keyboards were decent; I still have the external IBM keyboard and used it recently and it holds up.
My keyboard of choice in recent years was the logitech wave. It was comfy, felt great to type on and had a really nice feel. When I find a keyboard I like I usually get the same keyboard for work and home. My current workplace supplies a basic keyboard which is good as far as they go but I replaced it with a wave :-) If you can get away with it, it’s nice to swap in your own gear at work.
For a long time now, I’ve been reading about mechanical keyboards. These hark back to olden days when office typewriters were actual typewriters and computer keyboards emulated this approach. I’ve been trawling through my saved articles (using pocket these days) and found this fabulous article by Justine Hyde on the love of typewriters. There’s something about the click clack of old school typewriters that appeal. I’ve been using computer keyboards since I was 12 and still have fond memories of learning to type on mum’s, or was it dad’s, portable typewriter.
I used to think mechanical keyboards were a bit of a trendy thing, focused on the noise of typing and hipster, old school style…not to mention being expensive. Mechanical keyboards can be very noisy. Most modern keyboards are membrane-based where the board under the keys is a rubber membrane sending signals based on the character pressed whereas mechanical keyboards have a specific switch for each key. Modern keyboards are quiet and don’t disturb whilst everyone knows if you’re using a mechanical keyboard. Stories continued to emerge of how nice mechanicals are to type on but still, they’re eccy: the wave cost around $100 including mouse + wrist-rest, whereas a good mechanical keyboard is around $150+.
Recently I bit the bullet and went hunting for a decent mechanical keyboard. I have long admired Das Keyboard as dedicated keyboard enthusiasts, they even produce a keyboard with no labels for touch typists in pure, unadulterated style. I never actually learned to touch-type but suspect I would probably do ok on a blank keyboard. Instead I went looking for the Das Professional 4…with labels. The Das Pro 4 is regarded as the top end at around AUD$270 and doesn’t include a wrist-rest.
I popped in to Capitol Square in Sydney where there’s a nest of specialist computer shops but none had one and I eventually settled for the cheaper Logitech Orion G610 ($150) with Cherry Brown switches. A note on switches: these are the things that separate mechanical keyboards from typical membranes; each key has its own switch and Cherry is the top of the top of pile for switches. Cherry has several colours denoting noise and feel with Cherry reds generally being the loudest. My reading suggested Cherry browns are quieter while maintaining decent tactility. Competing keyboard suppliers use Cherry too but some have developed their own switches eg Logitech have developed Romero for their top end keyboards. I won’t get into the terminology of actuation points and so on as it can get a wee bit intense.
I set up the logitech g610 at home and oh my, it was orders of magnitude better than the wave. Noisy yes, but so so nice to type on. However what I hadn’t understood was just how much faster mechanical keyboards are to type on; I thought I was a fairly quick typist but am faster still on a mechanical. The g610 is beautiful to type on. Anyways I ended up ordering the Das Pro 4 (Cherry Brown) online and I set it up at work. While the Logitech G610 was an order of magnitude better than the Wave, the Das Pro 4 was that much better again and possibly quieter too. It was so much better than typing on the G610 that I’m now tempted to replace the G610 with a Das Pro 4 too. It’s all subjective: I was happy for years with the wave; I was happy with the G610, and now I’m even happier with the Das Keyboard Professional 4.