Keyboards are like icebergs. You only see 20 percent of what's really going on. Typing sounds simple: touch a key to see a character pop up on the screen, but in practice there are a half-dozen forces that go into every keystroke. It's the Keyboard 4 Professional's job to make it so that each one is less physically demanding than the last.

I could write about the gross technical specs of this board. Its 2mm actuation point; the miniscule 60cN of force required on every stroke. I could write, in painfully explicit detail, about debouncing times of 5ms and how you'd need inhuman reflexes to outpace the board's ability to process the data - all transmitted over USB no less.

I could spend these next hundred-or-so words explaining terms like ghosting, NKRO (this keyboard supports full n-key rollover, a favorite feature of the gaming world), and key bouncing - or, I could simply tell you what an absolute joy this board is to type on.

Das Keyboard
Its anodized aluminum top panel is as fantastic to look at as it is to touch

A bomb build and clickety-clack keys

It starts with the anodized aluminum top panel. The build quality here is outrageously high. If I wasn't concerned for the safety of the Cherry MX Blue switches (I'll get to those in a minute), I'd drop this board from 10-feet in the air and feel confident it'd still work the instant I plugged it in. The aluminum coating makes it cool to the touch. It's not often that a board has a temperature to it, but it's something you'll immediately notice when you start typing.

(Note: The keyboard reviewed here is equipped with Cherry MX Blue switches. Das Keyboard offers a Cherry MX Brown switch alternative for an extra $4 if you're looking for a more subdued typing experience. The tactile feedback won't nearly be as intense, but at least your roommates won't have to hear you typing during late night blogging binges.)

Keys depress with a loud, satisfying "click." It's the aforementioned switches at work. They make the Das Keyboard a dream to type on. Though, admittedly, if you've lived a long, hard life using a rubber membrane keyboard and never felt the clickety-clack of keys beneath your fingers, it can take some getting used to. Use it for a week, however, and that will fade away and what you'll be left with is a typing experience that defies expectations…depending what your expectations are, of course.

Keyboard
It's all about those Cherry MX Blue switches

For serious, typists

It's completely utilitarian. There are no macro keys and no thumb keys that allow for changing key mappings on the fly. Das Keyboard 4 is minimalism in its purest form. It's a workman's keyboard for those who type frequently and deliberately. If that alienates you, you are likely not the demographic the manufacturer is going after. If I could associate one word with the Das Keyboard 4, it's uncompromising.

As much as Das Keyboard would like this to be the first choice for top-tier World of Warcraft and League of Legend players, it likely never will. As great as the keys are, there's just not that many of them. Without expendable macro keys there's just not enough functionality for most professional gamers. Try to take the Das Keyboard into a World of Warcraft tournament and I don't think you'd make it past the first round. That said the lack of accompanying customization software is not without its advantages.

It doesn't require a driver, and in a world of downloadable programs it's nice to have a keyboard that doesn't have stored memory profiles and endlessly customizable keys. It's a "what you see is what you get" deal and, for some, that's a very good thing.

Das Keyboard 4 Professional
The dedicated media controls and oversized volume knob are nice touches

As far as extras are concerned there's a 2-port USB 3.0 SuperSpeed hub that boasts speeds of up to 5Gb/s. I don't know if I'd use it to connect an external HDD, but for mouse pass-through and occasionally charging a smart phone it's convenient. Additionally the Das Keyboard 4 Professional sports on-board media controls, oversized volume control knob, and instant sleep key. Again, these are convenient, but unlikely to sway a potential buyer.

Oh, and where traditional rubber feet would be there's a detachable ruler…so there's that.

Keyboard at desk

Verdict

The Das Keyboard 4 Professional is a great basic board. It has an uncompromising, no-frills style that you'll come to respect, even if that means it won't be the go-to board for gamers. The MX Blue switches will be a relaxing reprieve for those coming from rubber dome keys…just be sure your roommates / significant other / parents know what they're getting into. Despite their noise, the tactile feedback left a definite positive impression, and once you become accustomed to the minimal force required to engage the keys, it will be tough to go back to your old way of life. It's solid in every sense of the word. For word processing, Internet surfing, and general use, it's the board to beat. Gamers, at least those in search of macros, are best served looking somewhere else.