Posted On 07/01/2015 By In Keyboard Reviews, Reviews

REVIEW: Das 4C Professional

Page Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Typing Test
  3. Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
  4. External Build
  5. Internal Build
  6. Switches
  7. Layout and Function Keys
  8. Summary & Conclusion
  9. Full Gallery
  10. Where to Buy

Introduction

The Das Keyboard 4C (a Metadot company) was released in January of this year and marked the company’s first compact tenkeyless (TKL) design. The 4C comes in 2 variants, the Professional and the Ultimate. The only difference between the two keyboards are the aesthetics. The Professional features pad printed legends and has the classic red and white logo on the left side of the keyboard, whereas the Ultimate features matte black keycaps without any legends and a blacked-out logo.

The Das 4C Professional is currently available with Brown and Blue switches. These are not genuine Cherry MX switches but Greetech clones. The Brown switch is a tactile switch with a moderate 45g actuation force, while the Blue switch has the same 45g actuation force but is both tactile and clicky. The keyboard features a very nice aluminum top case as well as two USB hubs on the left side of the keyboard, both features that set it apart from much of the competition.

The keyboard has enough unique features to standout in a saturated TKL market, but is it still worth the higher price? Let’s find out.

Typing Test

This video can make the keyboard seem louder than it actually is. I used this in an office setting without ever feeling like it was being too loud. The “clack” of the keyboard is actually quite nice, a soft sound which I actually really enjoyed. Had I wanted to assert my office dominance I would have brought in a buckling spring keyboard…

 

Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents

Given the Das 4C’s avant-garde design, it came as no real surprise that Metadot went to good measure to provide packaging that would complement the keyboard. The packaging was overall very impressive. The outside of the box was very minimalist, much like the boxes for Apple products, with the inside maintaining the same overall feel. Simple and elegant. Unlike some keyboard brands that throw logos, graphics, and information all over the box it was very refreshing to have a keyboard with such professional looking packaging.

 

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Inside the keyboard was neatly packed in a thin protective bag, and surrounded by foam on either end. The only other things inside the box were a single sided instruction sheet on NKRO and the red magnetic ruler that also doubles as the keyboards feet. Although the box has an overall minimalist aesthetic, it strikes a good balance of minimalism and informativeness. While the top panel features only a photograph and product name, the rear and bottom panels are filled with information about the keyboard’s features:

  • Mechanical key switches: with gold-plated contacts

  • UV Hard coat-protected key cap: inscriptions for extra-long durability

  • Extra long 2-meter USB cable: to keep your desk neat and tidy (6.5 foot)

  • Sleek design: compact 87-key (US); 88-key (Europe)

  • Anodized aluminum top panel: for improved durability

  • Full N-Key Rollover: for faster gaming and typing

  • Windows disable key: for better gaming

  • Two-port USB 2.0 hub: for you USB key and your phone

  • Media and special function keys: for quick access

 

“Brown Switch”

The switches on the Das 4C are not genuine Cherry switches, but Greetech MX clones. It should be mentioned that nowhere on the box, or on the inside instructions is “Greetech” mentioned by name, with “Brown Switch” being the only name used to describe the switches anywhere. Although it may be a minor detail to some, I think that a detail of that importance should in fact make it’s way somewhere on the box or included literature. It isn’t a huge deal, but it is something I would like to see in the future.

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Inside the box

Internally, the keyboard is well-cushioned by cardboard spacers and styrofoam inserts. You just get the keyboard with its fixed USB cable, a single pamphlet, and “7h3 f007b4r rul35” — a plastic ruler that doubles as a magnetic wedge to put the keyboard on an incline. The ruler surprisingly felt like part of the keyboard and not an afterthought to me, perhaps I let the avant-garde styling really get a hold of me… Regardless the ruler works as good as any rubber feet, and doubles as a fun extra should you ever need it. I see this as an overall win for the keyboard.

External Build

Case

The bottom portion of the Das 4C’s case, where the PCB sits, is plastic like most mechanical keyboards. It’s topped off by a ~1.8mm thick black anodized aluminum sheet, which Metadot first introduced on the full-size Das 4. It has a matte finish and is resistant to showing fingerprints. The aluminum top makes the keyboard feel exceptionally solid, and it is heavier than most TKL size keyboards. Some simple tests also showed that that case was fairly scratch resistant, no wear could be seen after spending a week with this keyboard.

The 4C’s case is hugely resistant to the torsional flex test. Grabbing it with both hands and twisting produces virtually no movement or creaking. Even very well-built plastic tenkeyless keyboards like the KUL-ES87 have considerably more flex than the 4C, so in this regard, it’s well ahead of its peers.

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Unlike the KUL and many other boards, the Das 4C doesn’t have any DIP switches for key swapping or other user-configurable features.

The USB cable is fixed, and is a normal rubber-coated cable. I wish it was a braided cable, but regardless it is a very thick cable and it should stand up fine to normal wear and tear. Removable cables are always nice if you plan on toting a keyboard around with you, so that may be something to take into consideration.

The 4C does not rattle at all when forcefully tapped anywhere on the case. In my opinion, overall build quality is excellent.

Reverse side (rubber pads, feet, etc.)

The underside of the Das 4C is nice and simple, just the way I like it. All screws are recessed into the plastic and painted black to match the case. It features 4 anti-skid feet which work well, and has beveled/chamfered edges that complement the keyboard’s overall design. As I mentioned above, there are no flip-out feet–instead, the two forward rubber pads are shaped to accommodate the f007b4r ruler/incline wedge. A small silver laser etched aluminum plaque is placed in the center–a nice upgrade over a plain sticker–as well as a small and easily removable “QC PASS” sticker.

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When I passed this keyboard around the office the ruler did get a lot of attention, it was a probably the favorite feature of quite a few people that took a look at it.

Keycaps

The Das 4C’s keycaps are OEM profile thin ABS. There is nothing at all outstanding about the keycaps themselves. The UV-coated legends were still not showing any wear after I finished my review. The keycaps themselves were showing slight signs of wear, with shiny spots appearing on some of the more used keys.

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None of the caps developed outright shiny spots during my time with them, but I suspect they would’ve with more use. I don’t normally let keycaps play much of a role when determining what keyboard to purchase though. Generally the first thing I do when I get a keyboard is replace the keycaps with a high quality aftermarket set of keycaps. Signature Plastics ABS SA profile keycaps are one of my favorites, along with thick PBT keycaps that can easily be found online. Ducky and Vortex both make fantastic aftermarket keycaps that will fit the Das 4C perfectly.

At the end of the day the keycaps weren’t anything to brag about, but they didn’t hinder my time with the keyboard either,

USB Hub

The Das 4 features an internal USB 2.0 hub with two ports on the left side of the board, where the case protrudes. They’re unpowered ports, which means that they’ll work for flash drives, mice dongles, and even phones, but won’t operate devices like unpowered hard drives, and won’t charge anything quickly. During my tests, I found that both ports worked as expected with no outstanding issues. The left-hand placement might be awkward for any right-handed mouse user who wants to plug his/her mouse into the 4C.

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Note that the Das 4C does not have any USB 3.0 pass-through ports, unlike the full-size Das 4.

Internal Build

The internal build really speaks of the overall quality of the keyboard itself. The top plate is held on by 9 screws, with the plate and PCB being held on to the bottom of the case with another 8 screws. This is far more than most keyboards is disassemble and is a good indication as to why the 4C feels so sturdy. The PCB was quite thick and I generally saw no issues whatsoever with internal build quality, in fact it really just emphasized how good the quality of the keyboard was in general.

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Switches

On first touch the switches feel very similar to Cherry MX Browns, and have the same actuation force of ~45g and the same travel distance of 4mm. The switches do not have the loud auditory “click” found in Cherry MX Blues and Greens, but does still have the “clack” when the keys bottom out. One thing I did really enjoy about the Greetech switches was that the tactile bump slightly more pronounced than the Cherry MX Brown switch and that to me is a very good thing. To me this really improved the typing experience quite a bit.

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The switches do have a few issues though. My main issue is that they are not as smooth as their Cherry counterparts and feel slightly scratchier. The switches also have some inconsistencies in their sound and feel. I noticed a few keys, especially the space bar, that had a loud “ping.”  Other keyboards, like the KUL, are known to have a fair amount of ping as well, so I would be curious to test the Greetech switches in another keyboard to see if its the case that is causing the actual issue. When I placed the keyboard on a soft surface to type on the ping was significanly quieter. Slight inconsistencies are a normal detail that most mechanical keyboards have, but the Greetech switches seem to vary a bit more than keyboards with Cherry switches, but fair better than other switch clones that I’ve used like the Razer (Kailh) Greens.

 

Layout and Function Keys

The Das 4C has a fully standard ANSI key layout, which means that it’s compatible with any modern Cherry MX replacement keycap set.

The tenkeyless (TKL) design means that the keyboard has no numperpad, which can clear up desk space and reduce arm/shoulder abduction at the cost of data input efficiency. Personally I’m a huge TKL fan as I don’t find myself needing a numberpad frequently enough to justify it taking up the room on my rather small desk. With the Das it would be extremely easy to have an standalone numpad and plug it directly in to the USB hub on the side of the keyboard should you find yourself needing a numberpad more often that I. If having a numpad is a non-negotiable feature or something you use daily, but you like the rest of the 4C you should check out the full-size Das 4 line.

Function keys include:

  • Fn+Esc: Put computer to sleep
  • Fn+F1: Mute
  • Fn+F2: Volume down
  • Fn+F3: Volume up
  • Fn+F5: Previous track
  • Fn+F6: Pause/play
  • Fn+F7: Next track
  • Fn+F11: Toggle NKRO
  • Fn+F12: Disable Windows key (for gaming)

All function keys work in Windows and OSX. Note that the Sleep key must be held for 2-3 seconds to work. The NKRO mode works in Windows, OSX, Linux, and Chrome OS.

Summary & Conclusion

Overall I was very pleased by the Das 4C. The keyboard had quite a few features like the USB hub, metal top case, and avant-garde design that made it stand out in a very competitive tenkeyless market. The build quality was absolutely superb, and it functioned perfectly. The ~$140 price makes it one of the more expensive TKL’s on the market, though it can be justified by it’s list of features. I was surprised how much I liked the Das 4C Professional. The USB hub was extremely handy, the function keys work well, and the build quality made it feel like a high-end item which I very much enjoyed. There were a few issues with the keyboard, the biggest being the inconsistent feel and sound that some of the switches had, though neither ruined the experience of the keyboard for me.

Pros

  • Nice anodized aluminum top plate; the board is a tank
  • First tenkeyless design from iconic Das brand
  • No functionality issues; everything works as intended
  • Available as both Professional (legends) and Ultimate (blank)
  • Great packaging
  • Foot “bar” doubles as a ruler
  • NKRO on all OSes
  • USB 2.0 hub (2 ports)
  • Aluminum top plate resists fingerprints very well
  • Currently available in Brown (tactile) and Blue (tactile, clicky) Greetech switches
  • TKL design saves desk space (at expense of numpad)

Cons

  • $140 street price is on the high end of the price spectrum
  • Greetech MX clones seem to be less consistent than original MX Browns, though to be fair, they function fine and feel nearly identical
  • Lack of marketing transparency with regard to switches
  • No DIP switches
  • Fixed USB cable, and not braided
  • Stock keycaps seem prone to wea
  • No USB 3.0 as found on the full-size Das 4

Final score: 7.0/10

Full Gallery

Where to Buy

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2 Responses

  1. I was excited for this keyboard until I found out it didn’t use Cherry MX switches. Can’t believe they skimped on such an expensive board.

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