- Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
- External Build
- Internal Build
- Layout and Function Keys
- Summary & Conclusion
- Full Gallery
- Where to Buy
Das Keyboard is a company that has managed to carve a very unique market out out of the mechanical keyboard industry. In the late 2000’s, the Das Ultimate keyboards (unlabeled variants) were one of the more popular choices along among enthusiasts, along with Filco boards. I got my first Das Keyboard Ultimate when I was in my Dvorak stage and loved it. It was one of the first non-vintage mechanical keyboards that I ever bought, and a board that really helped solidify my interest in mechanical keyboards as a hobby.
I’m happy to announce that Das Keyboard have returned to Cherry MX switches with their new Prime 13 keyboard, instead of the Greetech switches used in a few past models. The Prime 13 utilizes classic Das Keyboard design elements, classy white backlighting, and a USB hub. I’m testing out a model with Cherry MX Browns, a non-clicky tactile switch, and definitely put the board through some rigorous testing at home at work.
Notable features of the Prime 13 include:
- anodized aluminum top case
- Cherry MX switches
- White LED backlighting
- Full n-key rollover
- USB pass-through
- 6.5ft (201 cm)braided cable
- Fn layer with media controls and sleep mode access
- Laser-etches keys
Packaging, Unboxing, and Contents
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for good packaging. I think it really sets the tone for the rest of the keyboard and is imperative to making a good first impression. Das Keyboard has always known this and has kept the Prime 13 packaging simple and classy. The mostly black box features information about the switches, lighting, and layout, as well proclaiming the Prime 13 is “The Ultimate Experience for Badasses.” I’m not exactly sure how this directly relates to the Prime 13 (I’d think the ultimate experience for badasses would be a trip to the moon, swimming with sharks, etc), but it’s a good bit of fun on the box, and I can dig that.
Inside the box
The extras are pretty sparse with the Das Keyboard, but there isn’t a lot of extras you really need. It came with the keyboard, nicely held in place by some foam, and a keycap puller and manual. The instructions are short, but well written and extremely easy to follow. No poorly translated instructions here, something I see far too often.
The Prime 13 utilizes the now iconic design that most Das keyboards have, having a portion at the top of the case flair out. The top case is matte black aluminum and the bottom is plastic. Overall the keyboard feels quite substantial. The top plate is connected by over 10 screws, not plastic clips, meaning that this is a very easy board to take apart if you ever need to. The construction quality is top notch all around on the Prime 13. The single USB hub is tucked away behind the back right side of the keyboard. I was able to use the USB hub to connect other peripherals, a flash drive, and a USB powered light. Thanks to the nice dual cable the hub is quite powerful and quick.
Reverse side (rubber pads, feet, etc.)
The Prime 13 has a small pair of flip out feet on the back to raise the angle of the keyboard, as well as some small rubber pads in the front to help prevent the keyboard from sliding around your desk. The only thing I wish was different about the flip out feet is that they were a little bit taller, as the increase in height is honestly pretty nominal. Another nice feature is that the FN for turning NKRO on and off is listed on the back badge.
The keycaps are what you would expect from most stock caps. Relatively thin laser etched ABS. The font isn’t an awful stylized gaming font, which is a huge plus, but it does kind of remind me of my grandmothers large print library books. It’s not bad, it just looks someone had the BOLD setting on when designing the keycap font. This definitely comes down to be more of a personal preference than anything though, and it does benefit from being quite easy to read.
For the keys on the number row and number pad with top and bottom legends, the bottom legends are only 1/2 as bright as the top legends, giving a slightly inconsistent look. This is a common issue due to where the LED is placed, and can really only be completely solved by switches like Logitech’s Romer G with a lightpipe going right up the middle of the switch. It isn’t a huge issue and is something that all MX boards with LED’s have to deal with.
The Prime 13 utilized Cherry style stabilizers, making cap removal a breeze. The modifiers with stabilizers felt nice, with no rattle coming from any of the stabilizers, something that is actually pretty rare for stock keyboard.
The internal quality of the keyboard is fantastic. The plate is held onto the back case by 10 screws, which is in turn held onto the top plate by another 10+ screws. The PCB soldering was very clean, and there were generally no issues with the board. If you do take the keyboard apart make sure not to go yanking it apart too fast, you want to make sure you can disconnect the USB hub via the small clip before totally tearing it apart.
The Prime 13 utilizes Cherry MX switches. My sample unit had MX Browns, a light tactile non-clicky switch. The per-switch lighting can be turned on and off with adjustable brightness settings, but no programmable or crazy effects are present. Personally, I think this benefits the keyboard. Having crazy setting could be a turn-off for a lot of the potential buyers for a keyboard as focuses towards professional use as much as the Prime 13 does.
Layout and Function Keys
The Prime 13 has a standard ANSI US layout. Unfortunately there are no dip switches or ways to change the layout internally, so you will need third party software if you want to make changes, such as putting CTRL where God intended it (Caps Lock position, obviously.) Still, the standard layout and key sizes will be very familiar to the vast majority of people. The physical layout of the keyboard is also standard, meaning anyone that desires to swap out the keycaps should have no trouble at all finding a replacement set that fits correctly.
The FN layer is actually quite nice on the Prime 13. It contains media controls, a sleep function, NKRO on/off, and the backlighting controls. The switches in the F-Row containing the FN layer keys have also been put in the PCB backwards compared to the rest of the switches, as this allows the lighting to clearly illuminate the top and front legends, a detail that is nice to see wasn’t overlooked.
Summary & Conclusion
I like the Das Keyboard Prime 13, a lot. I had a Das Keyboard as my work keyboard in my old office, and I’ve been using the Prime 13 for weeks at my new office. I love that no special drivers or installers are needed, which is especially useful if people are at work on locked down computers. The standard full size layout means easy access to a numpad in a layout that everyone is familiar with should someone else need to use my PC, and the lighting is perfect for the mornings in the dark corner of the room where my desk is.
Like I mentioned in the intro, Das keyboards have an interesting niche of their own. They have excellent build quality, and the price reflect that, as they generally cost more than entry level boards. The unique styling and lack of details such as programmable PCBs or DIP switches to provide on-board layout options keeps some of the enthusiasts away. But like I mentioned, the working professional is clearly the target audience when you look at the features this board does and doesn’t have.
Would I recommend this board? Absolutely. The biggest competitor as far as price range and features go is the WASD code. The Code has a few features like DIP switches and a removable cable that the Das doesn’t have, but the Das Keyboard has the USB hub and metal top case. Personal preferences will make the biggest determining factor between the two, as both are excellent keyboards.
- Standard Physical Key Layout
- Build Quality
- USB Hub (1x)
- Cherry MX Switches
- Compatible with Linux, Windows, and Mac OS (with no install ever needed)
- Not programmable, no DIP switches.
- Non detachable cable
- Moderately expensive
Final score: 8.0/10
Where to Buy
Disclaimer: The same keyboard was provided courtesy of DAS, and is in no way a paid review/advertisement.