More than two years ago, Das Keyboard launched a Kickstarter campaign for its 5Q cloud-connected keyboard. Today is the day it finally launches.
In that time, Das Keyboard opted to develop a whole “Q-series” line, which it describes as “a family of smart, cloud-connected keyboards that increase productivity by empowering users to stream information from the Internet directly to their Q-enabled keyboard.” The first two keyboards in the family are the 5Q and the X50Q.
For all intents and purposes, the two are quite similar. They both have thick aluminum top plates, for example, but the 5Q takes more of its design cues from DK’s older-style keyboards, and the X50Q inherits more of the gamer-focused X40 look (but without the zany top covers, although you can put one on if you want).
Both are full-size keyboards and are also available in DE, UK, and NO layouts. They both have RGB lighting via surface-mounted LEDs, and they offer removable wrist rests. They also both have three dedicated media buttons and a knob at their top right edge, although the look and shape of those items are quite different from one another.
The Q-series keyboards sport the Das Keyboard Gamma-Zulu switches, which are made Omron and look just like Logitech’s Romer-G switches. They have a similar feel to Romer-Gs–light and tactile–but have different specs. Barely. Gamma-Zulu and Romer-G Tactile switches actuate at 1.5mm, have an operating force of 45g, and a tactile force of 55g. The only discernible difference is that the Gamma-Zulu switches have a slightly deeper total travel of 3.5mm versus the Romer-G Tactile’s 3.2mm.
One oddity is that although the keycaps on both are made of black ABS plastic, the 5Q’s caps are doubleshot whereas the X50Q’s are lasered.
The knob, which DK calls the “Q button,” serves to activate the Das Keyboard Q software. This is the primary selling point of the Q-series (man, so many “Q” things). It enables you to program lighting as one normally would on such a keyboard, but there’s a lot more to it. Using IFTTT and Zapier, and other cloud APIs, you can code notifications to the lights on individual keys. If you’re adept at coding, you can make your own notifications using the REST API.
DK offered the following as examples of what you might use the notifications for:
- Tracking the status of projects, pending deadlines, and tasks over time
- Notifications when someone tweets or makes other social media posts
- Knowing when your favorite sports team has scored
- Receiving weather updates
- Tracking stock market activity
- When a Twitch streamer you follow goes online
- Email alerts
- eBay auction ending
- Twitter DMs
- Software build errors
- Ping rate (games)
- Respawn counter (games)
The idea is that you can stay on top of things like the above without having to open a web browser to do so. There’s a fancy Q software dashboard that collects all those items for you. The dashboard has a GUI of the keyboard, and when you mouse over a given key that has a notification, you can see more information about it.
These keyboards have not been without controversy. Early reviews from beta users and Kickstarter early birds have shown a general frustration with details of the design, the construction of the software, shipping, general QA, and more. MacOs and Linux support is delayed. There was also a kerfuffle over the openness of the software. Someone whipped up an open version and posted it on github, and Das Keyboard banned some forum users who posted it. The general outrage caused DK’s founder to unban the users and post an apology on the forums (login required, screencap below for convenience).
The Das Keyboard 5Q costs $249, and the Das Keyboard X50Q is $199 on the company’s own webstore. At press time the cost for the 5Q is the same on Amazon, but you can get the X50Q twenty bucks cheaper, at $179.
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