The Das Keyboard Prime 13 Mechanical Keyboard

The Das Keyboard Prime 13 shares the same postmodern design of the Das Keyboard 4 Professional, with an aluminum top cover and a plastic lower frame. The company logo is printed at the top right corner of the aluminum cover, in only white color this time. In essence, the Das Keyboard Prime 13 is aesthetically almost the same as the Das Keyboard 4 Professional, except from the missing sound volume wheel and the multimedia buttons. However, beyond aesthetics, there are several practical differences between the two keyboards.

We received the US layout version of the Das Keyboard Prime 13. It is a standard 104-key keyboard that fully adheres to the ANSI layout, with a normal bottom row. The bottom row of the keyboard has a 6.25× Spacebar and seven 1.25× bottom row keys. The left "Windows" key has the Das Keyboard company logo printed on it. The right "Windows" key has been replaced with the "Fn" key that can be used to access advanced functions via keystrokes.

The keycaps of the Das Keyboard Prime 13 have laser etched characters that, in comparison to the Das Keyboard 4 Professional, are significantly larger and moved towards the top center of the keycap. This was the reasonable thing for the designer to do, as the Das Keyboard Prime 13 features LED lighting and reasonably sized characters right above the position of the LED are a necessity.

  

 

Much like the Das Keyboard 4 Professional, the Das Keyboard Prime 13 has no macro keys and no programmability options. The extra few multimedia buttons and the volume control wheel are now gone too, with the extra functions that the Das Keyboard Prime 13 capable of performing being accessible via keystrokes. By holding down the Fn key, pressing F1/F2 controls the brightness of the backlighting, F5-F7 offer basic multimedia controls, F9-F11 control the sound volume and the ESC key puts the computer to sleep.

Unlike its more expensive counterpart, the Das Keyboard Prime 13 has only one USB port at the rear top right corner of the keyboard. The port not only is USB 2.0 but it also requires an extra USB connector at the PC's side, as the thick braided cable of the Das Keyboard Prime 13 splits to two USB connectors, one for the keyboard itself and one for its USB port. If the USB port is not going to be used, then the keyboard will function normally with just its main USB connector inserted.

Again, beneath the keycaps we find original Cherry MX switches. This time however the switches have LEDs attached. We also found that Das Keyboard switched to cross-type Cherry stabilizers for all of the keys, which hints that the designer expects that the target group of this keyboard will at least try and remove the keycaps, even if only for cleaning.

The white backlighting of the Das Keyboard Prime 13 is very well applied and stunningly bright. With the LEDs at their maximum brightness, using the keyboard in a very dark room is practically intolerable. A very slightly blueish hue spills around the keycaps, the effect of which is largely enhanced by our camera's lens, from the light bouncing on the black steel plate beneath the keys. We should also mention that the switches of the ESC row have been placed upside down, illuminating the advanced commands that are etched on the front side of the keys. This was an excellent design choice and the visual effect is excellent when viewing the keyboard on a desktop. We should also note that the LEDs will automatically switch off after 10 minutes of inactivity and come back on once a key has been pressed.

Internally, the Das Keyboard Prime 13 has only one PCB, which also is entirely different than that of the Das Keyboard 4 Professional. We noticed no significant quality shortcuts, with the assembly job and materials being of excellent quality. The significant downgrade is the Holtek HT68FB560 microcontroller. With an internal clock of 12 MHz and 16 KB of flash memory, it seems to be majorly inferior to the Nuvoton microcontroller that the Das Keyboard 4 Professional is using, yet it still is more than enough for a keyboard without any programmability options. 

The Das Keyboard 4 Professional Mechanical Keyboard Per-Key Quality & Empirical Testing
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  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    For example, my logitech media keyboard (membrane) uses painted characters but the keycaps and plastic case and it stays the same color (black, means no clear ABS) Reply
  • Murloc - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    what if I don't care about the paint chipping as long as it works? Reply
  • Krause - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    Then you're clearly not looking for a high end mechanical keyboard. Reply
  • AlexanderTheSexy - Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - link

    For an actual high end mechanical keboard, you would have to look at the original high end keyboard from IBM. The model M. Build like a tank, and still sought after by many. Fetching prices of around $100-400. You can find more information on this page: http://www.clickeykeyboards.com/
    Nowadays, there is a newer model build by http://www.unicomp.com/.
    Honestly, once you get used to typing on such a keyboard, you never go back. Just give it a try.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    My rubber logitech media keyboard has 0 issues being my daily companion for near 10years. Reply
  • buxe2quec - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    Look, I have two mechanical keyboards, one at home and recently another one at work.
    We all know that rubber keyboards don't last as long, but we'll know that 1 million key presses are already more than enough and the 50 millions of mechanicals are not a REAL need or advantage (unless maybe you are in harsh environments like industrial? maybe!).

    We buy mechanical for the feeling and for the noise.
    Someone also for performance in gaming (not me) and someone else for status (again not me, but read the internet and you see it immediately).

    Membrane keyboards last forever (unless they are 5 dollar a piece) and are fine for almost everyone.

    Still, the feeling and sound of mechanicals makes me feel good :)
    Not a need.
    Reply
  • Jetpil0t01 - Sunday, January 15, 2017 - link

    Perfect example would be any of the Razer Blackwidow boards, custom switches rated to 80 million presses... But the braided USB cable reliably frays and breaks inside 6 months and its not a spare they sell. Also the LEDs aren't rated to last anywhere near that long, so it's all really just marketing when it comes down to it.

    Really you should be buying a board based on size, USB hub, media controls and wrist wrest, not switches or longevity. That's coming from someone who has purchased everything from Das and Cherry boards all the way down to cheap Indian and Chinese "fake" boards and really the typing experience and durability has very little to do with price.
    Reply
  • Washuai - Monday, January 23, 2017 - link

    Speak for yourself. I got into mechanical keyboards, because I was annoyed by replacing membrane keyboards that kept having keys that stopped actuating. I am nice to my hardware ( well outside of something about my fingers wearing not just letters off, but grooves in cheap plastic keys). Keys stopped working on a so called indestructible silicon roll up, board I liked. I was tired of stuff that kept failing and dug in with research and found mechanicals. Honorable mention to compaq membrane board I bought in emergency as was only thing available for sale; That one did not die, but was not what I wanted, still have it, just in case.
    Quiet typing and changing ergonomic needs, mean I probably will never go back to membrane. I do measurably better wpm on mechanical, while my wrists and forearms thank me for lighter touch actuation.
    On an expensive keyboard ( or even just office work horses), who wants some keys that stop being legible in a year? A blank keyboard looks better than that.
    I don't mind blank, but I've learned I'm in the minority. Businesses actually need labeled boards. Replace a heavy traffic keyboard with one with blank keys and observe. The results will surprise you and you will have pranked.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    It's true, durability is a non-reason for purchasing a mechanical keyboard. It's more like a checkbox feature used by marketing departments to help people feel justified in spending 20x more than necessary to get a keyboard for their computers. The same is true of proclaimed performance benefits in computer games that simply cannot be measured or proven valid.

    The bottom line is that mechanical keyboards exist in the present time because they can be sold for a higher profit due to customer perception that's been built partly on nostalgia for older generations of such keyboards (IBM Model Ms, for example) and partly on the mythology invented by marketing departments. Their increased margins are all the excuse a company needs to produce and sell a $200 keyboard.

    I write novels and other lengthy works of fiction (mostly fluff and source material for RPG worlds) and have done so on membrane and mechanical keyboards. The membrane boards I use last just as long and even if I only got 2 years of use out of each one, at $10 each, they'd be a far better value than a $100-200 mechanical keyboard that worked for ten years.

    However, pointing that out will just stir the pot up because people who have purchased mechanical keyboards will naturally seek to avoid negative feelings. It's fundamentally human to seek good feelings and the average mind will simply find a way it thinks is rational that refutes your claims.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Thursday, January 12, 2017 - link

    sorry that's not entirely accurate. it's not all customer perception. I don't have any nostalgia for an IBM model (never owned one) and don't care longevity or other marketing crap. I tried a mechanical keyboard and its biggest advantage is the nicer typing feel. The presence of an actuation point on certain variants means i don't have to bottom out the keys, and can therefore type faster and lighter. And therefore it feels nicer. in that regard it's objectively better and i didn't have to perform various mental tricks to rationalize it.
    I'm certainly not in the minority here either.
    Reply

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