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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  • Ninhalem - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    I still use a generation 2 DAS Keyboard at work which is now called the Ultimate because of the blank keycaps. The DAS keyboards have always been tanks in my experience. Great thing about the blank keycaps, is that there are so few people that can touch type now in the workplace, that no one is going to screw with you, if you leave your computer unlocked. Reply
  • dan82 - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    If the keyboard is designed to last 10 years, shouldn't it have a USB Type C port?

    Otherwise, great review. I've been using a Das for years and still love the typing experience.
    Reply
  • dave_the_nerd - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    adapters are cheap. Or just replace the cable. Reply
  • crimsonson - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    Need more keyboard reviews....

    Seriously since Anand left, what is being reviewed here has really been poor. There are some good ones, but the amount of keyboard review, lack of GPU reviews, etc are troubling.
    Reply
  • robotslave - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    Give 'em a little credit-- the flood of power supply reviews seems to have dried up for the time being, at least.

    But yeah, still waiting on that review of the MacBook Pro with touchbar, guys.
    Reply
  • nikon133 - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    I'm finding it a bit silly not to include audio and media keys to gaming keyboard. Or the other way around, not to include backlight to more expensive (more premium?) one. I like the design, though. Reply
  • Agent Smith - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    Totally agree. If i'm buying premium keyboard why is it missing back lighting and palm rest?

    Bad decision !
    Reply
  • fanofanand - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    Das price is too high! Nice looking keyboard but it doesn't provide anything exceptional in terms of value. Reply
  • voicequal - Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - link

    I've been looking for a keyboard with a simple functional volume knob without the gaudy gamer styling. Das Keyboard 4 is the first mechanical keyboard that's a perfect fit. Reply
  • bigboxes - Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - link

    I have a couple of Cherry branded keyboards with blue MX switches. I'm not much of a gamer, but am not bothered by the sound. The keycaps are laser etched. I doubt they will wear out in my lifetime. Guess it won't last for generations in my family. Boo hoo. I'm a pounder so I love mechanical keyboards. Built like a tank. No backlights or multimedia buttons. Just how I like it.

    My first keyboard (before they became commonplace) had Chinese characters next to the English ones. The pictures online had no Chinese characters so I returned it. The replacement had Chinese characters as well. They retailer gave me a 50% discount just to keep it. Ended up being under $35. Now, I've grown attached to the Chinese caps. The only part that didn't last was a cable that one of my cats chewed through. I got a replacement from some kind soul on geekhack. Those guys are cultish when it comes to keyboards. I just like having something that I can type on all day and not get fatigued.
    Reply

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