Das Keyboard has a reputation for making a real typist's keyboard, and the new Das Keyboard 4C TKL compact mechanical keyboard is a perfect showcase for why that is.
The comfort of the keys are obviously the most important feature of note, and the Cherry MX Brown switches have a soft bump response, giving satisfying tactile feedback without being obnoxiously loud. The PBT charcoal grey keycaps are the perfect blend of textured and smooth that helps your fingers fly across the keys while striking with accuracy.
The prominent bumps on the home keys anchor your hands and let your muscle memory do its thing. You'll need it, too, since the black legend on each of the keys is easily lost against the charcoal backdrop. This is a touch-typer's keyboard, without question.
The weighty construction of the keyboard gives it a solid presence and foundation for you to type on and the optional magnetic leg bar - which doubles as a ruler, because why not? - tilts the keyboard up slightly to the optimal attack angle for some serious typing.
The keyboard lacks a tenkey numpad, which is a bridge too far for some, and we definitely get that. We didn't miss it, though, and given the comfort and ease of use afforded by the 4C TKL, it's a small price to pay.
As an added bonus, the 4C TKL also features a two-port USB 2.0 Type-A hub built right into the side, making charging your phone, loading up a flash drive, or even connecting a mouse incredibly easy. It's the kind of feature that, once you experience it, makes you wonder how every other keyboard has gotten this far without one.
Throw in N-key rollover and the 4C TKL makes for a surprisingly excellent gaming keyboard, not to mention the limitless potential for shortcut-key combination mapping this feature provides. Media and special function keys fill out the rest of the 87-key compact layout giving you the essentials in a smaller footprint perfect for smaller desk spaces.
While the Das Keyboard 4C TKL isn't the cheapest keyboard on the market, the quality of the construction and phenomenal design - both visual and mechanical - make it worth every penny for the mechanical keyboard connoisseurs out there.
Price and availability
The Das Keyboard 4C TKL is available in the US at Das Keyboard's website and other online retailers for $139, and is available at in the UK through online retailers for £130 (including VAT). Online availability in Australia appears limited at the moment, but it should retail for about AU$180 where available.
We really can't praise the design and construction of the Das Keyboard 4C TKL enough. With its compact, tenkeyless layout, the 4C TKL has a small desktop footprint, making it perfect for those without a lot of available space.
The black anodized aluminum keydeck is as durable as it is pretty to look at and allows the Das Keyboard logo over the USB hub along the left side to really pop. It also frames the charcoal-color key caps brilliantly.
The black key legends make spotting an individual key more difficult, especially in less-than-ideal lighting, so the 4C TKL is definitely not for the hunt-and-peckers among us. For the touch typer though, the two guide bumps on the home keys are perfect for anchoring your hands in the right position to type for speed without sacrificing accuracy.
The high-contrast-red, removable, magnetic foot bar tilts the back of the keyboard up ever so slightly and gives the 4C TKL an added, barely visible touch of character while the two-port USB 2.0 hub on the left side is a practical addition to a keyboard that we didn't realize we were missing.
Anyone who types for a living, whether you're a coder, a journalist, an analyst typing up reports all day, or a professional student, you're going to feel the difference when you start typing on the Das Keyboard 4C TKL.
The Cherry MX Brown switches have a soft "bump" about halfway through a keystroke that provides satisfying audible and tactile feedback with every key press without being excessively noisy. If you're sharing office space with anyone, they'll almost certainly appreciate the more muted clickety-clack as you tear across the keys.
The Cherry MX Brown switches feature gold contacts as well, which means they aren't susceptible to rust, and that makes them especially durable. Das Keyboard says that these switches give the 4C TKL a lifespan of 50 million keystrokes.
The 4C TKL also features N-key rollover (NKRO), which is a keyboard's ability to correctly register all the keys that are being pressed simultaneously.
Most keyboards are limited to two simultaneous keys, or maybe six, but with NKRO, advanced key combinations are possible, which is great for gaming and shortcut-key mapping. For software developers, for example, NKRO is a great way to map code completion to different key combinations, enhancing productivity by cutting out repetitive work. NKRO mapping is one of those typing features that once you become proficient with it, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it.
Buy it if...
You want a mechanical keyboard that empowers your typing
From the quality of the mechanical switches to NKRO functionality, the Das Keyboard 4C TKL takes typing to another level entirely.
You are a proficient touch typer
This keyboard is designed with touch typers in mind and caters to their proficiency so they can absolutely fly across the keys.
You want a keyboard that looks as good as it feels
Not only does it feel amazing to type on, the 4C TKL is a sexy looking piece of equipment.
You don't have a lot of desk space
If you've got a small desk or not a lot of free space on a larger one, the compact 87-key 4C TKL takes up much less space than a standard tenkey keyboard.
Don't buy it if...
You really need that tenkey numpad
For some, touch typing long streams of figures into a spreadsheet from the tenkey numpad is essential to their productivity. This is not the keyboard for them.
You need to hunt-and-peck the keys you type
If you have not committed the QWERTY keyboard layout to muscle memory, trying to find the black key legend on a dark charcoal grey key cap is just going to slow you down further. Get a keyboard with high-contrast legends.
- Check out our pick of the best keyboards