Das "Most Disappointing" Keyboard

Das KeyboardAs you probably know, I got a Das Keyboard a little while ago, because my previous keyboard, which I liked very much, started getting a couple sticky keys.  I'll freely admit I'm a keyboard snob, but I don't think it's terribly unreasonable given how much time I spend typing.  Unfortunately, Das Keyboard has proven to be a complete piece of junk.

The action is great, the keyboard is attractive, it's heavy (no sliding).  It's on the loud side, no question, but it's not terrible.

However, it doesn't type in the right order.  There is some sort of bug in it's internal scanning that causes nearly-simultaneous keypresses to always be returned in a left-to-right order, regardless of what order they were actually pressed.  And it's not a "sometimes" thing, it's perfectly repeatable.

When I first got the keyboard, I immediately noticed that I typed poorly with it.  I didn't think much of it, since the action is quite a bit different than my last one, so I figured I just needed to get used to it.  After a couple weeks, however, I wasn't improving, and I started to notice certain patterns in my errors.   After a bit more observation, I realized that the errors were all related to the spatial orientation of the offending keys.

For example, the word "keyboard" has the pairs "ke" and "oa" within it.  These pairs are special because they are each typed with one finger from each hand.  As such, it's very easy to type the letters in very rapid succession, even if you're not a particularly speedy typist.  Further, you'll notice the right hand goes first.

The most damning example of this, of course, is the "he", in the word "the".  A close second is BACKSPACE and any printable character.  In this case, rather than reversing the letters, the printable character gets scanned first (all characters are left of the BACKSPACE), and then the BACKSPACE immediately deletes it, leaving the original erroneous character intact.

Keyboard Test ToolBeing a fan of science, I wanted to demonstrate this more objectively.  To remove the human factor (at least most of it), I made a little test tool composed of two pencils strapped together with a pocket knife as a spacer.  It puts the erasers exactly a key-width apart, so they'll press down neighboring keys.  More importantly, one pencil is slightly higher than the other, so while they'll press down two keys, one key will be pressed slightly earlier than the other.

Using this tool, aligning the "leading" pencil over the 'a', and the "trailing" pencil over the 's', a series of drops will look like this (taken with the tool, directly into the WordPress editor):


After flipping the pencil so the 's' key has the "leading" pencil, a series of drops looks like this (also taken directly into WordPress):


As you can see, they are exactly the same! 'a' always preceeds 's', regardless of which order they are pressed in, as long as the separation between the two presses is small enough.  This behaviour is not unique to the 'a' and 's' keys; it happens all over the keyboard, as long as the second letter key is to the left of the first key.

Manually retarding the drop so that the key presses have a larger delay between them results in correct behaviour, as expected.

Needless to say, I'm very disappointed in this supposedly "ultimate" keyboard.

25 responses to “Das "Most Disappointing" Keyboard”

  1. andy matthews


    Have you contacted the company yet? I'd be interested in seeing what they say.

  2. Haz

    This actually seems to happen on some of the keyboards I own. I'll try to narrow it down to see which keyboards it happens with and to see if it is an issue with the keyboard controller.

  3. rock

    glad i read this, this was going to be my next ekyboard… (i kid)

  4. jamie

    wow, that's so weird! i wonder if other keyboards do the same thing? i definitely notice my typing quality varies per keyboard, but i always just assumed it was differences in layouts…

  5. Jim

    I am glad I didn't purchase one of these. I have had excellent luck with GoldTouch keyboards. I have only had 2 over the past 10 years. The only reason I have had two is because I quit jobs & didn't get to take the old one with me. I was averaging 2 MS Natural keyboards per year, the one I am using now has been faithful for 3+ years. They are a little bit pricey ($150) but durable as can be. You can even still read the letters on the keyboard after the keys are worn smooth!

  6. Winter

    Interesting. My DK does the same thing.

    I wonder if we can increase the USB polling rate to reduce the effects. (Wasn't the DK supposed to send key presses in order to prevent that sort of thing anyway?)

    Similar to how people overclock their USB ports to make their mice run faster for gaming or whatever. (For instance, i have a Razer (laugh if you want, it works pretty well) that runs at 1000hz polling rate.)

    Anyone want to hack up an attempt at a solution? :)

  7. Kraln

    I have a first gen das keyboard, and it suffers from all this and more… lousy build construction (the spacebar snapped, leds are mucked up at the top, etc etc).

    I also have a model m. It is a ps/2 model, and it rocks. Hardcore.

    pckeyboard.com ftfw.

  8. Interesting bug with the Das Keyboard

    [...] during our keyboard roundup back in the day, and I don't think I ran into this problem. Blogger Barney has found an interesting bug: when keys are pressed in rapid succession on his Das Keyboard, the letters always show up on the [...]

  9. Devin

    Posted this up on CrunchGear, hopefully the DK folks will see it and check it out.

  10. b00st3d

    they may usb to ps2 adapters if you really want to use a ps2 keyboard!

  11. Kevin

    The first version of that keyboard was a KeyTronics keyboard. All "Das" did was scrub off the key labels. The E03600U2 model, I think. The new version is probably the same, but from a different manufacturer.

    Stop wasting your money on the cost of having the keys scrubbed, you don't need to stare at them anymore anyways.

  12. couchmonster

    I've got a DAS Keyboard but can't reproduce the issue. However this is my second keyboard (under warranty from the Australian distributor) as the one I was shipped first time around (6 week wait mind you…) the "K" key just didn't work. Nothing, nada. I sent it back, the issue was reproduced and a replacement sent. (after a long battle regarding postage for an item effectively DOA)

    My advice, return it to wherever you brought it from and prove that you've got a defective keyboard and get a replacement under warranty.

  13. Sven

    My Logitech USB keyboard does the same thing, I never noticed it before though.

  14. Jamie Krug

    Hilarious that you put together a scientific test (though I completely understand) — complete bummer on the results. I just ran your test on my Logitech keyboard, which is USB, plugged in to a laptop, and got the same results — what should have been "fd" was repeatedly "df" — never noticed it before!

  15. xzxzzx

    How high did you drop your pencils from, and how far apart were they? I'd like to try and figure out the polling time that the Das uses.

  16. Daniel Guermeur

    Hello everyone! I am Daniel the co-founder of Das Keyboard. We are a
    US company located in Austin Texas and we love the passion of our

    We have been looking into this issue since it was brought to our
    attention last November. Our testing has shown that this is in fact a
    “limitation” of the first version of our keyboards. The detection
    time of the current version was designed as 100ms which means that if
    you are a very, very fast typist, approximately 120 words per minute
    then, you might encounter this limitation. It’s something we are
    redesigning for the next version of Das Keyboard.

    In the meantime, we would be more than happy to let anyone who is
    experiencing this problem return the keyboard for a full refund. To do
    so, you can contact me at any time at +1-512-346-0360 or via e-mail at
    daniel(at)daskeyboard.com. If you would like to discuss this with me
    personally, you can reach me the same way or I am happy to discuss it
    here in our community. Your feedback is critically important to us,
    please keep it coming to help us improve future generations of our
    keyboard. Thank you.

  17. Any Das Professional Owners? - Overclock.net - Overclocking.net

    [...] to us, please keep it coming to help us improve future generations of our keyboard. Thank you. http://www.barneyb.com/barneyblog/20…ting-keyboard/ The comment is at the very bottom. [...]

  18. A.J. Brwn

    I would just like to say that I purchased Das Keyboard a few days ago, and gave it a test today. I'm not experiencing the above issue. I'm guessing that the reviewer either chose not to use the PS/2 adapter (which the instructions say is required for full N-key rollover), or had an older version of the product.

    Since this review appears on the first page of a google search, I figured it was important to come here and give an opinion.

    Again, with the PS/2 adapter on a Model S Ultimate, I'm having no issues with the bug mentioned above.

  19. Peter Crabtree

    I have a model S, and I'm using the PS/2 adapter.

    And it seems to have the same transposition error that my non-model S does, as tested with pushing buttons down with an angled credit card. In fact, I don't even have to be *that* quick about it; I can consistently get the issue while I'm pressing keys slow enough to hear each keystroke separately for three different keys (d, s, a, which comes out asd), which implies that the poll time is still around 100ms (at least), since human hearing can't distinguish very well at small time scales (I can't find a study, but it's ~20ms if I recall).

  20. Anonymous

    I have several Model II and III Das Keyboard, and they mostly work fine. I type a lot, and a rubber dome keyboard doesn't last more than 3-6 months for me (several keys begin to fail on them), DKs haven't failed on me yet. Recently, I noticed an input problem with a Model III (swallowed characters), but that was on RHEL5 (RedHat Linux), it didn't occur on any other OS. At first I thought the keyboard was broken, but then I figured it's a chipset driver problem. Other USB or PS2 keyboards work flawlessy, and so I had to use a different keyboard on that particular box. I've been very satisfied with my DKs for a few years now. What I find odd however, are some USB problems that I occasionally had with them. One blown USB circuit on a motherboard, and one blown USB hub. This kind of thing shouldn't happen … I suspect it's a long term testing issue. In Model S, they've apparently used new circuitry and firmware, so I might look into that one day.

  21. Anon

    I bought a Das Keyboard several months ago and I've had none of these problems, and I type at roughly 130 wpm. It's been everything I expected so far. I have two complaints I can think of: One is the glossy finish gets little scuffs on it rather regularly, but it's not noticeable enough to be a major issue. Two, the keys make a squeaking noise when pressed from an angle. However, very rarely have I ever pressed a key on an angle necessary for it to occur, except with the backspace key. Often when you press it, you are using your right picky stretched to reach it. This doesn't bother me at all since Colemak maps the backspace function to the Caps Lock key, but it might be a deal-breaker for someone who types on Qwerty and makes many mistakes while typing.