A minimalist keyboard with MX Brown switches and white LEDs
Das Keyboard describes their products as "the ultimate experience for badasses", and the Austin, TX based company has delivered premium designs since their initial (completely blank) keyboard in 2005. The Prime 13 is a traditional 104-key design (with labeled keys), and features Cherry MX Brown switches and simple white LED backlighting. So it is a truly "badass" product? Read on to find out!
"Das Keyboard Prime 13 is a minimalist mechanical keyboard designed to take productivity to the next level. Free of fancy features, the Prime 13 delivers an awesome typing experience by focusing on premium material and simple design. Featuring an anodized aluminum top panel, Cherry MX switches with white LEDs, USB pass-through and an extra-long braided cable, the Prime 13 is the ideal mechanical keyboard for overachievers who want get the job done."
I don't need to tell prospective mechanical keyboard buyers that the market is very crowded, and it seems to grow every month. Just about PC accessory maker offers at least one option, and many have tried to distinguish themselves with RGB lighting effects and software with game-specific profiles and the like. So is there still room for a simple, non-RGB keyboard with no special software involved? I think so, but it will need to be quite a premium design to justify a $149 price tag, and that's what the Prime 13 will run at retail. First impressions are very good, but I'll try to cover the experience as well as I can in text and photos in this review.
A close look at the MX Brown switches within the Prime 13
We'll begin our look with the official features and specs from Das Keyboard:
- Minimalist design with anodized aluminum top panel
- Cherry MX mechanical switches with crosspoint gold contacts
- White LED backlighting
- Full n-key Rollover
- USB pass-through
- Extra long, 6.5 ft (201 cm) braided cable
- Quick access media controls and sleep mode via function keys
- Laser-etched keycaps with keycap puller
- Cherry style, wire stabilized keycaps
- Dimensions: 18.03 x 6.77 x 1.22 inches (45.80 x 17.20 x 3.11 cm)
- Weight: 2.9 lbs (1.32 kg)
- System Requirements:
- One USB port for keyboard connection
- One USB port for USB pass-through
- No custom driver required
- Compatible with Windows, Mac OS, ChromeOS, and Linux operating Systems
- Das Keyboard Prime 13 Mechanical Keyboard: $149.99, Amazon
Initial impressions are very good, as the Prime 13 is well packaged and looks very nice out of the box.
Aside from a simple instruction sheet, the lone accessory is a key cap removal tool
The keyboard has a particularly premium look and feel thanks to an aluminum top panel, which makes stand out in a world of plastic designs. I won't get too carried away here, but it does look quite nice, and the Prime 13 feels rock solid (especially given the 2.9 lb weight).
In photos the top of the keyboard doesn't necessarily look like metal, but it is aluminum
The keycaps are concave and the plastic material has a satin finish. As for the rest of the keyboard, we'll take a quick tour:
The bottom is anchored by four rubber pads, and the pop-out feet are capped with rubber to keep things rock-solid when the keyboard is tilted.
The cable is thick and nicely finished with a braided wrap, and there are dual USB connections to support the USB port on the upper right corner.
I have grown more and more accustomed to MX Brown switches in recent memory, with the majority of the mechanical keyboards I encounter outfitted with this variety of switch in the last couple of years. The Prime 13 has a smooth, fast feel for typing, with a little lighter feel than the previous Cherry MX Brown keyboard I reviewed (the Penclic MK1), possibly due to the weight of the keycaps themselves. Regardless of the actual reason (or perception), I was able to type very quickly with a little lighter touch than usual. If you tend to bottom-out keys, this particular implementation of MX Brown might seem a little light/shallow, but I found myself using a lighter touch and it was not an issue for me – an ordinarily heavy-handed typist.
The backlighting is understated, and I am definitely a fan of plain white LED backlighting. The intensity of this lighting is easily adjusted (FN + F1 / F2), and my only complaint is the dimmer illumination to the secondary function labels on the keys (particularly noticeable on the number row). This is a minor quibble, and literally the only thing I could find to complain about.
The Prime 13 from Das Keyboard is the easily one of the nicest keyboards I’ve ever used, with a tremendous build quality and understated design that I find very appealing. If minimalist design and simple white backlighting are your preferences, and Cherry MX Brown are your key switches of choice, I don’t think you can do better than the Prime 13. Yes, it is $149.99, but you won’t feel cheated when you see (and feel) it in person.