A good mechanical keyboard can be fun for work or play, but finding one that delivers everywhere you need it to can be a bit of a challenge. Das Keyboard's newly launched Prime 13 is a well-built stunner, and ticks off a lot of the personal boxes I look for in a mechanical that can pull double duty.
For the uninitiated, mechanical keyboards — or keyboards with full, individual switches under each key — may not be for everyone, but the community around them is healthy and growing, largely because they're just so fun to use, and introduce a geeky, customisation and personalisation element to a tool you likely use every single day. The Das Prime 13 may have just launched, but the company sent me one to play with a few weeks ago, and I'm using it to write this piece, in an open office with other people sitting around me — and even after asking to make sure, they're not bothered in the slightest.
The Prime 13 isn't the quietest mechanical I've used (the Cooler Master Novatouch takes that prize) but its Cherry MX Brown switches do mean it's a bit softer than other keyboards I've used. It's a full-sized keyboard (which I also like, although I know many people prefer tenkeyless models) with a USB port at the top that's perfect for a wireless mouse receiver or other USB device.
A 1.98m braided USB cable means you have plenty of room to plug it in to the back of your PC or into a laptop on the other side of your desk. It also sports white LED backlighting, perfect for working long hours, or, if you're like me, just a little form with your function. The aluminium top-panel is remniscent of the pricier Das Keyboard 4, in a more affordable package. Speaking of price, the Prime 13 is $US149 ($194) retail, though we're looking at importing it until it becomes locally available.
There are definitely cheaper, more accessible mechanicals out there, to be sure. One of the reasons the Prime 13 hits the sweet spot for me though is that I have a shortlist of things I need in a mechanical I'm going to use for work: It needs to be full-size with a numpad, it needs to be backlit, and it needs a USB hub of some kind in it. I can give or take on things like dedicated or function-toggled media keys or the kind of backlighting or how many USB ports, but I definitely need that much — and the Prime 13 hits all of those points.
It'd be nicer if it were closer to the $US100 ($130) point, but I imagine we we see more retailers pick this up and sell it, we'll see some price competition. In the interim, if you're looking for a premium mechanical at a midrange price with solid build quality, the Prime 13 is worth a look.