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Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate - A Bad Ass Keyboard?

By Christopher Coke on January 26, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate -  A Bad Ass Keyboard?

Das Keyboard was on a mission. Years before the internet realized just how cool mechanical keyboards could be, they set out to prove exactly that. Today, we’re looking at the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate or, as they call it, the Bad Ass(4). Let’s find out just how bad ass it is, shall we?

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $149.99
  • Key Switches: Cherry MX, Blue or Brown (tested)
  • Dedicated media control with oversized volume knob
  • Two-port USB 3.0 SuperSpeed hub - Up to 5Gb/s, 10x the speed of USB 2.0
  • Instant sleep button to save energy
  • Anodized aluminium top panel
  • Completely blank keyboard (no key cap inscriptions)
  • Footbar to raise keyboard also functions as a ruler (you’ll thank us later)
  • Extra long 6.5 ft (201 cm) USB cable with single USB type-A connector
  • NKRO over USB for faster gaming, programming, or anything that makes you a formidable opponent in work or play
  • Firmware updatable
  • Dimensions: 18 x 6.8 x .80 inches (45.72 x 17.272 x 2.032 cm)
  • Elevated height: 1.2 inches (3.1 cm)
  • Weight: 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg)

The Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate is a minimalist full-size keyboard with some unique features that set it apart from the pack. The first, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, is that features entirely blank keycaps. This, my friends, is at least part of the Bad Ass-ness on display, though hardly all of it. The top is a solid aluminum which is rigid and cold to the touch in my mid-winter apartment. Along the right above the numpad, we have a set of dedicated media controls, a sleep button, and the iconic red-rimmed volume wheel.  Above that, on the top edge of the keyboard are not one but two USB 3.0 ports. And, of course, we have the footbar, which is also a ruler and honestly more useful than you’d think.

Minimalism is the name of the game for the Ultimate. There aren’t any fancy lights to draw your attention from the game or earn glances from your coworkers. On a passing glance, it looks awfully close to any other standard keyboard (sans the key caps), but when you look a little bit closer, that’s where it’s high-end nature really starts to shine.

The key caps are obviously the most defining feature on the 4 Ultimate. They’re completely blank, so being a touch typist is mandatory, but the result looks clean and sleek in a way few mainstream keyboards ever do. There are ridges on the F and J keys to help keep you oriented, but if you even occasionally look at the keys, you’ll want to consider get the Das Keyboard 4 Professional instead, which is identical except for featuring key legends. As far as typing keyboards go, these blank caps really are for badasses.

Popping one off for closer inspection, you’ll find that the caps are quite a bit better than what you’ll find on most gaming keyboards. They’re ABS plastic, which will shine over time, and these aren’t as dense as your average PBT cap, but Das has applied a slight texture to the finish to ward off wear and tear. Flipping them over, I was surprised to see that the caps are made of black plastic instead of spray painted like most gaming keyboards. It might seem small, but after years of seeing white, paint-speckled underbellies on ABS keys, it’s downright surprising to see a company not do that.

The Ultimate and Professional versions of this keyboard come with your choice of Cherry MX Blue or Brown switches. Competitor switches, like Kaihls and Gaterons, are becoming more popular in mechanical keyboards, but Cherries are still regarded as the best money can buy due to their high quality standards. Cherries are still made almost completely in Germany and, over the years, have hit supply constraints as the mechanical keyboard market has exploded. They seem to have stabilized over the last several years, but the high demand, high standard of quality, and superb reputation have also made them a much more expensive and premium switch option.

Typing on the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate just feels great. I chose tactile brown switches without the click. I’m a firm believer that keyswitch type only tells you a piece of how a keyboard will feel to type on. How the body is built, what they keycaps are made out of, and how thick they are can make a world’s worth of difference. The Das Keyboard 4 has a snappiness to the keys that’s almost springy when you bottom out. This is especially true with the space bar and back space keys. Like many ABS keys clacking against aluminum tops, the keyboard is fairly loud, though that’s to be expected of any mechanical keyboard. 

Apart from the keys, the media control center earns big points. You have your standard play, pause, and track controls, but there’s also a sleep button for when you need to step away. The big highlight is the volume wheel. It’s distinctive and downright sexy with that red rim against the black body. It has enough tactile feedback to keep you from hitting it by accident and the form factor is my hands down new favorite, even over the Corsair roller wheel.

Heading to rear of the board, results are a little more mixed. Without the need to power 100+ LED lights, Das is able to power two full-speed USB 3.0 ports when most gaming struggle to provide one. Less impressive is the non-detachable USB cord. It’s thick, so should avoid easy breakage, but is rubber-coated and keeps the kinks from its packaging a bit too well. If it does you’re left breaking buying a whole new board or breaking out the soldering iron.

Finally, we have the Footbar. Rather than have extendable feet, the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate includes a detachable red riser held in place by magnets. It looks great, and since it sits inside its own tray, doesn’t pop off by accident. It’s also a full-size ruler/straight edge, which I honest didn’t think I’d find much use for. In fact, having a ruler right on hand has resulted in me using one a whole lot more! Color me surprised on that one.

Final Thoughts

After spending the last two weeks with the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate, it’s an easy recommendation to make. If you’re tired of the LED craze but still want something worthwhile for your investment, the Ultimate will more than provide. I would have loved to see PBT keycaps and a detachable cable, but the competition offering those features lacks selling points of their own, like the Das’s media controls, USB hub, and that excellent volume wheel. If you’re a minimalist and, yes, a little bit of a “Bad Ass,” the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate might just be for you.

Pros

  • Professional appearance
  • Unique (and awesome) volume roller
  • Great keyfeel
  • Sturdy and durable, backed by a great reputation
  • Keycaps aren’t painted

Possible Con

  • Blank keycaps - not necessarily a con, but not a fit 

Cons

  • Non-detachable cable

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.