Mechanical keyboards are largely the same. Coming from the resident keyboard geek, that probably sounds like heresy but let’s face it: it’s hard to break meaningful ground is a peripheral that’s been such a mainstay of our computer use. Well, that’s exactly what Das Keyboard has done with the the brand new 5Q. It may just be the world’s first smart keyboard and aims to not only help you communicate but to communicate with you.
- Pricing: $249 (Current: $221.82 - Amazon)
Switch Type: Gamma Zulu
- Feel: Soft Tactile
- Travel Distance: 3.5mm
- Actuation Point: 1.5mm
- Actuation Force: 45cN
- Switch Life: 100-million actuations
- Double shot keycaps US, and ABS lasered ROW
- Extra long 6.5ft (201m) USB cable with single type A USB connector
- NKRO over USB for faster gaming, programming, or anything that makes you a formidable opponent in work or play
- Anodized aluminium top panel
- Firmware updatable
- Response Time: 1ms
- RGB+ electronics
- Open Source API for developers
- Q Applets provide real time notifications through RGB lighting
- Warranty: 1-year
The thing to know is this: there’s never been a keyboard like the 5Q before. It’s the most innovation we’ve seen in keyboards since analog, depth-sensing technology made its way to market with the Wooting One. This is a keyboard that will actively stream information from the internet and talk to you through an expanding series of applets. The model that we have in isn’t explicitly for gaming, they have the X50Q to fill that niche, but will certainly live up to even the most demanding games. Still, if you’re looking for the slightly more affordable gamer version of this keyboard, know that 99% of what we say here will also apply to the X50Q.
Starting things off, the Das Keyboard 5Q makes a strong first impression. The keyboard features a striking aesthetic with its hard-edged design and prominent volume wheel. The top plate is a 2mm sheet of anodized aluminum with a sandblasted finish, giving the keyboard a nice heft and rigidity. When you plug it in, the Gamma Zulu switches direct bright LED up directly in the center of the switches with no light bleed at all. There’s no waving rainbow to distract you for pure eye-candy’s sake but instead a static rainbow evenly spread across the whole keyset. The media keys and volume knob have some side illumination to make them stand out and look great without being overstated. The 5Q is completely tasteful and would be as at home at your office computer as your battlestation.
The board is solidly built and feels great to use. There is no flex at all in normal use and the solid body makes for a great typing experience. The cable is non-detachable, which I would have liked to see at this price, but is nicely braided and requires only a single USB header. Likewise, I’m left wondering why we don’t find any kind of USB hub to connect a mouse or thumb drive. When you’re paying over $200 for a keyboard, you expect all the bells and whistles, so I’m disappointed Das skipped out on the hub.
The switches and keycaps are great and make the 5Q a keyboard I keep coming back to. Seriously, I interrupt myself to for rounds of TypeRacer probably five times a day. The key here are the Gamma Zulu switches, made by Omron. They’re very similar to the Romer G switches Logitech has adopted for their own keyboards. Compared to a normal Cherry-style switch, they’re closest to an MX Brown with a slight tactile bump higher up on the key’s travel. This gives them a unique, softer feeling that’s also quieter to use. The center of each switch is dedicated to a light tunnel that sends your illumination directly up to the center of each key, completing isolating it from any kind of light bleed. This does mean that the stems aren’t compatible with MX-style keycap sets, so your replacement options are limited, but also that each legend is clearly, brightly illuminated, including all secondary legends.
The keycaps themselves are also a cut above the average gaming keyboard. They’re double-shot ABS, which means they’re made from two pieces of plastic, so the legends will never fade. Das has also added some slight texturing to help prevent the telltale shine that typifies ABS caps that have begun to wear.
But enough about that. Let’s get to what makes this keyboard special: it’s intelligent features. The concept behind the Das is simple, by connecting into a Das account and using a pair of online tools, the 5Q can send notifications directly to the keyboard using its RGB lighting. Have a new email? Your M key might blink red. Curious if it’s going to snow today? You might set your W key to pulse white. There are dozens and dozens of different possibilities for notifications to display on your board, even those that tie into sites like Twitch.
All of this works in combination with sites like IFTTT and Zapier. By connecting your keyboard to these sites, you can set up a sequence if “if this, then that” (IFTTT) scenarios within certain parameters on your board. It’s undeniably cool and saves you from having to exit out of the game or your other work to check on these things yourself. My personal bane is email; I check it incessantly since I’m always waiting for some kind of reply. With the 5Q, I’m free to let that rest because my keyboard will tell me as soon as a new email comes in. It’s also great if you’ve stepped away for a while as you can come back and see what notifications have streamed to your keyboard. When a notification does come through, pressing the volume knob, or Q button, opens up Das’s software and gives you the full information on the alert.
It’s a very cool and useful system, though it’s not without its limitations. As it stands now, you can only map notifications to a single key. I would love to have seen multi-key alerts. Instead of telling me if it’s going to rain, why not light up the letters of the day’s temperature? Likewise, if I’m in the middle of a game, there’s a good chance I might miss a single key changing color or blinking. The keyboard is also able to run animations like most other RGB keyboards. How cool would it be to have a specific effect just for a notification coming through?
The other downside is that since the keyboard understandably requires a software install, if your employed locks down your installation privileges, you may well find yourself out of luck on the biggest selling points of the keyboard. That’s no fault of the 5Q, of course, but is something you’ll want to keep in mind.
Taken as a whole, the 5Q is an impressive keyboard and probably my favorite that Das Keyboards has produced. It’s stylish and tasteful, feels great to use, and is built to a high standard. I do wish the notification features allowed for more than a single key but the sheer amount of notification options is impressive. It’s not the easiest to set up and take full advantage of but when you do, it’s hard to imagine there isn’t something that would make your life a little easier.
That said, the price is steep on this one. Perhaps too steep. Even the more affordably priced X50Q comes in at just under $200 as of this writing, which puts it at the top of the top for most gamer’s budgets. It’s the price of innovation and though you’ll be getting a great keyboard, only you can decide if the extra notification features are worth that added premium.
- Looks great and is tastefully done
- That volume knob!
- It’s nice that you can easily get the full context of the alert in a single button press
- Continues the staple Das Keyboard build quality
- LOTS of customizable notifications
- Expensive - you’re paying for the innovation on this one
- Takes a bit to get up and running; programming alerts can be easy or require half a dozen steps
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.