Danny Stewart

Tactile Pro

With all this chatter online lately about mechanical keyboards, I decided it was time to go out and get one for myself. I happened to already have an Apple Extended Keyboard II in my closet, but regrettably it’s in rather terrible shape. Some of the keys are clicky while others are mushy, and the whole keyboard is almost schoolbus yellow at this point.

I had a choice between the Das Keyboard and the Matias Tactile Pro 3. Everyone says the Das types like a dream, but that it’s big, bulky, and ugly. With that in mind, I decided to take the safer course and opt for the Tactile Pro.

It arrived yesterday, and I’ve been using it since last night. Here are some observations.

First, it’s loud. Disarmingly so. It takes a little while to get used to, but once you do, it’s kind of nice. As Shawn Blanc says above, “A mechanical keyboard engages all the senses but smell and taste.” When you’re sitting at your desk just trying to type something out, it becomes an almost soothing accompaniment.

Second, it looks nice. This is important to me. Just because I never look at my keyboard while I’m typing doesn’t mean I want a big, bulky eyesore on my desk.

The biggest problem I have with the Das Keyboard is that the typeface they use on the letters is ugly. I spent some time looking at pictures of the keyboard last night and I figured out why. The Windows version of the keyboard uses Bank Gothic as the typeface for its letters. I like Bank Gothic. The problem is that they made a stylistic choice to use lowercase letters on the Mac variant of the keyboard instead of uppercase letters like on the Windows version. Bank Gothic has no lowercase letters in its typeface, so they had to switch to a different font for the letters. (If you look closely, you’ll notice that keys without letters on them, such as the number row at the top, are identical to the Windows keys and still in Bank Gothic.) I don’t like that new font anywhere near as much. I think they should have stuck to Bank Gothic and stuck to uppercase letters. If Das were to release a new version of their Mac keyboard either with keys matching their Windows keyboard, or with no key labels at all (like their Ultimate keyboard), I would probably buy one of those. (I am considering buying their Silent model for work. I like my coworkers.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a wired keyboard at my desk, so the additional convenience of having two USB ports more readily available to me is also appreciated.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that the key layout is reminiscent of the Apple keyboard design previous to the current slim aluminum keyboards, so I’m having to adjust to a different function key layout. The volume keys are all the way on the right above the number pad. In order to replicate (and expand upon) the functionality of my old keyboard, I’m using Keyboard Maestro to configure F1 and F2 as brightness keys (with a special Control-Command-F1/F2 combo to jump straight to minimum or maximum brightness).

The bottom line is that the keyboard is very satisfying to type on. It encourages a natural flow to whatever you’re doing, whether it’s writing, scrolling through a document, or even gaming. I played a little bit of Fallout: New Vegas using the Tactile Pro last night and found myself noticing the sound but not bothered by it in the slightest.

I’m very satisfied with the purchase so far. In fact, I think this post is significantly longer than it would have been if I’d written it on my old keyboard, and that’s among the highest praise I can think to bestow.