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Das Keyboard Prime 13 Mechanical Keyboard Review

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Das Keyboard

Premium Minimalism

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!

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"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.

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A close look at the MX Brown switches within the Prime 13

Continue reading our review of the Das Keyboard Prime 13 mechanical keyboard!!

We'll begin our look with the official features and specs from Das Keyboard:


Features:

  • 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

Specifications:

  • 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

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Initial impressions are very good, as the Prime 13 is well packaged and looks very nice out of the box.

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Aside from a simple instruction sheet, the lone accessory is a key cap removal tool

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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).

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In photos the top of the keyboard doesn't necessarily look like metal, but it is aluminum

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Usage Impressions

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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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.

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December 16, 2016 | 08:12 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Thanks for the review. Brown, minimalist, exceptional build quality, and no rgb lighting check all my boxes.

December 17, 2016 | 11:48 AM - Posted by Nick (not verified)

I don't want to offend anybody but I never really understood why some people say "It's better without RGB lighting". RGB means you can choose whichever color you want or none at all. So it's something totally extra/optional that you can choose to deactivate.
Isn't giving the consumers more options always better? Why some consumers say we want less optional features, less options? Is it to save 20-30 dollars for something as expensive as a mechanical keyboard that we are going to use for years? Is it just to say "I'm different than those who like RGB"? I would really be glad if someone could explain this as a consumer.

December 17, 2016 | 03:10 PM - Posted by pdjblum

For me it is just tacky and gimmicky. On top of that, as you suggested, it is something I have to pay for that I don't want. Yes, mech keyboards are a lot of money. For that reason, I definitely want to save the $20, as cheap as I am; however, I still want to get something I will absolutely enjoy for years. At least you have one consumer's view.

December 17, 2016 | 10:31 PM - Posted by moxie (not verified)

I'm partial to white LED kb's and my probelm with RGB Whites are they are never really white...at least not the white I see from a White only LED.

December 18, 2016 | 08:12 AM - Posted by Nick (not verified)

I see... I think you are right about the difference between RGB white and white leds.
Although it could be quite interesting if someone could tell us which of these two is more accurate white. For monitors there are devices for calibrating monitors and measuring delta of colors. But I haven't read anything about rgb lighting calibration devices.

December 20, 2016 | 02:32 PM - Posted by Ryein Goddard (not verified)

150 dollars for a keyboard. Hahahhahahah

December 20, 2016 | 09:59 PM - Posted by Tony Mallory (not verified)

Agreed. I personally wouldn't pay more than $100 for a keyboard. I actually even found an article with mechanical keyboards (rather than normal cheap gaming ones) for $50: http://reviews.mysteryblock.com/best-mechanical-keyboard-under-50/. The quality on some of them, I'd say is questionable, but it shows you really don't have to spend that much. What do you think?

December 28, 2016 | 10:39 AM - Posted by Gratham32846 (not verified)

Same here. I'm greedy to for it. There is a good AUKEY KM-G3 RGB mechanical gaming keyboard at much lower price. No need to pay for brand or whatever. I would pay $150 if it is made from gold.:) At this price I can buy great keyboard and a mouse. Anyway, have to try it before criticizing.

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