Das Keyboard 4 Professional review: an office workhorse
Das 4 Professional
Cherry MX Brown, 45g
Medium-thick laser foamed ABS
2 lb. 11.5 oz. | 18 x 6.8 x 1.5 in.
Volume knob, media buttons, USB 3.0 hub
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional has a very sturdy case. Its media cluster contains a wonderfully crafted volume knob and a few useful buttons. Its design is, subjectively, quite modern and appealing. It will stand the test of time in many ways, even if it isn't perfect.
Several oversights hurt the keyboard. Laser foamed ABS keycaps are a cheap and sub-optimal way to inscribe legends. "Meh" media cluster buttons make the extra controls a pain to use. Finally, stabilizer rattle and poor internal connector choices leave a bad taste behind.
Note: Das sent us a new edition of their Das Pro 4 mechanical keyboard. Thus, our old review article could be less relevant depending on which Das Pro you’re interested in purchasing.
Das Keyboard 4 Professional – Unboxing
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional comes in well designed packaging. The box’s semi-gloss exterior is covered in tasteful branding and images of the mechanical keyboard goodness inside.
The 4 Professional is surrounded by a few foam blocks, a single sheet of instructions, cardboard dividers, and a foam sleeve. It’s quite unlikely that it will be damaged during shipment. The box also contains the “f007b4r,” which really shouldn’t be advertised in 13375p33k. The gamer oriented marketing makes no sense in this mechanical keyboard’s market segment. A keycap puller is nowhere to be found, which is mildly discomfiting given the product’s price premium.
We’re looking at a tank, not a mechanical keyboard. The Das Keyboard 4 Professional is astoundingly well built. Its internals are supported by a thick anodized aluminum upper case, which measures 2mm thick, and a reasonably hefty ABS chassis. I’m not fond of the lip created by the metal upper case. The far edge, located above the F row, is acceptable. The left, right, and near edges hang out a tad too far. The overhangs hide slight gaps between the lower case plastic and the aluminum upper case, but they also expose the soft aluminum to dings and wear.
Creak and flex are nonexistent. Case thickness contributes to stability, but the real stars of the show are fasteners. Thirteen (!) color correct hex-head fasteners secure the upper and lower case halves. All of those fasteners are threaded into metal mounts in the upper plate. The result is supreme stability. Even the switch plate is screwed down for extra stiffness.
The switch plate, though it may be stable, doesn’t have a completely perfect finish. A few factory dings and blemishes show up near edges and switch cutouts. It’s thick enough and consistent enough to be above average, but not by much. The PCB is reasonably thick and clean. Its soldering is also exemplary.
I do, however, have a few issues with the Das Keyboard 4 Professional’s components. A ribbon cable attaches the rows and columns of the main PCB to a daughterboard. That PCB contains the keyboard controller and USB circuitry. Furthermore, the USB 3.0 cable that attaches the hub and controller to a PC is removable. It’s a decent cable, but that doesn’t make up for a cardinal sin: hot snot purportedly holds its USB 3.0 Micro B connector in place.
I’m not sure why Das Keyboard made that design decision, but solder would have been better for long term endurance. If your 4 Professional mechanical keyboard gives up the ghost, particularly after exposure to heavy vibration, check the USB 3.0 connector and ribbon cable. Those are the most likely failure points.
The four case pads are adequate, but a flaw in their design puts them slightly off kilter. The front pads are rounded. They’re also taller than the large, polygonal rear pads. Two potential issues stem from that small difference. First, the keyboard has a near-unnoticeable negative incline when placed on a flat surface. A negative incline is technically good for ergonomics, so that isn’t all bad. Second, the rear feet aren’t fully gripping the table. The 4 Professional certainly won’t slide around your table like an olympic figure skater, but the mismatch still seems like a design oversight.
Switches & stabilizers
Cherry MX Brown mechanical keyboard switches are a de facto standard, so it’s no surprise to see them in the 4 Professional. Some mechanical keyboard enthusiasts recommend them to beginners and office workers due to their relatively low noise output and light tactility. They’re subjectively scratchy, handle off center presses in an average manner, and emit small scritching noises during travel. MX Browns do have one thing going for them: time. Cherry switches are tried and true. That’s something recent Chinese clones can’t really say (yet).
Remember to pick up a mechanical switch sampler before purchasing a mechanical keyboard, particularly one that is this expensive. Getting stuck with a switch you dislike is an unfortunate experience. You could also check local electronics stores, as some have sample keyboards out.
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional uses Costar style stabilizers. Bottom outs are crisp and undamped, which is good. Cherry style stabilizers often mute switch bottom outs. On the other hand, Costar stabilizers are slightly tougher to work around when cleaning keycaps.
The worst sin stabilizers commit is rattle, and there’s a lot of it in the 4 Professional. They aren’t lubed, so any rapid stabilized key presses are accompanied by a cacophony of ringing vibration. All buyers of this mechanical keyboard should lube their stabilizers to stop the maddening sounds of stabilizer slop. Super Lube grease is a common recommendation on enthusiast forums.
Keycaps are a vital part of the keyboarding experience. They are, unfortunately, the most disappointing part of the 4 Professional. Their texture is passable for ABS plastic, though they will wear down eventually. Sound is also okay. That’s surprising, as the caps are a bit thinner than I would prefer.
The 4 Professional’s keycap printing, however, is below average. Das Keyboard mistakenly calls the process laser engraving on their website. It is actually laser foaming, a moderately durable printing method. Contrast is good and sharpness is okay, so those elements are reasonable. The downside? Raised lettering. Each legend, or letter, is tangible. If you don’t mind the extra texture, the printing may be a nonissue. That doesn’t forgive the cheap legends, though.
Das Keyboard 4 Professional features
LEDs and power draw
The LEDs on this mechanical keyboard are bright. I’m not talking a little bit bright. I’m not talking “a little bit uncomfortable” bright.
The LEDs will sear your eyes if you look at them directly. They could light up an international airport landing strip and have lumens to spare. Thankfully, they’re lensed. They project in a very limited vertical cone. Keep your eyes away from it.
Worst case power draw, without active USB devices, is 80 mA. At least the Das Keyboard 4 Professional sips electricity.
The media cluster
I’m in love with the 4 Professional’s aluminum and soft-touch rubber volume knob. It is well implemented and well built. A slot in the upper case allows access to its side, and the stops in its rotation make it feel substantial.
The media buttons, however, feel chintzy. They use short throw switches, much like mice, to detect presses. They are subjectively unsatisfying to use due to simultaneous stiffness and mushiness. They’re so “meh” that my description borders on an oxymoron.
Now we arrive at the pièce de résistance: the footbar. It works. There aren’t other good things to say about it. The current monolithic plastic slab is an improved version of the original (find our original review here). Rubber feet were added to increase grip, as version one was bare plastic where proverbial rubber met the road. It turned desk surfaces into a keyboard slip n’ slide until its timely update.
Low contrast and small lettering make the ruler nearly unusable. I also question the utility of lifting one’s keyboard every time one needs to make a measurement. The magnets could cause headaches on metal desks, not to mention in backpacks. They’ll collect loose staples, binder clips, and goodness knows what else.
Even if they don’t grab your desk, the magnets and sprues will leave wear marks on the 4 Professional’s ABS lower case. Das Keyboard argues that the footbar is more durable than flip out feet, which is true in extreme circumstances. I think that the benefits of a magnetic ruler are dubious in normal use cases.
The Das Keyboard 4 Professional is completely average in terms of spill handling. It doesn’t have drain holes or a conformal coating on its PCB, so be careful with your coffee.
Labels & branding
The 4 Professional’s upper case logo is beautifully saturated, though it lacks a bit of sharpness due to the case texture. Close to perfect, but not quite.
Its rear label is a totally different ball game. Metal labels are sexy, and there’s no denying it. The 4 Professional’s label appears to have been lasered using lines, not squiggles, which makes the lettering stand out and sparkle slightly. This is the best looking rear label I have reviewed. I may even like it more than stamped metal labels.
Das Keyboard 4 Professional – Editor’s opinion
Even with its flaws, the Das Keyboard 4 Professional delivers a rock solid typing experience. This is a mechanical keyboard for people who want ostentatious, but tasteful, class and extreme durability. CEOs, authors, and Apple users will find common ground in its build quality and bold design. The 4 Professional isn’t an amazing value proposition. With that said, it is tough to find another big-name high availability mechanical keyboard that packs this kind of build quality into a modernistic shell.
Enthusiasts should probably steer clear. A mechanical keyboard connoisseur would need to replace its caps, be fine with its lack of programmability, and possibly swap its switches out for something more palatable than Cherry MX Browns before using a 4 Professional for daily work.
Feel free to contact us on social media if you’d like more information about this mechanical keyboard. We also welcome comments on this page. Tell us what you think!