Many many moons ago, I was a fan of the light touch of a scissor switch mechanism keyboard. In many ways I still am a fan of this style of keyboard. I like the short quick stroke, and limited push back. Well... I though I really liked this anyway, to the point where I would often get into arguments with friends and colleges about why I thought mechanical keyboards a thing of the past.
Sometime early last year I used a friends Das Keyboard. I really only used it for a few minutes, but it was enough for me to begin to appreciate the feel of the keystroke. This was my first real introduction to the world of the Cherry MX Switches.
I was not able to break away from the scissor switch quite so easily however. There was still the problem that I did't quite like the very loud clicky sound that most mechanical keyboards are famous for. Nor was I willing to give up the features that modern keyboards have that most mechanical ones were lacking - namely media keys.
Just as I was starting to look into the whole concept of mechanical keyboards properly I somehow stumbled upon a site advertising what sounded like the exact keyboard I had been looking for. The keyboard I had stumbled on was of course The CODE Keyboard.
The CODE keyboard features a range of features, including backlit keys, media keys, the ability to disable OS key, and even the ability to convert the caps lock key into control key.
The feature that caught my attention more than any other was that the keyboard was available with Cherry MX Clear switches. These switches matched the keystroke I was after and they were non-clicky.
The CODE keyboard takes an interesting approach to the way they treat a lot of the features. When you receive your keyboard, it comes setup as a plain mechanical keyboard, no bells, no whistles, and no back lighting. On the back of the keyboard is an 6-bit dip switch. Changing the state of these switches changes the way that your keyboard behaves - the first 2 switches together let you toggle between standard US QWERTY, Mac, Dvorak and Colemak modes (though there are back lighting issues here, more on that later). The remaining 4 each toggle a feature of the keyboard: Caps lock as an additional Ctrl key, Scroll lock as scroll lock or toggling the OS keys on/off, outright disabling the OS keys, and changing the menu key into a Function key to accesses the various secondary key features.
And that brings me around to some of the issues I have with this keyboard.
Each keycap has an LED placed perfectly under the keycap so that the back-lighting look very even. This is a really nice feature, until you move your keycaps and find that the LEDs no longer line up, leaving you with uneven back-lighting. Understandably this is a considerable issue for those people who do not the QWERTY key layout, and non-QWERTY key layouts are quire popular amongst those who are willing to spend the money on a mechanical keyboard.
Something that has frustrated me personally is that I have to give up the menu key in order to get the function key. The function key is required for changing the intensity of the back-lighting, as well as to get access to the media keys. Now the menu key is not something that I use every day (less so now I am doing more and more development in ViM). I do still miss the menu on those occasion I wish to bring up a context menu while typing, say to select a spelling correction - something I need to do quite often.
Out of the box more than a few people have noted that some of the large keys (backspace, shift keys, space bar, enter) may squeak when you press them for a while. Eventually the squeak wares away, but it is quite annoying until it does so.
While it should be expected, I do feel it needs to be mentioned that this is quite a thick keyboard.
First and foremost I love typing on this keyboard. I have loved typing on it so much that it has gotten me writing on this blog again, as well as finishing up a project I have had on the back burner for ages.
Despite the issues listed above, I enjoy just looking at the keyboard, the way that the back-lighting makes the keys so easy to view and read. Even the way that it seeps out between the keys is just properly nice to look at. The character set and key icons that WASD Keyboards use is just right as well. They icons are just the right combination of modern and recognisable.
I love that time has been taken to tailor this keyboard to as many people as possible. It is a keyboard for coders first sure, but ample time has been taken to ensure that gamers too will like it. It has a nice compromise between being a plain keyboard and being overly feature rich.
The keyboard is extremely solid. The keys are mounted onto a steel backplate. This allows you to really hammer on the keyboard when you want without the whole thing vibrating all over the place. It also means that the keyboard feels solid enough to be carried around with you - I am currently carrying it to and from work every day. Additionally, there are generous rubber feet that keep the keyboard exactly where you want it on your workspace.
In conclusion, all I really have to say is that I love this keyboard. Its pretty much exactly what I thought it would be all that time ago when I read what was little more than then a blog post by someone who had finally had enough. The keyboard is well worth what I spent on it and I would recommend it to anyone else looking for a solid mechanical keyboard.