Home » Misc. Gadgets » The CODE Keyboard: Old School Construction Meets Modern Amenities

The CODE Keyboard: Old School Construction Meets Modern Amenities


There’s nothing somewhat as fulfilling as the sleek and crisp motion of a smartly constructed keyboard. When you’re uninterested in soft keys and low cost feeling keyboards, a neatly-built mechanical keyboard is a welcome respite from the $10 keyboard that got here together with your pc. Learn on as we put the CODE mechanical keyboard during the paces.

What’s the CODE Keyboard?

The CODE keyboard is a collaboration between manufacturer WASD Keyboards and Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror (the guy behind the Stack Exchange network and Discourse forum software). Atwood’s focus was incorporating the best of traditional mechanical keyboards and the best of modern keyboard usability improvements. In his own words:

The world is awash in terrible, crappy, no name how-cheap-can-we-make-it keyboards. There are a few dozen better mechanical keyboard options out there. I’ve owned and used at least six different expensive mechanical keyboards, but I wasn’t satisfied with any of them, either: they didn’t have backlighting, were ugly, had terrible design, or were missing basic functions like media keys.

That’s why I originally contacted Weyman Kwong of WASD Keyboards way back in early 2012. I told him that the state of keyboards was unacceptable to me as a geek, and I proposed a partnership wherein I was willing to work with him to do whatever it takes to produce a truly great mechanical keyboard.

Even the ardent skeptic who questions whether Atwood has indeed created a truly great mechanical keyboard certainly can’t argue with the position he starts from: there are so many agonizingly crappy keyboards out there. Even worse, in our opinion, is that unless you’re a typist of a certain vintage, there’s a good chance you’ve never actually typed on a really nice keyboard. Those that didn’t start using computers until the mid-to-late 1990s most likely have always typed on modern mushy-key keyboards and never known the joy of typing on a really responsive and crisp mechanical keyboard. Is our preference for and love of mechanical keyboards shining through here? Good. We’re not even going to try and hide it.

So where does the CODE keyboard stack up in pantheon of keyboards? Read on as we walk you through the simple setup and our experience using the CODE.

Setting Up the CODE Keyboard

Although the setup of the CODE keyboard is essentially plug and play, there are two distinct setup steps that you likely haven’t had to perform on a previous keyboard. Both highlight the degree of care put into the keyboard and the amount of customization available.

Inside the box you’ll find the keyboard, a micro USB cable, a USB-to-PS2 adapter, and a tool which you may be unfamiliar with: a key puller. We’ll return to the key puller in a moment.

Unlike the majority of keyboards on the market, the cord isn’t permanently affixed to the keyboard. What does this mean for you? Aside from the obvious need to plug it in yourself, it makes it dead simple to repair your own keyboard cord if it gets attacked by a pet, mangled in a mechanism on your desk, or otherwise damaged. It also makes it easy to take advantage of the cable routing channels in on the underside of the keyboard to  route your cable exactly where you want it.

While we’re staring at the underside of the keyboard, check out those beefy rubber feet. By peripherals standards they’re huge (and there is six instead of the usual four). Once you plunk the keyboard down where you want it, it might as well be glued down, the rubber feet work so well.

After you’ve secured the cable and adjusted it to your liking, there is one more task before you plug the keyboard into the computer. On the bottom left-hand side of the keyboard, you’ll find a small recess in the plastic with some dip switches inside:

The dip switches are there to switch hardware functions for various operating systems, keyboard layouts, and to enable/disable function keys. By toggling the dip switches you can change the keyboard from QWERTY mode to Dvorak mode and Colemak mode, the two most popular alternative keyboard configurations. You can also use the switches to enable Mac-functionality (for Command/Option keys). One of our favorite little toggles is the SW3 dip switch: you can disable the Caps Lock key; goodbye accidentally pressing Caps when you mean to press Shift. You can review the entire dip switch configuration chart here.

The fast-begin for Home windows customers is understated: double test that all of the switches are within the off place (as viewed within the photograph above) after which merely toggle SW6 on to let the media and backlighting operate keys (this turns the menu key on the keyboard right into a perform key as most often discovered on pc keyboards).

After adjusting the dip switches to your liking, plug the keyboard into an open USB port for your pc (or into your PS/2 port the use of the incorporated adapter).

Design, Structure, and Backlighting

The CODE keyboard is available in two flavors, a standard 87-key format (no quantity pad) and a standard 104-key format (quantity pad on the suitable hand facet). We determine the format as conventional as a result of, regardless of some brand new trapping and sneaky shortcuts, the true kind issue of the keyboard from the form of the keys to the spacing and place is as traditional because it comes. You gained’t must research a brand new keyboard format and spend weeks conditioning your self to a smaller than customary backspace key or a PgUp/PgDn pair in an unconventional vicinity.

Simply since the keyboard could be very standard in format, then again, doesn’t imply you’ll be lacking up to date facilities like media-keep watch over keys. The next further features are hidden within the F11, F12, Pause button, and the two×6 grid shaped via the Insert and Delete rows: keyboard illumination brightness, keyboard illumination on/off, mute, after which the everyday play/pause, ahead/backward, cease, and quantity +/- in Insert and Delete rows, respectively.

Whereas we weren’t positive what we’d recall to mind the perform-key gadget to start with (particularly after retiring a Microsoft Sidewinder keyboard with an enormous and simply obtainable extent knob on it), it took lower than a day for us to adapt to the use of the Fn key, positioned subsequent to the appropriate Ctrl key, to regulate our media playback on the fly.

Keyboard backlighting is a generally hit-or-leave out endeavor, however the CODE keyboard nails it. Now not handiest does it have high-quality and simply adjustable via-the-keys lights, however the important thing switches that the keys themselves are connected to are installed to a metal plate with white paint. Sufficient of the sunshine displays off the inner cavity of the keys after which diffuses throughout the white plate to supply good even illumination in between the keys.

Highlighting the metal plate underneath the keys brings us to the real development of the keyboard. It’s rock stable. The 87-key edition, the one we examined, is 2.zero kilos. The 104-secret’s just about a half of pound heavier at 2.forty two kilos. Between the metal plate, the additional-thick PCB board below the metal plate, and the thick ABS plastic housing, the keyboard has very stable really feel to it. Mix that heft with the up to now talked about thick rubber ft and you’ve got a tank-like keyboard that gained’t budge a millimeter all the way through customary use.

Analyzing The Keys

That is the component to the evaluate the hardcore typists and keyboard ninjas had been ready for. We’ve seemed on the structure of the keyboard, we’ve seemed on the normal building of it, however what about the real keys?

There are all kinds of keyboard building tactics however the overwhelming majority of up to date keyboards use a rubber-dome development. The hot button is floated in a plastic body over a rubber membrane that has slightly rubber dome for each and every key. The clicking of the bodily key compresses the rubber dome downwards and somewhat little bit of conductive subject matter on the within of the dome’s apex connects with the circuit board. Regardless of the close to ubiquity of the design, many individuals dislike it.

The fundamental criticism is that dome keyboards require an entire compression to register a keystroke; keyboard designers and fans consult with this as “bottoming out”. In different phrases, the register the “b” key, you want to totally press that key down. As such it slows you down and requires extra power and motion that, over the path of tens of lots of keystrokes, provides as much as plenty of wasted time and fatigue.

The CODE keyboard options key switches manufactured by means of Cherry, an organization that has manufactured key switches because the Sixties. Namely, the CODE options Cherry MX Clear switches. These switches function the identical basic design of the opposite Cherry switches (such because the MX Blue and Brown swap lineups) however they’re considerably quieter (sure this can be a mechanical keyboard, however no, your neighbors received’t assume you’re firing off a desktop gun) as they lack the audible click on present in most Cherry switches. This isn’t to claim that they keyboard doesn’t have a pleasant audible key press sound when the secret is totally depressed, however that the important thing mechanism isn’t doesn’t create a loud click on sound when induced.

Some of the nice options of the Cherry MX clear is a tactile “bump” that signifies the important thing has been compressed sufficient to register the stroke. For contact typists the very delicate tactile remarks is a superb indicator which you can transfer on to the subsequent stroke and gives a welcome velocity enhance. Despite the fact that you’re no longer looking to wreck any phrase-per-minute data, that little bump when urgent the bottom line is pleasant.

The Cherry key switches, along with offering a way more first-rate typing expertise, are additionally considerably tougher than dome-model key change. Rubber dome change membrane keyboards are usually rated for five-10 million contacts whereas the Cherry mechanical switches are rated for 50 million contacts.

You’d have to put in writing the subsequent Conflict and Peace  and apply that up with A Story of Two Cities: Zombie Version, after which flip round and transcribe them each right into a dozen completely different languages to even start hanging a tiny dent within the lifecycle of this keyboard.

So what do the switches appear to be underneath the classically styled keys? That you would be able to have a look your self with the incorporated key puller. Slide the loop between the keys after which gently below the important thing you are looking to take away:

Wiggle the important thing puller gently from side to side whereas exerting a gradual upward power to pop the important thing off; Which you can repeat the method for each key, in the event you ever to find your self desiring to extract piles of cat hair, Cheeto mud, or different international objects out of your keyboard.

There it’s, the bare swap, the supply of that glorious crisp motion with the tactile bump on each and every keystroke.

The remaining characteristic priceless of a point out is the N-key rollover performance of the keyboard. This can be a characteristic you merely received’t to find on non-mechanical keyboards and even gaming keyboards generally simplest have any kind of key curler on the excessive-frequency keys like WASD. So what’s N-key rollover and why do you care? On a regular industrially produced rubber-dome keyboard, you can not concurrently press greater than two keys, because the 0.33 one doesn’t register. PS/2 keyboards enable for limitless rollover (in different phrases that you may’t out-kind the keyboard as all of your keystrokes, irrespective of how briskly, will register); when you use the CODE keyboard with the PS/2 adapter you achieve this capacity.

In the event you don’t use the PS/2 adapter and use the native USB, you continue to get 6-key rollover (and the CTRL, ALT, and SHIFT don’t depend in opposition to the 6) so realistically you continue to received’t have the ability to out kind the pc as even the extra finger twisting keyboard combos and excessive pace typing will nonetheless fall neatly inside the 6-key rollover.

The rollover completely doesn’t topic when you’re a gradual hunt-and-percent typist, however for those who’ve learn this some distance right into a keyboard assessment, there’s a superb opportunity that you simply’re a significant typist, and that roughly high quality building and excessive-quantity key rollover is an out of this world function.

 The Excellent, The Unhealthy, and the Verdict

We’ve put the CODE keyboard during the paces, we’ve performed video games with it, typed articles with it, left prolonged feedback on Reddit, and in any other case used and abused it like we’d every other keyboard.

The Excellent:

  • The development is rock strong. In an emergency, we’re assured lets use the keyboard as a blunt weapon (after which resume the use of it later within the day without a sick impact on the keyboard).
  • The Cherry switches are an absolute pleasure to sort on; the Clear selection discovered within the CODE keyboard provide a truly good heart-floor between the gun-shot clack of a louder mechanical swap and the quietness of a lesser-high quality dome keyboard with out sacrificing high quality. Contact typists will love the delicate tactile bump comments.
  • Dip change machine makes it very simple for customers on completely different techniques and with completely different keyboard format desires to change between running device and keyboard layouts. In the event you’re investing a bit of trade in a keyboard it’s good to understand you could take it with you to a special running machine or “improve” it to a brand new format in the event you make a decision to take in Dvorak-model typing.
  • The backlighting is ideal. That you can modify it from a barely-seen glow to a blazing mild-up-the-room brightness. No matter your intesity choice, the white-lined metal backplate does an ideal job diffusing the sunshine between the keys.
  • Which you can simply get rid of the keys for cleansing (or to rearrange the letters to enhance a brand new keyboard structure).
  • The burden of the unit blended with the additional thick rubber ft maintain it planted precisely the place you location it on the desk.

The Dangerous:

  • When you’re getting your cash’s price, the $one hundred fifty ticket is a shock when in comparison with the $20-60 value tags you to find on decrease-finish keyboards.
  • Individuals used to very large devoted media keys unbiased of the normal key format (equivalent to the big buttons and quantity controls discovered on many brand new keyboards) may well be off put by using the Fn-key fashion media controls on the CODE.

The Verdict: The keyboard is certainly and closely influenced by means of the wishes of great typists. Whether or not you’re a programmer, transcriptionist, or simply someone that wishes to go away the lengthiest article feedback the Web has ever viewed, the CODE keyboard bargains a rock stable typing expertise. Sure, $a hundred and fifty isn’t pocket exchange, however the high quality of the CODE keyboard is so excessive and the typing expertise is so stress-free, you’re simply getting ten occasions the worth you’d get out of buying a lesser keyboard.

Even in comparison with different mechanical keyboards in the marketplace, like Das Keyboard, you’re nonetheless getting extra in your cash as different mechanical keyboards don’t include the stunning-to-sort-on Cherry MX Clear switches, again lighting fixtures, and hardware-primarily based working gadget keyboard format switching.

If it’s on your price range to improve your keyboard (particularly in case you’ve been slogging together with a low-finish rubber-dome keyboard) there’s no excellent purpose to no longer pickup a CODE keyboard.

Key animation courtesy of Geekhack.org consumer Deadly Squirrel.

, ,