WASD Code Keyboard Review

I love how mechanical keyboards feel. I grew up typing on IBM mechanical keyboards but grew accustomed to membrane keyboards when that became the norm. Now that I’ve rediscovered the joy of typing on a mechanical keyboard I am never going back!

Recently, I decided to upgrade my mechanical keyboard collection by getting the WASD Code Keyboard.

 

The major draw of the Code keyboard for me was the stiffer keys compared to the Cherry MX Brown switches I have on my Logitech G710+ keyboard. While I love the responsiveness for gaming, something just doesn’t feel right when using the G710+ for typing. The Code keyboard comes equipped with your choice of Cherry MX Green (80cN, clicky) or Cherry MX Clear (65cN, tactile) switches, both of which are far stiffer than Cherry MX Brown switches (50cN, tactile).

Additionally, the design of the keyboard is pretty stunning, even in internet pictures. It’s very minimalistic, has no branding on the OS key (what people normally call the Windows Key), and has 8 levels of backlighting (including off). The backplane is covered by a pure white aluminum panel, making the backlighting effect amazingly beautiful for a keyboard.

Unboxing

I received my Code keyboard with Cherry MX Clear switches from Massdrop after a month of waiting. It arrived in a very nice looking minimalistic box.

2015-08-26 13.14.04The keyboard itself is wrapped safely in a thin styrofoam bag. Upon opening it, you also will see the instructions for the DIP switch configurations.

2015-08-26 13.15.48Also included are a keycap puller, the USB cable, and a PS/2 adapter if you wish to take advantage of the NKRO capability.

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The USB cable itself is relatively solid. The micro-USB end is thinner than your average micro-USB connector because it needs to fit into a low-profile recessed area under the keyboard. Any low-profile microUSB cable, like the Samsung ones, will fit in the recess though.

One nice little touch is that it has a silicone-like smooth micro-velcro cable strap. I don’t know what the official name for the material is, but it has a very nice touch and allows you to tie up the extra cable length and hide it behind your desk.

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Setup

The only setup that’s required is plugging in the keyboard to your USB port. Pretty much how a keyboard should work, right?

One small detail though: the keyboard doesn’t come with the function key enabled, which isn’t necessarily a problem if you don’t need to adjust your backlight or use the media keys. However, the backlight defaults to full brightness, which is very very bright.

To enable the function key, just take a paper clip or a pen and slide the 6th DIP switch on the backside of the keyboard to the ON position (towards the cable guide). Afterwards, you’ll have to power cycle the keyboard by unplugging it and plugging it back in before the change takes effect. It is kind of unfortunate that you have to pick between being able to adjust your backlight/have media keys and having a menu key. Since I don’t ever use the menu key, it is a fair tradeoff to me, but I understand that everyone’s usage patterns are different.

The key configuration can also be changed via the DIP switches to a Mac, Dvorak, or Colemak layout. The keycaps are easily removed with the include keycap puller so you can reorder the keys after changing your layout.

Also, if in Mac mode, the Fn+PrtSc combination becomes an eject button, allowing you to quickly lock your mac with the Ctrl+Shift+Eject combination that can be hard to come by if using most other mechanical keyboards.

Look and Feel

Even though there’s only 15cN more activation force compared to the Cherry MX Brown keys, the MX Clears feel a lot sturdier and are actually a joy to press when rapidly typing.The entire travel distance is very well defined and there is no wobbliness or wiggliness. Vigorously shaking the keyboard does not yield any rattling noises. Overall, the build quality feels bombproof.

As far as noise goes, the keyboard is ever so slightly louder than my Logitetch G710+ with Cherry MX Brown switches. Adding O-rings to the keys did not do too much to help the keyboard as the amount of force the springs push back with is adequate to prevent rough bottoming-out for me, but if you are a heavy typer you might want to opt for the version with Green switches (which comes with O-rings pre-installed) or add O-rings yourself.

Another nice thing is that there is a musical quality to the spring action in the Cherry MX Clear switches. If you have used old IBM mechanical keyboards, you will undoubtedly appreciate this, as they are a gentle reminder of the sound of a buckling spring switch in action. Fortunately, they are nowhere near as loud as a Model M and are definitely safe for office use!

The backlight, like in the product photos on WASD’s site, is extremely even and beautiful thanks to the nice white aluminum back plate. Seven adjustable levels are also very nice.

2015-08-26 13.20.01The back plate definitely adds a nice touch when working in the dark! The effect makes it look like the keys are suspended above a glowing white void.

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Final Thoughts

Overall, I am very happy with the Code Keyboard with Cherry MX Clear switches. It has to be the most comfortable keyboard I have ever typed on. I would definitely not use this as a gaming keyboard because the stiffness of the keys makes the keys feel less responsive. I would not go back to a gaming keyboard for typing and coding either, though. The design, feel, and execution of this product are truly amazing. The only place where I would dock points is the use of the menu key as the only function key, and that would only affect people who regularly make use of that key.

To most people spending $149 on a keyboard is ridiculous, and I would tend to agree. This is definitely a niche product, as are all mechanical keyboards. If a keyboard is just a keyboard to you, perhaps you should stick with regular, cheap membrane keyboards. If you are keenly aware of the way you interact with computers and appreciate the finesse and texture benefits that only mechanical keyboards provide, then $149 is actually a great deal.

There is some good basic advice that you should be willing to spend your money on things that separate you from the ground – your shoes, your tires, and your mattress. To someone like me whose life is defined by interactions with computing machinery, I am also more than happy to splurge on what physically connects me with the digital world.

 

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