Review: Das 5Q Smart Keyboard (Hardware)

Reviewed by Krista Noren, posted Jun 24, 2019, last updated Jun 24, 2019
Jun 24, 2019
What if your keyboard...could be more than just a tool for typing? Das Keyboard attempts to bring such an idea to life, with their 5Q Keyboard.
Krista Noren

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In our recent wave of hardware reviews, we've seen some interesting keyboards. There was one that could split in half, one with a shocking amount of RGBs, and all sorts of other models. This time, we've returned to the world of mechanical keyboards in order to take a look at something that entirely sets itself apart from any other keyboard we've seen yet: the Das 5Q Smart Keyboard. When it comes to keyboards, it's a little hard to stand out, seeing as that at the end of the day, they're all just something you can use to type words on your computer with, regardless of their flashy RGBs or the type of enthusiast switches underneath each key. Das, a keyboard company that began selling keyboards in 2005, has worked its way into hardcore keyboard fans' hearts by releasing solidly constructed and reliable products for well over a decade. They've used their experience in the market in order to come up with an idea that would promise to be unique, and a life-changer, when it came to keyboards. Raising over $500,000 on Kickstarter, their project, the Das Keyboard 5Q, came to life. 

That begs the question of what innovative concept does the Das 5Q feature? Put simply, it means that this is the first "smart", cloud-connected keyboard. 

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Amusingly dubbed as "the keyboard for hackers", the 5Q can send notifications about a variety of subjects. Working in conjunction with IFTTT (If This Then That), the keyboard can light up specific keys to alert you to certain things, such as the weather for the day, if your favorite GitHub developer has posted a new project, or even hilariously enough, I managed to set the keyboard to tell me whenever Nintendo updates the Switch's firmware. Before we dig deeper into the finer details regarding what this smart keyboard can do, let's take a moment to see how the Das 5Q functions, as, well, a keyboard.

Visually striking and very sharp were the first words that came to mind, once the 5Q was fully lit up and ready to use. The keyboard's aluminum frame has a heft to it that makes it feel almost indestructible, being heavier than any other keyboard that I've encountered previously, weighing in at just over 3lbs. Design-wise, the keyboard has all its keys sink into the frame, unlike a lot of other brands, who raise their keys for max RGB glow. As a result of that, the 5Q feels a bit more like a traditional keyboard from the past, rather than a "gamer" keyboard. It still looks sleek, and will be an impressive part of your setup, but if you're tired of the typical over-the-top gaming hardware trend, this might be a bit of a more relaxed style.

Typing on the 5Q feels absolutely lovely, with the double-shot ABS keycaps curved to have the best ergonomics, coupled alongside keyswitches that press fast and smoothly. There is a keycap puller nestled inside the packaging, but it's more of a formality than anything, as Das features proprietary Omron keyswitches, which makes purchasing third-party keycaps nearly impossible. Speaking of which, the 5Q uses special Gamma Zulu switches, which are exclusive to this keyboard only. Omron, the aforementioned manufacturer, also makes the switches found in more expensive Logitech keyboards, so you can rest easy knowing that the 5Q will be reliable. It's hard to directly compare the Gamma Zulus to other switches, but the most accurate description would be that they feel smooth and have the same travel as Cherry MX Reds, but have the added tactile response that a Brown would. During my time with the 5Q, I found that I typed much faster than I ever had while using other keyboards, with my fingers flying across the keys much more easily than usual. Typing is very satisfying on this keyboard, and while it's not silent, it's much quieter than Blue or Brown switches. 

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Technical Specifications
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.44 kg)
  • Cable length: 6.5 ft (2 m)
  • Double shot keycaps US, and ABS lasered ROW
  • Gamma Zulu switches
  • Durability: 100 million actuations
  • Actuation distance: 0.06 in (1.5 mm)
  • Individually backlit keys
  • Programmable cloud functions and notifications

On the top right side of the keyboard is a noticeable "Q" button, which has two functions: pressing it will open the Das Keyboard Q software, while twisting it will change your volume up or down. There are also three media controls nearby, and while they feel like an afterthought and downgrade in quality compared to everything else about this premium keyboard, they work just fine. Included as an optional peripheral is a silicone wrist rest, which snaps to the bottom of the 5Q thanks to the indomitable power of magnets. I absolutely love this thing; it's comfortable, it's soft, and it raises my wrists just perfectly to meet the slight tilt of the keyboard. The only fault that I could really find with the physical aspect of the keyboard happened to be minor issues; the media keys are too mushy, and the Caps Lock indicator can barely be seen, as the light that emanates from it doesn't show up well when you look at the keyboard straight-on, which is how most people tend to use them.         

When it comes to lighting, the 5Q has a lot of different color profiles to choose from. Since blinking/flashing keys are instead used for alerts, you won't find the more spastic rainbow bursts or seizure-inducing lightshows that other brands like Corsair or Razer offer. Instead, you can choose from either breathing mode, or static color. Certain color patterns are available, such ones for AutoCAD, "best typing position", Photoshop, and even a palette for the UT Longhorns, which, as a fellow Texan, made me smile. If you want, you can also light up each key individually, and save it as a custom profile. The RGBs are nice and vibrant, giving you 10 brightness options, should you want to tone it down a notch. 

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Now that we've covered everything else, we can finally discuss the bread and butter of the Das 5Q: the cloud notification functions. As I mentioned before, by using either Zapier or IFTTT, you can program your keyboard to fetch various information for you, whenever you want. There are a few cool features that you can turn on right out of the box; there's a command that will light up a row of four keys of your choice, in order to tell you the weather forecast. Rather than spending the time to Google the weather, or bring it up on your phone, you can merely glance down at the 5Q in order to know if you'll need an umbrella if you go outside. Sick of constantly refreshing your email, waiting for a response? Now, you can set your keyboard to flash the M key whenever you get a new email. Once that happens, a simple press of the Q button will bring you to your dashboard, where you can click a link that will take you to your inbox. Those are just some ideas that Das gives you; the possibilities are near-limitless, as IFTTT lets you pick from a massive range of triggers and alerts, such as Discord, Twitter, YouTube, and more. 

If you need to focus on something, say, a project, or homework, or even an intense game, you won't need to have audio alerts distracting you. I found this especially useful while writing this review--rather than constantly have notifications for news pop up while I was writing, I could set them to my keyboard, which would calmly blink. This wasn't nearly as jarring, and I felt myself be pulled out of my concentration less often. It also proved useful when playing games, as I wouldn't hear an irksome Windows "ding" during dramatic cutscenes or intense boss fights. This wasn't revolutionary or something that I couldn't live without, but it was a minor improvement for a mild annoyance. 

All of these notifications are handled through the Das Keyboard Q software, which can be found on Das's official website. While the UI is clean and simple, it can be a bit awkward to navigate. It also takes a bit of time to set up all these individual options and tweak them to perfection, before importing them into the program. Sometimes, those alerts might break or go wrong--that's not a fault of Das itself, but rather IFTTT/Zapier--but it still is a required function that you'll need to mess with so that they work with the 5Q. And after years of habit, I'd occasionally just open Task Manager to check my CPU usage, instead of looking over at the C key, which is color-coded to let me know what percentage it's working at. These alerts are designed to assist with productivity, but you'll likely be spending time adjusting to things for a while. 

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So, in the end, what do all these magical features and premium quality cost you? A whopping $249.99; a cost that, despite all the interesting bells and whistles, is hard to justify. There are many, many amazing keyboards out there that match the quality of the Das 5Q, but retail at half the price. For such a high cost, consumers will want a flawless experience, and while the 5Q does its best to deliver on all its promises, a smart keyboard just doesn't feel necessary for productivity nor gaming. There's a niche category of people who would be interested in such a concept, and while they'll likely be able to find uses for the 5Q that excuse the cost, the average user is just better off looking elsewhere. If money is no object to you, then the Das 5Q Smart Keyboard is a fun and comfortable keyboard with unique functions, and is built solidly enough to last you a very long time. 

Verdict
Pros
+ Endless amounts of customizable alerts and cloud-based features.
+ The build quality is solid.
Cons
- The software is a little clunky.
- Cap/Num/Scr Lock indicator barely lights up.
- At such a high cost, you're paying for innovation and novelty rather than pure performance.
8
out of 10
Overall
The Das 5Q is such a fun idea, allowing you to receive a notification for nearly anything that you could ever want. However, when it comes down to it, the concept of a smart keyboard is more of a novelty than a necessity at this point in time. At a price point of $249.99, the Das 5Q comes with an exorbitant cost that might put it above most peoples' budgets. Though, should you find the capabilities of this keyboard to be useful for your daily life or work, then it might be very well worth the investment.


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