Deck 82-Ice keyboard disassembly

I have mixed feelings about this keyboard. Although it's a solid build cosidering the robustness of the case, I cannot overlook the fact that the fonts look ridiculous, the layout is weird and the overall look is rather displeasing. Also, choosing PCB mounting over plate mounting is not fortunate because a drop of water can kill the electronics, not even speaking about the reduced robustness.

It seems that TG3 Electronics tried to play it safe and they've minimized the manufacturing costs to get some profit despite the moderate number of sales. This strategy shows itself in not only not having a plate, but using only a single custom manufactured injection molded plastic part that is the top part of the case.

PCB mouting reveals the whole electronics making an excellent PCB porn for your viewing pleasure. The board features dozens of MX switches, LEDs and diodes (full NKRO for the win) and a CY7C63413C MCU that makes things happen. Most of the parts are surface mount but there are some through-hole parts (where it made sense price-wise, I believe). The PCB looks very high quality, I couldn't find any glitches.

The "You've got a big Deck" slogan on the box of the keyboard is rather strange considering that it's clearly a small form factor keyboard. The User's Manual mentions that a PS/2 port can be installed and I've read on their site that additional LEDs can be added to the sides, making the Deck 82-Ice the most hackable board built so far.

deck-82-ice-keyboard-disassemblyClick to see the album

FC200RC/AB Leopold Tenkeyless Tactile Click Keyboard disassembly

First of all, I'm not about to go into an in-depth analysis about this board as the geekhack folks did. I'm just about to express some of my opinions and provide some PCB porn pictures.

There are only few keyboards that I consider solid builds. This is one of them. I've preordered this one farily early, got it about two months ago and happily using it since then.

There are several attributes that make a solid keyboard in my opinion. One of them is the materials used and the thickness of the walls of the plastic parts. The switches being place mounted vs PCB mounted is another big indicator. As for this keyboard, the plastic seem high quality and the wall thickness is about 2-3mm which I consider very good properties. It's interesting to note the similarity between the my Filco and this Leopold model. The case construction is pretty much the same except some minor details. As for its design, I rather prefer the Filco because the rounded edges of the Leopold don't appeal to me that much.

The use of Cherry keycap stabilizers has definitely surprised me because I thought that those can only be PCB mounted but these are clearly plate mounted and they seem less wobbly than the Costar stabilizers which makes me consider them superior. I've found a very bad solder joint that has been bridged to a nearby trace but apart from that the quality is very satisffactory.

leopold-tenkeyless-keyboardClick to see the album

IBM Model M keyboard disassembly

The IBM Model M keyboard. A piece of history. A symbol of geekdom. A cornerstone of computing. Ok, I've gone too far but you must admit that this is the predecessor of almost every keyboard that we use in our modern age and it all started in 1984.

Although this model is manufactured around the end of '92, its quality is as solid as it can be. Around these times manfacturers have already flooded the market with dome switch shit and the next generation of users didn't have any idea about the keyboards of the golden age. I'm not saying that every people would have loved Model Ms because their noise can be disturing but I'm here to say that the construction quality is far more better than almost any other keyboards that are currently on the market. I can only think of Filco and Leopold as exceptions.

It's a very good sign of construction quality that the keyboard can be taken apart by anyone without breaking anything on it. The ABS plastic is top quality, feels very rigid, the walls are thick and the number of components used is no more than necessary. I love pretty much everything about this keyboard, even though I prefer Cherry MX blue switches because they require less pressure force which I think is more optimal.

Here comes the Flickr set which you're welcome to browse through for your viewing pleasure.

ibm-model-m-keyboardClick to see the album

Filco Majestouch Tenkeyless Tactile Touch (FKBN87M/EB) disassembly

I have this board for a while so it was time to shoot some images to show its guts. It is currently the best keyboard on the market in my opinion, except that I prefer blue switches. I ordered browns this time because I wanted to try them out.

This board is constructed in a much sturdier way than the Das. You won't break anything when disassembling it because Diatec used thick plastic everywhere without any overhangs.

The brain is the HT82K94E USB Multimedia Keyboard Encoder 8-Bit MCU which is the big brother or HT82K95E which was used in the Das. I'm not sure whether breaking out the MCU was a practical move or a smart sales tactic (to differentiate between the price of the NKRO and non-NKRO version) but it's an interesting solution.

filco-majestouch-tenkeyless-keyboardClick to see the album

Das Keyboard: Disassembly and Analysis

Before delving into Das Keyboard I'd like to take the opportunity to show you the trailer video of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, a high-end mechanical keyboard of which I'm the lead developer. Our keyboard is going to be kickstarted soon so you're more than welcome to share it, follow us and subscribe to our list to get notified when our campaign starts. See you on UltimateHackingKeyboard.com! Cheers!


And now on to Das Keyboard...

I felt the need to disassemble Das Keyboard and see what makes it tick.  Just to make things clear, I think that Das Keyboard is the best traditional PC keyboard ever created, but not the best keyboard that is possible to create because the standard PC layout requires too much travel distance for various keys and it's suboptimal from the typewriter's perspective.  No, I don't mean DVORAK, but something that I could call QWERTY Compact that is very easy to learn.  But that's the topic of another post.

First of all, I want to apologize for some of the crappy pictures.  My friend, Dömi and I did everything we could do to make reasonably good pictures but the lighting was less than optimal and we're pretty unexperienced at making such photos.  Anyways, let's see what we have!

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This is the back of the keyboard clearly showing where the screw holes are.  You have to harm the central warranty label so say bye-bye to the guarantee if you proceed further.  You also have to remove the upper rubber feet to access the screws, but you'll be able to easily glue them back later.

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Now comes the tricker part.  There are some hooks that hold together the front part and the back part of the keyboard.  It looks like this:

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I think it's probably impossible to disassemble the keyboard without breaking some of these hooks, but you don't really have to worry because the screws alone will hold the front part and the back part pretty tightly so you'll be perfectly able to use your beloved Das Keyboard after assembling it.  You have to pressure the hooks from the sides with some handy tool to disassemble the front and the back parts.

Now let's see what's inside!

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After removing the keycaps (which is a pretty easy job) you can see the soul of Das, the Cherry MX tactile keyswitches.  They are both extremely durable and extremely enjoyable to type on.  I'd like to note that it's a misbelief of some people that different pressure sensitivity is required for various switches, namely that less force is needed to press a switch as the distance from the center gets longer.  Every key needs constant pressure, about 50g.  I've measured the constant pressing force by placing some coins on different keycaps.

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We have lots of those switches, this obviously does not make Das a cheap keyboard.  The switches are panel mounted, not PCB mounted.  Panel mounting is a more robust solution than PCB mounting.  Panel mounting also make Das more expensive, so think about what does this keyboard provide for its price before saying that it costs too much.

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The keycaps are not ordinary either.  When seeing Das from its side it's easy to notice that the top of the keys form a slight U shape.  This shape is more optimal for typewriters than the much more common linear shape used by the rest of the keyboards (not counting the Model M and Unicomp keyboards).  Because of this shape, each row has to close a different angle with the base panel than the other rows.

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The keys are attached to the PCB (but they sit on the aluminium panel shown above).  Most dome switch keyboards use foil, but we're not dealing with mediocre quality here.

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Das uses diodes to implement N-key rollover.  Let me note that it doesn't implement true N-key rollover, only 10-key rollover, but it's hardly a limitation as most of us have 10 fingers.

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The controller PCB is definitely not an ordinary one.  The left IC is a Genesys GL850G USB hub controller and the right baby is a Holtek HT82K95E USB Multimedia Keyboard Encoder 8-Bit MCU.

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After using Das for some weeks I could hear some squeaky noise when pressing the space bar.  I was more than surprised because everything else was so terrific about the keyboard.  After I applied some lubricating grease to it the irritating voice gone away.  Some grease should be applied to these wires during the manufacturing process.  Apart from that I cannot say any bad things about Das.

You probably pretty much know my opinion about Das after reading this post, but let me say a word of wisdom at the end.  You can buy many crappy keyboards throughout your life or one real keyboard.  The choice is yours.  You know which I opt for.

You can check out higher resolution photos in a separate Google+ album.

Thanks for Werner Heuser for linking this post on Repair4Keyboard.com.