Das Keyboard Prime 13 Review: A Minimalistic Mechanical Plank

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Prime 13 Design and Features

If you order one of these keyboards, be sure to check the package contents carefully. We didn't realize it as first, but Das Keyboard includes a handy keycap puller with the Prime 13. It's in a little baggie that's easy to overlook if it wiggles its way underneath the cardboard flaps.

das keyboard prime 13 main

The size and shape of the Prime 13 is nearly identical to the Das Keyboard 4 Pro. It's also just as sturdy, weighing in at 2.9 pounds. There's no flex or play on any part of the deck, which consists of an injected molded plastic base and 2mm aluminum top housing with an anodized coating. There's an understated elegance that separates the Prime 13 from your typical keyboard, both in look and feel.

Compared to past versions, it's been two generations since Das Keyboard switched from a glossy finish to a matte black aluminum top plate. Both have their aesthetic merits, though one advantage of the current design is that it's fairly resistant to finger smudges.

The same isn't true of the black ABS thermoplastic keycaps on the Prime 13. It's the same material Das Keyboard used on its previous generation plank, only with a different font that's translucent to let the backlight shine through. It doesn't take long for finger grease to leave glossy smudges on the keycaps, though after extended use of the Das Keyboard 4 Pro, we can say that the laser-marked inscriptions stand up exceptionally well over time.

Das Keyboard Prime 13 LED

Das Keyboard said its fan base frequently pings the company with requests for LED backlighting, an unsurprising revelation, and it responded by finally implementing the feature here. These are individually backlit keys, meaning each key has its own LED, with six levels of brightness. If you shutdown your computer, the Prime 13 will remember what illumination level you last used when you boot it back up.

This is one of the brightest backlit keyboards we've ever seen—at full blast, the LEDs managed to distract our peripheral vision. Not everyone will have that a problem, but for those that do, it's easily solved by turning down the illumination, or you can turn off the LED backlight altogether. In addition, the Prime 13 has an auto-dimming feature that kicks in after 10 minutes of inactivity.

Since each key has its own LED, backlighting is uniform across the board—there aren't any dead zones. The exception is on keys with multiple inscriptions. For example, the lighting shines through just fine on the number portion of the top row of number keys, but the secondary functions underneath—exclamation point, dollar sign, and so forth—are noticeably dimmer. Das Keyboard is far from alone in this regard, as we've seen many backlit keyboards exhibit the same behavior.

White is the only LED color option here, a decision we're sure Das Keyboard would chalk up to its mission of making a keyboard for the minimalmist. That's not a total cop out—this isn't a gaming keyboard, after all, but it's still a drag that there aren't more color options to play with.

Das Keyboard Prime 13 Fin

Also in keeping with the minimalist theme, Das Keyboard removed the oversized volume wheel, media playback keys, and the dedicated sleep and mute buttons that are located above the number pad on the previous generation plank. The other subtle change is that the logo and branding on the keyboard is now all white instead of a combination of red and white. Going with an all-white color scheme gives the Prime 13 a more professional look.

Das Keyboard Prime 13 Media Keys

Though there are no longer dedicated controls for media playback, volume control, and putting your PC in sleep mode, Das Keyboard didn't do away with the shortcuts completely. They're now integrated into the Esc and Function keys as secondary commands when used with the Fn key. These are the commands:
  • Fn + Esc = Sleep
  • Fn + F1 = Backlight brightness down
  • Fn + F2 = Backlight brightness up
  • Fn + F5 = Media previous track
  • Fn + F6 = Media play/pause
  • Fn + F7 = Media next track
  • Fn + F9 = Volume mute
  • Fn + F10 = Volume down
  • Fn + F11 = Volume up
  • Fn + F12 = NKRO toggle
One thing to note here is that the NKRO toggle isn't labeled on the F12 key. The LEDs on the right side of the keyboard let you know the status by blinking once when turning NKRO on and twice when turning NKRO off.

Das Keyboard Prime 13 USB

Das Keyboard's mostly barebones approach didn't stop it from including a single USB 2.0 port on the top-right section above the number pad. The USB pass-through means you're essentially trading one USB port on your host device (laptop or desktop) for a more conveniently located one on the Prime 13.

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