June 16, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Das Keyboard 4C TKL – Review 2020

6 min read

While many enthusiasts shop for large, fancy keyboards packed with features and RGB glow, some others want the most streamlined, subtle experience possible. The Das Keyboard 4C ($139) is firmly in the latter camp as a high-quality but no-fuss mechanical keyboard. The main draws are its minimalist tenkeyless design, Cherry MX Brown key switches, and premium aluminum top panel. Extras like USB passthrough and super-durable PBT keycaps make the 4C TKL an appealing choice for those who don’t need a number pad, but a somewhat high price for the feature set and a few small complaints (chiefly the lack of key backlighting) hold it back from Editors’ Choice laurels.

Simplicity Is King

From design to use, everything about the 4C is streamlined. The keyboard is entirely plug-and-play, with no setup or Das Keyboard-specific software needed. Windows will install drivers when you first plug the device in, but other than that, you can set it and forget it. After dealing with many other keyboards’ discrete customization applications (especially gaming keyboards), it’s freeing to not need one.

Das Keyboard 4C

As mentioned, the physical build is quite compact. By going tenkeyless, the 4C TKL trims plenty of width, which is a great fit for tighter desk setups. It measures 1.14 by 15.5 by 6.1 inches (HWD), with a bulge on the left side for the USB passthrough hub. There are two USB 2.0 ports here, so you can connect peripherals or charge your phone easily while you work. 

Das Keyboard 4C

This bulge area adds some width that the extremely space-strapped may wish they had back, but it’s worth the extra feature. There are also no dedicated media keys—they’re rolled into the function keys. This saves space, too, but many users can’t work without dedicated media keys after using them, so it’s something to consider. Overall, the design has a lot in common with the 4C Ultimate we reviewed years back.

In my personal home setup, my keyboard is in my desk’s drawer next to my mouse, so I appreciate the extra room afforded by tenkeyless. If you seldom use a number pad and would prefer the space savings, this setup is appealing; enough people have no need for one to justify this whole genre of keyboard, after all. If you need a number pad for work, or even just prefer to have one for occasional use, obviously tenkeyless is not the way to go. 

One final unexpected design feature is the bottom “footbar.” Instead of traditional flippable keyboard legs, the bottom kickstand is a removable one-foot ruler, complete with measurement markings and all. Two rubber footrests make it functional for assuring your keyboard doesn’t slide, and it’s held onto the back of the keyboard magnetically.

Das Keyboard 4C

It’s a quirky addition that Das Keyboard mostly included for fun, but I have to say I ended up using the ruler a couple of times since opening up this keyboard. As far as it affects the keyboard functionality, it doesn’t angle the keyboard at the steepest angle (some may wish for a larger grade, and you can’t adjust the ruler height), but it works just fine. 

Das Keyboard 4C

The Comfort of Cherry MX

The keycaps are high quality, and satisfying to the touch with their textured finish. The material is polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), which Das Keyboard says are high density and do not wear over time. Of course I can’t verify years-long wear and tear during my review window, but these should last for a long time.

Das Keyboard 4C

Since the switches in this keyboard are Cherry’s popular MX Brown and not proprietary Das Keyboard switches, I don’t need to explain the well-documented feel too much. MX Brown switches have an actuation force of 45g to 55g, provide a tactile bump of feedback midway through a keypress, and create medium-level audible feedback (far less than the iconic, very clicky Cherry MX Blue switches). I like MX Brown switches personally, but there are a lot of strong personal opinions on this topic, so your preferences may vary.

Das Keyboard 4C

Regardless, these switches make for a keyboard that excels at mixed use, suitable for both heavy typing and gaming. I found typing on this keyboard satisfying and comfortable, with perfect response and a lot of bounce in the keys to keep my hands moving. For gaming, I had no problems switching from a specialized gaming keyboard. The 4C TKL was just as responsive, even if you lose the fun of colored backlights and some game-specific features. I’m not someone who customizes a lot of button functions or programs many macros, but those gamers will likely miss those features. 

I Don’t See the Light

My major complaint with this keyboard is the lack of key backlighting, more in terms of function than aesthetics. I don’t need to stare at my keyboard when typing, but like any user, I occasionally look down to spot a less frequently used key or shortcut. At home, my head casts a shadow over my keys from overhead lighting, so it can be difficult to see the keyboard at times. This is even more acute if you keep your keyboard in a desk drawer.

Das Keyboard 4C

I’ve become so used to key backlighting over the years in various laptop and desktop keyboards that, when I need it for a moment, I notice its absence. For a keyboard this expensive, you at least hope it’s an option you can toggle on and off, but alas, no.

Das Keyboard, of course, does have multiple backlit options (notably the full-size Das Keyboard 4Q PCMag has tested) if that’s what you’re after, but I can’t help but feel it should be a standard, toggle-able inclusion on all expensive modern keyboards. It’s not here, so I have to consider that a negative for this individual product.

Das Keyboard 4C

One final feature is N-key rollover (NKRO), an option you can toggle on and off. This is fairly common on premium keyboards and gaming systems, making sure every keystroke registers. It’s worth noting that having this setting turned on disables some button combinations, though. NKRO is trying to prevent input logjams, so I was unable to use some Windows key combos like Windows key+Shift+S to snip a screencap. Turning NKRO off (which you can toggle with Function+F12) allowed this shortcut to work immediately, so be aware of scenarios like that.

A Premium, Compact Mechanical Option

Outside of those smaller issues, the 4C TKL is both extremely easy and pleasant to use. If you’re somewhat space-restricted like my setup, you’ll love the tenkeyless design. It’s compact without being cramped, and the high-quality build and keys complete a premium feel.

The price is perhaps a bit high for the feature set—the Editors’ Choice SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL is comparably outfitted but has more features at a lower price. As we’ve come to expect from Das Keyboard, the construction and execution are above average, which helps make the price tag easier to digest. If you’re in the market for a minimalist tenkeyless professional keyboard that can also function well for gaming on the side, the Das Keyboard 4C TKL is a great pick.

Das Keyboard 4C TKL Specs

Number of Keys 87
Interface USB Wired
Key Switch Type Cherry MX Brown
Key Backlighting None
Media Controls Shared With Other Keys
Dedicated Shortcut Keys No
Onboard Profile Storage No
N-Key Rollover Support Yes
Passthrough Ports USB
Palm Rest None

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