Das Keyboard, a company that’s built a reputation for durable, professional keyboards, has recently launched a new product line targeting the enthusiast gaming market. We had the opportunity to test their “combat-ready” keyboard and mouse, and came away thoroughly impressed by their sturdy construction.
Division Zero X40 Pro Gaming Mechanical Keyboard
It can be difficult, at least upon first inspection, for a keyboard to stand out amongst the competition. Some sport extensive lighting effects. Others trade in stylistic etchings. But as gamers and enthusiasts, we know that a keyboard isn’t just a keyboard. There’s a surprising level of engineering that goes into crafting our most intimate of peripherals, from actuation to the composition of the keys themselves. And Das’ Division Zero X40 is one of the few I’ve tested that truly owns the desk space.
The strength of its presence is largely attributed to its physicality. An anodized aluminum panel adorns the visible top of the keyboard. The curve of our sample’s lower lip, raised upper corners, and the geometric, crossing patterns maintain the brand’s professionalism while simultaneously presenting an edge of danger. In fact, it may very well be the sharpest keyboard I’ve laid eyes upon. Better still, the top panel is interchangeable. Eight black, round screws keep them in place, which have a supplemental effect of enhancing the X40’s industrial appearance, and removing them and the panels are a simple affair. The Stryker design that we were sent comes in silver, red, and olive. The Defamer design is available in silver and mustard.
Not to be left in the dark, the X40 features red LED backlighting. There are five brightness modes plus the ability to disable the lighting completely. And at its highest setting, it provides an appreciably strong level of illumination. Interestingly, the backlight will turn itself off after a brief period of inactivity. Touching any key re-enables it. If there’s a way to edit that behavior, however, I could not find one.
Moving to the rear of the keyboard we find the lengthy 6.5 foot braided cable. It ends in two USB 2.0 connections – one to power the keyboard and the other for its backlighting – and two minijacks for a headset and microphone. Furthermore, a single USB 2.0 pass-through connection is a welcome addition at the X40’s back right corner.
Five macro keys (M1 to M5) run down the keyboard’s left edge. Basic macro creation and assignment, along with a number of presets, can be configured through the X40 Gaming Keyboard software. But live macros can be recorded, as well. Pressing both the Fn and F12 (MR on its lower face) keys activates the latter’s secondary recording function and lets you know you’re ready to go with a series of blinks.
The Fn key serves more than just the facilitation of macros. As with other clutter conscious keyboards, the X40 relegates sleep, brightness, media playback, volume, and gaming mode (the disabling of the windows key) controls across the Escape and F1-F11 keys. That leaves the total dimensions at 19.13 (L) x 6.81 (W) x 1.22 (H) inches. It’s about half an inch shorter compared to competition like Logitech G910. That may seem like much, but the tighter organization does give it an attractive and formal symmetry.
Looks aren’t everything, of course. Feel is just as critical for a peripheral, if not more so, than how visually captivating it may or may not be. And for the X40’s mechanical switches, Das decided to go with those of their own making. Enter the Alpha-Zulu gaming switches. They feature a short 1.7 millimeters of actuation, a lengthy lifespan of 60 million strokes, and come in two flavors: tactile and linear. The tactile switches offer that classic mechanical sensation, a resistance halfway through an action. The linear switches don’t resist as much pressure from your finger, resulting in a smoother decline. More importantly, they’re designed to produce less noise. I didn’t find them as quiet as Logitech’s Romer-G switches, but the comparison was a close call. If you’re looking to avoid the traditional mechanical clang, Das’ linear switches should please your ears.
The Division Zero X40 is a winner in terms of its aesthetics and build quality. Meanwhile, its software does its job but without any exciting flourishes. That’s not entirely a complaint. No drivers or software are actually required for any functionality of the keyboard. It’s as plug-in-and-play as you can get. There are no advanced lighting effects requiring advanced drivers, either. The software lets you switch between five profiles, remap every key, change the polling rate (125Hz, 500Hz, and 1000Hz), and assign or edit macros. The macro manager even lets you tweak timings and loops. They’re the standard options you expect. My only disappointment, and it’s ultimately a minor one, is that the software’s gray, simplistic window and aliased text stands in contrast to the hearty craftsmanship of its companion hardware.
Division Zero M50 Pro Gaming Mouse
Das Keyboard has dealt almost exclusively in, if the name didn’t give it away, keyboards. But for their gaming division they’ve introduced their first mouse, the Division Zero M50. Thankfully, it shares many of the same strong qualities of its companion above, though there are a few issues that don’t elevate it to the same level.
If you’re anything like me, transitioning to a new mouse requires a period of adjustment. The size and weight can initially feel wrong. Eventually, the shape does start to fit in the hand, but only after spending a number of hours or days in frequent use. The first impression I had of the Das’ M50 ambidextrous gaming mouse, however, was that it immediately felt natural to hold. Soft rubber curves along the thumb and palm rests expedited that process. The hydrophobic and fingerprint resistant coating of the shell’s plastic were also successful at keeping sweat and the accompanying gunk that often follows it at bay.
The sight of the M50 is as pleasing as its grip. The majority of its color is primarily black, but the silver accents of its scroll wheel, two large DPI switches, and an aluminum base that flares out along the edges of the lower half gave the mouse a sense of refined maturity. Additionally, red LED’s emit an aggressive, pulsing glow. The light shines around the scroll wheel, DPI indicators, through the Division Zero logo atop the palm rest, and in a line above the metal plate. Sadly, customization of the lighting effects are limited. There’s only a single effect – pulsation – and you can only set it to one of three speeds or disable it entirely. At minimum, I would have preferred the inclusion of a solid color option.
Not unlike the X40 mechanical keyboard, the M50’s USB cable measures a respectable length at seven feet. It too is braided, though it does come in a red rather than black to match the mouse’s LED lighting.
The left and right edges of the mouse house two programmable buttons each. The only negative is that buttons at your non-dominant position, where your pinky finger sits, are harder to interact with. Other programmable buttons include the two DPI switches, the left and right primary buttons, and the three of the 4D tilt scroll wheel (down, left, and right movements).
A 6400 DPI 4G laser sensor drives the mouse. It’s been extremely responsive on both cloth and hard surfaces. But don’t expect to fine tune the four DPI settings. You’re stuck with Das’ selected values of 800, 1600, 3200, and 6400.
Lack of lighting and DPI customization aside, there was little to objectively complain about the M50’s general build. Subjectively, and this opinion will vary person to person, I did find it slightly heavy. I prefer smaller, lightweight mice. If one comes with additional weights, they get tossed into some dark, deep drawer never to be seen again. But the M50’s metal plate can’t be removed. That brings its total heft to 6.2 ounces. Meanwhile, the Logitech G303 weighs a slim 3.07 ounces and the popular Corsair M65 line, which includes optional weights, sits between 4.0 and 4.8 ounces. That’s the difference for me between long hours of gaming and feeling a little hand exhaustion.
Finally, the Das software for the M50 is fairly similar in construction to the X40 keyboard. Multiple profiles can be configured and stored on the mouse’s 128 KB of memory. The polling rate can be toggled between 125, 500, and 1000 Hz. Axis, pointer speed, and sensitivity are all customizable along with every programmable button. The software also includes the same macro manager. It works well without any noticeable bugs or crashes. I just hope they can update it with, at the very least, the ability to fine tune DPI values.
Das Keyboard’s first foray into building gaming peripherals is one to be applauded. The hardware is exceptionally well built, particularly the X40 mechanical keyboard, and dominates the desk with a mature but tough air. A few software tweaks here and weight reductions there and their lineup would be subjectively perfect. Das’ Division Zero X40 and M50 are available now for a retail price of $129.00 and $69.00 respectively.