Review: Déck Keyboard

by on June 3, 2005

With the advent of USB, many peripherals work with both Macs and PCs. This, along with OS X’s built-in universal drivers, has opened up Mac users to a wide range of keyboards and mice, some that aren’t even specifically designed for Macs.

The Déck Keyboard is intended for PC users, but has some features that make it appealing to Mac users, such as backlit keys, a small footprint, and key mechanisms similar to the old Apple Extended Keyboard. Rather than utilize rubber domes that usually feel somewhat mushy, the Déck uses springs, giving it a more responsive feel when typing.

Déck Keyboard
Déck Keyboard

Déck Keyboard
Apple Keyboard and Déck Keyboard

Déck Keyboard
Déck Keyboard Bottom

Déck Keyboard
Déck Keyboard Close-up

Déck Keyboard
An Extra Keycap

At first glance, the Déck is a rather unusual looking keyboard. Instead of the standard 104/105-key layout, it has only 82 keys. Some keys are moved, like a laptop keyboard, and some are missing altogether. This reminded us of the keyboards that shipped with the first Macs, although the Déck has slightly more keys. Also, it seems that the “business” versions of this keyboard can be found in many emergency vehicles (such as police cars and fire trucks).

To install the keyboard, just plug it in, using the removable USB cable. In later versions of OS X, you must follow the Keyboard Setup Assistant, but there are no other steps. The keyboard works out of the box with Windows, Linux, and Macs. On OS X, the Windows key performs the same function as the Apple key and the Alt key takes the place of Option. Everything else works as expected. Mac users will be happy to find that the keycaps are easily removed and swapped, so if you use a utility like uControl, you can have your Control, Alt/Option, and Apple/Command keys where you want them. Also included is an extra skull-and-crossbones keycap to replace the Windows key (or any other key if you are so inclined).

Just like most other PC keyboards, the Pause/PrtSc key is the same as F13 and Ins takes the place of Help.

The construction of the Déck feels quite durable. The bottom is diamond-plated aluminum, and the sides are thick plastic. The keyboard doesn’t creak or feel weak. What is cool is that you can open the keyboard and modify it — and it doesn’t void the warranty (as long as you don’t do any destructive modifications).

One drawback is that unlike almost every other USB keyboard (especially those for Macs) on the market, the Déck does not have any additional USB ports, so most people will find themselves needing a hub. On the upside, the USB cable is removable, allowing you to use any USB A-to-B cable. The included cable is lighted at both ends, and matched the color of the keyboard. The USB cable can be routed out of either the left or right side of the back of the keyboard.

Speaking of lighting, the keyboard is backlit, just like the more expensive PowerBooks. The backlighting is done by LEDs under each key, and matches the outer plastic of the keyboard. Pressing the FN key and the numbers 1-7 or 0 adjusts the brightness of the lighting or turns it off. Alternatively, you can also press FN and the up/down arrow keys to change the brightness. The LED indicator on the Caps Lock key is blue regardless of what keyboard you choose, but the backlight under the lettering matches the others. In case you were wondering why the LED is under the keycap instead of somewhere else, TG3 explains:

Why is the Caps Lock LED in the keycap and not in the upper right like IBM standard keyboards?
Because this where it actually belongs. IBM took the easy way out when creating the standard 101 key keyboards. The difficulty comes in making a lighted key. With the goal to save time and money IBM took some shortcuts.”

Also nice is that the lettering on the keys is fairly large and really easy to read. Even with the backlighting off, it’s pretty easy to find the right key you’re looking for.

Typing is very comfortable for long periods of time on the Déck. Although the modified layout took some getting used to (it’s similar, but not quite the same as the iBook). I actually found having the Apple/Command key in the upper corner quite handy.

Overall, the Déck Keyboard might a tad on the pricey side, considering that the Matias TactilePro features the same type of key mechanisms in a more traditional design and a better warranty at the same price, but the Déck does have the “cool” factor, small size, and customizability. If you want to be like Deputy T. Junior and have a computer setup for your car, or if you have a USB hub and can get used to the layout, the Déck might a good choice.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The Déck Keyboard, while not for everyone, is great for anyone who wants a unique, customizable, backlit keyboard.

Pros: Comfortable, good tactile feedback, small size, lighted keys, removable USB cable, solid construction

Cons: No additional USB ports, somewhat pricey, layout takes some getting used to

The Facts

4/5Product: Déck Keyboard
Company: TG3Electronics
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $99-$119

This post has been filed in Input Devices, Reviews