IT & Systems Management

WASD Keyboards WASD V2: This is the keyboard you've been looking for

WASD Keyboard's WASD V2 is the ultimate tinkerer's keyboard. Like the Feenix Autore, the WASD V2 is focused more on aesthetics than frills. But where the Autore is a professionally designed, one-size-fits-all keyboard, the WASD V2 is your keyboard, because it's custom-built.

Go to the company's website and use its online designer to choose which Cherry MX switches it will use, whether or not it will have O-rings to dampen key clacking, the colors of its keycaps, its layout ( if you prefer Dvorak to QWERTY, for instance), and which symbol will be printed on the Windows key (Linux, anyone?).

If that doesn't provide enough choices, download WASD's design file and create something completely custom. Want a Zelda-themed keyboard? It's been done. Want your keyboard to display some phrase instead of QWERTY? Also been done. The WASD V2 is for people who obsess over customizing their computers. People like me.

Yes, the V2 is my day-to-day keyboard and has been for some time now. I'll be the first to acknowledge it's not the flashiest choice. It has no backlighting or macro keys, for instance--heck, mine doesn't even have a numeric keypad (I went for the 87-key model). But my V2 keyboard is undeniably my keyboard, just as my self-built PC is my  gaming rig.

I opted for a color scheme similar to the WASD default: A red Escape key and everything else in two-tone gray, with keycaps labeled with the Futura font. I could just as easily ordered an all-black keyboard with no key labels at all, or all-red keycaps that say "I <3 PCWORLD" across the home row. The case itself, on the other hand, can be any color you want, as long as it's black.

The absence of backlighting is a minus, because I frequently work at night, but it's not enough of a detraction considering the customization options and overall quality. This keyboard shows very little signs of wear and tear even after months of heavy use.

The V2 is not entirely devoid of frills. Its cable isn't braided, but you can route it through five different channels on its bottom, so it emerges from center, the top right, the top left, or the right or left side.

There's also a row of bona-fide DIP switches on the bottom of the keyboard. I know, right? DIP switches! In 2014! These enable customizations that on flashier keyboards would be handled by dedicated buttons. You can configure the Scroll Lock key to toggle the Windows key off and on, or disable the Windows key altogether. You can also remap the keys as Dvorak, Colemak, QWERTY, or Mac modes; you can flip the Caps Lock and Control key positions; and more.

True N-key rollover is supported only with the included PS/2 adapter--USB users are stuck with modified 6-key rollover (you can depress up to six keys simultaneously, and the keyboard will recognize additional key presses after that). I haven't had any problems, but dedicated gamers who use a lot of keyboard shortcuts will want to make sure their PC has an available PS/2 port (a legacy port that's been disappearing from modern motherboards).

The V2's Home block doubles as a media-player controller: Play/Pause, Stop, and Volume Up share space with the Insert, Home, and Page Up keys; Skip Forward, Skip Back, and Volume Down share space with the Delete, End, and Page Down keys. If you order a WASD board, make sure you opt to have those behaviors engraved on the keys, or you'll never remember they exist.

The V2 doesn't deliver much in the way of custom behaviors, but WASD is always at the top of my list when I'm asked to recommend a keyboard. They're expensive--$145 to $160, and changing switches or adding dampeners can add to those prices--but these are some of the best simple keyboards around, and no other manufacturer allows as much factory customization.


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