The scoop: Das Keyboard Professional with Quiet Key Design, by Das Keyboard, about $150.
What is it? This is the latest high-performance mechanical keyboard from Das Keyboard. It's similar to its other Professional models, but the biggest difference is the "quiet key design" that reduces the noise made by typists with the keyboard. The company says the keyboard requires less force to type -- 45g instead of 55g to 60g for other keyboards.
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Like other models from Das Keyboard, this version includes gold-plated mechanical key switches, two USB 2.0 ports (for powering other USB-enabled devices), a 6.6-foot USB cable to attach to your computer (or USB hub) and special function keys that can control the computer's volume, play/pause, etc.
Why it's cool: I've been a fan of Das Keyboard for many years now -- for fast touch-typists or people who do a lot of coding, the tactile response and fast keyboarding rates let you type much faster than on other standard keyboards. The new quiet key functionality works better for those times when you're taking notes on a Skype call, videoconference or other situations where you need to be quiet. While I still prefer the clickety-clackety sounds that the other Professional model makes, this quiet version didn't lose any points in terms of typing speed or accuracy. I'm sure some of my co-workers, who seemed slightly annoyed when I was in a typing groove, will appreciate the lower noise created by this keyboard.
Some caveats: The addition of a blue FN key (that activates the media controls on the top function keys) on the bottom-left side of the keyboard reduces the size of the Windows key, which is used by Macintosh systems as the Command key. This adds some difficulty to keyboard shortcuts like Command-C (copy) or Command-V (paste) for Mac users.
Das Keyboard does make a keyboard aimed at Mac users where the Windows key is replaced by a larger Command key, but this does not include the Quiet Key design.
Grade: 4 stars (out of five)
The scoop: GOgroove BlueSYNC SRC Portable Bluetooth Speaker and Receiver, by AccessoryPower.com, about $50.
What is it? This device is a small and portable speaker system that provides additional audio for Bluetooth-enabled devices, including your computer, smartphone, music player or tablet. The GOgroove BlueSYNC can easily connect to those devices from up to 30 feet away, and is powered by a removable rechargeable battery with up to eight hours of battery life. A power charging cable is included to run the device via wall outlet or your computer's USB port. In addition, an AUX port can provide wired support for non-Bluetooth audio devices, and it comes with a carrying case.
Why it's cool: The speaker is very nicely designed -- it's wider than it is tall, with curved edges and a nice red and blue light that would fit in well into any decorative situation (on a shelf, on your desk, etc.). The speaker can also connect to your phone to provide better speakerphone ability for conference calls.
Some caveats: The sound quality wasn't the best I've ever heard from a Bluetooth portable speaker (I'm still a fan of the Jawbone Jambox models), but it should still suffice for users who aren't extremely picky about the audio quality of their speakers or needs an inexpensive travel speaker.
Grade: 4 stars
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