I have a Blackbird TKL Keyboard, I use it for maybe 12 hours a day on weekdays. It's great. There are a few niggles with it, but on the whole it's a decent keyboard and people should use decent keyboards whenever they can.
I'll start with a few basic details. This is the keyboard I'm talking about: Max Keyboard Blackbird Tenkeyless (TKL) Cherry MX Backlit Mechanical Keyboard. I bought mine from The Keyboard Company. It cost me slightly over £100.
Keyboardco have a good range of decent keyboards for all sorts of uses and seem to be good at replying if you have questions. Also a few friends have bought from them and (like me) found them to be very helpful. However this isn't an advert, I don't get paid for any of this waffle.
The keyboard is a tenkeyless (TKL) style - it doesn't have a numpad section, but does have the usual 3 columns of keys to the right of the main block (cursors, ins/del, PrtSc, etc). I chose Cherry Brown keyswitches as they give good tactile feedback and aren't too noisy (they definitely aren't quiet though!) Mine has the blue backlight LEDs, because that's what Keyboardco had in stock.
There are other fancy bits about the keyboard, such as it has a 2 port hub, side lights, customisable lighting. Those are nice frills, but not really relevant to me.
TKL - I really like this. No numpad means it takes less deskspace and my right hand is much nearer the trackball (Kensington Orbit Laser) - that's a [separate blog post](). Since I don't deal with lists of numbers or basic arithmetic very often, I don't miss the numpad for any number related tasks.
Probably the only thing that catches me out is doing block style code comments, because my finger memory reaches for the
/* */ combo that's usually above the numpad. That habit faded after a few months but occasionally I still find my right hand twitching towards the missing keys.
backlighting I was surprised how much good backlighting helps us non-touch-typers when the light conditions aren't great.
double-shot keytops To be honest, I don't know if it's the double-shot thing in particular, but the keytops themselves feel very solid, no rattling around and the shaping means my fingers find the right keys very easily. I hadn't really thought about the feel of keys on a keyboard until using this for a while (other than the obvious "dead squid" or "rattly scrabble tile" feel of really bad laptop keyboards).
Cherry Brown key switches It seems these are almost every programmer's favourite, little bit of weight, tactile feedback, audible but not distracting. It's probably a combination of the keyswitches and the keytops, but it really does feel like and easy and enjoyable pastime to type on this thing!
USB hub This was an irrelevance when comparing keyboards, but now it's proving a definite convenience for tidying my desk slightly. I have one cable from the back of the desk to the keyboard and a short cable from keyboard to trackball. That means there's pretty much no fiddling with USB cables on my desk during normal work.
Block comments As I mentioned above
/* */ style comments are slightly slower to type without a numpad and it's taken a while for my right hand to lose the habit of twitching above the numpad for the comments. If it annoyed me enough, all the IDEs/editors I use have macros or similar shortcut smarts which can slap block comments in place nice and fast.
Power hungry This is a keyboard, they usually draw very little current. But this one has a shedload of shiny lights and a microcontroller to power. So if I'm using a machine with particularly weedy USB ports (VDI devices, I'm looking at you
<grrr/>), the keyboard can act a bit erratic in its lighting effects. I'm probably not helping by hanging my trackball off the inbuilt hub too.
Luckily I have a powered USB switch/hub sat at the back of the desk, so the weedy machines plug into that, the keyboard plugs into the hub, the trackball plugs into the keyboard, and all is well again.
Forgetful side lights For some reason, despite the clever ARM processor and nifty custom lighting features, this keyboard often forgets whether I want the side lights on (I never do). I don't know why it does this - it's fine remembering the brightness of backlighting to use. Possibly this is a firmware bug in the keyboard, but I haven't found it mentioned anywhere.
Bright backlights Even the minimum backlight brightness is still quite bright. Bright enough that I spent quite a while failing to figure out how to dim them slightly more. Sadly the next step down is "off" :-(
It is clearly possible to dim the LEDs further because theres a fairly pointless "heartbeat" mode which cycles the backlight brightness up and down and that does go dimmer than the min settable dimness.
As a final word here, I want to persuade you to get a decent keyboard.
If you spend a large chunk of your days tapping away on a keyboard GET A GOOD ONE!
Seriously, if it's the main tool you have in your hands every day, spend time finding one that's right for you, and spend some cash on it. Specifically - whatever style of keyboard you like, get one with some decent keys. That means mechanical, or semi-mechanical, switches with some keytops you actually like touching.
My personal preference is for Cherry Brown switches, but you may prefer other Cherry options, or Topre, or Mattias, or Buckling Spring; just try a few and find the ones you like. I didn't find the Cherry Reds great for actual typing, although hardcore gamers apparently find them better when they're mashing away for hours on end. The important bit is to find out what works for you.
Double-shot keytops mean you won't wear the letters away. That's important if you can't touchtype. If you can (and you want to look extra cool), go for a Das Keyboard, or some other "Ninja" keytops. We'll all be impressed, promise! Or go DIY and paint your keytops yourself (yes Phil, I'm looking at you).
Double-shot keys also tend to have a bit more weight to them, and a better texture to the surface - they also seem to not polish up as fast as cheaper keys, but that's probably down to the actual plastic and moulds used rather than the double layer.
I'm not saying it should be a Blackbird, or a TKL, or backlit, or from Keyboardco. Just that if a keyboard is the main tool your hands use for your job, try some and find what works best for you. Don't jump at the most expensive, bling-covered, gamer luring, eye candy you see being used by eSports9000xxx. And don't just settle for whatever crappy bit of plastic someone threw in for free as an afterthought.