IBM made its first Model M keyboard in the 1980s, and it quickly rose to a cult product among typing purists who preferred its buckling spring keys to the thin scissor-switch laptop keys we use today. The Deck 82 is the latest iteration of the classic Model M design, with Cherry MX black key switches, ultrabright backlit LEDs under each of the 82 keys, and a compact chassis that saves precious work-space real estate. At $119, the Deck 82 is cheaper than many of the mechanical keyboards we've reviewed, and its open architecture makes it easily accessible for user modifications. Although the adjusted key layout adds time to the learning curve, we recommend the Deck 82 mechanical backlit keyboard to anyone looking to upgrade his or her input device.
Design and features
The 82 is Deck Keyboards' answer to the high demand for the short-lived compact version of the IBM Model M, also known as the Space Saving keyboard for its 10-key-less layout. Likewise, the Deck 82 also eliminates the number pad on the right side of traditional keyboards to save room on your desktop, and the whole chassis measures just 12 inches wide by 6 inches deep by 1.8 inches tall.
Of course, reducing the number of keys also means that some of them need to be rerouted to nontraditional locations that may add time to the learning curve. For example, Deck moves the Delete key to the left of the four-way directional pad at the bottom, the Windows key earns a prominent position at the very top-right corner, and the Print Screen and SysRq keys are combined with Pause and Break.
Finally, the Page Up and Page Down keys line up vertically in a column on the right, and you'll also notice a keycap labeled "Fn" to the right of the space bar. That key toggles the secondary functions that you can assign to any of the F1 through F12 keys on the top row, and it's also used to adjust the brightness of the backlit LEDs hidden underneath each of the keycaps.
Deck tells us that the LEDs are rated at approximately 200,000 hours of life (that's 22 years, if you're doing the math), and that's if you never turn it off. Combined with the Cherry MX black keycaps' reported 50 million key-press life span, the Deck 82 will likely outlive the user depending on its care.
The Deck 82 contains 83 LEDs lights total--a light under each of the 82 keys, another under the Caps Lock indicator, and yet another on the translucent USB plug. You can toggle between seven levels of brightness by holding down the Fn key while simultaneously pressing the up or down arrows. Alternatively, you can also Fn and the 1-7 numbers for predefined luminescence, and believe us when we say the keyboard gets very bright: the maximum brightness tops out at 5.25 milliamps (mA), and the steady glow is very useful for working at night or channeling your inner hacker.
The company currently only offers the stock keyboard in Ice Blue, which is the unit we reviewed, but the four screws on the bottom steel plate make it easy to replace the blue with the different colored casings available for purchase from Deck.