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.
Deck also welcomes creative input for new functions and color suggestions on its Web Forum. A quick glance at the existing threads shows some users adding things like an integrated USB port similar to the replicator on the Das Keyboard, individual LED controls, custom paint jobs, and so on. The company also generously covers modded keyboards under its standard one-year warranty, within reason. And if you're not into experimenting with your Deck, you can also purchase replacement cables and keycaps.
Mechanical key switches offer a more tactile typing experience than the standard rubber dome switches you get on stock input devices. As with the IBM Model M, many users may enjoy the tactility and audible click emitted by the keys' resistance, but the sound unfortunately eliminates the appeal for office dwellers who may irritate their surrounding coworkers.
On the other hand, the Deck 82 uses linear Cherry MX black switches that give off a smoother, more pillowy feel than the Cherry MX blue series, but do require a little more actuation force to engage--60g, to be exact. The vertical depression distance down to the bottom of the key also feels longer because the actuation and release points are in the same position underneath the caps. Deck uses this style intentionally for the benefit of gamers who frequently hit the wrong button in play; the 4-millimeter key travel distance from top to bottom eliminates these accidental key presses. Lastly, hard-core gamers will also enjoy up to six simultaneous key presses at once on the 82, not including modifier keys (such as Shift and Alt), a feature commonly known as "rollover."
At the time of this review, Deck only offers PC versions of its custom keyboards. Like all USB plug-and-play devices, you can still use the Deck 82 with an Apple computer with no problems aside from the lack of an Eject button and incorrect artwork on the keycaps. For Mac users who want to swap the Alt (Option) and Windows (Command or Apple) keys, we recommend installing KeyRemap4MacBook, a lightweight application that lets you change nearly every key function on the board. Alternatively, PC users should check out a Registry hack called SharpKeys to remap individual keys to commonly used functions like media navigation, volume control, and app launches.
Deck keeps the door open to modifications on its 82-series illuminated keyboards with provisions for replacement USB cables, alternate colored chassis, and swappable keycaps. The Deck 82's burly physical build and durable internal key switches ensure its longevity, and its relatively low price tag for a mechanical keyboard solidifies our recommendation for those looking to upgrade their typing hardware.