Our enhanced keyboard review coverage continues with another brand you probably haven’t heard of, despite them being part of a massive American corporation. Today we’re looking at the Deck Hassium Pro and Deck Francium Pro.
The Deck Hassium Pro and Deck Francium Pro are nearly identical models, the only significant difference being that one is a tenkeyless model. If you’re a science nerd, you probably already know which is which. Each are named after the atomic weight elements that match their key count; the 87 key Francium and the 108 key Hassium.
As for the Deck brand, it’s a subsidiary of TG3 Electronics, a Wisconsin based OEM hardware manufacturer specializing in components like industrial keyboards, keypads, control panels, etc. You’ll often find their products in hospitals, police cars, and so on. Some time ago, they decided to take their expertise in manufacturing keyboards where reliability is a major factor, and apply it to the retail market. The result is a combination of impressive features combined with some mind boggling choices in design.
I usually don’t like to start off a review on such a negative note, but we have to get this out of the way. Key legend design is absolutely a subjective thing so I won’t dwell on it too much, but it has to be addressed.
I’m not sure who is in charge of such things over at Deck, but the decision to use what looks to be a combination of the two most reviled fonts ever created – Papyrus and Comic Sans – made an odd choice indeed. Again, this is purely a matter of subjective opinion, so if you’d like a keyboard with this font, this is the only place you can get it. It’s certainly not the only keyboard that we have seen that uses a strange or ugly typeface.
Interestingly, Deck uses Helvetica for products sold in the APAC market. Those caps are ABS rather than PBT though, something we’ll discuss more later on.
The Good News
The good news is, aside from the hideous font, the Deck Francium and Deck Hassium keycaps are fantastic. They are made from durable PBT plastic, and are quite thick, at 1.5mm.
The PBT plastic feels thick and solid, and combined with a thick metal backplate, the key feel and sound is sublime.
Below is a demonstration of the typing sound on the Deck Hassium Pro and Deck Francium Pro. The former uses Cherry MX Brown switches, the latter uses Cherry MX Red. Feel free to compare them to the other typing sound demonstrations from our other keyboard reviews. Be sure to make note of switch type.[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA_6YEIEHtg&w=672&rel=0]
Compare Typing Sound:
You can tell just by listening that the Deck keys sound better than comparable boards when typing. And in my opinion, they feel the best of any Cherry MX keyboard I have ever typed on; they aren’t to the level of a Topre switch, but they are just below it.
Deck Hassium Pro 108 Key Layout
The Deck Hassium Pro sets itself apart from other “full size” keyboards by using a 108 key layout. This eliminates 4 keys from the function layer, although the extra keys are a bit oddly designed.
The four added keys are the Function key, which is used for the function layer – media keys, calculator, etc. Fn+F8 actually disables the Windows key – Deck was somehow able to resist the urge to call this a “Gaming” button of some sort.
The “Lightning Key” enables N-Key rollover – without it, 6 key rollover is supported. Why this needed a dedicated button to enable, I have no idea. And to make matters worse, enabling it leaves that key’s LED stuck on full brightness.
In another odd design choice, the lighting mode switch (which we’ll discuss on the next page) is under the function layer of this key. Except it’s not actually marked on the key, so you have to guess how to switch lighting modes (or RTFM, of course).
Beside that is the macro programming key. Macro programming works just like it did with the KBT Race II we reviewed a while back. In fact the Deck Hassium Pro manual is worded and laid out identically to other Vortex keyboards we’ve reviewed. This makes sense, considering both these Deck models as well as the Race II are manufactured by IKBC (some Ducky models are made there too).
To program a macro, hit FN+PN to enable programming mode, press the key you want to program, then enter the macro. Up to 64 characters can be saved per key, which is quite a lot. Next, hit the PN key to complete the macro. You can add in delays of either 10, 15, or 50 milliseconds by using Fn+INS, HOME, or PU while programming. To activate the macro, hold Pn and the key you just programmed. The Deck Hassium Pro features a fully programmable layer, which can be enabled by hitting the toggle switch (the two arrows).
Deck Francium Pro 87 Layout
Aside from the missing tenkey pad, the Francium Pro actually has a more well planned out layout than the Hassium Pro. While a few more keys reside under the Fn layer (including F12 sharing a key with the ESC button, which is weird), they actually make a good deal more sense and are labeled properly. Also, the placement of the FN key makes it easier to use.
The “Lightning Key” is still there, to enable or disable N-Key rollover if you are so inclined. When you enable it, the F10 key will be lit up at full brightness all the time though. For me, as long as it’s working properly (and it does on both these boards), 6 key rollover is plenty.
Since the lighting mode can no longer be shared with the Lightning Key, it has been moved over to F9. At least this time it gets a label.
Next you have the PN key, which works the same was as it does on the Hassium Pro. Enable the second layer using the key beside it.
Overall, the Francium Pro has a decent layout, considering all the options they wanted to put on it. It’s not without its quirks, though.