I’ve been buying WASD boards since 2014. I’ve had the standard 87-Key and the CODE variants. I’ve had them with Cherry clear switches, brown MX switches and blue MX switches. The blues have been the ones I’ve tended to stick with.
What’s new with v3 of the CODE
In looking at a bunch of keyboards for a long piece on mechanical keyboards I wrote for Smashing Magazine (not published yet!) I have been looking at the WASD CODE V3. Two big things here in V3; you can choose Zealio switches, rather than just Cherry MX and the board can also be programmed. Both those points warrant further discussion but before we get to that, let’s get you up to speed.
WASD makes great mechanical keyboards, and crucially, if you are just getting into mechanical keyboards, they offer a ‘one-stop-shop’. You can choose your layout (full size or TKL for example), switches and even get every single keycap in the colour and font of your choice. They even do a white case option now. All in all, WASD is a pretty compelling option. The boards are made in Taiwan and ship from the USA.
The CODE version
The CODE version differs in that whilst the housing is the same as their stock keyboard, it uses backlighting and keycaps that let that backlight through. Otherwise it is functionally identical to the ‘standard’ WASD board of equivalent layout.
The chassis of WASD keyboards is sturdy plastic (ABS). They have a confidence inspiring heft about them — they aren’t something that shifts around your desk unless you make a special effort to do so. The feet are substantial and very grippy. In all my years using one as my daily driver, I’ve never had it move around accidentally. The feet also flip out if you want a greater incline.
Big thumbs up for cable routing
Special mention has to go to the cable routing options on the WASD boards. They have channels in the base meaning you can orient your cable so that it leaves the board at either side, to the side of the back or straight out of the back centre. Oh, it’s USB-C on the CODE V3 too (you get a USB-C => USB-A cable along with a keycap puller in the box). It drives me nuts that more keyboard makers don’t offer more than one option for cable routing. If you like a nice clean desk, this routing capability is a welcome addition.
I said before that the case is ABS plastic. I’m a fan of aluminium cases on mechanical keyboards, I enjoy the colour options available, and the fact they are completely solid to the touch. Conversely, even a super tough board like the WASD can flex and creak slightly if you push in the top case at the sides. Obviously, you won’t be doing that day-to-day and the WASD suffers no more than any other ABS board. But despite it’s toughness, it is still only plastic.
The only thing I would be wary of regarding the case, is choosing a white one. ABS, historically has been prone to discoloration over years (admittedly many years) of use. I don’t know if that’s going to be the case here, but it might be worth asking the question of WASD first if the white is your preferred colour and this is a keyboard you are hoping to live with for years.
Update 30.4.2020 — Aluminium cases
WASD have released aluminium case upgrades! For $150-$160 you can add a black/silver/grey aluminium case to your WASD at order time and have your board built with aluminium chassis. They are available for full size and TKL v2 and v3 boards.
Perhaps even better news for existing owners though is that you can buy it separately and swap out your existing plastic case.
Caveats to note being there are no flip-out feet or those lovely cable channels in the aluminium chassis. Not sure how straightforward the swap-over process would be either but as I’m tempted, perhaps this post will be updated in due course.
Aesthetically, the CODE is a deliberately understated design. I’m a fan of that. What I’m not a fan of is lighting on keyboards, as I’m over 10 years of age, but at least here it’s done tastefully, if that’s your thing. Personally, I’d rather opt for a nice legible PBT keycap set but each to their own.
This is the first version of the CODE to offer programmability. They have always had dip switches on the board to change things like making the Caps Lock key a CTRL instead, or having Dvorak or Colemak layout. However, for V3 you can create macros and move keys around to your hearts desire.
I’ll be honest though, while it’s a robust setup here, I’d much rather have access to QMK for this kind of thing — it’s just a lot easier to wrap your head around. Ultimately, although I’ve played around with creating macros, I never find much use for them practically, long term.
I’m a fan of tactile switches. For the uninitiated, those are the kind of switches that offer some resistance at the top of the press but don’t make a click sound. For the CODE V3 the biggest news for me was that you can now opt for Zealio 67g tactile switches instead of Cherry MX ones. And I’m happy to report, they are GREAT! Switch preference is a very individual thing but I think these switches are perfect in this board, giving wonderful tactile feedback and a lovely sound signature.
If you want a solid mechanical keyboard, this WASD represents an excellent choice. I wish it used QMK instead of its own method of programming but it certainly isn’t a deal breaker.
If I were choosing, I would also probably opt for the non-CODE variant as backlighting doesn’t appeal to me and I don’t like ABS keycaps — it drives me nuts when they go shiny. They do the standard V3 with a double-shot PBT keycap set which I think is the choice offering the greatest longevity.
There is plenty to recommend the WASD CODE V3 and standard V3 on the practicality front; great gripping feet, substantial heft, clever cable routing and the option of Zealio key switches. If you don’t want to get involved in the minutia of decisions to build your own but want a high quality mechanical keyboard, put the WASD V3 near the top of your shopping list.