Hands-on Review: Cinema 4D Backlit ASTRA Keyboard
We test out the backlit Cinema 4D ASTRA keyboard from LogicKeyboard. Do you need one on your desk?
So why am I reviewing a keyboard when there are so many other juicy things to talk about in hardware? I guess because this particular item scratched an itch that’s been bothering me for two years.
When I first started learning Cinema 4D, I was coming from Maya and 3ds Max. To get a leg up on the learning curve, I decided to port most of my shortcuts over to C4D so I could get up and running as fast as possible. It was all going swimmingly until I started realizing that in most of my tutorials I would be hitting hotkeys that made complete sense to me in my Maya/Max mindset, but would be utterly confusing to the C4D artists following along.
I recently came across LogicKeyboard’s Cinema 4D ASTRA, a keyboard with specific hotkeys printed on each key. Was this keyboard finally my excuse to ditch my patchwork hotkeys and go legit? I reached out to LogicKeyboard, and they were kind enough to send me a unit to review.
Before we get into it, I think you should know that I’m not a mechanical keyboard enthusiast (though this was not for lack of trying). I purchased a Cherry MX3850 and gave mechanical keyboards a shot. After about a week of the clickety-clack lifestyle, I ended up back at my trusty Apple wired keyboard. Yes, I’m on a PC and I use an Apple keyboard. I’m a sucker for both the form factor and the feel of the Mac keys. I don’t like a lot of travel, and I love how quiet it is. With that in mind, here’s what I thought about this scissor-switch Cinema 4D keyboard.
ASTRA Cinema 4D Keyboard Specs:
- Backlit keys
- Dimmable light with five levels
- Built-in dual USB-ports 2.0
- Scissor-switch keys
- Color-coded labelled shortcut keys with graphical commands
- Compatible with PC and Mac
- Dimensions – 17 5/8” x 6” x 11/4” (446mm x 150mm x 30mm)
- Net weight – 2.1 lbs (950 grams)
- Number of keys – 104 (ANSI version) 105 (ISO version)
- Manufactured for 10.000.000 keystrokes per key
- 1.8 meter cable with separate keyboard and hub connections (avoid interference with USB extenders)
I have to say, I was rather impressed by Logickeyboard’s packaging and overall presentation. A clean well-designed box is always a treat to open. Especially those with magnetic clasps that snap shut. Always satisfying. In addition to the keyboard, it shipped with a disposable cleaning wipe and a transparent silicone keyboard cover.
The keyboard itself was larger than I had expected. A few inches longer and deeper than my Apple keyboard. A bit taller as well. The ASTRA has a dual USB plug, one to plug directly into your machine’s keyboard port, and another USB 3 plug that will turn the keyboard into a USB 3.0 hub.
What immediately drew my attention was all of the useful standard Cinema 4D shortcuts printed on all of the keys. It was like looking into a shortcut menu sitting right under your fingers. The printing on the keys is of high quality and well designed overall. When backlit, the ASTRA has several levels of brightness, but no RGB support. I must note that keys do seem uneven in their translucency.
Once I plugged the ASTRA in, I fired up C4D and I was off and running. I simply had to delete my old shortcuts and switch to the C4D default layout.
Overall, typing on the ASTRA is a reasonably pleasant experience. Key travel and feel was on par with other scissor-switch keyboards I’ve owned. I must say though that the hardware is not what impresses with the ASTRA. The keyboard’s ability to teach me the proper shortcuts in C4D keeps me coming back. It turns out having hotkeys in front of my face and under my fingers is precisely the sort of motivation I needed to legitimize my shortcuts.
I began to transition to the new keys reasonably quickly, and whenever I got stuck a quick glance down would set me straight. I also enjoyed the multiple levels of backlighting. It was helpful to transition to a brighter back when needed. I found myself discovering shortcuts printed on the keys that I had never even known about.
The Not So Good
The biggest problem I had with the ASTRA was the build quality. Several times my right index finger would catch the underside of the “h” key and nearly pop it off. A few other keys also randomly popped off with barely a press. Luckily they could snap right back into place but it was annoying nonetheless.
I personally was not a big fan of the key press feel, which was a bit mushy. My fingers would become fatigued when typing for long periods of time. Its size was not as big of an issue as I had anticipated, but I do wish it were a bit slimmer.
It’s worth mentioning that this keyboard is not easily affordable, with a retail price of $139. At that price, I would have liked to see some dedicated audio controls, or perhaps a slimmer build.
I’m rather split overall. I would highly recommend the LogicKeyboard ASTRA for anyone wanting to double down on learning the C4D shortcuts. This is a fantastic learning tool, much more useful than a laminated shortcut cheat sheet (which I’ve had my fair share of over the years).
Though it has a well designed look and appeal, the keyboard itself doesn’t really stand out from other traditional keyboards. If you are a big fan of mechanical or scissor-switch keyboards, you likely won’t be stunned by this device.
So if you are ready to commit to being a hotkey master, this might be worth the price tag. The real question is whether or not it stays on your desk when you’re ready to take the training wheels off. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
You can check out or order the LogicKeyboard Cinema 4D ASTRA keyboard here.