Hands-on Review: Cinema 4D Backlit ASTRA Keyboard

April 4, 2018 - By 

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.

Hands-on Review: Cinema 4D Backlit ASTRA Keyboard - Hero

Image via LogicKeyboard.

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.

Hands-on Review: Cinema 4D Backlit ASTRA Keyboard - Layout

Image via LogicKeyboard.

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)

First Impressions

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.

Hands-on Review: Cinema 4D Backlit ASTRA Keyboard - Comparison

Image via Chad Ashley.

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.

The Good

Hands-on Review: Cinema 4D Backlit ASTRA Keyboard - Good

Image via Chad Ashley.

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

Hands-on Review: Cinema 4D Backlit ASTRA Keyboard - Bad

Image via Chad Ashley.

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.

Summary

Hands-on Review: Cinema 4D Backlit ASTRA Keyboard - Summary

Image via Chad Ashley.

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.

Posted In:  Tech
8  comments
8 Comments
  • Thanks a bunch for the review, Chad.

    I’ve just recently upgraded to a pc from an old mac tower and finding a keyboard was actually pretty crucial. I spent way too much time researching the types of keyboards and the different types of cherry key switches. I was going to go for a custom WASD keyboard (http://www.wasdkeyboards.com/) but after kitting it out (again too much time customising) didn’t really want to spend nearly $200 on a keyboard.

    I looked at the C4D ASTRA keyboard but desk space is limited and have never really like the look of the short cut keyboards. Too busy.

    I wanted a dedicated pc keyboard but also the style, size, and the key type of my mac keyboard. I eventually found the Mircosoft Modern Keyboard (https://www.microsoft.com/accessories/en-gb/products/keyboards/microsoft-modern-keyboard-with-fingerprint-id) It’s extremely close to the Surface’s bluetooth keyboard but you can plug it in, which is key. (get it? key?)

    Anyway thanks for sharing and greatly appreciate this stuff along with all the 3D work.

    • I tried the Surface keyboard at a local MS store and I was impressed! I may review that one next. 😉 Thanks for reading!

  • What I’d probably miss most are the hotkeys that I need to learn better, which are under the U(tilities) and M(odifier) submenus, it looks that doesn’t show on this keyboard.

    Chris once said that the best way to learn shortkeys is to look it up in the Shift-C menu once you need a tool, then back out and use the actual shortkeys. I have found that method to be very useful in learning many shortkeys.

    Did you find out the function for the different levels of brigthness/blueness of the keys?

  • jasfishgmail-com April 4, 2018 at 10:14 am

    I ordered one & am waiting for it to arrive. A lot of what you said is what I wondered as well. Anxious to give it a go, but the size concerns me a bit, plus wondering if I’ll stick with it after learning the shortcuts better. I do like the slim Apple keyboard so we’ll see I guess, haha! Thanks for the review & it was great to meet you at the mograph mixer in Milwaukee last week. I’m @_johnfischer on twitter. Cheers!

  • Logitech Craft keyboard! I just have to say I appreciate this article because I really value my keyboard.

    I also favor the slim chicklet style over the clicking and clacking of mechanical style keyboards. And this one is a beauty. I have a Microsoft surface at home and love it but when this came in at work I thought, this is simply better and more remarkable. The touch is soft, build is amazing, backlit, the dial for anything you want. It’s just solid! In fact so much so, I could probably use it to beat up an intruder and it wouldn’t get damaged. I’d highly recommend this keyboard to anyone.

  • “this keyboard is not easily affordable, with a retail price of $139.”

    . . .

    Still a lot less than my Kinesis Advantage 2 ($320, but worth every cent).

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