Date: 2013-01-27 Title: A few keyboards Tags: hardware, reviews
I have been typing the Dvorak layout for about 8 years now, and I have been using the Kensington Slim Type Keyboard K64365 for the last 6 years (I think).
But recently, the RSI is starting to kick in again. I really hated my desk at Accenture Duck Creek. It was a tad too high (or my chair didn’t raise high enough,) hard melanine board, and I could just never get comfortable at it. In addition, this has been aggrevated a bit by all the home improvements we have been doing over the past month.
So, I checked out two other keyboards that have scissor-switch mechanisms (which I greatly prefer over plungers) and I’ll compare them here.
When I first purchased this, I tried a few different keyboards, and it was my third favorite, next to just about any laptop keyboard and an older generic PS2 scissor-switch keyboard. So, I ended up buying two, and now actually own 4. Work, home, home virus station, and a backup boxed up in the closet.
What I like about the Kensington is that it has low-profile and low-travel keys. It features the standard arrow layout, has a large enter and backspace (my most used key), and slighly domed caps, much like a laptop.
What I don’t care for about this keyboard is that while it is low profile, the front of the keyboard is 5/16” high and does not feature a palm rest. That lift ends up being just enough to be annoying, especially on a hard desk. Wrist pads are all too tall, and you can never get them adjusted to the right spot. About the best luck I have had with it is to place a couple of mouse pads in front of it. This can be especially awkward at work, considering my crappy corner desk that I have used.
Also, the Home, Insert, etc. are not layed out in the more traditional style (I think) of 3w x 2h.
A little annoying in low-light conditions is that the function keys offer no separation betwenen them and the number row, nor are they grouped in sets of four. Finding F4 can be a bit tough at night.
And finally, after comparing it with the two keyboards, I’ve noticed that the keys require considerably more force to actuate.
I purchased this (and the Kinesis) last week. Backlit may seem silly for a home computer, but as you can see in the picture below, I use a keyboard tray at home, and I like to have just one lamp on in my home office. While I do touch-type, the backlighting will be nice for finding the less-seldom used keys, especially as I get to learn the keyboard. It features four settings, off through high.
I didnt’t purchase it for the backlighting exclusively, but wanted to try another low profile keyboard. While I saw reviews that the palm rest is too small, I saw others that raved about the keyboard. The palmrest does have a soft touch to it, and it does reduce pressure and strain in comparison to the Kensington, but, it is a bit short. It hits me right at where the pad of my palm starts, so my pads still take all the force and weight of my arms.
The keys are snappy, with a strong tactile return. They seem to take slightly less force than the Kensington, but I wouldn’t call either a light-touch keyboard.
It features the standard arrows, as well as a modified 3w x 2h Home bank, with Delete taking a whole row and Insert moved up to the function row. If you use insert regularly, this will drive you crazy.
The function row is grouped into fours and separated from the number row. As many other reviews have noted, the F1 … lettering is on the front of the keys so it faces you, but these are not lazer etched and therefor not backlit. However there’s enough light on the keys around that you’ll probably be able to see them, and you can usually look for the banks of 4.
One really cool feature to this is the space bar row is raised and domed slightly. It makes it, as well as ALT etc extremely easy to hit.
All in all this is OK, but I don’t think it’s going to reduce the strain at all that I’m feeling on the Kensington.
And finally, the Freestyle 2. I picked this because I saw positive reviews just about everywhere, and it is a split keyboard tha features the ability to set the separation, angle, and lift of each keypad independently.
I have never typed for prolonged periods of time on an ergonomic or split keyboard. Immediately, I noticed two things.
When separating them, I felt a lot of strain go away. My shoulders relaxed and my wrists seemed to feel a bit better.
When typing and needing the modifiers such as Control + Arrows, I felt a longing for the keyboard to be back together. The best I can tell is because I was more used to the spacial differences between the Left Control and the Arrow pad, and I actually take my right hand off of the keyboard to get to the arrows. The rest of it felt fine, I didn’t find myself having too many problems getting used to the keys being split.
At first, I separated the keyboard to what felt best ergonomically. I also set it up at 15 degrees lift, which felt great, but, I found that this was too much of a change from my traditional typing posture, so I dropped it to 5 degrees and moved the keypads in quite a bit.
I’ve typed this entire comparison on the Kinesis, and it has gone fairly well. I’ve noticed at every position, the keyboard feels plenty sturdy.
I highly recommend the add-on kit. I haven’t tried it without it, and don’t think I would enjoy it much. You can’t adjust the lift/pitch and the keyboard lip is a bit high so you would want to adapt that somehow. Personally, I think they should just mark the price of the keyboard up and include the add-on kit with it. But, I think they were trying to cheat the $100 price point.
They intentionally left the number pad off of this, as they can sell it as an add-on, I mean, it wouldn’t fit nicely actually with the way the pads are laid out. This saves desk space if you don’t use the number pad. I do use it on occasion, but I don’t think I’m going to miss it that bad.
The keys are the traditional height caps, and as such have further travel than I would like. However, they have a nice, soft touch to them and I think this is going to make a huge difference for me. They are also not too loud; it’s not the quietest keyboard I’ve ever tried, and I still wish I could get that feel of a laptop keyboard without having to type on the laptop, but this will do. (Note I did try a Mac keyboard in the recent past. These have a decent key actuation, and is very similar to what I was looking for, however it felt cramped. Also the caps aren’t indented quite as much as I like)
They have stacked the home bank, and while I should be used to that because of the Kensington, I’m not. I think that is in large part because I probably find the number pad on the Kensington and then work left to the bank. Also, the Kensington is Home, Pg Up, Pg Down, End, and I’m really used to that layout. Given that I use a real operating system that lets me easily remap the keys, I will probably be changing that.
And finally, I would recommend trying this out without putting the palm pads on first. THey are a bit thick and so they basically end up shortening the palm rest a bit. It now feels like they hit me in the back of my pad, whereas before that was resting nicely on the rest and there is a good beveled edge so it doesn’t cut in. These are replaceable, so I’m probably just going to remove them. YMMV, but I’d try it for a while first.
The winner for me is hands down the Kinesis. I expect a couple of the keys to take me a while to learn, and I am going to have to add a tube light to my office desk drawer now if I want backlighting, but that’s OK, I’ve wanted to do that for a while anyway.
If I had not liked it, I probably would go with the Logitech for both the client’s office and my office, and would throw it on top of a Rhinoskin. Altough, I may have tried to create a small palm rest for the Kensington. I bought a Rhinoskin for the desk and intended to hack it up to make one.
If you like heavier actuation, go with the Kensington or Logitech. The Logitech really pushes the keys back up at you. I think you’ll be mostly satisfied with either of those, with the two biggest drawbacks for me being the heavy actuation and the lack of sufficient palm rests.