Help with choosing a good ergonomic keyboard for Windows 8
Thread poster: Cveta Kundtz

Cveta Kundtz  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:33
Macedonian to English
+ ...
Mar 28, 2013

I'm hunting for a new keyboard (U.S Standard) and need some advice. I spend most of my day typing and want a comfortable ergonomic keyboard. I touch type, so the position of the keys is pretty important. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good keyboard? I prefer USB over wireless and have a budget under $75. Thanks for your help!

 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 15:33
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
The Field of Keyboards is a vast one Mar 28, 2013

Ergonomic Keyboards, for the most part (the common consumer ones that you can pick up at most local stores) are, in my opinion, more of a gimmick than anything else.
Ergonomics, as a whole, depends on your entire work station setup and each individual item, although contributing to the experience of course, has a very limited affect if the other parts of the work station are not that ergonomic.

When it comes to Keyboards you should know that they are divided into two (well, three) major categories - Rubber domes (the "cheap" ones, and the majority in the market; and Mechanical. This definitions refer to the switch (key) mechanism, which in turn affect the entire typing experience. The third common switch mechanism is Scissor-switch which can be found mostly in the keyboard of modern laptops and some desktop keyboards (Apple's keyboards, some Logitech ones) and is it somewhat the middle point between the two.

While there is nothing wrong with Rubber dome keyboards, and due to the fact that 'typing experience' is a completely subjective matter so there is no one universal truth about which is "better", I personally think that those who enjoy typing (or at least spend a lot of time doing so) and appreciate it are more likely to benefit and enjoy Mechanical Keyboards over Rubber domes.
That being said, Mechanical keyboards are in general more expensive (usually starting from a 100$ price point) and they are a world of their own (different switch types, structure, etc.).

You can get a very basic feeling about the look and sound of the mechanical switch in the following YouTube video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzX0MnVzEAU

At your price range the only keyboards that I've found which are readily available in the US are:
Razer BlackWidow Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
and
Rosewill Mechanical Keyboard with Cherry MX Blue Switch
Both uses a Blue MX switch (the "clicky" type that somewhat resembles the sound of a typewriter), that overall is quote nice for typing, but may be too "loud" for some people.


[Edited at 2013-03-28 14:08 GMT]


 

IrimiConsulting  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 14:33
Member (2006)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Microsoft Natural Keyboard Mar 28, 2013

I'm on my third Microsoft Natural Keyboard, which AFAIK is one of the few split keyboards available and can be had from Newegg for $39.99.I have the USB version.

While the feel of the keys are important (rubber/mechanical switch, stroke distance etc.) I am more sensitive to the layout.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Sit further away Mar 28, 2013

Cveta Kundtz wrote:
I spend most of my day typing and want a comfortable ergonomic keyboard. I touch type, so the position of the keys is pretty important.


The positioning of the keys only matter if you can't control how close to the keyboard you have to sit. Try sitting further away from the keyboard, and your wrists will return to a more natural position. Of course, it helps if your desk is big enough for you to do that.

I use a Logitech K120 keyboard -- it was quite cheap. The keys feel easy and they make the right noises.

If I sit like I was taught to sit when I took blind typing lessons, the keyboard is very uncomfortable. But if I push the keyboard away from me so that there is about 30-40 cm between me and the keyboard, and I have room to rest about half of my forearms (not just my wrists) on the desk when necessary, it becomes relaxing to type.


 

Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:33
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Snap! Mar 28, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

I use a Logitech K120 keyboard

I push the keyboard away from me so that there is about 30-40 cm between me and the keyboard, and I have room to rest about half of my forearms (not just my wrists) on the desk when necessary, it becomes relaxing to type.



I use the same keyboard and the same technique!


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My previous keyboards (off-topic?) Mar 28, 2013

Emma Goldsmith wrote:
Samuel Murray wrote:
I use a Logitech K120 keyboard. ... I push the keyboard away from me so that there is about 30-40 cm between me and the keyboard, and I have room to rest about half of my forearms (not just my wrists) on the desk when necessary, it becomes relaxing to type.

I use the same keyboard and the same technique!


Actually, this is my second-favourite keyboard. I prefer a keyboard that is flatter and whose keys make less noise, but the feel of the Logitech K120 is quite good nonetheless.

A previous keyboard that really did it for me was the keyboard that came free with the eMachines EL1200-05w. I got it at a local computer store after I complained that I did not want the fancy keyboard but that I'm willing to pay the same price for a "normal" keyboard, and so the salesman simply sold me a fancy one and then swapped it for the free one that comes with the eMachines machine. Unfortunately I could not find another one after the first one broke.

After that I tried various keyboards (wasting money) until I discovered the Eminent EM3120, which was absolutely fantastic. Soft as butter, yet responsive. However, it broke after 3 months, and apparently that was a problem with that particular model, because I could not get another one anywhere. I would have gladly bought 10 of them and use a new one every three months, really. I actually found one on a web shop and grabbed it, but when they sent it to me, it turned out to be the useless model EM3124, which was touted as the upgrade version, but I trashed it after four days of agony.

I think I must go to the store where I got my K120 and buy myself a ten-pack, just in case.

Looking back at the keyboards that did it for me and didn't do it for me, I'm forced to examine what exactly it is that makes a keyboard work for me. Well, for one, the distance from the right-hand edge of the keyboard to the actual number pad mustn't be too great, otherwise I can't grab it with my pinky when I orient my fingers for using the number pad. Also, there should be no extra keys (e.g. media keys) too close to the F keys, because I need to be able to use them without looking. This was a problem with the E3124 -- I kept hitting media keys instead of F keys. Other than that, I need keys that work when I press them slightly, and even when I press them at an angle. Some keyboards required that you hit the keys straight down. I've also had keyboards in which the space bar absolutely had to be hit in the centre of it, otherwise half of the spaces don't get typed. I prefer my Esc key flush with the other keys (but the K120 doesn't have that).



[Edited at 2013-03-28 17:26 GMT]


 

Eileen Cartoon  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:33
Italian to English
If I had my "druthers" Mar 28, 2013

I have found that cheap keyboards work better for me than the more expensive ones (I don't know for sure but I think they are mechanical) because the keys themselves exert less backpressure. They are easier to press and thus allow me to type faster.

But, if Ihad my "druthers", I would love to find a keybaord without the numbers pad (or with a removable section that could be moved. this would bring the mouse closer to the keyboard and I woul dnot have to reach as far. I do use the mouse quite a bit and I feel it in my right shoulder.


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 15:33
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
I would recommend a MX Red switch Mar 28, 2013

Samuel,
From your description I would recommend you try a keyboard based on a MX Red switch.
Mechanical keyboards are not flat (the mechanism needs place), so you would probably need to use a Wrist-rest of some kind, but they do offer flat typing feeling. First, each key sits on its own mechanism, so you can click it almost from any angle, and every click is guaranteed to register once you hit the actuation point (the point in which the click is registered). MX switches have a 4 mm travel distance, and the actuation point is just about in the middle. You don't need to bottom out the key for it to register, if you will develop the skill to click it just half way, what would be enough (and supposedly less tiring on the finger, which I think is a bit of exaggeration). The blue switch offers a noticeable tactile feedback which means that when you reach the actuation point the resistance of the switch increases (a little, not to much of course) to indicate that you can release it and move on. The red switch is a linear one (not tactile feedback), which means that it harder to not bottom out, but it is a soft key and has a really nice feeling to it. If you love "soft" no-hassle (to feedback from the mechanism) keyboards but also appreciate responsiveness, I think that Reds are a safe bet.
Brown switches are kind of a an hybrid between the two, they have tactile feedback (although much less noticeable compared with the Blues) and they are soft. They could also be a good starting point.
However, all mechanical keyboards are "loud". Some love that clickiness, other don't. Reds and Brown are among the "silent" types. Those who look to get get an audible experience that resembles Laptops should look for Scissor switch based keyboards (a little hard to find, and that detail is not published in the specification). These switch are very flat (this is way they are used in Laptops) and pretty silent. Some of Logitech's K series are Scissor switch based keyboards (although it changes and the information about the key type is not documents in the specification).

Edit
Eileen, there are such keyboards. There are mechanical keyboards without a keypad. And Microsoft has one (or two) keyboards from their X series (X6 or X4, or both) with a detachable keypad (there are probably more that I'm unaware of). Also, if you use the mouse quite a lot and it raises space/ergonomics/comfortableness issues, you might want to give a (good) trackball a try. It is not for everyone (mostly due to prejudice), but once mastered it could prove to be much better than a traditional mouse for some.

[Edited at 2013-03-28 17:59 GMT]


 

Nuno Rosalino
Portugal
Local time: 13:33
Member (2012)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Like Shai and Samuel said... Mar 28, 2013

Since everyone has already given you so many great suggestions as far as keyboards go, I'd like to contribute something that, although not a direct answer to your question, might still help you.

Essentially, I share Shai's and Samuel's opinion: in and of themselves ergonomic keyboards won't magically make typing more comfortable for you, nor will they help prevent RSIs any more than any other keyboard - proper posture along with proper exercises will help a lot more in those regards.

I'll just leave this link here, which I hope will be of assistance to anyone who might be struggling with work-related RSI.

[Edited at 2013-03-28 18:24 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Are you a typist or a translator? Mar 28, 2013

Cveta Kundtz wrote:
I spend most of my day typing and want a comfortable ergonomic keyboard.


I forgot to ask -- are you a typist or a translator? In other words, would your hands stay in the same position for long periods of time and will you type with a constant speed for long periods of time (i.e. typist) or would your hands move away from the keyboard regularly and will you type with short bursts of speed followed by short periods of inactivity (i.e. translator)? If I were a typist, I think I would have preferred a keyboard with a wrist rest, to force my hands into a more piano posture, but as a translator I want the space directly around the keys (e.g. where my hands drop down to during rest) to be free from obstacles. What do you think?


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:33
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Too obsessed with switches? Mar 29, 2013

I think our colleagues are a bit obsessed with the switch type. What matters much more in my opinion is to use a split keyboard. I started with Microsoft's Natural Keyboard some 17-18 years ago, got used in two days, and since then it has always been split keyboards.

Over the last 10 years it has been Logitech's Cordless Desktop Pro, which I think is no longer manufactured. Sad, because this keyboard has endured many millions of words typed with a single glitch. I type some 11 hours a day including many weekends, and never had any discomfort in my hands or wrists.

The trend these days seems to be towards a wave-like keyboard that is not really a split and which they call "ergonomic" when it really does not change your hands' position much. The idea of a split keyboard is that there is some distance between the hands, with your hands not horizontal as with a normal keyboard but slighly tilted to the sides, so these wave-like keyboards are no good in my opinion. An ergonomic keyboard should be higher in the middle and with an angle towards the sides, a bit like a saddle roof.

A good option that allows you to set the angle you like is the Goldtouch GTU-0088 V2 Adjustable Comfort Keyboard, which I would definitely buy if they produced a Spanish version. However, make sure you buy the full-sized version: do not get fooled (as I was) into the laptop version, because its keys are much smaller and kill the whole purpose of using a split keyboard.

Other options that look good to me are:
- Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
- Fellowes Microban Split Design Keyboard
- Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000


 

Cveta Kundtz  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:33
Macedonian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for all the answers and comments! Mar 29, 2013

All of them are very helpful.

I was looking at Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, just because is very popular one and it looks really comfortable. But, nothing else popped out at me and I wanted to see what other options were out there.

@Tomás - I was looking at the split keyboards as well. But since I never used one before, I am not sure if it is going to feel awkward, and how easy is it going to be to get accustomed to the layout.

@Samuel - Thank you so much for your answers. You are always so thorough. To answer your questions, I am a translator and I do take frequent breaks when I type. However, I prefer to use the keyboard over the mouse, even when I switch between windows and programs. I find the use of mouse too much time consuming. That is the reason why I switched back to Windows and why I need new keyboard.
I think the distance of the keyboard is okay. I seem to struggle with the bottom row keys for some reason. I assume that somewhat curved layout might sort the problem.

@Nuno – Thank you so much for the link you provided! That was going to be my next step in improving my office setup. I do have some neck and shoulder pain, and I believe that is because of my sitting posture.

@IrimiConsulting – I am the same way. The sound or the feel of the keys does not matter much to me. I think the layout will make the difference.

@Shai – Thank you for all the suggestions! I have to admit that I love the sounds of the mechanical keyboards, even though I do not think that is a paramount.

@Eileen – I do not think that I use the number keypad much either. But I’m not bothered by it.

Thank you all for the detailed and thorough answers! It’s so much easier to make a decision now.


 


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