Our Top Pick for 2018: Kinesis KB500USB-BLK Advantage USB Contoured Keyboard
Read our full review.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Typing on a traditional, flat keyboard. Those who learned to type on a typewriter had to adjust to the lack of levels. Those who began typing on a computer keyboard did not have to make any such adjustments. However, many people soon found that typing on a flat keyboard for long periods of time led to hand, wrist and arm pain. If you are one of those people, then you definitely need to look at these ergonomic keyboard options to find the one that works for you.
#1. Kinesis KB500USB-BLK Advantage USB Contoured Keyboard
All it takes is one look at this keyboard to see that it is completely different from an average keyboard. Rather than have all the keys laid out across the board, this keyboard divides them into three sections. The arrangement of the keys allows users to hold their arms and wrists in a more natural position, thus alleviating pain.
Made by Kinesis Computer Ergonomics and sold by Ergo Warehouse, this unusual black keyboard weighs just 2.2 pounds and measures 16.5 inches wide by 8 inches in depth by 2.875 inches in height. To illustrate the separation in the keys, there are 9 whole inches between the F key and the J key! It attaches via a USB cable that is 7 feet and 3 inches long.
Here is a list with descriptions of the features you will find in this keyboard.
1. Separate thumb keypads: Rather than have keys such as “Enter”, “Space”, “Backspace” and “Delete” at the outer edges of the keyboard where they must be operated with the smallest two fingers, this keyboard places them in the center of the keyboard and provides them for both the right and left hands. Being able to manipulate these keys using your thumbs equates to less strain on your hands, wrists and arms.
2. Separate concave key wells for each hand: As mentioned before, the keys are divided into two groups and placed on opposite sides of the keyboard. In addition, they are also placed into a curved well and at a 20 degree tilted angle. This position allows wrists to remain straight while typing, but still keeps yours arms at the correct width. The wells themselves are concave which permits your fingers to extend downwards into the well. This is a natural and relaxed position for fingers of all lengths instead of a stressed one often found when using flat keyboards.
3. Vertical key layout: The keys themselves are placed into vertical columns rather than being staggered as on a normal keyboard. This better fits the motions of your fingers.
4. Closer placement of function keys and integral palm support: Keys such as “Control” and “Alt” are placed near to the alphanumeric keys to prevent extreme motions and painful stretches. Furthermore, the keyboard provides palm support with optional self-adhesive pads.
5. Cherry MX (Brown) Low-force, tactile key switches: Kinesis specially ordered this key type in 1992. Each time you strike a key, your fingers must press hard enough to know that the key has been activated. This keyboard offers a peak (tactile) force of 55 grams and an activation force of 45 grams. Having low-force tactile keys means that you can reduce the amount of force used to type while also preventing damage to the keys themselves from too hard of an impact.
6. Embedded 10-key layout: The “calculator” found on the right side of a traditional keyboard can be found in the right keywell of this keyboard. The numbers themselves are located on the front edge of the key caps for reference. Operation can be switched to the left keywell if desired.
7. Key re-mapping and Macro programmable: With the ability to re-map keys to other locations, you can definitely make this keyboard your own. In addition, you can program up to 48 macros for long-term use.
8. Optional foot switches: There are three foot switches that can be programmed to perform the task of a keystroke such as the “shift” or “back space” function.
This keyboard can be used with the following operating systems: Windows (2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10), Mac (OS 8.6 and higher) and Linux. It arrived pre-configured for Windows, but you can quickly change its configuration to match your OS. It offers an integrated 2-port 1.1 USB hub as well as onboard memory. This keyboard allows “hot-plugging” which is the ability to plug and unplug devices without damage while the computer is in operation.
Amazon itself offers a return policy on computers that will provide a full refund within 30 days of purchase. However, the computer must be either “dead on arrival” or still in an unopened box.
Customers who have the Windows 7 OS and a computer with a USB 3.0 port will find that this keyboard will not function for their system. On occasion, the bios settings can be changed to solve the issue, but usually a cable conversion kit is required.
Users who in the past experienced pain from a traditional keyboard rave about this keyboard and its ability to eliminate that pain. They do report that it takes time to get accustomed to using the new layout and position of the keys. Many report that they have become faster at typing and learned to type by touch. They do report some trouble with the programmability of the keys and express a wish for features like being wireless and having backlit keys.
#2. Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
This keyboard looks a bit more like the standard keyboard you might be accustomed to. Even so, you’ll notice a few differences. The keyboard itself is still split and each side is slightly angled due to a “wave-like” rise in the keyboard itself. This provides a similar natural arm, wrist and hand position found in our top pick, but at a much lower cost.
This Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard is slightly larger than our top pick with measurements of 20 inches wide by 11 inches deep by 3 inches high. It weighs 5 pounds and comes with a 100 MB hard drive as well as a USB Port. It will operate on the following systems: Windows 2000, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. However, it will not function on Windows XP 64-bit. It also functions on any MAC with an operating system of 10.2x – 10.4x.
Here are the features you will find in this keyboard.
1. Curved key bed with ergonomic arc and reversed slope: Resembling a slightly swelling wave of water, this keyboard has a raise located about one third of its length from the left hand side. This rise and fall in key location provides the perfect position for your arms, hands and wrists and prevents a great deal of the pain that occurs when typing the traditional way.
2. Plush palm rests: While a place to rest your palms may seem unnecessary, those who use them report that they greatly assist in reducing pain. Some prefer to use them only when taking a break from typing while others have learned to keep their wrists rested on the while typing.
3. Zoom Slider: This feature is located right in the center of the keyboard and gives you the chance to quickly zoom in and out on the images found on your screen. It is operated with just one finger which also serves to minimize the movement required of your hands.
4. Customizable Hot Keys: Users will find five keys that can be programmed as “hot keys.” These keys allow the user to press just one key and immediately open a file, folder or favorite website. You can even program them to reply to email messages if desired.
5. Improved Number Pad: Rather than integrate the number pad into other keys, this keyboard has maintained a separate keypad. It it still placed on the right side of the keyboard and other commonly used symbols such as the equal sign, parentheses and “backspace” are found just above it for ease in access.
6. Device Stage: Using the keyboard hot keys and multimedia keys, you can operate many popular devices such as cameras, printers, cell phones, webcams and more using this keyboard.
7. Lockable F Keys: To prevent accidental usage of the Function keys, this keyboard allows you the option of locking them.
The same warranty offered by Amazon for our top pick applies to this product as well. Users can return a broken on arrival or a new in box product for a full refund up to 30 days after purchase.
Users of this keyboard admit that it is a bit of an adjustment getting used to this keyboard. However, after just a few days of typing, you should notice an improvement. They speak about its sturdy construction and comfortable wrist rests. Those who type for hours and hours per day say that having their arms, hands and wrists in a more natural position eliminates virtually all their pain. The keyboard is reported to be fairly quiet when striking the keys even at full force. It should be noted that this keyboard may not function with older motherboards due to being USB only.
#3. Logitech K350 2.4Ghz Wireless Keyboard
Our third place pick looks even closer to a traditional keyboard layout. However, the keys themselves are position in a slight vertical and horizontal wave. Not quite as radical of a change as our first two picks, this keyboard is still designed to assist users into keeping their arms, hands and wrists in the best positions for use.
The Logitech Wireless Keyboard is black in color, weighs 3.3 pounds and measures 18.9 inches long by 9.9 inches deep by 2.9 inches high. Being a wireless keyboard, it is powered by a AA battery and offers a 2.4 GHz Radio Frequency. It comes with the keyboard itself, a Logitech Unifying receiver, 2 AA batteries, a receiver extender cable and user documentation.
Its features include the following items.
1. Comfort Wave Design with Wave, Curve and Palm Rest: As described above, this keyboard has a different approach to ergonomics. It provides waves and curves in various locations across its surface that are designed to accommodate the natural shape of your hands and the lengths of different fingers. The soft palm rest will also provide the perfect place for you to place your wrists both during and between typing sessions.
2. Three-year battery life: The long-lasting batteries that come pre-installed in this keyboard may cause you to forget that batteries are even needed at all. Logitech has worked hard to provide batteries that will hold up under constant use for a long period of time. The life of the batteries has been based on the average of 2 million office keystrokes per year. The keyboard also comes with an on/off switch located on the bottom.
3. Wireless: 2.4 GHz wireless: Being a wireless keyboard means that you can have your keyboard anywhere you would prefer without having to be right up next to the computer you are working on. Some users will connect their computer to a larger screen such as a television set and then type comfortably from their sofa. Being wireless means that you can type while on the move as well. In addition, the keyboard’s receiver cable allows you to extend the reach of your wireless signal by up to 5 feet.
4. Unifying receiver: This device attaches to your computer (laptop) and allows you to have up to six unifying devices such as additional keyboards or a mouse connected to your computer. You may decide to have a keyboard and mouse set at work and another at home to eliminate transportation concerns. With this technology, all you have to do is turn on the computer and the accessories will be automatically connected via the receiver.
This keyboard will function in any Windows-based PC including Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. It does require both a USB Port and an internet connection to operate.
Logitech offers a five year, limited hardware warranty and as with other computer products, Amazon offers its 30 day money-back guarantee on products that are still in the box and unused or those that are broken upon arrival.
Customers state that the keyboard has a solid and sturdy feel. They like the fact that the keys are not all that different from a traditional keyboard in size and shape. This makes it easier to learn to use this keyboard while the wave shape does all the work in re-positioning the arms. They report that the palm rest may end up being a wrist rest for those with small hands, but is comfortable, nonetheless. Users state that a combined total of 16 of the 12 function keys and the 8 silver speciality keys can be reprogrammed to perform desired functions. They do mention that users should be sure to keep their software updated as this will ensure that the keyboard functions to its best ability.
#4. Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 3000
Our final pick is the closest to a traditional keyboard in layout. However, even this keyboard still provides some changes that will aid users in preventing pain and injuries due to large amounts of keyboard use.
The keys on this products are the same size and located in a familiar place compared to standard keyboards. This means that users will not have to relearn how to type before seeing benefits from use. It offers a very slim design and is slightly curved both horizontally and vertically to better accommodate hands and fingers. These features have brought endorsements by professionals in the field of ergonomics.
It weighs in at just 3 pounds and measures 19.3 inches long by 7.1 inches deep by 1.6 inches high. Similar to our third place pick, this keyboard offers users several easy access media keys that can be programmed to open or control certain functions.
The Microsoft Curved Comfort Keyboard operates on Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP. It will not operate on Windows XP 64-bit systems. A USB Port is required for its use.
Amazon offers its standard 30 day warranty on this computer product. Customers can return products that were broken on arrival or products that are still unopened in their boxes for a full refund up to 30 days after purchase.
Users generally agree that this products assists them in placing their arms, hands and wrists correctly while typing. This has reduced some of the pain they feel from constant use. Many prefer the smaller size compared to the Microsoft Natural Keyboard (pick #2) due to the size of their workspace or their hands. Users report that the keyboard will also function on MAC OS X to some extent. However, there are some keys such as the calculator button and the num lock button that will not work in a MAC OS X.
The keyboard itself is reported to be very quiet, but the keys do not have that sharp click sound and feel when being pushed. Users state that it is a bit like pressing against a felt cushioning under the key itself. They like the availability of both a full set of arrow keys and a number pad, but do state that no space is saved when having both of these functions in a keyboard. Lastly, if you are a gamer, this keyboard’s WASD layout is different and may make it harder to game easily.
The biggest factor that must be considered when purchasing any computer accessory or software is whether or not it will function with your operating system. For those that choose the common option of a Windows computer, this may not be much of a problem. However, for those who choose to use a MAC OS or the Linux OS, it is imperative that you confirm that the keyboard you purchase is compatible. Not doing this will only lead to headache and frustration, not to mention perhaps wasted time and money.
It’s clear that you want an ergonomic keyboard. However, the question you must ask is how far do you want to go in the scale of ergonomics. Do you want to have your keys radically divided into two distinct areas or do you prefer something a little less drastic? While you may think you prefer the radical option, you should take the time to consider how long it may take you to learn how to type using that keyboard format. Perhaps you could achieve the same ergonomic relief without having to relearn everything by just choosing a keyboard that has slight changes made to it instead.
Everyone has arms, hands and wrists of different sizes. We also all have different ideas of what is comfortable and what is not. You may find that you prefer to have a keyboard that has had radical shape changes made to it. Deep concave wells holding keys might be the perfect solution to your typing problems. On the other hand, you could prefer one that has a simple wave in the middle or one that has curves. Everyone should carefully analyze how you hold your hands and which shape would be best suited for your own personal needs.
This may seem obvious, but if your device does not have a USB Port then you are going to find these keyboards somewhat challenging to use. Examine the device (i.e. laptop, tablet, PC, et cetera) to determine if a USB Port is available. If there is no USB Port, then you must consider purchasing an adapter to allow you to connect the keyboard to your device. Even if you do have an USB Port on your device, remember that plugging in the keyboard means that USB Port cannot be used for anything else while you are using the keyboard. Plugging in a thumb drive to retrieve a picture or file may prove to be disruptive.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
Choosing the correct ergonomic keyboard is a matter of examining the different options that are available and then deciding which of the features are most important for your situation. While you can spend a lot of money purchasing such a keyboard, it is not always necessary to do so in order to obtain relief from the pain caused by typing.