Introducing the TECK

Back in late January, I received the TECK for review, a keyboard that goes by the not-so-humble name of “Truly Ergonomic Computer Keyboard”, manufactured by a company that likewise uses the name Truly Ergonomic (hello name space collision). I’m sure other companies that make ergonomic keyboards might take exception to the name, but as far as I’m concerned that’s mostly marketing. The real question is how the TECK fares in day-to-day use, and whether it’s really a better keyboard for serious typists—and particularly typists like me that suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)—compared to the other options.

I won’t sugarcoat the difficulty of the initial learning curve: it’s brutal, and I already wrote some first impressions on the subject. If you buy a keyboard like this, you’re going to need to plan on a solid three or four days minimum before you can start to approach your previous efficiency. Give it another week or two, though, and as with most things it becomes mostly second nature. With over a month of regular use now in my back pocket, I’m ready to provide some thoughts on the TECK experience. Can any keyboard possibly be worth a price of entry well north of $200? I suppose that depends on what you’re doing with it.

My Background—Why the TECK Matters

Let me start with a bit of background information so that you know where I’m coming from and why I would even be interested in using the TECK. Currently, I’m the Senior Editor of the laptops/notebooks section at AnandTech, but I also provide proofing/editing on various other articles, and I dabble in the occasional other section. I’ve now been with AnandTech for 8.5 years, and during that time I’ve gone from 30 years old to a ripening 39 year old. I have a habit of being perhaps more verbose than necessary in my reviews (my current record goes to the ~25K word socket 939 SFF roundup back in late 2005—and it’s the reason I try to avoid roundups these days). Succinctly put, I type quite a bit on a keyboard and as I got older I started having issues with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

I’ve tried a few other approaches during the years to help mitigate the irritation of CTS, including doing a lot of dictation using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for a few years. I actually like Dragon, but when I got married and then had one young child and later a second enter into the equation (I now have a 10 year old, nearly 3 year old, and our baby just turned 1 this past weekend), I found that getting the necessary privacy to do proper dictation can be rather difficult. So as much as I like the idea of speech recognition, it’s probably not going to be viable for me until either my children get old enough that they can learn to leave dad alone while he’s working, or I get an office with a soundproof door I can lock myself behind.

My secondary approach to alleviating my CTS has been threefold. First, try to type less; I basically quit commenting on most hardware enthusiast forums because it was creating extra wear and tear on the aging carpals. Second, try to exercise more, eat healthier, and take breaks from the computer every hour or so—I’m not doing so well on that last part, though I’m definitely in better shape and eating healthier than when I was in my early 30s and 20s! Finally, I switched to a split keyboard back in 2004, a Microsoft Natural that I still have today—it’s so old that it doesn’t even have a USB connection if that helps. All of the above help to varying degrees, but until I fully quit typing I suspect I’m going to have to continue the search for ways to avoid causing my carpals undue stress.

When Dustin started reviewing mechanical keyboards last year, I started taking a minor interest. I have plenty of other keyboards around the house, not to mention a bunch of laptops as well, but they’re all “cheap” membrane-based keyboards. I was curious to see if anyone offered a good mechanical switch keyboard with an ergonomic design—basically something like my MS Natural but with Cherry MX switches. There was only one option at the time, from Kinesis, and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for plus it was priced way higher than I wanted to spend. Then early this year a press release crossed my email inbox (forwarded from Dustin) about a new ergonomic keyboard with mechanical switches, the TECK. I was intrigued and sent an email asking for a review sample, and that brings us to today’s review.

Now you know something more about my background and interest in the TECK. For the record, I now have a Kinesis Advantage for review as well, which will replace the TECK once I finish with this review. Then I’ll use it for a few weeks and will provide some thoughts on how they compare. But for now, let’s move on to the TECK itself and look at the design along with a subjective evaluation.

TECK: Rethinking Ergonomics
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  • lordofthepants - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - link

    The shinning of the keys from one month of use is pretty appalling, I have also had some issues with RSI with my wrists (although likely much less sever than the author), I had been using a microsoft ergo 4000 keyboard for some time. This Christmas I asked for and received a WASD V1 (mx-brown w/ dampers .2mm) keyboard i have been using this along with a GRIFITI wrist pad since and have found that with the better key feel (typing less forcefully than with the membrane 4000) wrist strain issues have actually been reduced since moving from the Microsoft ergo keyboard to the standard WASD mechanical keyboard. I have been banging on this thing for a few months now and while the WASD uses ABS keycaps mine is not showing any shinning of the keycaps so far (including gaming keys ... I have been doing a fair amount of gaming with this keyboard).

    Even if you have some RSI / Carpal tunnel issues I wouldn't entirely discount moving to a standard layout mechanical keyboard (combined with attention to ergonomics and a suitable wrist wrest.) Before running out to get this TECK thing ...

    Seems like the TECK might work well for some but may also be more hassle than it is worth for others ..and involve a lot of learning curve. The Keycap wear seems pretty bad for such a short time of use also... that would put me off that thing pretty quickly, On the upside for me should my WASD keycaps start wearing later on I could replaced them with a new set fairly easily if needed/ Desired.
    Reply
  • Azteca - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - link

    Another self-promoting can of SPAM; only overlooking their own website and a coupon.

    In regard to keycap shinning or glossiness, it happens on all keyboards and varies a lot as it mostly depends on the user's way of typing and how much oily is the users' skin. The TECK keycaps are made out of ABS plastic, same as the majority including wasd's, so they will shine at the same pace with the same user and usage.

    What is also beneficial on the TECK, which is not mentioned in the article, is that the letters and symbols are laser printed which last a long time, particularly compared to cheap stickers used in most keyboards that completely fade out within weeks.

    I believe that one month of retraining your brain on how to type healthier is a very short time compared to years to come in typing.
    Reply
  • Maryon Jeane - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    My keycaps are shining to some extent (noticeable mainly on the spacebars and the central keys (Enter, Backspace, Tab and whatever the other one was before I remapped it to Delete) but none of the key letters or symbols have become even slightly less legible after over a year of very hard and daily use. Reply
  • onelin - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - link

    Really great read, Jarred! I'm psyched to see reviews on ergonomic keyboards as I'm currently searching for something better than an Ms natural myself blocking forward to your thoughts on the Kinesis keyboard. Reply
  • blackboxbeast - Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - link

    Thanks for a great article. It convinced me to find a better alternative to my MS ego. I was going to wait for the Kinesis review but no matter how good it is I can't justify the cost. I went with the Freestyle2 instead. I like the idea of being able to switch the postion we will see if that turns out to be the case. Reply
  • Kraziken - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    Hi Jarrad,

    I don't have any carpal tunnel problems, but found it more comfortable on Ergonomic keyboards. Like you I probably started on the Microsoft style ergnomic keyboard.

    I eventually found a somewhat obscure keyboard. Called the Smartboard. They've since gone out of business a few years ago. And as I type this comment, my current Smartboard is about 10 years old. I've had three of them and this of course is the last one.

    Like the truly ergonomic, they attempted to re-allign the keys to some extent. The footprint of the keyboard is smaller. And they have the loud clicky microswitch keys (that I actually like).

    They still seem to have a web presence, but I wonder if you can even order from them anymore.

    In any case. I'm wondering if you have ever tried a smartboard. If so, any similar feel to the Truly Ergonomic?

    Thanks
    Ken

    http://www.datadesktech.com/desktop_sb.html
    Reply
  • ksound - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link

    I bought the TECK about a month ago, getting used to the layout was a pain but it does feel more ergonomic and worth it. I never use the nu pad so I love that my mouse is a lot closer now. I had a lot of issues with the switches, first a and b would often register multiple times than I had the m and arrow keys that would 1 out of 2 times not register at all or multiple times and the alt was extremely flaky. This made editing code a real pain. but after a few days it got way better (hardly ever occurred again) It seems like the keys need to break in but this is an issue that needs to go away and never come back. So I'm really torn now. I love everything about this keyboard expect this issue. Since you're having the same issue it doesn't seem like I just had a lemon so a replacement is not an option and the shipping cost to Europe was insane anyway (I mean really $50!). do I send it back with the money back guaranty of will the issue with the switches go and stay away? Has anyone else had the issue with the switches and did the problem persist? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link

    In talking with Truly Ergonomic, it sounds like they just don't have good quality control or are doing something weird with the keys that causes the doubling of characters. I now get occasional problems on multiple keys besides just E and I, but I find if I type with a firm touch I don't get repeats -- which of course is in direct contradiction to using the MX Brown switches as I understand things! I'm going to do a video of me switching to the Kinesis today I hope, and then I'll commence adapting to yet another layout and see if I get any problems with doubling of keystrokes by the time I'm done with the review. At this point, that's all I can contribute; I'd almost like to get a TECK with MX Blue or something other than Brown to see if that helps, but they don't make such a keyboard right now. Reply
  • Tallon - Monday, April 15, 2013 - link

    TECK does have a keyboard with MX Red if you're interested http://www.trulyergonomic.com/store/index.php?rout... Reply
  • Maryon Jeane - Monday, July 08, 2013 - link

    Hi ksound -

    Yes, it seems that plenty of other people have come across this problem to a greater or lesser extent (and mine was certainly greater!). If you have a look at my full review below, you will see my answer to the problem and the (welcome) fact that the problem did go away and didn't return.
    Reply

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