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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  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Perhaps I missed it, but the biggest issue with "modern" keyboards is the change in shape and size of the Enter/Return key. In the old days, when keyboards were man-sized, the key was reverse L shaped and considerably larger, and could be reached with the little finger without twisting the wrist.

    I see that the Enter key is for the thumb. How much of the CTS burden reduction is due just to reducing use of that finger?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Possibly a lot. It took several days, maybe even a week or two, before I was accustomed to the new location of the Enter key, but it does make sense when you adapt. I find that anything that requires the use of my pinkies just tends to be more of a stretch than the other fingers, so getting the pinky off of Enter key duty is good. Of course, the poor left pinky still gets a workout over there hitting Shift...For whatever reason, I always use my left pinky for Shift when typing, though on the other hand I always use my right thumb for space. Heh. Reply
  • Manabu - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - link

    I and almost everyone that I know also uses only one thumb for hitting space (generally the right too). I aways wanted a keyboard with a split space key, with the other half being either a shift or a enter key, with some more keys a bit lower by the center also for the thumb to hit.

    Instead, manufactures keep doing those gigant, loud, some times hard to press, space keys. Why, why not split it in two buttons, even if by default both are mapped to space?
    Reply
  • AmigaGeek - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    I've been a user of Kinesis for ~15 years now. I started with the traditional QWERTY and a few years back switched it out to Dvorak. From my own personal experience, the transition is painful. Extremely painful. There were times when I wanted to pick up my keyboard and smash it repeatedly. Imagine having to admin UNIX boxes and have 3 broken fingers on each hand. That's what I felt like. However, after about a year (not months) I can say that I'm back up to speed. Again, from my experience, Dvorak isn't about "speed", it's about comfort. I can still switch between QWERTY and Dvorak and when I go back to Qwerty I notice a huge difference in finger travel. Either gets the job done, but as an owner of 3 Kinesis's I can't say enough about them. Reply
  • Sam Lord - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    @amigageek:
    "...Dvorak isn't about "speed", it's about comfort. I can still switch between QWERTY and Dvorak and when I go back to Qwerty I notice a huge difference in finger travel..."
    It's about both. I have a Typematrix Dvorak and it's pretty good, but DVORAK itself never *properly* applied the kappa test (frequency of particular keystrokes), so a new approach would be ideal. Predictive typing combined with a good kappa algorithm would ease typing immensely, as would vocal correction of prediction mistakes, IMO.
    Reply
  • fic2 - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    "Poof! The document was gone without being saved, and the scream of agony that escaped my mouth caused my wife and children to jump in alarm."

    In Word: Office Button->Word Options->Save->Save AutoRecovery information every X minutes.
    Check the box to enable it.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    You don't understand: when you close a document and it asks if you want to save, and you say "no", all the AutoRecovery files get wiped clean as well. I tried to recover them with undelete -- they have to be out there somewhere, right? -- but could find nothing that resembled my missing document. Reply
  • marc1000 - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    perhaps some file-recovery program? like Nero's recovery tool? (can't remember the name). with on you could find the deleted temporary word document and get it back. Reply
  • fic2 - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Ah, yeah you are right I missed that part. Sounds like something that would happen the night before a thesis is due. Reply
  • TeamSprocket - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    This is certainly a unique looking ergo keyboard, seems better than the stuff other companies put out. I'd be willing to give it a try.

    Does this come in Dvorak?

    Not trolling, I'm seriously asking. I use Dvorak full time when able (self taught over 13 years ago, able to maintain over 100 wpm on a government typing test), but I'm equally fluent in QWERTY (because the rest of the world is stubborn, maintain over 60wpm). It's easy enough to switch to Dvorak in software, but I'd like to have it built into hardware if possible.
    Reply

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