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  • ahmadamaj - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    this keyboard NEEDS a wireless charging pad for the phone. it will sit perfectly in the space in the middle, and it will be extremely useful. Reply
  • Inteli - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    Why not mod the keyboard to incorporate one? As you said, it has plenty of room! Reply
  • mikelanding - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    I am Kinesis Advantage user for almost 6 months. You should remap some keys to suit your typing style. If you want to reduce your pingky usage. You should remap Shift key to Thumb cluster. It will help reduce the load on pinky. Reply
  • Bas de Bakker - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    I've used one for over 12 years, first a PS/2 model, now a USB one. Never had any failure. I have it completely remapped, based on the Maltron layout. The 'E' is on a thumb key, other frequently used letters on the home row. I really love this keyboard.

    An additional advantage is that it is completely impossible for anyone else to use my computer.
    Reply
  • Eascen - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    Appreciate the reviews -- as an aging programmer (I'm going to hit 30 this year), this is becoming far more of interest... Reply
  • krazyderek - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    also a kinesis advantage user, after 2 years, my original (and expensive) ps/2 model started to experience random key repeats with even the slightest hit of the keys, i never could stomac the $70 repair fee plus shipping on such an expensive keyboard and ended up buying a used kinesis maxim on ebay instead and liked it a lot more.
    I remapped the the space and return to the backspace and delete so that i could play first person shooters, and press space to accept dialogue boxes when my hand was on the mouse, and remap the alt key on the left side to swap it with the left ctrl key that way you can press the right ctrl, left alt and some key for shortcuts and use your pinky for the shift key if you have to
    Reply
  • cgunhouse - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    I have the original model of the Kinesis Keyboard, about 20 years old, and when this started for me, I popped the keys and clean it up. Reply
  • kolepard - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    I would love to see a review of the DataHand (see http://www.datahand.com/). I've watched this keyboard for years, but have never been able to try one or even see on in person. Very spendy, but it really looks like it would be the best keyboard solution, and separating the halves of the keyboard is, I think, more ergonomic than having a fixed width, as neutral arm position does not land your hands as far internally rotated as they have to be using the other keyboards. Any chance of seeing a DataHand review in the future? Reply
  • themelon - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    Wow, they don't want my business. There webserver is blocking my TW Cable IP address.... Reply
  • themelon - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    Their... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    I believe part of the problem is our linking parsed the ). as part of the URL, so try this:
    http://www.datahand.com/

    I recall reading about their stuff a long time ago, and it would definitely be interesting to try it, but at $1000 and currently out of stock I don't know if they'd be interested in sending anything -- or if they even could.

    Actually, that setup reminds me a bit of watching my old college roommate play Quake with a SpaceOrb 3D controller; he hardly moved his hands and yet he would be cruising around the levels and could be me nine times out of ten. It looks like the idea with the DataHand is that you only have to "start" the movement towards where a key would be on a normal keyboard and it will register? I bet the learning curve is pretty tough on that one -- worse than the TECK or Kinesis even!
    Reply
  • ericbojo - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    Make it so.. i would love to hear a review about this! Reply
  • ericbojo - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    I would really like to see a video of the Datahand in action.. after this kinesis review is done.. datahand looks really interesting Reply
  • Mumrik - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    There are plenty of in-action videos of the Datahand on Youtube. Or did you mean specifically by Jarred?

    Here's one: http://youtu.be/_rzFqEqzhmA/
    Reply
  • ericbojo - Friday, May 17, 2013 - link

    What i mean by "in action" is an actual un-biased review.. how good is it in real world situations? in games or whatever, a video doesn't do that. Reply
  • Chapbass - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    I use a Kinesis at work and at home, love it. As far as shift+ctrl+alt+s goes...the way I do it is pretty easy. left thumb covers both ctrl+alt, left pinky on shift, 3rd finger on S. Actually easier than on a standard keyboard, IMO. Reply
  • shinjin - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    Been using a Kinesis contoured keyboard for about 17 years now. I replaced the first after 7 years and the second is still going strong (plus have an even newer one for my workplace). Another user already addressed the ctrl+alt complaint (use the left thumb for both). For work I recently switched over to a regular keyboard for about 6 months before discomfort set in. Switching back to the Kinesis solved that problem. I find it a fantastic keyboard and currently use it in Dvorak mode.

    For me a significant measure of quality is the support received from the company. On the few occasions when I have needed it, Kinesis has provided great support.

    That said, the keyboard does have a few flaws:

    - row of 'soft' function keys are a little difficult to use
    - not terribly great for gaming in general. If I can remap controls within a game, I will do so. But sometimes I just have to whip out a clunky old 101.
    - cleaning. My home keyboard is white and has gotten a little dingy over the years. Rubbing alcohol cleans it up pretty well nice, but the ink on the body (not the keys) is alcohol-based so I have to take care or I smear/remove it.

    Aside - in the TECK review you mention issues with the embedded keypad. The Kinesis also has an embedded keypad and it functions ok. For a while I did use a foot switch as a Keypad toggle, but the switch from 17 years ago is rather loud and annoying to use. I don't know if there have been any improvements since then. For the most part I just use the number unless I have lots of digits to input.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    I still don't buy into the CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+S being in any way easier to use on the Kinesis. With a standard 101 (or the TECK), I can do it with my left hand easily. With the Advantage, it's possible to do with the left hand, but it's far more awkward:

    Pinky on the left SHIFT
    Thumb goes to CTRL+ALT
    Ring finger hits S

    Anyway, it's not a huge knock, but it does require some mental and physical gyrations to hit some key combos that you might have ingrained into your memory. I'm basically working right now to remap my brain to using the thumbs for CTRL and ALT instead of my pinkies. Based on my experience with the TECK, it will take around two weeks to really get comfortable with that aspect of the Advantage.
    Reply
  • shinjin - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    My mistake. I wasn't trying to convince you one way or the other about that specific key combo being easier. I thought it was a general complaint about hitting ctrl+alt at the same time.

    For what it's worth, you may also discover some combos that work out to your advantage.

    For my part, when I first picked it up it took me about a week to get comfortable with it. I probably wasn't up to my old WPM for a couple more after that. I remember well the early fumblings and typos. (Learning Dvorak had a similar learning curve.)
    Reply
  • zanon - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    Jarred, it's really great to see you doing these reviews. I think a lot of technical users are very plugged into getting the most out of internal components from CPUs and GPUs to memory and storage, but neglect the human-interface aspect which defines how we actually interact with our machines. Investment in a good keyboard, mouse/trackball, screen, etc is well worth it, but there is a paucity of good comparative reviews and impressions and given the price and time investment that's unfortunate. Seeing it get a bit of coverage on AT is great.

    One comment on this review though: I don't think remapping or macros is worth any extra credit (or price) whatsoever. Any good third party driver should be able to handle that (and not with any silly limits either) for any USB keyboard at all. The TECK (or MS Natural 4K or whatever) would be every bit as remappable and scriptable as this one or any other.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - link

    The macros are stored internally in the keyboard ROM, so if I unplug the keyboard and move it somewhere else, the macro is still there. The same goes for the key remappings I believe. It's not enough of a difference to make it the clear winner, but it is something extra. That said, I tried to create a macro to input my full signature:

    Jarred Walton
    Senior Mobile Editor
    http://www.AnandTech.com

    It's actually too long (cutting off around the http part), apparently because the way they store the macros stores every key (including shift I think), and some keys may require more than one "character". So, 55 characters on the standard model might translate to more like 35-40 typical characters. I might find the macro functionality somewhat useful on occasion, but it's definitely not a necessity.
    Reply
  • zanon - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    The macros are stored internally in the keyboard ROM, so if I unplug the keyboard and move it somewhere else, the macro is still there. The same goes for the key remappings I believe. It's not enough of a difference to make it the clear winner, but it is something extra.

    In all seriousness, we live in the net age: between everything from cloud services to one's own server or even just a USB stick, something as simple as user driver preferences exist everywhere anyway. I guess if you're constantly using various random machines as a guest and still wanted to take the fancy keyboard then it'd be of some use, but that's such an ultra, ultra niche case that I still don't think it's worth anything extra. In fact even server syncing is likely over thinking it, with most people using such a device with their main system(s) and that's that. And as you mentioned there, dealing with it internally rather then with the full power of the host imposes significant limitations. I don't think someone who cares about macros at all would be satisfied with a downgrade vs cheap/free software that'll handle anything.

    That's not to argue that all "extras" aren't without value though. The USB hub for example is something I miss in the Ergo 4K, and is good to see added, particularly in a premium product. Another nice extra (missing here, as with the TECK) is additional keys, I wouldn't mind a keyboard given a little credit for that too (and from that point of view it's a little disappointing the Kinesis doesn't take more advantage of all that empty space).

    Overall though this is all great stuff and I'm looking forward to the review. One request if possible: I'm definitely curious about how well these keyboards would work from the perspective of working with the command line, programming, and general heavy use of combos in all applications. You do specifically call out here how some combos might be hard to hit, and in my own use there are definitely a lot of 2 and 3 metakey combos, though most aren't as bad as Save for Web (which I remapped long ago, Adobe what were you thinking). Purely looking at the layout some of those look harder to pull off, but only day-to-day usage impressions would make it clear.
    Reply
  • shinjin - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    "I'm definitely curious about how well these keyboards would work from the perspective of working with the command line, programming, and general heavy use of combos in all applications"

    If it helps, I'm a software developer and have had no problems using this keyboard with an assortment of languages (C/C++, Delphi, Java). Sure the curly braces/square brackets are in a slightly awkward location - right ring & pinky, 2 rows down from the home row. So I use an adaptation that works for me. I type both the open & close characters, then hit the left-arrow once to back-fill with whatever is needed. It ends up faster than typing them in the 'proper' order and has the side effect of reducing omission syntax errors. Granted, this isn't something uniquely suited to the Kinesis, but does feel oddly awkward to me when I use it with a regular keyboard.

    As for the command line, no problems there either. Some might argue that it has some conveniences, such as using ALT+LEFT ARROW (or RIGHT ARROW) to 'jump' between words on the command line. The arrow keys are built into the key-wells, meaning you don't have to move a hand over to the separate arrow keys that a standard keyboard would have.

    Unfortunately, the left/right arrows are in the left key-well and the up/down are in the right key-well. That takes some getting used to.
    Reply
  • shinjin - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    I rarely use the macro functionality. Software typically implements it better.

    One key remap that I tend to set up is mapping Insert to the | (pipe) key in the left key-well.
    Reply
  • olyar15 - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    I've only had my Advantage for about a month, and am still getting used to it, but I do like the comfort and layout. It is also a decent gaming keyboard, provided that you can remap all or most of the commands to one bank. Otherwise, it gets awkward. I also like the foot pedals. However, there are a couple of gripes with this keyboard. First, given the cost, I would have expected better build quality and materials. The shell feels a bit cheap. However, the biggest problem I have is that my BIOS doesn't recognize the keyboard. I need to use another keyboard for that. Strange. Works fine once I get into windows. Reply
  • cgunhouse - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    I have the original release model of this keyboard, close to 20 years old, since I bought the keyboard for a hand issue that was short term I have been able to use both it and a standard. I found that my brain just knows what keyboard it is using, kinesis or standard, in fact it isn't until I start thinking about it that I have problems. The Ctrl and Alt keys, not a problem. I am faster on the kinesis, less unnecessary hand movements. Reply
  • kenyee - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    I've had this for a long time too...since I had tendonitis in my wrist and it's helped immensely.

    One thing to note is that the escape key eventually wears out...pretty annoying, but it's only $10 to get a replacement and then some minor soldering glueing inside.
    I had a PS/2 one that ended up w/ that issue and the repeating keys problem when I flexed the cable in the back...sent it off for refurb and got a nice new top back (bottom of shell was old). USB one is getting along fine w/ the R and N keys slowly being rubbed off. Apparently the labels are stuck on because it's a lot less expensive :-(
    Reply
  • kenyee - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    p.s., I'd like to see a DataHand review too. I looked into that when I had my wrist issues and ruled it out for being too expensive and quirky. People who use it seem to love it though... Reply
  • hrbngr - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - link

    Jarred,
    I have multiple versions of these keyboards (USB and PS/2). I'm not sure if you mentioned this but at least one of the versions comes with a footswitch in addition to the keyboard. The footswitch plugs into the keyboard and can be mapped to any key or macro(I think). I use the footswitch for the "shift" key, so I do not have to use my pinkies at all to type capital letters. This has saved me a lot of wear and tear on my weakest fingers, and I would absolutely recommend you giving that a try.

    Organists use both a keyboard and footpedals when the play music, so it's not something that is too difficult to learn. I got pretty good using the foot pedal with both my left and right feet as well. Good luck!
    Reply
  • bitwiseshiftleft - Friday, April 05, 2013 - link

    I've used the Advantage for maybe 7 years. I use a Dvorak layout (on the Mac Q/D Switchable model) with the modifiers mapped around (Windows on the left thumb, Ctrl+Alt on the right on Windows; Cmd on the right for Mac) but otherwise vanilla. I'm a big fan of the shape of the keyboard, the switch action and the choice of thumb keys (though Shift would make an interesting addition). I've had the switches on one keyboard wear out.

    The keyboard did take a few weeks to get used to, but afterward I could type faster and much more comfortably than before I switched.

    That said, the Advantage definitely has a few issues. The function keys are terrible, and some keys which are useful to programmers are in strange places. I can mostly get used to this, but it's still slightly annoying. The lack of a dedicated keypad on such a huge and expensive piece of hardware is also a major oversight -- perhaps they could have put it in the center.

    The beeping and clicking is just silly, but everyone who buys this keyboard turns it off within 5 minutes and then doesn't think about it again.

    Beyond that, there are quirks in the keyboard's firmware. For example, if you hit the "=" and "c" characters at the same time, the keyboard will type out its firmware's copyright. I don't trigger this very often -- maybe once or twice a year, even when I have variables that might be equal to c -- but it's a silly "feature" for a keyboard to have.

    The keyboard's firmware is also buggy in other ways, or at least it was on my first keyboard (the one which wore out). It occasionally will have stuck modifier keys (which can be released by pressing and releasing that key). More seriously, I've seen a lot of devices misbehave when chained onto the Kinesis' USB hub. This is probably either a firmware bug, or else it can't reliably distribute enough power to downstream devices.

    With any remapped keyboard, you will also have some trouble with keys like "menu" or key bindings which distinguish left and right Ctrl or Alt keys, but this is hardly Kinesis' fault.

    All in all, the Kinesis is an excellent piece of hardware and I recommend it on ergonomics, but you'd think it would have fewer bugs and oversights after being sold for so long.
    Reply
  • jejeahdh - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    I wish there was a normal ergo/natural keyboard with mechanical keys. Like so many others, an MS natural 4000 with cherry browns . . . it would rule. Reply
  • Steve S - Saturday, May 04, 2013 - link

    Great review, Jarrod. Have you incorporated a track pad or other pointing device into your workflow? I'd appreciate suggestions from you and other Kinesis Advantage users on how to do it. Reply
  • Proword - Wednesday, May 08, 2013 - link

    Granddaddy of high-end ergonomic keyboards? Maltron started producing ergonomic keyboards in 1975, so this would probably rate as the grandson.

    A keyboard really can't claim to be "ergonomic" if it uses the QWERTY layout. Maltron uses the Malt layout, which reduces the amount of work the arms and hands do, by reducing moves away from the home row keys.

    These two videos show just how much difference the key distribution alone can make. Both are using identical Maltron dual hand keyboards, except one is an operator using QWERTY and the other using Malt layout. With the Malt notice how seldom the hands move from the home keys, while the QWERTY has the hands hovering almost permanently ready for the next keystroke.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4H931A3BDE

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYJtF1I3PRs
    Reply
  • Azteca - Friday, May 10, 2013 - link

    I agree with Proword, Kinesis is not in any way the granddaddy of ergonomic keyboards. Kinesis is a mere imitator of the Maltron (available since 1976) to make the Advantage (1996). Kinesis just renamed the KBC-5600 Fujitsu Siemens keyboard as the Maxim (1997) which is also sold as the ErgoSplit. Kinesis have moved away from mechanical keyswitches and matrix style key layout with their Freestyle2 (2007) – a keyboard using the staggered key arrangement and rubber domes, a copycat of the Goldtouch (1992) and the ErgoFlex (1991). No innovation whatsoever for a company that claims to be.

    Moreover, everybody should also consider than to take 'advantage' of all these keyboards, you need to be a touch-typist, otherwise, you will be worse than a hunt-and-peck on a conventional keyboard and possibly develop abundant neck pain.
    Reply
  • Spiff412 - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    When my M$ Natural Elite took a nosedive in 2007 after 8 years of daily usage, the Natural Ergo 4000 I got to replace quickly stood out as a no-good replacement. Trawling the web for alternatives I came to remember a futuristic looking keyboard from Men In Black years ago and the course for a Kinesis Advantage was inevitably laid down.

    Having used the Advantage now for the past 5 years I can truly say I'm not going back to traditional keyboards as I can feel the CTS sneak up on me after just minutes of typing...
    Currently on standard QWERTY with a few keys reprogrammed to accomodate for special characters in the Norwegian alphabet, but I have been dabbling about trying Colemak, I just need the time to make the switch....

    However the most productive change to the layout I have made is to re-map the CapsLock and left Shift key so that CapsLock=Shift and Shift=Ctrl.
    Firstly this gets rid of CapsLock all togehter (yay!), secondly it is much easier for me to move the pinky slightly to the left to get capitalization or the Shift-function. Standard Ctrl+ nn combinations are also much quicker by using left pinky on the modified Ctrl-button (Cut/Copy/Paste).

    Also, I know that the inscruction booklet says that palms should not be resting while typing - but I find that putting a 5-10mm thick support under the rubber feet in front slants the whole keyboard slightly forward to accomodate for relaced typing while palms are resting easily on the palm rest area, sort of similar to the Natural Elite and Ergo.

    If you are looking for a permanent and positive mitigating action to counter your CTS you are definitely on the right track.
    Reply
  • JarrywWw - Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - link

    I've just purchased this keyboard too, upon review from http://www.bestergonomickeyboard.net/kinesis-keybo... and I'm reaaaaaally happy with it too. It's a great keyboard and even if it took me a bit of time to get used to it now I can't imagine not using it :) Reply
  • jszakmeister - Sunday, November 03, 2013 - link

    I've been using a Kinesis Advantage Keyboard since 2002. I started off with a PS/2 version years ago, and transitioned to the USB model when it became available. I started off using it in the default QWERTY mode, and later transitioned to Dvorak when.

    First, let me say that it's an excellent keyboard. It really does reduce the strain from typing. In fact, several others in the office started feeling some pain and made the switch as well. They've all been very happy they made the switch and love the keyboard as much as I do. I'd be upset if I was never able to get this keyboard again.

    If you can convince yourself of it, learning Dvorak is a good idea. I started using Dvorak about 8 years ago, and have never regretted that decision. In fact, I regularly use both layouts. On a Kinesis keyboard, I type Dvorak. On anything else, I use QWERTY--since I can't have a Kinesis keyboard on *every* machine I touch. I've had very little issue with this setup as my hands automatically Do the Right Thing--they can tell just by the feel of the keyboard.

    The Kinesis makes it easy to switch to Dvorak mode and you can get dual legend keys. I must admit that I wasn't much of a touch typist when I made the switch, but I'm definitely one now. It was well worth the change. I don't necessarily type any faster than I used to (50-60 WPM), but at the end of the day, I can feel the difference.

    Finally, a couple of negatives. I've never been thrilled with the function keys on the Kinesis. They're a bit small to touch type. And while I've learned to touch type some of them, it's hard to do them all. On the plus side, I've heard that they'll be fixing that problem in the next rev. The other issue is games. You can't drive this keyboard one handed, so you'll want to keep around a plain old keyboard for the times when you need it. If you're an avid gamer, and it's gaming that's causing you the RSI issues, then another keyboard might be better than the Kinesis.

    On the whole, I couldn't be happier with the keyboard. It's definitely worth a try.
    Reply

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