Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7125/kinesis-advantage-review-longterm-evaluation
Kinesis Advantage Review: Long-Term Evaluationby Jarred Walton on July 2, 2013 10:15 PM EST
More than a Month with the Kinesis Advantage
Earlier this year, I reviewed the TECK—Truly Ergonomic Computer Keyboard—one of the few keyboards on the market that combines an ergonomic layout with mechanical Cherry MX switches. As you’d expect, that review opened the door for me to do a couple more ergonomic keyboard reviews. These aren’t simple one-off reviews like some hardware, however, as getting to know a real ergonomic keyboard is not something you accomplish in a few hours or days. Round two of our ergonomic keyboard coverage brings us the Kinesis Advantage.
Kinesis is a long-time purveyor of ergonomic keyboards with mechanical switches. In fact, Kinesis was part of the driving force behind Cherry MX creating their Brown switches that are used in most of the ergonomic keyboards. Does more time on the market equate to a better overall experience? That’s what I wanted to find out.
The core design of the Kinesis Advantage was largely complete way back in 1991. It consists of an orthogonal key layout with wells for the left and right hands and a fairly sizeable number of keys in the center that can be activated by your thumbs. Over the years, Kinesis has changed a few small things, like switching from the PS/2 to USB connector (with an integrated 2-port hub under the keyboard), adding macro recording/playback functionality, key remapping, and on their Advantage Pro model there’s a foot pedal as well (which I didn’t get for testing). The Pro model also allows for longer macros and has a memory locking switch to prevent accidental reprogramming of the macros.
Both Advantage models are available with traditional QWERTY labels or Dvorak labels, or there’s even a dual-label option (the “QD” models), with the keys labeled as shown in the above image. If you want a non-US layout, German, Swedish, UK, and International options are likewise available from the local resellers. Most of the Advantage models come with Cherry MX Brown switches, but there’s a “linear feel” model with Cherry MX Red as an option as well.
All that is fine, but the real question is: will the Kinesis keyboard make me a better/faster typist? Failing that, can it at least make typing more comfortable over long sessions, particularly for users that suffer from RSI/CTS problems? I fall into that latter category, as I mentioned in the TECK review, so it’s a particularly pertinent question. I also had some minor concerns with the TECK and key switches that started to “double tap” over time, so I wanted to really put the Advantage to the test and see how it fared.
As with the TECK, I started out with a “first impressions” video/introduction. Two and a half months later I’m finally getting around to the conclusion, so I hope the wait has been worthwhile. I’ve also been going back to the TECK on occasion, just to see if I really prefer one design to the other, and I’ve even been using an ErgoDox from MassDrop periodically, though I’m not ready to do a full review of that just yet. I’ll cut straight to the chase here and say that of the three mechanical ergonomic keyboards I’ve used, the Kinesis Advantage ends up being my favorite. However, this is a very subjective opinion and there are definitely people that will prefer one of the other options—or for some, the intended use may prove the deciding factor. I’ll discuss the pros and cons of the Kinesis Advantage over the coming pages before giving the full conclusion and recommendations at the end.
Overview of the Kinesis Advantage
It’s a bit scary for me to think that there are a large number of our readers who weren’t even around at the time Kinesis first released their Advantage keyboard back in 1991. I’m not one of those, however—I was in high school at the time if that helps. [“Honey! Where’s my cane? You know I can’t walk without it….] At the time, a state-of-the-art PC consisted of high performance 486 CPU sporting as much as 64MB of RAM, though most users only had 4MB-8MB or in “extreme” cases they might have 16MB or possibly even 32MB (though I’m not sure I ever saw anything outside of a workstation with that much RAM). My PC in 1991: a 386DX/33 with 8MB RAM, 120MB hard drive, and some form of video—I think it had a Cirrus Logic chipset with 512K VRAM. Good times!
I also remember playing games like Wing Commander and the sequels while sitting on the floor in front of my 14” CRT monitor, which was on an old wooden chair, with my little kitten “Fang” pouncing on my hands while I was playing games. As you can imagine, 39-year-old-me cringes at the thought of working at a computer in such decidedly un-ergonomic conditions! And that’s as good of a place to start as any when discussing ergonomics: you absolutely need a good desk and chair first, in my opinion, or else you’re not going to get the full benefit out of an ergonomic keyboard like the TECK or Kinesis.
Getting to the keyboard itself, as noted it has two key wells with the keys laid out orthogonally—as opposed to the staggered layout found on typical keyboards. This means there’s less lateral movement of your fingers when you’re typing, and less reaching to hit keys on the bottom or top rows as well. There are also a large number of commonly used keys placed at the thumb position for easy access—Ctrl shows up for both thumbs, while PgUp/PgDn are on the right thumb and Home/End are on the left. The Windows key, Enter, and Space are also on the right thumb, with space falling directly under the thumb and the Enter key just to the side of that in easy reach. On the left thumb, Backspace gets the primary position with Delete just to the right of it, and Alt is in the top-right corner of the key group.
The key arrangement is basically intended to keep everything right at hand, if you will. It’s quite possible to do all of your typing on the Advantage with your palms firmly planted on the palm rests while reaching all of the usual keys. Not that I’m saying that’s a good way to type—most people would suggest having your hands hover slightly above the keyboard—but it’s possible nonetheless. The only keys where you may need to lift your hands off the palm rest to reach them are the function keys, or if you happen to use certain key combinations, particularly complex combos that require more than two keys at the same time.
This is where macros can be useful, and while I’ll save the discussion of actually using macros for the next page, the keys for macro access are in the top-right section of the keyboard. Press and hold the “Progrm” key and then press the “Macro” key (F11) and then the next key/key-combo you use will be set to a macro (i.e. it will quickly play back a sequence of keystrokes). Note that modifier keys like Shift, Alt, and Ctrl can’t be assigned directly to a macro. When you enter macro programming mode, the four indicator lights in the center of the keyboard begin blinking slowly, and you can now type up to 56 characters (142 on the Advantage Pro, as it has an extra memory chip for storing macros). However, some keys will use more than one keystroke—e.g. a capital letter uses three as far as I can tell: one for pressing Shift, one of the letter, and one more when you release shift—so you often end up with fewer than 56 characters at your disposal. By default the Advantage supports 24 macros, but you can set this to 36 or 48 if you prefer having more shorter macros. The maximum macro length with 48 macros is 28, or with 36 macros it’s 38, so basically macro length scales directly with the number of macros.
Along with the macro functionality, the Advantage has built-in key remapping. As with macros, you begin by pressing and holding the Progrm key, only then you press F12 (“Remap”). The lights begin flashing quickly, and all of the key remapping is at the original level (so that you never “lose” a key). When in this mode, you first press the key you want to duplicate (at which point the lights blight more slowly), then the destination key; you can remap as many keys as you want. When you’re finished, press Progrm+F12 again and all of the key mappings become active. The only catch is that if you ever want to switch between the built-in Dvorak layout (accessed via Progrm+Shift+F5) and QWERTY, or vice versa, any custom key remapping is lost (since the Dvorak layout essentially uses the key remapping feature with a hardwired set of key remaps.)
There are a few other features that the Advantage includes that I haven’t covered yet. First, there is a small internal speaker (really just a “buzzer”), which by default makes a very quiet “click” sound when you’re typing. It also makes a louder double-beep when you activate any of the lock keys (Caps Lock, Num Lock, Scroll Lock, or the integrated Keypad) and a single beep when you turn off any of those keys. Some people might like the feature, but after a little bit of use I decided I didn’t want the added noise so I disabled all beeping (Progrm+hypen for the Lock keys and Progrm+backslash for the key clicks). You can also switch between a Macintosh (m), Windows PC (w), and Non-Windows PC (p) setup by pressing and holding the equal sign and one of the letters listed (i.e. w for Windows); this primarily alters the thumb keys, but there are some additional changes for Macintosh like the Scroll Lock become Mac Power and holding F12 is Mac Eject.
I won’t get into the remaining details, but the online PDF manual covers everything if you’re interested. Suffice it to say, there are lots of little extra features integrated into the Advantage that can potentially make it more useful, depending on your particular use case. Personally, other than turning off the audio cues for the keys, I left nearly everything at the default settings. I also made exactly one “permanent” key remapping: I set the right Ctrl key to be the Windows context key, as I happen to use that on a regular basis. With the general overview out of the way, let’s move on to the subjective side of the story.
Subjective Evaluation: Give and Take
Reviewing keyboards is about as subjective as it gets with computer hardware. What one person loves, another could very well despise, and that’s true of everything from basic $20 membrane keyboards up to the $200-$350 mechanical switch ergonomic offerings like the Kinesis Advantage, TECK, ErgoDox, and Maltron offerings. I’m lucky enough to have had the chance now to test and review the TECK and Kinesis, and I have an ErgoDox on another system that I’ve poked around at as well. Which one is the best overall keyboard is very difficult for me to say, even after using all three of them for the better part of a month each.
There are a few things that all three of the ergonomic keyboards I’ve tested have in common. First, they all have a pretty rough learning curve for the first few hours of serious use. If you’re a touch typist that has been at it for a while, the changes can almost make you feel ill at first. With the TECK I hit a point an hour or so in where my stomach was knotted and I felt horrible; my son came by my office at one point and looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong, daddy?” I didn’t realize how irritated I was feeling until then, so it was a bit of an eye opener. I took a break for a bit, and then went back to learning the new keyboard. You do get past the hump eventually and can move on to improving your typing speed, but it’s still painful. With the Kinesis, adapting didn’t feel as bad, but that’s almost certainly helped by the fact that I had already totally rearranged my typing brain cells with the TECK, and even then there were struggles. It doesn’t really help matters that all three keyboards have differing layouts either.
That’s as good of a jumping off point as any to start the discussion of the Kinesis, though. There are differences from a traditional layout for certain, but it’s not at the same level as the TECK, at least I didn’t feel that way. On the Kinesis, the major changes involve using your thumbs for more tasks, plus the equal sign, tilde, cursor keys, and brackets are shifted to new locations compared to a traditional keyboard. On the other hand, Backslash, Tab, and Shift are all right where I’m used to finding them, which is nice if you switch between keyboards much (which I do every time I use a laptop). I could see some people struggling with using the thumbs for so many keys now—and in fact the manual that comes with the Kinesis notes that some typists may experience more fatigue in their thumbs after switching—but it didn’t bother me much. But the thumbs really do get a lot more to do on the Advantage than on traditional keyboards.
If you look at the above photo, you can see that the standard labeling gives your left thumb duties for Backspace and Delete in the primary positions (e.g. right where your thumb would naturally rest), with Control and Alternate keys up top and Home and End to the right. I have moderately sized hands for a 6’3” male, and none of the keys are hard for me to reach with my thumbs, but those with smaller hands might feel otherwise. The right thumb meanwhile gets the Space and Enter keys at the primary positions (and they’re large and easy to hit I should note), with Page Up and Page Down at the left of the group of keys and the Windows Start key and a second Control key at the top. As noted on the previous page, I ended up remapping the right Control key to being the “Context” key, as I use that pretty often and didn’t really miss having the second Control key.
The process of learning to use the Advantage went relatively smoothly for me, and after about two weeks I felt I was more or less back to normal typing speed for the vast majority of my work. The only things that still cause me a bit of difficulty are reaching down to the cursor keys, as well as the bracket keys (and every now and then the tilde). It can also be a bit trickier using certain keyboard shortcuts, and while some of that is again muscle memory, at least part of it just feels like I need to contort my hands a bit more.
For example, prior to using the Kinesis (and TECK), I would use my left hand to hit Control and then my right hand would hit Home, End, Up, Down, Left, or Right as needed; this is something I do fairly often when I’m typing and editing. Now I’ve got Control on my thumbs (except it’s just my left thumb now), and things like Control+Home or Control+End require me to move my hand and use one of my other fingers, or bring my right hand over. It’s doable but not what I would call perfect for all use cases.
One thing I notice with both the Kinesis and TECK (and ErgoDox, but that review is still pending) is that in general my hands do a lot less moving around while typing. Perhaps that’s what makes the need to move my hands for key combinations more noticeable. I would rate the Kinesis as being more comfortable for me to type on than a traditional keyboard, and I think I prefer the larger separation of the hands compared to the TECK, but in terms of size the Kinesis is definitely larger and will take up more space. In fact, compared to a standard keyboard with 10-key on the right, the Advantage is only about an inch narrower, but it’s fairly deep with no detachable palm rest option. It’s also rather thick, as there’s more depth to the keyboard in order to create the key wells.
I actually like the key wells that Kinesis uses, and for my desktop it fits in nicely and gives me a good setup for typing. However, the wells may cause some consternation for non-touch typists, as depending on your height it may be more difficult to see the labels on the bottom row or two of keys. I generally watch the screen while typing so it didn’t bother me, but it might be less desirable for some people. Then again, I figure if you have CTS, tendonitis, or some other RSI type injury related to typing on a keyboard, there’s a good chance that you’re a touch typist, in which case give yourself anywhere from a week to a month to fully adapt and you should be fine. Something else to note is that the function keys are a bit hard to reach, but I don’t use them so much that it’s a problem in day-to-day typing. They’re also soft and mushy compared to everything else, with membrane keys instead of mechanical switches; there’s definitely some cost savings on the function keys, but then they’re also smaller to make an already somewhat large keyboard not too big.
Getting back to key locations and key combinations, theoretically this is where macros come into play. With the Advantage you can create an easier-to-access macro for common shortcuts, or for a phrase you might type a lot like your address or signature. In practice, I didn’t find the built-in macro functionality to be all that useful unfortunately. For one, it can be a bit “dangerous”—or at least potentially troublesome—if you use a macro and then run some application that happens to use the same key combination, so I like things to be “stock” as much as possible. Anyway, let’s get back to key combinations and talk about the macro functionality for a moment.
One of the trickier key combinations for me that I use in Photoshop is “Save for Web”, Control+Alt+Shift+S. By default that requires a bit of hand dexterity to pull off even on a regular keyboard, but it’s even more difficult with the Kinesis. What I normally do (and this worked fine with the TECK as well) is to have my left hand use the pinky on Control, ring finger on Shift, thumb on Alt, and then my index finger hits the S. With the Advantage, I end up using the left thumb to hit CTRL+ALT, which is actually rather awkward for me; then I use the left or right pinky for Shift, and the left ring finger for S. Okay, so let’s use a macro...but what do I map it to? CTRL+S is used for regular “Save”, so that’s out, and the same goes for Alt+S, Control+Shift+S, etc. In fact most of other potential candidates that I might want are already in use. In the end, nothing really seemed to be better for me than just doing a bit of finger gymnastics when I get to somewhat odd key combinations.
Okay, but what about using the macro functionality for something else? Just for kicks, I tried remapping a few commonly used entries to keys I rarely access like Pause and Scroll Lock. That seemed harmless enough, but I ran into some problems there as well. I tried putting in my AnandTech signature, only to find that it’s a bit too long for a single “up to 56 characters” macro; this is what I ended up with:
It’s close and might save me some effort on occasion, but the “56 characters” counts Shift (as well as Alt and Control) different from other keys, so my signature ends up getting just 44 printable characters (including newlines) with the Shift press/release each counting as a character. I end up missing the “Tech.com” at the end, so I’d need a second macro to get a full signature.
The macro functionality still works as advertised, but wouldn’t you know it: every now and then I’ve accidentally hit the pause key while doing something else, so suddenly the keyboard goes nuts and tries to insert my signature. So far it hasn’t been a problem, but after the TECK issue where I typed “Windows” in Word but used Control instead of Shift (so basically I closed my document and told Word not to save), I’m a bit gun-shy. Even if you do find a good keyboard shortcut, you then have to remember where you put it for future reference. I can’t imagine having 24 custom macros, let alone 36 or 48, but maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, I’m not saying you can’t use macros or a remapping, but it’s not a panacea by any means. I did use the feature on occasion, mostly when I was doing some short-term repetitive task like converting PDF pages into slides for an article; then I could create a macro that would handle the Alt+Tab, Down, Alt+PrintScrn, Alt+Tab, New Document, Paste steps that I use with Photoshop, saving me from some finger gyrations. However, all of this functionality can be done via software utilities with any keyboard if you need it. With software, it’s also possible to take those macros along to other computers, there’s typically no limit to how long they can be, and you can basically do a lot more. The benefit for Kinesis here is that their macro record functionality is pretty easy to use, even if it’s limited, and Kinesis points out that their macros are stored in the keyboard, which also makes them transportable (if you carry the keyboard with you or switch PCs). If you like the idea of keyboard-resident macros, by all means go for it; I’d suggest investing in the Advantage Pro with its longer macro length though, as the 56 characters can go fast.
One final item I wanted to mention is that while I have no issues typing on the Kinesis, for playing games it can be a bit more troublesome. Often one or more of the keys that got moved onto the thumbs gets used by a game, and Control and Space in particular are often used in First-Person Shooter games. Control can be somewhat hard to activate in the heat of battle, and note that Space along with any numbers above 6 or other keys that are under the right hand are quite a reach. With your typical WASD control scheme, you’ll definitely want to change the keys to keep things in easy access on one hand, since your other hand will be busy with the mouse. I tried remapping one game, where I wanted to replace the Space (jump) action with Delete…except in the game configuration utility, Delete wasn’t a key you could map since it was used to clear a mapping. Oops. While I didn’t play a ton of games with the Kinesis, the few times I did load up something I found it less pleasant for gaming than a regular keyboard. The compact size and layout of the TECK didn’t give me as many problems by contrast, though I probably just didn’t load up the right game. There’s a reason we refer to other keyboards as “standard” keyboards, and if you go with a real ergonomic offering it can at times be a problem...or at least it will require the investment of a bit more time to customize the key bindings.
One reader commented about switching from WASD to ESDF for gaming, and that's very good advice as the left key well is designed so that your hand will work best with the middle finger on ED rather than WS. If you make that change, you will naturally need to remap the default keys in virtually every game, and you will probably also want to use the Kinesis remapping feature to switch out the Backspace and Delete keys to something you can bind (or maybe just remap the Enter and Space from the right thumb to the Back Spaced and Delete keys on the left thumb). Again, this goes back the the whole "standard keyboard" phrase, but now we're going with "standard WASD": the Advantage is ideally designed for something other than WASD and thus you have to resort to custom mappings (which should be a one-time affair). But the key action, number of keys you can use at once, etc. should not pose a problem for gaming use.
More Subjective Thoughts and Typing Speed Results
So far I’ve covered a ton of items that may or may not affect individual users, but the real questions are almost certainly not yet covered. Is the Kinesis more comfortable for typing than typical keyboards, is it better than the TECK, and what about typing speed—did it make me a faster typist? I’ll tackle the last item in that list first, as it’s probably the easiest one to answer.
As far as the regular typing tests that I’ve tried on other keyboards, let me first start by saying that I feel like I’m mostly “tapped out” on speed, regardless of what keyboard I happen to be using. I can’t say whether or not Dvorak or some other layout could further improve my speed, but most things I’ve read suggest at best a 5-10% performance in typing speed, and that’s after potential a month or more of training and acclimation to get used to the alternate layout (and some difficulties every time you switch to a system that doesn’t use a Dvorak layout).
What that means for me in particular is that I generally won’t break 80WPM—I just don’t have it in me. I have a sister-in-law who is an accomplished pianist, and she can hit 100+ WPM on a regular keyboard, and I know others that can pull off that feat as well. Personally, 60-70 WPM is plenty fast for what I do, as most of the time I’m sitting at the computer I need to think of what to write more than I wait for my fingers to put thoughts to text.
Since I’ve now tested two ergonomic keyboards along with using regular keyboards and laptops, I can at least make some graphs—hey, it’s AnandTech and I know you all want graphs, right? The margin of error for these sorts of tests is much greater I think, so consider anything within 3 WPM to be essentially a tie. For this roundup, I’ve got my results from the TECK, the Kinesis Advantage, the Rosewill RK-9100, an MS Natural (old model PS/2 connector from about ten years ago), and just for good measure I threw in results using ASUS UX51VZ and Mythlogic Pollux 15 laptops (the latter uses a keyboard similar to the MSI SteelSeries, only on a Clevo chassis).
Given the amount of time I’ve now spent taking the various typing tests, I felt it would be best for me to go back and retake tests on some of the other keyboards, so scores are changed from my previous typing speed articles. I repeated each test multiple times on a keyboard until I felt I had a run that was representative of the best I could reasonably manage—where I’d expect to end up if I used the keyboard as my sole option for a while. I also tried taking the test again on the TECK, and unfortunately even after 20 tries I just wasn’t getting very good results; it seems that a couple months without every day use of the TECK was enough for me to start losing muscle memory of where the keys are located. For the TECK, I used the best results that I obtained when I was at my peak, at the time I finished the TECK review.
At the very least, in what is a less deterministic metric, I seem to consistently top out at around the same point on the various keyboards. In some cases I’m slightly faster on the two mechanical ergonomic keyboards, but overall most of the results are close enough to be considered a tie.
Where I’m absolutely not doing that well on the TECK and Advantage is in 10-key speed, and the laptops with their slightly smaller  keys are also suffering. Interestingly, I did best on the 10-key with the old MS Natural—and I confirmed that 10K+ result several times. The Rosewill should be similar, but I consistently scored in the 9000-9500 range (sometimes even dropping into the 8500-9000 range). The absolute best results I got on both the TECK and Kinesis are listed in the charts, and while practice might help me improve I have to be honest: their 10-key implementations leave a lot to be desired. The TECK in particular has the various keys all over the place, while the Kinesis is mostly just a case of being a little different than a typical 10-key.
One nice aspect of the Kinesis 10-key is that the “Keypad” button actually affects more than just the numeric keypad, which can be somewhat useful at times, but more importantly if you plug into a system that has NumLock active you won’t immediately get numbers—the NumLock function of the Kinesis exists separately from the 10-key. So if you want the cursor keys and document navigation keys on the right hand, you can get that functionality.
In terms of speed, then, these high-end ergonomic keyboards don’t appear to add much to my typing speed, but at least after training I’m not any slower. Others are likely to have better/worse results—some will see more, and undoubtedly some will see lower speeds (particularly early on in the use of a new keyboard)—but for the most part typing speed doesn’t seem to change much with keyboard. For speed purposes then, I wouldn’t recommend people go and shell out $200-$300 (or more) on a mechanical ergonomic keyboard, but what about for other benefits?
I feel when using both the TECK and Kinesis that I have to reach and move my hands and fingers around less. Some might say that’s a bad thing (i.e. it might make you more stiff and cause you to tighten up muscles in the hands and fingers), but at least in terms of how it feels I have to say that less stretching to reach keys is more comfortable for me. More comfortable however doesn’t mean that the use of such keyboards is a way to “cure/fix” CTS/RSI/tendonitis issues caused by frequent use of a computer keyboard. Every keyboard I’ve seen carries some form of warning about the risks of extensive typing, with recommendations to take breaks, stretch, etc. The Kinesis and TECK are no different, and if you need to really see about addressing health related concerns brought on by excessive typing, you’ll probably want to look at something that doesn’t require use of a keyboard at all (e.g. Dragon Naturally Speaking).
As for what this means to me personally, I cannot say that my hands and wrists feel substantially better after using either keyboard, but at the same time I would say they’re definitely no worse. Perhaps an MRI or some other diagnosis would be able to shed more light on the subject, but for now I’m willing to leave it be. I enjoyed using both keyboard for various reasons, and I have my gripes about each design as well. Which is better is a matter of preference, but since this is my own review/opinion piece let’s get to the conclusion.
Closing Thoughts: Advantage, Kinesis
I spent more than a month typing on the TECK before moving on to the Kinesis Advantage. The initial learning curve with the Advantage wasn’t as steep for me, and while part of that may be the similar orthogonal key layouts, I think the layout on the TECK requires more effort to learn. I don’t know that anyone can really declare either keyboard as superior, but every user is likely to prefer one more than the other. I happen to be lucky in that I got a chance to try out both.
My initial thoughts were that the TECK and Kinesis are really just different takes on the same idea—mechanical ergonomic keyboards. After returning to the TECK to do some additional use, however, I’m now convinced that the TECK requires more effort to learn, and in fact if you stop using it for a month or two and return you’ll have to retrace some lost ground. Today for instance, after numerous attempts, I managed to get no better than 55WPM on the TECK in any of the typing tests—15 to 20WPM off of what I was doing back when I finished the TECK review. On the other hand, I pulled out an MS Natural and was able to get good results within a few minutes.
A big part of the difference is in the key arrangements; TECK changes a lot more relative to the standard keyboards, whereas the Kinesis layout puts a bunch of stuff on your thumbs but otherwise leaves most keys where you’d find them on other keyboards. Maybe it’s just personal preference, but the center column of Start, Delete, Tab, Backspace, and Enter on the TECK doesn’t work nearly as well for me as the thumb pad arrangements on the Kinesis. On the other hand, I generally had a better time with the cursor keys and document navigation keys on the TECK, and while it can cause some issues at first, I think moving Shift up to home row is an ergonomically sound idea.
There are other aspects to consider as well. The TECK is definitely more compact than the Advantage, even with the palm rest attached; without it, the TECK is positively diminutive in comparison. The Advantage also has a few additional features like USB ports, macro recording/playback, and built-in key remapping. None of these are “must haves” in my opinion, but they’re all potential perks that make a good product just a bit better.
I know that I’m not a very good study in “typical” computer use—I have several desktops that I switch between, plus laptops come and go almost weekly. That means I tend to like things that don’t mix it up too much, at least in the keyboard arena (these two keyboard reviews notwithstanding), and in this case the layout of the Kinesis Advantage simply works out better for me than the TECK. It also costs more, but the good news is that both companies offer money back guarantees. If you’re looking for a good ergonomic keyboard, there’s at least the potential to give both of them a try and then keep whichever one you like the most. The Kinesis Advantage will set you back $299 for the model I reviewed, or $325 for a model with Cherry MX Red switches; the Advantage Pro bumps the price up to $359 but you also get longer macros and a single-action foot switch. The TECK rings up at $248 (plus shipping and such), so about $50 less than the base model Advantage.
There’s still one more keyboard that I’ve got waiting for some serious attention: the ErgoDox via MassDrop. I almost cringe at the thought of having to go through “keyboard rehabilitation” yet again, as just poking around at it is enough to let me know that yet again there’s a completely new layout to come to grips with. I suspect by the time I’m done I’m still going to end up back with the Kinesis as my favorite of the bunch, but there’s something cool about a keyboard that you can build on your own if you want, with the design released under the GNU GPL v3. The MassDrop option isn’t currently available, but if enough people express interest in it I’m sure it will open up again. Now pardon me while I go cry a bit before unplugging this Kinesis and starting in on a full review of the ErgoDox….