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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  • lanestew - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Seems interesting. Thanks for the review. Reply
  • Souka - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Hey Jarred,

    I used to do dictation on my trusty Thinkpad until kids came along.
    I used a headset, but eventually when the kids started speaking words, I couldn't dictate my reports from the family couch.

    My solution... start using my upstairs office as an office (stil using a headset).
    No problems. Long as the kids aren't right next to me talking, the mic won't pick up their voices.

    much better than any keyboard... IMHO.

    Set rules... it's a paren't job.

    <Jarred>
    " 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."

    :)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Right now it's a matter of house and office layout. We moved in December and have the space so that I can have an office, but we're working on painting a couple rooms before we fully "settle in" so I don't have an office yet. Once I get my upstairs office ready, I plan on reinstalling Dragon and getting back into that. :-) Reply
  • snajk138 - Friday, March 08, 2013 - link

    Have you looked at Maltron Keyboards? (http://www.maltron.com/) They are not cheap but are availabe in a ton of different versions and layouts, with or without a trackball. I haven't tried them but a lot of people love them. Reply
  • WaltC - Saturday, March 09, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the link snajk138! Very interesting, indeed.

    @ jarred

    Great review--we need more in-depth reviews like this. Don't ever feel strange about being subjective--the very best reviewers are subjective and very open about it. All product reviews are subjective in the final analysis, but the worst ones are those in which objectivity is a pretense...;) I want to read reviews written by qualified people unafraid to posit their opinions--all product reviews are opinions, anyway. An inside joke among my associates is the notion that some people have that Consumer Reports is objective and scientific...;)
    Reply
  • ssnova - Saturday, March 09, 2013 - link

    Hey Jarred, I remember your article on Dragon Naturally Speaking. It was very thorough and informative as are most of your past articles. I remember I kept thinking to myself, "has he tried version 12 yet?" I'd love to hear your opinion of the newer version, but it seems like you have your hands full at the moment. Reply
  • Gigaplex - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    "Can any keyboard possibly be worth a price of entry well north of $200?"
    Logitech DiNovo Edge. I've still been unable to find anything that can compete with it.
    Reply
  • nagi603 - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Well, I use a regular diNovo, and frankly, the connection is flaky at best. And no, this is my second set, the bluetooth adapter / cradle of the first died on me. I wish it had unifying receiver, Logitech just can't properly make anything with Bluetooth.

    But for likes, yeah, I love it. Especially that the numpad is separate and I can stash it away. Plus, it is silent, the keys are very good and will last quite a while. Even if it is not mechanical.
    Reply
  • hughlle - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    While i agree with nagi603, in that logitech and bluetooth connection seem to be a real issue (i often find it can be dependent on the usb socket i am using) i also agree with you. I have a nice microsoft ergonomic keyboard, which will be used a bit more in the future, but my main keyboards are a pair of dinovo edge's. I am about to do a couple of distance A levels in some subjects that piqued my interest so lots of typing to be done, so will probably break out the ergonomic keyboard again though. Reply
  • evonitzer - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    You might as well give it a try too. I switched a number of years ago and it can be enabled on every computer you use (except public computers with no permissions). I accept that my qwerty performance is mediocre, but if I needed it more it would naturally improve.

    I feel the way you mentioned in your video. My fingers just move less and I feel kinda lazy on a Dvorak, whereas I notice how much my fingers have to range all over the keyboard on a qwerty. YMMV, but I like the Dvorak layout a lot. A mechanical, split keyboard does interest me though.
    Reply

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