The keyboard I mentioned in a previous post arrived only a short time ago and after a day or so of use I am ready to do a preliminary review. If you did not guess already, the keyboard in question is the
Truly Ergonomic keyboard. Specifically, I ordered the 104-key blank model with MX Brown key switches. I decided on this keyboard while it was still in pre-order. Why? This is a fairly infamous keyboard, with many speculating during the pre-order phase whether the keyboard would ever see retail. Production was plagued by delays, and many shipment projections were missed. Given all this, why would I choose such an untested keyboard? Actually, there are a number of reasons. Firstly, this is a pretty unique keyboard. It is the only compact straight key layout that uses MX switches. Moreover, it offers a blank model, and it uses a layout reminiscent of a TypeMatrix or Kinesis or Maltron. It offers this layout without the large form factor of the Maltron or the unangled key position of the TypeMatrix. To my knowledge, this makes it the only keyboard with this unique collection of features. It helped a lot that each of these features was missing from my existing collections. In the end, the choice was pretty simple.
To give some background, here is my set of existing keyboards:
- DataHand Personal
- Unicomp 122-key Terminal keyboard, buckling spring
- Happy Hacker Keyboard Pro
- Lenovo Thinkpad scissor switch based laptop keyboard
- A wireless scissor switch, compact model that I do not remember the name of now
- IBM Intellistation keyboard, which is a pretty standard OEM keyboard
As you can see, the Truly Ergonomic keyboard marks my first MX switch keyboard. In this case, since I already owned a very loud buckling spring, I went for the MX Brown switch, which is marketed as a tactile but silent feedback key switch.
Now you know all of the background, so let's move right into the review.
First, my shipping experiences. I received an email that informed me of the imminent shipping of the keyboard. In the email I was told to expect to receive a tracking number in a third-party email if there was a number available. Unfortunately, such an email never came and I sent in an email inquiring about a missing number to at least confirm shipping. I received a response that included my ship date and a tracking number. So, in the end everything was well and good, but I should have received my tracking number automatically.
The keyboard arrived in very plain and unassuming packaging. It was very well packed, with double boxing and good bubble wrap around the internal box. The package included only a dust cover and the keyboard itself, but an email sent out a little later included a link to a fairly good manual. The dust cover is a nice, if inexpensive touch, and I hope they continue to provide the dust covers.
I am pleased to report that the overall keyboard quality out of the box is excellent. The frame is solid and it seems very well put together. It is an excellent size and very solid. My only initial complaint is the lack of a cover on the bottom to hide the DIP switches from damage. The key construction is at least on par with the best mechanicals out there; they are loose enough to move freely, but not overly unsteady. The DIP switches are in easy reach under the keyboard, and I cannot fault any other aspect of the construction. I admit that I was initially worried when I ordered the keyboard whether the quality would match its price point, but I am well pleased in that respect.
I do want to highlight one outstanding feature of the keyboard construction and assembly. The wrist rest that comes with the keyboard gave me some concern when I saw the pictures. I was afraid that it would slide off or rattle when I used the keyboard. My fears were completely unfounded, and the wrist rest is possibly my favorite aspect of the assembly. While the rest is completely removable, the rest is attached by a number of screws that give it a totally
locked-in feel when attached. The rest is an integrated piece when you want it, but easily removed if you have a reason to remove it.
I mentioned a bit about the design of the keyboard in the introduction, but it is unique enough to warrant some exposition. The layout will be familiar to those who have used a Maltron, Kinesis, or TypeMatrix, but quite different to those who have never seen any of those. Each of these layouts, including the Truly Ergonomic, move the keys like Tab, Delete, Backspace, and Enter to the middle column of the keys, making them available to either hand, and to the stronger fingers. Like these other keyboards, the Truly Ergonomic splits the left and right hand keys into blocks that each have their keys arrayed in a straight set of columns, rather than the staggered layout of a traditional keyboard. Unlike these keyboards, the Truly Ergo puts these groups into a compact but angled layout, leading to something between a TypeMatrix and a Maltron.
Overall, I really like the layout, but it does take some getting used to. The keys are more accessible than in a traditional layout, and I especially like the non-alphanumeric key locations. Another nice option is the space bar, which is really two different keys, one for the left and one for the right. With a flip of a (DIP) switch, you can map these to different key codes, allowing you to map a favorite key (like AltGr or Ctrl) to an easily accessed thumb button. Do not underestimate the utility of such a switch. The straight line of the keys also makes it possible to hide a nice 10-key layout in immediate access without forcing a large form factor.
The real question you are asking is,
Yeah, this is all good, but is it ergonomic? Well, this product's name sure is a big thing to live up to. In a word, the answer is, mostly. The Truly Ergonomic keyboard is simply not as ergonomic as a DataHand, and I am willing to guess, not as ergonomic as a Kinesis either. However, when it comes to keyboards in the compact, fixed layout variety, I would feel confident putting the Truly Ergonomic up against the competition. Even most non-compacts will struggle against the Truly Ergonomic because of the inherent benefits of compact layouts, such as better mouse ergonomics.
In short, the Truly Ergo is likely to stand up favorably against all but the most specialized keyboards. Still, it is too early in my use of this model to give a really thorough personal accounting of its ergonomics, which comes only after months of use.
I am very pleased with the Truly Ergonomic keyboard. It is a high-quality, efficient, practical, and comfortable keyboard, and has many unique options that make it a very attractive option for those who are serious about their input devices.