Product Type: Microsoft keyboards
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Comfy Typing with a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard
Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Member Name: Deru
Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Date: 09/02/11, updated on 14/02/11 (72 review reads)
Advantages: Ergonomic Design to reduce risk of RSI, Comfortable, Programmable Hot Keys, Good Support
Disadvantages: Bit on the big side, No Next / Rewind multimedia buttons
Good ergonomics is extremely important along with best practices to avoid permanent injuries from sitting at the computer over extended periods of time. Main problem when it comes to using a keyboard is the risk of getting RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), which is caused by repeating actions such as typing and using a mouse. This condition is permanent and can be painful. The keyboard even has a big warning on the bottom (a tag on the cable refers you to the bottom of the keyboard first, in case you don't look underneath), which refers you to a "Healthy Computing Guide" included with the software and on the Microsoft website. This guide shows you how you should sit at your desk, how your screen should be positioned, how your arms should be positioned, taking breaks to avoid eye strain, et cetera, and even to eat healthily! Shows they care!
My first impression of the keyboard after setting it up is that it is a massive beast! It has two clip stands to raise the back of the keyboard if need be, much like most keyboards on the market but it also comes with a big riser, which clips underneath at the front to raise it 2cm off the desk. This makes it a very tall keyboard. Although it's optional, it may be recommended for the ergonomic benefits. It is in the shape of a 'wave', curving upwards where the massive gap between the TGB and YHN keys are, which is something I find very unusual and unique in a QWERTY keyboard. It also has a wrist/hand rest at the front made from some rubbery material, which is soft but not too squishy. With all these design features, I find typing with the keyboard extremely comfortable. It also feels very durable. I can also type pretty quickly on it thanks to the shape. The Number Lock, CAPS Lock, Scroll Lock, and F Lock LED indicators are at the bottom of the keyboard rather than at the top right, which I quite like.
The size may be a problem for some with limited desk space or for those whom need to place the keyboard in a keyboard drawer. I have a keyboard drawer built into my desk but while this keyboard is in, sliding the drawer in and out scrapes the keyboard against the bottom of my desk. This is only with the riser attached but I prefer to keep it on. This Microsoft keyboard is now on top of my desk, with my other keyboards (yes, I have loads!) stuffed underneath in the drawer. The width of the keyboard is only slightly wider than a standard one but the length from top to bottom is a third larger than standard keyboards due to the wrist rest.
The keys are very responsive and although I can hear each keystroke after striking each key, the resulting noise level is not overly loud. It's more of a soft tapping sound rather than a sharp and loud one that you might find with older keyboards.
Like many keyboards, this one has additional hotkeys to open common applications and tools and to control multimedia. I do like this sort of thing as it seems like you get more for your money, and because they can be convenient. It has the following:
- Web/Home (Internet browser to open home page)
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (to open favourite website or programs)
- Volume up and volume down
- Play / Pause
- My Favorites (brings up the Window to configure the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 buttons)
- Back / Forward (works well with Internet pages and in Windows folders and located at the bottom)
- Plus it has a Zoom sliding button to push up and down (located in a gap between the letter keys)
Most of the buttons work straight away without installing the Microsoft software but others do nothing until the software is installed. These are the numeric buttons, My Favorites and the Zoom sliding button. In addition, without the F (function) lock enabled, the F keys double as shortcuts to operate common word processing and email tasks such as Undo, Redo, New, Open, Close, Reply, Spell check, Save and Print to name a few. None of them work without first installing the software but the software is easy to install from the CD or after downloading the installer file
I bought my keyboard a while ago so I had to search for and download the software to use all the Hot Key buttons. I had to use the search box at the top of the Microsoft home page because I couldn't find it by just navigating. You could also type in www.microsoft.com/hardware (but I doubt many would know that address to start with) and then click Download Software down the left. Currently, I have both the Logitech SetPoint and the Microsoft IntelliType Pro software installed and they seem to be coexisting fine.
The buttons numbered 1 to 5 are buttons that can be programmed to open any program you have installed. This is easy to do just by pressing My Favorites or by opening the Microsoft Keyboard software from the Start Menu. All the hot key buttons and the functions operated by the F keys can be programmed to do something else quite easily. One can also assign Macros (automated tasks) but this looks a lot trickier to do if you want something more advanced than it entering a word automatically when one of the buttons are pressed. Not a problem, just that the more advanced users have a bit more flexibility in how they are able to use the Hot Keys should the need arise.
For controlling multimedia, I like how they provide volume controls and the play / pause button but if they bothered to include these, why not included Previous / Next so you can skip and go back tracks when listening to music? The Back and Forward doesn't do this. These multimedia controls only work in Windows Media Player and not VLC Player, which I also use (may work in other players like Real Player but I've not tried). All very minor niggles.
Lastly, something I've never really used are the keys at the top right of the keyboard, which are = ( ) and an another backspace (there's already the usual one next to the +/= key). I thought these were pretty unusual to include as well but it just means I can type brackets without holding SHIFT and have an extra = and backspace for when my hand is using the numeric keypad.
- Designed with ergonomics in mind to reduce the risk of RSI
- Comfortable and good for touch typists to type quickly with
- Has programmable Hot Keys, multimedia buttons plus a few more extras
- Adjustable (removable riser at the front plus foldable risers at the back (underneath))
- Good support (includes software updates from Microsoft)
- Keyboard is very big and may not fit certain desks
- No Previous / Next media Hot Keys to accompany Play / Pause
- May not be good for non-touch typists
The keyboard is great for touch typing but not so great if you don't. If you touch type or are learning, then I highly recommend it as you'll be typing comfortably with a lower risk of RSI (although you should still stop for breaks) and I think it'll help you learn faster thanks to the keys being split down the middle based on what hand you're meant to use to hit what keys. Unfortunately, if you don't touch type, this keyboard may make it more difficult for you to type as I find it more difficult to locate keys when using the 'index finger key poking' method of typing, due to the shape of the keyboard and the gap between the keys, especially if you're not familiar with the location of each letter. Lastly, there's a wireless version of this keyboard, which may be worth considering if you prefer wireless. The Microsoft Ergonomic 7000 Desktop, which comes with the wireless version of the Ergonomic keyboard, is sold with an Ergonomic mouse.
Thanks for reading!
Summary: Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard
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