After testing 13 ergonomic keyboards over the past three years, we’ve found that the Microsoft Sculpt Ergo is still the most comfortable ergonomic keyboard for most people. It is the only one to meet all of our ergonomic criteria, which include the presence of a separate number pad, a palm rest that supports your hands in a comfortable position, and support for both negative tilt and vertical “tenting.” The Sculpt Ergo’s manta-ray-like design puts your hands in the most natural and comfortable position for long bouts of typing, and it’s also a solid wireless keyboard with keys that are crisp and satisfying to press.
There’s no conclusive evidence that ergonomic keyboards can prevent injury, and if you experience serious pain or have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome or any repetitive-stress injury (RSI), see your doctor before purchasing a new keyboard as a form of treatment. For everyone else, however, ergonomic keyboards can be more comfortable than traditional keyboards if you’re typing all day long.
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard keeps your wrists and arms in a relaxed, neutral position, thanks to its negative-slope attachment, large wrist pad, and partially split, curved design. If you’re concerned about ergonomics and strain on your wrists, these are far more important features than backlit keys or dedicated shortcut keys. In addition to being a comfortable keyboard to type on for hours at a time, our pick wirelessly connects to Windows and macOS, boasts a sleek and low-profile design, and uses chiclet keys that will be familiar to anyone who’s used a recent laptop. If you spend hours typing each day and want to improve your comfort, the Sculpt Ergo is a solid and affordable investment, costing less than half the price of other great ergonomic keyboards. It doesn’t have a standard Mac key layout, though; if you need one, check out our other picks.
(Microsoft sells two versions of the Sculpt Ergo, one with a mouse and one without. We’ve tested—and don’t recommend—that particular mouse, so we advise grabbing the version without it if possible. If that’s all you can find, though, we recommend the bundle over the competition.)
If you need a more-adjustable keyboard or prefer mechanical keys to the softer membrane keys of most keyboards, the Matias Ergo Pro is our upgrade pick. The Ergo Pro is a fully-split keyboard, which means you can space the left and right halves of the keyboard as close together or far apart as you’d like to to reduce shoulder strain and neck tension. You can also angle each half of the keyboard horizontally (what’s called ‘tented’) or vertically (called a negative tilt) using the fold-out feet on the bottom of the keyboard. But unlike the Microsoft Sculpt Ergo, you cannot have both directions adjusted at the same time. You may also find that it takes a bit of time—at least a few days, if not weeks—to get used to typing on a keyboard that’s basically cut in half.
You can get the Matias Ergo Pro in a Mac or Windows key layout, and each is available in both a regular and a low force version; the latter has keys that are easier to press. Both versions have quiet mechanical keys with the best tactile feedback of the keyboards we tested. In exchange, however, you’ll have to deal with wires and the Ergo Pro’s thicker profile.
If you must have a wireless, fully split ergonomic keyboard, your best option is the Kinesis Freestyle2 Blue. As the name implies, it connects to your computer over Bluetooth and can also pair with two other devices, including Android and iOS devices. We didn’t like the Freestyle2 Blue’s keys as much as those on our other two picks, and it doesn’t do negative tilting at all. But with the VIP3 accessory, the Blue’s tented angle is more adjustable than that of the others—movable to 5, 10, or 15 degrees.
I’ve been reviewing tech hardware and software for almost a dozen years, and I’ve researched and written several articles about workspace ergonomics and health for sites such as Lifehacker. As someone who has already started having wrist, forearm, and shoulder pain—thanks to banging away at my keyboard for hours on end (it’s a job hazard), I also have a vested interest in finding the most comfortable keyboard for keeping that pain at bay.
We interviewed experts in ergonomics and keyboard design to learn what to look for in an ergonomic keyboard. Both Dr. David Rempel, director of the University of California’s ergonomics program, and professor Alan Hedge, director of Cornell University’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group, have extensively researched workplace ergonomics. Their decades of research have helped inform the ergonomic design of workstations, keyboards, mice, and more.
Standard keyboards force you to hold your wrists and arms at stressful angles, which can cause discomfort or pain over time. If you do a lot of typing and you’re concerned about your posture or hand, arm, or shoulder pain, an ergonomic keyboard can help you position your body more properly. Dr. David Rempel says that if you use a keyboard more than 10 hours a week and already experience this discomfort or pain, you should consider an ergonomic keyboard. Like buying an ergonomic chair or a standing desk, an ergonomic keyboard is an investment in yourself.
If you’ve been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome or any RSI, you should consult an ergonomics expert or your doctor for advice specific to you. This guide is about the most comfortable ergonomic keyboard for most people, but if you have pain, numbness, or other serious symptoms, you’ll likely need medical treatment tailored to your needs.
If you’re a touch typist like me who crosses over (i.e., you type the Y key with your left hand and the B key with your right), it might take some time to adjust to a split keyboard—you’ll need to relearn how to press the keys near the middle with the appropriate hand. (To be fair, there’s a learning curve whenever you get a new keyboard of any type, much like switching from a car you’re used to driving to another.) But if you have wrist pain, adjusting your typing technique is a minor hindrance if it might bring some relief.
The first step toward understanding what makes a good ergonomic keyboard is knowing how repetitive use can injure our wrists, arms, shoulders, back, and neck.
Posture at the keyboard and the keyboard’s design are both critical factors. Standard keyboards cause our wrists to bend because they force us to pull our hands closer together. “When you put your hands on [a regular] keyboard, your wrist is often bent so that the little finger is really bending away from the wrist, since your arms are coming in from the sides,” explains Hedge. “That’s called ulnar deviation. That results in compression on the ulnar nerve, and also it can cause compression of some of the tendons used to flex the fingers.”
The rationale for most ergo keyboards, Cornell’s Alan Hedge says, is to split the keyboard layout and angle it so that our hands can be straight on the keys. As Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group points out, no single ergonomic keyboard design is best for everyone. Some people will prefer low tenting angles, while others who rotate their wrists more will feel more comfortable with higher angles. Either way, there’s evidence that a split keyboard’s tented angle helps prevent that ulnar deviation.
For wrist and forearm pain, the vertical angle of our wrists when typing is even more important than horizontal tenting. Take a look at how you hold your hands at the keyboard. Do your palms tilt upward or downward from your wrists, or are they in a straight line with your forearm? This neutral tilt for your wrists is a good start, but, ideally, your lower arm should be slanted downward, with your elbows higher than your wrists. Most keyboards don’t lie flat, though—much less angle downward from front to back—so you might be flexing your wrists 10 degrees or more upward just so your fingers can reach over the edge of the keyboard. This palms-up position, called extension, is a major cause of strain. The little feet that most keyboards have in the back, which raise the back edge of the keyboard upward like an old typewriter? Don’t use those.
“Repeated extremes of wrist extension can put excessive pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel of the wrist, and this impairs nerve function and eventually results in injury,” explains a Cornell research study. That same study noted that a keyboard with negative tilt (angled downward, away from the user) protected the carpal tunnel from critical pressure far more than regular keyboards.
This is why we focused on ergonomic keyboards with a negative tilt option or attachment. In lieu of a negative tilt, however, you can adjust any keyboard’s tilt with an adjustable keyboard tray or, if you use a standing desk, an ergonomic keyboard stand. You’ll also want to make sure that the keyboard is at the correct height in relation to your elbows and arms.
How you hold the rest of your body as you type matters, too. At a traditional desk, Rempel says that your shoulders should be relaxed, your upper arms close to your torso, and your forearms level with the floor. (But if you can use a keyboard or tray with a negative tilt, that’s even better.) This position will help you keep your shoulders from hunching forward and also reduce strain on your arms and upper back. The placement of keys on conventional keyboards tends to encourage the opposite, causing your hands to angle in and your elbows to push out from your sides. This leads to hunched shoulders and upper back strain. With split keyboards, though, you can hold your upper arms at the most comfortable position: by your sides. Similarly, a keyboard with a built-in number pad forces right-handed mouse users to extend their arm quite a ways to use the mouse; one without a number pad lets you keep your right arm closer to your side.
Also, you know those wrist pads built into some keyboards or available as an accessory? They’re actually for your palms, not your wrists. Ergonomic keyboards have large palm rests to support the meaty part of your palm under your thumb and pinky and to keep you from extending your hands when typing. Rempel says the area from your wrist to about three inches below your elbow shouldn’t have any contact with the desk or keyboard edge, but you can rest your palm or the meaty part of your forearm on something for support. (Bonus tip: Don’t rest your funny-bone area on your chair’s arm supports. It puts too much pressure on your nerves!)
The keys themselves also impact keyboard comfort and ergonomics. The shape and size of the keys, how much force you need to press a key before it registers (called the actuation point), and how much feedback (tactile and auditory) you get from the key all affect how comfortable your hands will be after a long day of typing. Key feel will also influence how effectively you’ll type. Some people prefer the shallower chiclet-style keys found in laptop keyboards, while others prefer full-depth keys.
Rempel told us that the “the feel of a click when pressed and consistent force across all keys” is even more important for ergonomics than the height of each key. We want “relatively light-touch keys with an actuation force between 45 and 60 grams” according to Rempel. “The haptic feedback and consistent force are indicators of good quality. Typically a good feel is a key with some click about halfway through the stroke.”
Our keyboard picks all use different key styles and switches, so you can choose according to your preference. Otherwise, all ergonomic keyboards attempt to address the issues above—wrist angle and arm position—by allowing you to tilt the keyboard downward and/or sideways and maintaining a low, compact profile.
Based on advice from Rempel and Hedge, the most important features we looked for in an ergonomic keyboard were a split design (whether a fixed split or complete split); a low profile; clicky, responsive keys; a negative tilt; and no built-in numeric keypad, so you can have the mouse closer to you.
Few companies make ergonomic keyboards these days. We researched 25 models advertised as being ergonomic and dismissed 10 without traditional keyboard layouts like the vertical SafeType. Microsoft’s old Natural keyboard, for example, while well-loved, is 13 years old and has a dealbreaking number pad that forces a right-handed mouse user too far to the right to reach the mouse.
Back in 2014, Wes Fenlon and Tested’s Will Smith and Norman Chan tried out nine keyboards for us and declared the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard the best for most people and the Kinesis Freestyle2 the upgrade pick. In 2016 we retested those two top picks against the Kinesis Freestyle2 Blue and the Matias Ergo Pro, and in 2017 we tested two more contenders.
I used each keyboard for at least four days of writing, emailing, and web browsing. (Trust me; I did a lot of typing!) For each keyboard, we considered some specific criteria:
I switched to a different keyboard halfway through each day, so that each keyboard got equal time both in the mornings, when I was less likely to have typing fatigue, and in the evenings, when achiness was most noticeable. I also logged the level of discomfort I felt after constant typing with each keyboard, much like the 0-10 pain scale doctors use (for reference: I’m usually around 3 or 4 most days).
Comfort is subjective and everyone has different postures and varying hand sizes, so I combined my testing with the opinions of five panel members to find out how much strain the keyboards placed on their bodies, how efficiently they were able to type, and how the keys felt compared to those of their current keyboards.
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergo is the only keyboard we tested that offers tenting (rotating the wrists properly to avoid ulnar deviation), a negative tilt to prevent extension, and a supportive palm rest. The manta-ray-shaped keyboard is designed with a curved bump in the middle to achieve tenting of about 10 degrees, while a magnetic attachment tilts the back of the keyboard down about 5 degrees. (Yes, I got out my protractor for this.)
The Sculpt Ergo also includes low-profile, clicky keys, along with a number pad that’s separate from the main keyboard, allowing it to meet all of our ergonomic criteria at less than half the price of our other main contenders. As such, it’s a great keyboard for those on a budget or people who are on the fence about getting an ergonomic keyboard.
In my testing, the large, curved palmrest was comfortable to rest my hands on, and because the keys are shallow and laptop-style, I didn’t have to bend my wrists upward while resting my fingers on the home row keys or typing. My shoulders also felt more relaxed during the day compared to using my previous mechanical keyboard because of the way the keyboard forces you to place your hands a bit farther apart. One of our panel testers, a programmer who logs a ton of hours each day at the keyboard, said he loved the keyboard’s angles and immediately felt relief positioning his hands on the keyboard—moreso even than with the completely split keyboards. Another tester said he felt the keyboard opened his upper body up a bit and he preferred it to his standard work keyboard.
The keys are full-size, well-spaced chiclet keys, except for the top function row (which we’ll cover in the next section). Key presses are crisp, but they seem less stiff than those on similar keyboards that use scissor switches, such as Apple’s wireless keyboard. (I couldn’t find a measure of the actuation force needed for the Sculpt Ergo, but Apple’s keyboards are reportedly between 62 g and 65 g, so I’d estimate the Sculpt Ergo’s as less than 60 g.) The keys have a bit more travel and take less force to depress than the keys on the current MacBook Pro. The keys strike a nice balance between being easy to press and being responsively springy—they’re as satisfying to type on as the keys on any good chiclet-style laptop keyboard.
The Sculpt Ergo is also easier to adjust to than many other ergonomic keyboards because the partial split between the left and right sections is only one half-inch to one inch wide, and the layout is otherwise the same as on a traditional keyboard—many other ergo models are fully split or use alternative layouts. The fully split and adjustable keyboards we tested—the Matias Ergo Pro and Kinesis Freestyle2 Blue—took me longer to adapt to and regain my full typing speed on.
At the end of full days of typing on the Sculpt Ergo, I felt very little, if any, increase in fatigue or achiness in my hands or elbows compared to using my regular keyboard. The Sculpt Ergo hasn’t fixed my typing-related soreness (it could take weeks or even months to see a big difference, Rempel tells me), but this is a comfortable keyboard to type on for multiple ten-plus-hour days in a row.
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergo is our top pick for most people because it meets all our criteria, and most people who don’t already have consistent keyboard-related pain will likely find it more comfortable to use for hours on end compared to a traditional keyboard. But if you have consistent aches while typing, you need more customization, or the Sculpt Ergo doesn’t fit your body’s ergonomic needs, our upgrade pick may be better for you.
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergo is a one-size-fits-all keyboard. You cannot adjust the angle of the negative tilt, nor the angle of the tenting, nor the distance of the split between the left and right sections. This makes the keyboard easier to set up and use for most people, but the fixed measurements also mean that the keyboard won’t help everyone. If you have broad shoulders or shoulder pain or tend to rotate your wrists more, a fully split, adjustable keyboard will be better for you.
The biggest typing issue with the Sculpt Ergo is that it’s pretty easy to bottom out the keys if you’re a heavy typist like I am. The keys don’t have a lot of travel distance or resistance, and there’s no tactile bump or audible click to let you know the keystroke has registered so you don’t have to press the key all the way down. This can cause more fatigue in your fingers than mechanical keys that register a click and a bump halfway through a key press. Still, if you’re used to laptop keyboards—as most of us now are—this won’t be as much of an issue for you.
The keyboard’s layout and key sizes might also be an issue for some. The Delete key, for example, is to the right of the Backspace key, so I found myself often mistakenly hitting delete instead of backspace. The function keys, along with the Escape key and a few hotkeys, are not only miserably small, they’re hard to press, more like buttons than keyboard keys. And for some reason, Microsoft decided to make Function a switch instead of a key, so you have to toggle it to the left or right to use any functions. If you use that top row or the function keys often, expect to work a little slower on this keyboard, at least at first.
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard comes highly recommended by reliable reviewers, gadget enthusiasts, and keyboard buyers alike (currently earning a four out of five rating on Amazon across 1,104 reviews).
PCMag gave the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard a 4 out of 5 “excellent” rating, citing its sleek, clutter-free wireless design and the automatic angle adjustment that puts your wrists and “into a very natural position.” The reviewer’s main criticisms are that the keyboard’s wave shape takes some getting used to (as most ergonomic keyboards do) and that the bundled mouse could be better. (We recommend the version without the mouse, if you can find it.)
AllThingsD also praised the Sculpt Keyboard: “Not only did I feel slightly less strained in my wrist and shoulders, but the keyboard, frankly, wasn’t ugly. […] So, if you’re in the market for a new ergonomic keyboard, I can recommend the Sculpt as a solid option.” The reviewer’s main criticism was the lack of indicator lights for caps lock, wireless connection, and battery.
Jason Chen, former editor-in-chief of Gizmodo, told me in a Facebook interview it was the best keyboard he’s ever used: “Combines ergo (which I love) with low profile, laptop-style movement keys.” Compared with other Microsoft ergonomic keyboards and Logitech ones, Chen said: “[The others are] way too hard, some ‘sticky,’ some too fluffy. Logitech ones are okay but [none of them] feel as good as this.”
Developer Marco Arment concluded his review of the Microsoft Sculpt Ergo with “The Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop keyboard is great. It’s my new favorite and primary keyboard, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it kept that crown for the next 8 years.”
If you’re a fan of mechanical keyboards, we recommend the Matias Ergo Pro, available with layouts for both Mac and Windows. At around $200 at the time of writing, the Matias Ergo Pro costs more than twice as much as the Microsoft Sculpt Ergo, but that’s on par with the cost of other excellent mechanical keyboards. For the price, you get the solid, satisfyingly clicky feel and feedback unique to mechanical keyboards—but with ergonomic options. You can tent the keyboard halves or tilt them away from you, and the completely split design means you can position the keyboard halves for optimal wrist, shoulder, and arm comfort. But unlike the Microsoft Sculpt Ergo, the Matias Ergo Pro can’t do both tenting and negative tilt at the same time.
Both the Mac and Windows versions of the Matias Ergo Pro keyboard are available with either of two keyswitch types: the regular Ergo Pro and the Ergo Pro Low Force. Which one will be more comfortable for you depends on how you type. The Low Force version, as the name implies, requires less force than the keys on a typical keyboard to actuate: 35 g of force throughout the keypress. As a “linear switch,” the amount of force needed to press the key is consistent from top to bottom. The keys are almost effortless to press, requiring the slightest of taps to register. They’re like a feather pillow: easy to sink into from the moment you rest your head down until you’re asleep, your head nearly touching your mattress.
The Ergo Pro switches, on the other hand, have a more-common 60 g actuation force, but it’s a non-linear switch: After first pressing the key, the force required to continue pressing drops off quickly, and there’s a tactile bump (and a quiet click) part way through the key travel to let you know, yes, you’ve pressed that key. That audible and tactile bump signals to your brain to stop pressing, so you avoid bottoming out and can continue quickly to the next key. To carry out the analogy, it’s like a memory-foam pillow, requiring a little more pressure to get to that perfect spot but then springing back against you so you don’t sink completely into the pillow and mattress.
The Low Force might be better for you if you already have finger or hand pain, since the keys take less effort to press. For most people, the Ergo Pro is the most ergonomic option: It offers that notable click about halfway through the press that Rempel recommended. Plus most people tend to press keys with three to eight times more force than necessary anyway, Hedge says.
Matias designed these mechanical switches based on ALPS’s design, which is the main historical alternative to Cherry MX switches. Both Matias switches are quiet, so you get the same tactile clicky feel as with other mechanical keyboards, but the keys are as quiet to press as those on a regular keyboard. Your office mates will appreciate not suffering through loud typewriter-like clickety-clacks throughout the day. (Though I, and possibly many other mechanical-keyboard enthusiasts, would prefer the loud, clickety-clack sound of, say, a Cherry MX Blue switch.)
It took me a few days to get used to the Ergo Pro and find the most comfortable position for the keyboard halves. I normally type around 75 words per minute on my CoolerMaster mechanical keyboard, but I was lucky to get half of that rate with the fully split Ergo Pro. It’s almost like having your brain split in half as you try to type when you’re so used to typing with your hands closer together. After 30 days of regular use, I still typed more slowly and made more mistakes with the Ergo Pro than I did with the Sculpt Ergo because of that great gap. But it took only about three days to get used to the Ergo Pro and improve my typing productivity compared to when I first started using the keyboard. My brain remembers which hand types the B and the Y!
Our panel members said that the Ergo Pro felt more comfortable than the other fully split keyboards and that they made fewer mistakes on it during the typing tests. One commented that the Ergo Pro has the “most natural feeling of the four. A subtle angle, comfortable and familiar, with a good feel overall.” Unlike the other keyboards, testers didn’t feel like they had to struggle to find the keys—an important factor for touch typists. Three of our five panel testers still preferred the Microsoft Sculpt Ergo overall, with the Ergo Pro a close second. The other two testers liked the Ergo Pro best and chose the Sculpt as their personal runners-up.
Because it’s more adjustable than the other models, the Ergo Pro is more ergonomic for a wider swath of comfort needs. For example, my shoulders are always so tight they’re like rocks, but the moment I plugged in the Ergo Pro and separated the halves so my arms were by my sides, I felt instant shoulder relief. (Go ahead and try it: Put your hands roughly shoulders-width apart, your elbows back by your sides, and pretend to type. Doesn’t that feel better?)
The cable that connects the two keyboard halves allows you to separate them by about 24 inches and retracts into a spool if you don’t need that much space between the halves. With the rubber feet on the bottom of the keyboard, you can adjust the height and angle of each keyboard half—into either a tenting mode with up to 9 degrees of vertical tilt or into a negative tilt up to 4.5 degrees. Unfortunately, you can’t do both at the same time unless you tent the keyboard and use a keyboard tray or stand for negative tilt.
The Ergo Pro is also a joy to type on. The keys are larger and more curved than those on the other ergonomic keyboards we looked at. This means that you can type by touch more quickly, as it’s easier to feel your way around the keys, and the mechanical keyboard’s tactile feedback helps minimize typos: You’ll always know when a key has registered, unlike with mushier membrane keyboards. I wish the Escape key was directly over the tilde key, as it is on most keyboards, and the placement of the Control key to the left of the N key (on the right half) is odd. But otherwise, the Ergo Pro offers a standard layout that keeps typing familiar, so the learning curve is gentle except for the gap between the keyboard halves. The palmrest is also plushy and firm, the thickest and most comfortable of the bunch—or of any other keyboard or keyboard accessory I’ve used.
During my testing, the Ergo Pro registered every keypress immediately every time, but the tradeoff is unsightly wires. You can choose between the included 3-foot or 6.5-foot USB cables to connect the keyboard to your computer. However, these cables each have an awkward, 90-degree Micro-USB plug that forces the cable to stretch to the left or else bend out and back if you want it to go in the other direction; they’re a hassle. On the other hand, a wired connection allows the Ergo Pro to provide three USB 2.0 ports for connecting other peripherals.
Ergonomics don’t end at the keyboard, and any keyboard you get will need to be part of an ergonomic workspace. The Ergo Pro is about as thick as regular keyboards—ranging from one quarter-inch to three quarter-inches taller than both the Sculpt Ergo and the Freestyle2 (below), so you’ll have to take that height into consideration when setting up your workspace. For a more ergonomically ideal workspace, we recommend pairing the Ergo Pro on a keyboard stand or tray configured with a negative tilt.
If you want a fully split keyboard without the mess of wires, or if you’d like to use the keyboard for both your computer and your mobile gadgets, the Kinesis Freestyle2 Blue—available in Mac and Windows versions—paired with the company’s VIP3 accessory, is the best option for you. (The VIP3 accessory is a must-have; we’ll explain more in a moment.) While the Freestyle2 Blue’s keys were our least favorite of our picks, the keyboard worked flawlessly for typing on a desktop computer and mobile devices.
The Freestyle2 Blue costs roughly the same as the wired Freestyle2, our previous upgrade pick, but this version adds wireless connectivity and multi-device pairing for much more versatility. The keyboard comes in two versions—one for Windows, Linux, and Android, the other for macOS and iOS—and either version can pair with up to three devices. Pairing the Freestyle2 Blue with my Microsoft Surface Book laptop and Android phone was as easy as pairing any Bluetooth accessory with a computer or phone. Switching between paired devices is also easy—you press Function plus the appropriate switching key, located along the left edge of the keyboard—and despite my initial concerns about potential lag, I didn’t experience lag when using the keyboard with any device. The Blue is similar in versatility to our Bluetooth keyboard pick but designed for ergonomic comfort.
As with the Matias Ergo Pro, using the fully split keyboard takes some getting used to, but the advantage, again, is the customizable position of the keyboard halves. The model we tested came with a 9-inch cable to connect the two halves, which is just enough separation to hold my arms comfortably by my sides. I have a small frame, though, so most people should pay the $20 extra for the model with a 20-inch cable for more flexibility.
The VIP3 accessory is a must for getting the most ergonomic benefits from this keyboard. With it, you can tent-angle the keyboard halves to 5, 10, or 15 degrees—more of an angle than with either the Sculpt Ergo or the Ergo Pro. (Without the VIP3, you can’t tent the keyboard at all.) If your wrists need to be at a sharper angle to avoid pain while typing, the Blue might be your best choice. The accessory also adds much-needed palm rests, which are similar in comfort and feel to Microsoft’s. While not as low-profile as the Sculpt Ergo, the Freestyle2 Blue’s shallower keys allow your fingers to sit flatter rather than reaching up over tall keys; the keyboard holds your wrists flat and comfortably for hours on end.
The Freestyle2 lies completely flat, with a zero-degree slope whether with the VIP3 accessory or without it. We prefer a negative tilt for maximum wrist comfort: One panel tester said that the other keyboards’ negative tilt angles felt more relieving. As with the Matias keyboards, you’ll need a keyboard stand or tray to achieve both tenting and a negative tilt.
The Freestyle2 Blue’s keys require only a light touch, with an actuation force of 35 g (like that of the Matias Ergo Pro Low Force switches). The keys are easy to press and satisfyingly clicky, especially for a keyboard that uses rubber-dome, membrane keys. There’s no bump when you press the key partway, like you get with mechanical key switches, but even when you bottom out on the full-travel keys, the landing is soft and the keys spring back nicely. Although the Freestyle2 Blue’s keys don’t feel mushy like typical membrane keys, they’re not as crisp as the keys on the Microsoft Sculpt Ergo or either version of the Matias Ergo Pro.
The Matias Ergo Pro has a better build quality and key feel than the Freestyle2 Blue, and our panel testers preferred the comfort of Microsoft Sculpt Ergo and the Matias keyboards to the Freestyle2, but if you frequently switch between typing on your tablet or phone and your computer (or just want the option) or you hate messy cables, the Freestyle2 Blue is the most comfortable and adaptable wireless ergonomic keyboard we’ve seen.
The Kinesis Freestyle Edge is a fully split mechanical keyboard designed for gamers, but it can, of course, work for anyone. It has a tenting kit, detachable palm supports, Cherry switches, blue backlighting, customizable layouts, and programmable macro keys. The Freestyle Edge and Lift Kit was funded on Kickstarter, and is expected to be widely available in September or October 2017 for $250. Once it ships, we’ll take a look at it.
The other keyboards we looked at and tested all made too many compromises for us to recommend them for most people. Some models we looked at were labeled “ergonomic” but didn’t meet the ergonomic criteria our experts laid out.
Microsoft’s Surface Ergonomic Keyboard shares the Sculpt Ergo’s partially split design, and connects over Bluetooth instead of a wireless USB dongle. The Surface Ergo’s keys have more resistance and feel clickier than those of the Sculpt Ergo, and the Surface Ergo’s top function row contains standard keys instead of the Sculpt Ergo’s awkward buttons. But the nonremovable number pad and the lack of a keyboard riser for negative tilt make the Surface Ergo less ergonomic than its cousin. We—and a number of Amazon reviewers—also experienced connectivity issues on macOS and Windows.
The ErgoDox EZ is a fully split mechanical keyboard with aluminum legs that allow you to precisely adjust both the tilt and the tenting of each half to any angle, making it the most customizable ergonomic keyboard out there. You can even completely remap the keys using an online keyboard configurator—which we found easy to use—and switch between layouts with the press of a key. And it’s available with seven Gateron switch types to choose from.
But because of the keyboard’s unique design, re-creating a standard keyboard layout is impossible. The ErgoDox has two extra columns of modifier keys in the center of the keyboard that make touch typing harder and displace important keys like the apostrophe and the plus and equal signs. The palm-rest accessory fully supports your palms only when the keyboard halves lie flat, not when they’re tilted or tented. At over $300 for the bundle with printed keycaps, the palm rest, and the tilt/tent kit, this is a keyboard for tinkerers and anyone who wants maximum customizability, but not one for most people.
The wired Kinesis Freestyle2 was our previous upgrade pick, but the newer Bluetooth version is worth the extra cost. They’re identical in design, feel, and performance, but the Bluetooth model supports up to three paired devices and cuts down on desk clutter.
We ruled out the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 for both its age and its built-in number pad, which doesn’t meet one of our ergonomic criteria.
The Logitech MK550 lacks negative tilt or any kind of split to separate the hands. It also has feet in the back, which is a dangerous keyboard design that needs to be killed off.
Though labeled as being ergonomic, the Microsoft Sculpt Comfort also doesn’t use a split design. Its wave pattern doesn’t separate your hands enough and the keys are stiff and flat.
The Perixx Periboard 512 gets a check for its split design, but it lacks a negative tilt, has mushy membrane keys, and throws its number pad and other dedicated shortcut keys to the right side.
Like the Perixx, the Adesso Tru-Form Media is too large and wide to be considered truly ergonomic, and the keys are loud and creaky to type on.
The Goldtouch Go is designed for travel, but as a result it makes too many compromises ergonomically. It’s too small, it feels cramped to type on, it doesn’t have negative tilt or a wrist rest, and it’s simply not as good a desk keyboard as our top picks.
Chunky and wide, the Fellowes Microban is too big to support proper mouse placement. We also weren’t fans of the membrane keys, which felt cheap and plasticy.
The Kinesis Maxim model is quite old (from at least as far back as 2002—it has a PS/2 port option, not to mention a 1990s design). We decided to test the more-recent Kinesis Freestyle2 instead.
We decided to test the Goldtouch Go instead of the Goldtouch GTN-0099 V2 because they’re similarly shaped but the Go was more highly rated.
The Kinesis Advantage 2 is well-regarded among ergonomic-keyboard enthusiasts, but its fixed design with extreme horizontal and vertical angles means it isn’t a good fit for most keyboard users—at nearly $350, we’d like more adjustability in an ergonomic keyboard. That said, if you need more of a tenting angle for your wrists than you get with our top picks (this one gives you a 20-degree position), discuss the Kinesis Advantage2 with your doctor.
The Truly Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard uses a unique symmetric-column key layout and has a small footprint. It’s also fully programmable, so you can create your own custom layout. But at its high price, we prefer a keyboard that can accommodate more body sizes, wrist-tilt preferences, and so on, like the less-expensive Matias Ergo Pro.
(Photos by Melanie Pinola.)
Originally published: June 2, 2016