Microsoft Wireless Comfort Keyboard 5000
Our article from earlier this week about the causes of technology-related pain should've convinced most of us that no solution is a perfect one for our bodies. We thus have to find the best compromises among different solutions. On that note, let’s turn to products from the ergonomic keyboard leader, Microsoft.
Ever since high school, I’ve been a 35 word-per-minute, hunt-and-peck typist. This regrettable fact led me to enlist the help of several other people, all of whom are faster touch typists, in assessing the following keyboard products.
Microsoft sent two keyboard/mouse combinations for review: the forthcoming Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000 ($80) and the Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 ($120). The 5000 keyboard uses (to borrow Logitech’s term) a “wave” keybed design, with the main keyboard arranged along a gentle, smile-like curve. Officially, Microsoft calls this the Comfort Curve. Because of the curve, the keys near the center of the bed (G, H, B, and N most of all) are longer than keys near the left and right edges. In effect, the purpose of the design is to prevent ulnar deviation, just as a split design does, only the wave avoids having a split. Again, this is a compromise. A true split allows for even less ulnar deviation, but when it comes to ergonomics, every degree counts, while “hunt” typists like me can adapt to a wave design much more easily than a true split.
I’m not terribly interested in all of the 5000's macro and function keys, although the low-battery indicator is cool. I’m more interested in the unit’s rubber, textured wrist rest. I generally prefer soft wrist rests, and the 5000's is very firm, almost as hard as plastic. But the texture helps to keep your hands from sliding across the rest surface, so you stay centered and don’t have to expend shoulder or upper arm effort in repositioning all the time. I also found the steep taper of the rest to be more comfortable than I expected.
The 5000 also integrates a great feature for preventing wrist extension. You’re familiar with how nearly all keyboards feature feet near the top of the underside. If you flip the feet down, the top of the keyboard stands taller than the bottom. But not every user/desk configuration benefits from this orientation. Microsoft designed the rubberized feet in the 5000 to twist and snap out, then snap back into matching holes near the bottom of the underside, thus elevating the area under your palms. If you have a relatively low desk or a high chair, or (as my mother-in-law does), if you’re particularly susceptible to pain from wrist extension, then this bottom elevation can help keep you neutral and reduce strain.
Overall, there’s some ergonomic benefit to the 5000 keyboard. You may have to endure an adjustment period to train your fingers on the variable-sized keys, but the advantages over a standard straight keyboard will be worth a few hours of conditioning.
My friend has CTS and cannot use a regular mouse with one hand because of the strain, trackball fixed him right up. Not only are they friendlier on the wrist the require vastly less desk space, they are easier to control and for precision work nothing beats a trackball.
My Gaming (counterstrike: source, UT2004, UT3, half life, team fortress, day of defeat,etc) buddies all have crazy expensive uber dpi programmable gaming mice that have lasers, and my 20$ trackball whips 'em every time. Why? no wasted movement, my arm is completely stationary when mousing, my fingers can keep the ball fluid and moving in one direction without having to lift it up, move it ove,r set it down, and continue mousing, one quick flick of the finger and the ball goes spinning in the desired direction, all while my arm is relaxed and stationary.
They are in fact perfect in play situations too.
How about some trackball love?
scroll wheel or similar device
4 buttons minimum (5+ preferred) that users can define as forward/back/whatever.
I've tried many mice including the 3M joystick, Zero Tension Mouse and Evoluent upright. Those were somewhat better in terms of comfort but sacrificed buttons/functionality. As a result my last 4 or so mice have all been Logitech with my current being the MX Revolution but that's because of the extra buttons and its awesome scroll wheel, NOT the comfort which is just average.
William Van WinkleI was able to try out Logitech’s MK605 notebook kit ($100)... The keyboard and mouse are okay, and they are decently compact for travel, but I wish the stand were available separately.
The stand can be purchased individually for $30. Linkage-
Oh, bonus! Thanks for pointing that out, coconutboy. Again -- highly recommended.