Friday, June 14, 2013

Comfort With Compromises

Upgrading my PC usually calls for also upgrading some of the aging peripherals. So, even though my old keyboard (a MICROSOFT Multimedia one) was still in perfect working condition, I decided to change the whole set up. I still had fond memories of my old MS Natural Elite Pro keyboard I had used writing my Thesis, so I decided on the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 model which seemed to be its improved replacement. I have had the keyboard for over two years and here are my impressions:

- The 4000 is not just another beautiful keyboard but a really comfortable one too. Not only are the curves natural and well molded but the minimally padded leather-imitation wrist-rest offers a silky sense of luxury. The keyboard comes out of the box with a negative angle attachment, which can easily be removed - it is comfortable but personally I need to see what I am typing.

- Compared to other Ergonomic keyboards, one has to note that unless the keys are physically separated into two groups any ergonomic effects will be minimal. So, if you are thinking of Logitech's Wave, it is a good idea to actually give both of them a try at a local store before making a choice. As I said, I am no professional typist (yes, more of a 2-fingers) yet I found that my typing is much faster and my typos more rare when using Natural keyboards.

- I liked the idea of the BACK/FORWARD buttons at the wrist-rest. Although most mice now have this functions on their side buttons, it is still a big help when browsing (my mouse has a Magnifying Function where the FORWARD usually is).

- Also, this is a really quiet keyboard. You get a satisfactory feeling when pushing a button but instead of an annoying "clack" sound only a muted "tap" is heard. Ideal if your wife is in the habit of taking naps in your home-office couch.

- As an avid gamer favoring the right side of the keyboard (arrow keys instead of the WASD configuration) I enjoyed the ample room around the former.

- Finally, I liked the placement of an extra set of EQUAL, PARENTHESIS and BACKSPACE at the top right corner (especially the parenthesis, I always hated finding the opening and closing one among the numbers)

- For some reason the ENTER and RIGHT SHIFT keys are too small! I could do with regular sized "H" and "N" keys if it would mean not hunting the ENTER. And this is a large keyboard, I doubt it would make any difference if it was yet a bit longer for that.

- The SPACE bar is, well, fickle. Sometimes it works even if hit at the side. Others it refuses to respond unless hit at the middle.

- The key letters and symbols have a tendency to rub off(!). This is totally unacceptable for a premium priced product - especially one sporting MicroSoft's brand name. I decided to wait for the problem to become more pronounced and have this one replaced.

- The Media keys on top do not sit well in their homings and are not perfectly aligned. Especially the VOLUME UP in my keyboard seems to rest at an angle. Again, poor quality control for such an expensive and brand name product.

All in all: a mixed bag of good features but with compromises and inferior quality control. I truly miss my old MS Natural Elite Pro keyboard. If it came in black I would buy one again.

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