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Offline ergo_typing

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Matias Ergo Pro Review
« on: Thu, 09 July 2015, 09:40:29 »
Matias Ergo Pro Review

TL;DR
If you want a sturdy, professionally made split mechanical keyboard, the Ergo Pro is the one you want.

Keyboard Background
To place this review in context, my previous keyboard experience is: Kinesis Freestyle, Ergodox (Cherry Red with PBT caps) and now the Ergo Pro. I also used an AEKII back in the day so I have had some previous ALPS experience but not in recent typing history.

Overall Build
The first impressions of a keyboard are always informed by the feel of the thing. I believe this is the first Matias keyboard with a matt finish. I think this is an excellent materials choice, as the Ergo Pro isn't a fingerprint magnet. The only downside is the surface seems to collect dust quite easily, but if it's a choice between dust and fingerprints -- this is the right choice.

The body of the keyboard itself is very sturdy and reassuringly heavy. Thanks to nine rubber feet on each panel, regardless of ergonomic settings (see Ergonomics below), this keyboard does not slide around. Once you have found the ideal position for you, the panels aren't going anywhere. The body is a little on the large size, but you get all the function keys and some dedicated cut/copy/paste keys, should that be of interest. Here is a stack of the Ergodox, Kinesis Freestyle and the Ergo Pro to give a relative size comparison.

"Stack of keyboards"

I have a confession -- I've never used a wrist rest before. I've always been a touch typer and was taught to float my wrists, so scorned those with them. I suspected I would be detaching the wrist rests from the keyboard and finding a different tenting solution.

* ergo_typing looks embarrassed and scuffs foot on the floor

Ok, I was wrong, you guys had a point. These wrist rests act as a nice foot stool for the hands when pausing to think about what's going wrong with that line of code. Just remember to resume floating your wrists when you get back to it, otherwise Mavis Beacon will frown in your general direction.

Switches and Keycaps
The Ergo Pro uses quiet click switches quiet click switches. They are indeed quiet. I don't think anyone should have concerns for office use. My experience of mechanical switches is small so I won't go into much depth here. Compared with Cherry Reds, I notice the additional force required for actuation but I don't find it excessive. The tactility of the quiet click provides a more satisfying 'thunk', which is rather appealing for straight typing.

"Keycaps"

Let's get this out of the way -- ABS. They're not as nice as PBT, but as far as ABS goes, the Ergo Pro caps aren't bad, just not great. To give you a sense of these keycaps, in the keycaps picture, you can see from left to right: command key and g key from the Ergo Pro, a key from a Leopold number pad, an Ergodox key and a Kinesis Freestyle key. There are three keys in particular which have received special attention on this keyboard: the escape key, the control key and the space bar. The escape key falls away at a negative slant. According to Matias:

Quote
The position & size of the Esc key (and the dead space between Caps Lock and A) are to accommodate the change in relative key positions that happens with greater separation distances / angles.  As your opening angle increases, you'll find that the old positions are awkward to reach.  This is also why the Tab and Tilde keys are wider -- we did a lot of user testing on this.

"Escape Key"

I don't know whether that key design choice increasing my accuracy in hitting the escape key as I was never really aware of that being a problem but in practice, it feels fine. The control key also makes a bold choice. It's big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggling big it is. But it's very easy to hit. According to Matias:

Quote
With a Ctrl key that big and convex in shape, you can just sort-of make a fist and use the knuckles of your fingers to hold down Ctrl.  This is more comfortable and quicker than using your little finger to hold down Ctrl -- because your hand can stay in home position and there's no unnatural stretching required.

"Hulk Smash!"

(Hulk Smash!)

Finally, the spacebar. That unsung hero of the keyboard. The spacebar on the Ergo Pro really is wonderful. As you can see, it's wide, deep and curved. This means regardless of the size of your hand, it's highly likely your thumb is going to be able to hit the spacebar, cleanly and consistently. I know it looks a little odd having these oversized keys but when you get used to it, they are lovely.

"Spacebar"

Ergonomics
We now enter the highly subjective, opinionated section. Ergonomics are a personal thing. If you've found a solution which works for you -- fantastic. This is just how I feel about typing with this keyboard.

My view on keyboard ergonomics begins and ends with: anything different always feels better, for a week. Therefore, any one size fits all approach such as the Kinesis Advantage or the Truly-Ergonomic have struck me as a compromised design. Having a static width between hands will never suit all customers, as the correct (most comfortable) space between your hands will be predicated upon multiple factors; height, shoulder width and hand size. And with a static design, you can't make small adjustments and variation of hand position over time. Fully split, discrete panels represent a much more flexible, ergonomic design.

From a ergonomics geek perspective, the first obvious choice made on the Ergo Pro is that of a staggered layout. Much has been written on staggered vs columnar keyboard layout and the relative ergonomic merits. I feel that Matias made a reasonable choice here with a staggered layout. As this keyboard is obviously targeting as broad an audience as possible, asking a user to adjust to both a fully split design and learning a columnar layout might be seen as a step too far. I think the most ergonomic benefits can be achieved with a fully split keyboard and either tenting or negative tilt. Sure columnar would have been nice but if columnar is really your thing, there is always the Ergodox choice.

For those of us with broad shoulders, the inside placement of the usb port is very well thought out ergonomic choice. When moving the panels shoulder width apart, there is a handy pointing device shaped hole in the middle. Fine if you're using a wireless trackpad, but not so much if you are a trackball or mouse type. With an internally facing USB port, Matias has enabled much easier cable routing and switching out of devices.

"The space between"

The only downside of this arrangement is the lack of a USB port on the left panel. Us southpaws will still need to deal with cable clutter on the left side of the keyboard. As the two panels are connected via a TRRS cable I suspect this makes a USB port on the left panel not possible.

The Ergo Pro comes with two USB cables, one short and one long. The shorter of the two has a clever USB connector which fits regardless of orientation. But both cables are left angled at the micro USB end. Matias said:

Quote
Regarding the Micro-USB cables, they all veer to the left, so that users plugging them into laptops can position them directly in front, without interference from a perpendicular cable end.  We provide 2 lengths, so that desktop and laptop users aren't left with a cable that's too long or too short.

I would love to see the longer of the two cables switch to a right angled cable, as it seems more likely if you are using the longer cable, you are more likely to be connecting to a laptop/desktop further away. This would enable more tidy cable management. As micro USB cables are so cheap, this is not really a difficult problem to solve after the fact.

The wrist rest attachment on the Ergo Pro also provides the choice of either tenting or negative tilt. The feet of the wrist rest can be adjusted easily for either configuration. The angle of tenting and tilt are relatively soft, but quite comfortable and it's trivial to switch between them. If you don't have the desk space or need a different support solution, you'll need to think about an alternative tenting/tilt option. There are easy mounting screw threads on the bottom of the keyboard, DIY options should be easy.

Coming from using an Ergodox, I was interested to see what level of programability the Ergo Pro has. None would seem to be the first answer. However, hidden under the right panel command key is a set of DIP switches:

"Dipswitches"

These switches aren't documented in the packaging which strikes me as a curious omission. The switches let you toggle between mac/pc layout, capslock/control and define whether the left or right space bar should trigger a delete. This last option is the ergonomically interesting decision. Not having to move your right hand far into the top right hand side of the keyboard for a delete press really assists in keeping your hands where they should be: the home row. I highly recommend trying this setup out for a week. It will take you a little while to get used to not repositioning your hands every time you make a mistake, but it's great when you're used to it.

One last point in the ergonomics of this keyboard which shouldn't pass without noting is that of The Six Controversy. When typing on a standard keyboard, the subject of which finger should be assigned to the numeral 6 key is hotly contested. When dealing with a fully split keyboard, the designer of the layout needs to make a decision. Left side, or right side. This issue led to a wonderful conversation here: The correct finger for the six key. I happen to fall into the "should be on the right side, obviously" camp, so the Ergo Pro works great for me. If not, you could always use Karabiner or AutoHotKey to remap to your hearts desire.

Conclusion

"M15"

The Matias Ergo Pro feels like a modern day reimagining of the IBM M15. Although, as you can see from the picture, IBM obviously got it wrong as to where the 6 key should be! The Ergo Pro is a well thought out keyboard with several positive ergonomic contributions: fully split, tent/tilt and that wonderful spacebar. The other significant step Matias has made is that of a commercially readily available, ergonomic keyboard with mechanical switches. No more membrane for us ergo-typers. If your wrists have ever complained to you about too much typing -- this keyboard is worth serious attention.

Pros:
The first widely available, two panel mechanical keyboard. It's mechanical, what more do you want?
Very good build quality.
Great ergonomic customisation.
Wonderful Space/Delete dual spacebar.

Cons:
Remove the NumLock key on the right panel (this has thankfully been excised on newer versions of the keyboard)
It would be very useful if one of the USB cables were right angled.
It would be great to have instructions in the box on how to alter the DIP switches.
PBT keycaps as an option (my understanding is this is being worked on).
Higher quality, longer TRRS cable, preferably not a retractable one as these always seem to fail.
Programability - I know this will not happen, but a man can dream.

Offline Hzza

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 09 July 2015, 09:58:11 »
Nice review, I agree with most of it (I'm still not 100% sold on right side 6 but I'm coming around to it :D).

Could you go into a little more detail as to which dipswitches do what? I'm currently borrowing one of these and would like to know more about them so I can have a play when I get home :D.

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 09 July 2015, 10:11:23 »
Thanks for the review. Would've been nice to have a shot of the keyboard from top down. And are you wearing gloves or did you paint your hands white??
Please check out TactileZine.com!

Offline ergo_typing

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 09 July 2015, 10:33:07 »
Nice review, I agree with most of it (I'm still not 100% sold on right side 6 but I'm coming around to it :D).

Could you go into a little more detail as to which dipswitches do what? I'm currently borrowing one of these and would like to know more about them so I can have a play when I get home :D.

Matias posted this image in one of the big threads. The switches are located under the right command key (mac)



And you will come round to the right side on the 6 key. It's far more powerful :D

Offline ergo_typing

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 09 July 2015, 10:34:07 »
Thanks for the review. Would've been nice to have a shot of the keyboard from top down. And are you wearing gloves or did you paint your hands white??

I'm just that pale  :eek:

Offline billputer

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 15 July 2015, 10:56:50 »
It would be very useful if one of the USB cables were right angled.
I got round two, and the short USB cable is right angled where it attaches to the keyboard.
CM Storm QFR-i | Matias Ergo Pro (pre-ordered) | M$FT Natural Ergonomic 4000

Offline ConscienceDrop

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 15 July 2015, 11:00:00 »
If this came with pbt caps it would be literally perfect.


Offline ergo_typing

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 15 July 2015, 11:57:05 »
It would be very useful if one of the USB cables were right angled.
I got round two, and the short USB cable is right angled where it attaches to the keyboard.

How interesting. I also got a round two and both cables are still left angled. How odd. I wonder what the story behind this is.

Offline ergo_typing

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #8 on: Wed, 15 July 2015, 11:59:01 »
If this came with pbt caps it would be literally perfect.

PBT does make everything better. I'm really looking forward to when they release a black, blank and thick PBT set. I think it's fantastic that they are working on it because with ergo boards in particularly with non-standard sized keys, the likelihood of a third party doing it would be remarkably remote  :)

Offline chyros

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 15 July 2015, 12:10:10 »
And are you wearing gloves or did you paint your hands white??
He's British. This is the default skin colour for Brits :p .
Check my keyboard video reviews:


Offline ergo_typing

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 15 July 2015, 12:11:59 »
And are you wearing gloves or did you paint your hands white??
He's British. This is the default skin colour for Brits :p .

Sun? We just don't believe it exists. It's a myth created by Californians.

Offline spwath

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 16 July 2015, 09:10:10 »
Nice. Id say more like a modern day Apple Adjustable Keyboard, as it uses alps, has the correct 6 placement

http://www.vecchicomputer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Apple_Adjustable_Keyboard-tastiera_aperta.jpg

Offline ergo_typing

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 16 July 2015, 09:33:33 »
Nice. Id say more like a modern day Apple Adjustable Keyboard, as it uses alps, has the correct 6 placement

http://www.vecchicomputer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Apple_Adjustable_Keyboard-tastiera_aperta.jpg

All the best keyboards put the 6 in the right place :)

I've never used the Apple Adjustable - was it possible to move the two parts completely apart like the Ergo Pro? I've only ever seen the Apple Adjustable pivoted open while still being connected at the top (as in the picture you linked to).


Offline spwath

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 16 July 2015, 12:17:17 »
Nice. Id say more like a modern day Apple Adjustable Keyboard, as it uses alps, has the correct 6 placement

http://www.vecchicomputer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Apple_Adjustable_Keyboard-tastiera_aperta.jpg

All the best keyboards put the 6 in the right place :)

I've never used the Apple Adjustable - was it possible to move the two parts completely apart like the Ergo Pro? I've only ever seen the Apple Adjustable pivoted open while still being connected at the top (as in the picture you linked to).
Nope, its connected. Top and bottom connected. but can swivel angled apart.
and nice giant wrists wrests that can actualy be used when typing and having proper form.

BUt I kinda broke my num pad for it, so I don't have any f keys or even delete.
And my r q and l and a few numbers are working sparadicly on the main keyboard piece.

BUt, I got it for free from some guy on craigslist, and it was brand new, in open box with no cables.

Offline ergo_typing

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 16 July 2015, 14:47:00 »
Quote
Nope, its connected. Top and bottom connected. but can swivel angled apart.
and nice giant wrists wrests that can actualy be used when typing and having proper form.

BUt I kinda broke my num pad for it, so I don't have any f keys or even delete.
And my r q and l and a few numbers are working sparadicly on the main keyboard piece.

BUt, I got it for free from some guy on craigslist, and it was brand new, in open box with no cables.

That makes sense. Since I first tried a fully split board (the Kinesis Freestyle), the design has really appealed to me. I'm quite broad shouldered so typing on regular keyboards always gives me wrist pains. So being able to move my hands quite away apart from each other with boards like the Ergodox and the Ergo Pro make things much nicer for my wrists.

Sounds like you got a good deal on the Apple board - it would be interesting to compare.

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 16 August 2015, 18:51:52 »
For full disclosure ergo typing lent me this board so I'm not justifying my purchase or giving a positive review to ensure I get more review samples in the future, I'm just using it and giving my honest opinions as was part of the agreement.  This is my first "review" so apologies in advance for the lack of flow!


Before receiving this board I had never tried any Alps style switches and had no real desire to.  I also have no health issues inspiring a search for an ergo board, but I was planning to build my "end game" custom so wanted to experiment with split distance, angle between the halves and tenting to see if I like any of it and this was the perfect opportunity.

On removing a bagged half-board from the box I was pleasantly surprised by the reassuring weight of it.  The matt black plastic case is solid and the movable feet are sturdy, the wrist rests themselves are short, firm and neither warm nor cold to the touch (these have all been reasons for me removing wrist rests whenever I moved to a desk with one at work) and even the three chunky screws used to attach each wrist rests reminds you that this is a premium product.



Closer inspection revealed it's not perfect though - the wrist rests are very slightly wider than the keyboard and this can be felt if for some reason you run your hand down either side of either half.  If I weren't writing a review I wouldn't have noticed and who knows, maybe they've fixed it in the latest version.


The first place I tried the board was while lying on my front on my bed using a laptop and there was no adjustment period, I could just type as if on a standard board.  With one half in front of each shoulder I found it very comfortable and no more uncomfortable leaning on my elbows with hands at near right angles!  After experimenting with everything it landed up in pretty much the same position on my desk with about a 6u gap, swapping between the middle being raised or negative tilt.



As you can see with the wrist rests attached it's nearly as tall as a JD40 is wide, and in my preferred position and it's not going to save me any space width ways compared to a full size board either.



On the plus side like when using a 60% the mouse is right next to the keyboard, but unlike a 60% nav keys and arrrows are readily available without needing to learn an fn layer.


It wasn't until I reached over for my Ducky to take the size comparison pic that I realised my Lion Keyng was still glowing, because the number lock on the Ergo Pro is independent from the "real" OS controlled one.  A numberpad not sending numberpad scancodes can be a problem so I checked in Aqua Key Test and by some magic whether the real number lock is on or off the numbers output correct numberpad codes - not sure if this has anything to do with it being a Mac model but hopefully not as it means it can be used with a separate numberpad without needing to toggle it every time.

This is just as well because the numberpad layer is a bit strange, with "0" half a key left of "1" rather than between "1" and "2", "*" next to "3" and "/" all the way over on "/" while "-" drops in next to "9".  There are two "."s, one below "1" and "2" and the other on "." - a staggered numberpad will take some getting used to anyway, but this seems far from ideal.

This leads on to my other personal layout issue - B is on the left half.  I have quickly converted myself to the left split of the space bar being backspace (great!) but even as I wrote those four Bs after over two weeks with the board I switched on number lock everytime instead.  Thankfully this is a harmless control key on the newer version, but it will still be annoying to miss every B.  Other people will be annoyed by Y and 6 being on the right half but at least you'll feel board not key and immediately know!


So on to perhaps the most important part of a keyboard - the switches.

It didn't take long for the Quiet Click to become my favourite keyswitch as it combines the high actuation point and low noise of a Jailhoused MX blue with a more satisfying tactile bump and a spring that seems to be the perfect weight for my fingers making this the first board I don't bottom out on.  It's noticeably quieter than my Ducky (MX red) and to my ears about the same volume on the downstroke as my HHKB but the noise is a higher pitch which is worse (again, to my ears)  but his is made up for by the quieter upstroke.  Alps style switches are known for their wobble and yes it's there in a sideways direction, but the 1u caps caps don't move much more than the SAs on my Ducky and it's not something I can notice while typing.  Tab and caps lock do feel very wobbly.


tl,dr Great switches and a well thought out layout in a case that has eased pains I didn't know I had - I am not looking forward to sending this keyboard back in the morning :(
                               
Ducky Zero, MX Reds    JD40, Jailhouse Blues           GH60
Soarer controller

Offline ergo_typing

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #16 on: Wed, 19 August 2015, 10:00:33 »
Oh the B key. When I first started using a split board (Kinesis Freestyle) it took me forever to retrain my brain on that one.

I agree with you on the elegant design on the navigation cluster bottom right. Seems like such a sensible use of space. I guess that's only possible with the ALPS design because of the smaller footprint of the switches?

I think the Ergo Pro is trying to assimulate your JD40!

Great to have another experienced perspective on this board.

Offline chx

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #17 on: Sun, 02 July 2017, 19:37:25 »
Nice review, I agree with most of it (I'm still not 100% sold on right side 6 but I'm coming around to it :D).

Could you go into a little more detail as to which dipswitches do what? I'm currently borrowing one of these and would like to know more about them so I can have a play when I get home :D.

Matias posted this image in one of the big threads. The switches are located under the right command key (mac)

Show Image


And you will come round to the right side on the 6 key. It's far more powerful :D

Oh wow I had an Ergo Pro for like 1.5 years and didn't know I could switch the left space for a backspace, very interesting. Now, where did I put my keycap remover :D ?

Offline OneNightFriend

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Re: Matias Ergo Pro Review
« Reply #18 on: Sun, 02 July 2017, 20:02:23 »
Really cool and thorough review. Thanks for the insight!