Author Topic: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?  (Read 2696 times)

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Offline ramencup

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I've seen keyboards like these around in stores but always doubted their ergonomic benefits. The benefits of truly split keyboards come from being able to position the two halves far enough apart to alleviate strain on your shoulders, but here the two halves aren't that far apart. They're also rotated inwards, wouldn't that just put more strain on your wrists?
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EDIT: Somebody move this to Ergonomics because I just now realized that's a thing.

Offline lasttycoon

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 01 November 2018, 13:56:46 »
As with most ergonomic questions it really comes down to the user. The Microsoft Ergo does several things right but makes a number of compromises to make the keyboard more approachable. Even if its only a little bit, separating the they keys does help for many people. Angling your hands inward like that with minimal split will help keep your wrists straight actually, although a split design with straight arms would work better for a lot of people. Another benefit that the Ergo has is that there is a negative tilt kit. These things together give a decent amount of ergonomic benefits compared to a traditional keyboard.


It's only when you compare the Ergo to the Kinesis Advantage and Ergodox that the Ergo starts to fall behind. The biggest advantage of these two keyboards are that the keys are no longer staggered, giving you a much more natural finger movement when typing.
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Offline Findecanor

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 01 November 2018, 14:02:14 »
The inner keys have been elongated, making it appear as if the halves are not as far apart as they really are.

The point with rotation is to be able to rotate your wrists so they are straight. Different people hold their wrists differently on a regular keyboard, so the MS would benefit and worsen it for different people differently.
I type on a regular keyboard with the right fingers oriented along the columns and the left hand perpendicular to the keyboard, so for me left hand might benefit a little by the rotation but the right wouldn't as my right wrist is already mostly straight. The MS "Natural" has not felt natural to me when I have used it.

Then there is tenting.. While there is a benefit from general tenting, there are three different angles for different keys even two different angles for keys on the same column and that is a bit weird.
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Offline user 18

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #3 on: Fri, 02 November 2018, 08:39:26 »
EDIT: Somebody move this to Ergonomics because I just now realized that's a thing.

Done! :thumb:
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Offline RominRonin

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 02 November 2018, 15:31:05 »
Some great points made so far. I'd like to add some observations.

The palm rest on the MSNEK4000 is the most comfortable palm rest I've used on any keyboard. There is a soft, springy sponge pasted atop the moulded plastic rest, and that is covered with a soft faux leather (velour?) sheet. The combination of the materials and the shape/height/angle is exceptionally well designed.

There are those who say that resting your palms while typing is bad for you. Indeed those who attended touch typing courses know that hovering your hands and fingers above the keys is considered good technique. But this keyboard proves that it can be comfortable to touch-type while resting your palms.

One of my biggest gripes with legacy keyboard layouts (that's 'normal' layouts to most people) is the asymmetric reverse-stagger. If you're touch typing, the left hand adopts a twist towards the left that can cause aches and pains when typing for longer periods.

The MSNEK4000 actually reshapes the keys on the left hand side to compensate for this funky reverse-stagger, look at how wide the tab key is, this encourages a tilt to a better natural position for the left hand*:



This keyboard is aimed at working touch-typists and is designed to allow them to work in comfort - certainly with more comfort than a regular office keyboard.

So quickly referring to Dictionary.app on MacOS:
"Ergonomic: relating to or designed for efficiency and comfort in the working environment"

While I think the efficiency of any given keyboard shape, layout, switch etc. is immeasurable, I think this keyboard is certainly designed for comfort. By that definition, it undeniably IS ergonomic.

* Incidentally, I don't think MS went far enough with this correction of the left hand stagger, this is one of the reasons I started investigating the Katana layout.
« Last Edit: Fri, 02 November 2018, 15:32:58 by RominRonin »

Offline vvp

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #5 on: Fri, 02 November 2018, 15:57:48 »
The palm rest on the MSNEK4000 is the most comfortable palm rest I've used on any keyboard.
You should not use it if your wrists are not straight when your palms rest on it. The palm rest is too low to be useful.
I used an ergonomic keyboard like this one (different producer but similar shape). A switch to Kinesis advantage was a very good move. A later switch to my custom built Katy was even better :)

Offline RominRonin

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 03 November 2018, 04:16:25 »
The palm rest on the MSNEK4000 is the most comfortable palm rest I've used on any keyboard.
You should not use it if your wrists are not straight when your palms rest on it. The palm rest is too low to be useful.

Indeed. When I was using it, I attached the plastic riser - bundled with the keyboard:



I used an ergonomic keyboard like this one (different producer but similar shape). A switch to Kinesis advantage was a very good move. A later switch to my custom built Katy was even better :)

I saw the build logs of the Katy, I'm a fan ;)

I tried a variety of ergonomic and split boards: Dactyl, ErgoDox, Atreus62, Planck. I still find myself caressing the MSNEK because it is SO comfortable - those other boards don't compare as far as comfort goes.

As for typing comfort, I still find that hovering your hands is the most comfortable approach.

The Katy and the Dactyl are exceptions, since those boards are designed to be used with your palms rested flat.

BTW, did you ever consider doing a group-buy for the KATY?

Offline vvp

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #7 on: Sun, 04 November 2018, 03:35:29 »
BTW, did you ever consider doing a group-buy for the KATY?
I'll do it if I find a way how to make it cheaper. There is about 37 hours of manual work building it now. That is too much and it would make it too expensive. It is only for people who enjoy building it themselves for now.

Offline BundleOfJoysticks

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #8 on: Sun, 20 January 2019, 00:30:26 »
The palm rest on the MSNEK4000

I'll never be able not to call it the em-snek now.

Offline Squarism

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #9 on: Sun, 20 January 2019, 06:54:32 »
Ive been usling natural keyb 4k for the last 10 years. I say tis Good, but could be getter. The wrist wrest isn't tented enough for me and lately I've developed pain where the bone meets it. Thumbs not used tp fullm potential. So, not the final solution but the best budget alternative maybe.

UPDATE: I actually worn away the fake leather the wrist rest, NK4k has, on one point at left of the keyboard. Just in the last couple of days ive used a new keyboard wo the wrist rest. I now support my arms on my armchair rests only. I should have been clear this was a problem cause i have had more pain on my left hand at the point where it rests on the NK4k. So, to me it appears the wrist rest actually has been harmful.
« Last Edit: Wed, 23 January 2019, 12:35:02 by Squarism »

Online macroxue

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 23 January 2019, 22:00:02 »
I used MS Natural 4000 for half a year at work and eventually threw it away. My main complaint was about the sticky space bar. I literally had to hammer on it. Save your thumbs unless you can find one with a good space bar.

Offline RominRonin

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 31 January 2019, 14:14:38 »
Ive been usling natural keyb 4k for the last 10 years. I say tis Good, but could be getter.
This really made me laugh!

I'll never be able not to call it the em-snek now.

Lol, I've started calling it that now!

Offline csmertx

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Re: Is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard layout actually ergonomic?
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 31 January 2019, 17:25:34 »
MSNEK tis a creaky snek iirc. Much clonk, less yoink, sometimes yeet.
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