The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

I have wanted to buy a new keyboard for a while – the wakeup call came when I needed to have a new main board fitted to my laptop.  Was it the endless hours of manic typing that I’d racked up whilst using it that somehow made it give up the ghost, or was it something else?  Given that I didn’t know and didn’t want to take the risk, I decided to purchase a new keyboard.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, there are a huge number of keyboards on offer at your local PC peripherals centre – everything from specialist gaming units all the way through to backlit, super-light versions of this human input device.   Given that, as stated, I type so much, I needed something that was comfortable to use.  This was where the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 stepped in.

The price online was only £30, so I had the store match this (quite often places won’t do this but I must have been in luck).  For this you get the required Microsoft software and the keyboard unit itself.  In case you haven’t seen one before, let me begin by saying you won’t have used a keyboard quite like it – this is due to the keys being split in two halves.

On the left hand side you have ‘qwert’ and on the right hand side you have ‘uiop’ if you see what I mean, split by a 12 degree angle for comfort.  Not only that but the keys are raised upwards, so moving from ‘q’ along the letters there is an obvious incline.  This is designed to keep your fingers at a much more natural angle when you’re typing – and I have to admit it seems to work.

As the keyboard is designed with ergonomic principles, the space bar spans both key sections, giving you easy access and allowing for extremely quick typing.  This is a mechanism that I was interested in when choosing a keyboard – some of you may not be aware but the placement of keys was chosen originally to stop typists from writing too quickly – if they did it would block the typewriter that they were using.  Whilst the layout with this particular keyboard remains the same, the sloping applied does allow the keys to be stroked in a more natural and quicker fashion.

The lower part of the keyboard has a suitably comfortable wrist rest.  It won’t win any awards for softness, but it isn’t too hard either.  It seems to be made for stability over comfortable, extended use.  Underneath this is the plastic base – compared to the rest of the unit this bit seems cheap.  However, it does exactly what is needed, which is to provide a counter-angle and raise this edge of the keyboard.   Apparently this will help to lower the incidence of RSI if you use the keyboard for an extended time period.

Naturally, if you’re buying a keyboard like this it will be because you’re either a heavy user or find that a regular keyboard isn’t comfortable for your needs.  In either case, you’ll love the fact that this ergonomic keyset gives you quick access to commonly needed keys such as brackets (top right), equals and a large number of function keys.

Similar to the Microsoft Multimedia Keyboard, this version comes with an extended functionality in the form of grey ‘function’ keys.  These are all self-explanatory and very useful – allowing you quickly to go to your homepage, search or even mail.  You can set up five favourites from the web, activate the calculator and even change volume controls.  You also have access to forward and backward for your browser.

The very top keyset, the F keys, serve even more purpose now.  Press the function lock button and one of those to activate the required action – whether that’s undo, help, new, open, send, spell-check and more.   Overall, it’s a great way to add further functionality and ease of use to the keyboard.

So, am I happy with the purchase?  Very much so.  There aren’t any problems really, except perhaps for the extended movement required for the space bar.  I’d love to try another version of the keyboard to see if it’s just mine.  The build quality seems good and it certainly has the wow factor when people first see it.  I’d certainly recommend buying one.  It may make your typing more fluid and accurate like it has done for me.

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