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4 out of 5 stars
Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
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Price:$29.95 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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941 of 965 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2005
Style Name: RetailVerified Purchase
As a software developer, I am literally attached to my keyboard. On a typical day, I'll spend anywhere between 5-8 hours typing, so it's of critical importance that the keyboard I use is comfortable. As most programmers and typists can attest, the Microsoft Ergo series of keyboards is the best keyboard for prolonged use.

Having used the Ergo keyboards in some form or another for the past 4 years (most recently, the Wireless Elite set), I must say that this keyboard is a step above.

To begin with, the construction is very solid. There is far less flex in the plastic and the keyboard as a whole compared to my Wireless Elite. The wrist pad is made of a nicely textured faux leather material with a tiny bit of padding. It feels rather durable (not to mention comfortable). It's a good addition as one of my main gripes with the MS ergo keyboards was that it was hard to fit one of those gel wrist rests around the curved base of the keyboard.

Compared to previous MS keyboards that I've owned, the keys on this keyboard are very well damped in terms of the sound the produce. It's very muted, even with my hard strokes. One thing that will take some adjusting to is the increased curvature (along two different planes) between where your pinky and index fingers rest (A,F and J,;). Whereas the older keyboards have a relatively flat incline, this keyboard has a slight curve (concave). In addition, there is also a very subtle curve across the keyboard as well (a horizontal curvature), which seems a more natural fit for the shape of hands. Also of note is the fact that some of the keys have changed shape. Whereas previously, MS had kept the striking surface consistent across the different keys (even at the edge), this keyboard has several keys along the ridge that have different striking surfaces.

Interestingly, this keyboard also features the return of the front riser (available on the older versions of the MS ergo keyboards). Actually, in recent months, I've been doing exactly this, but with my own ad hoc methods :) This is a much better solution. The riser is easily removable for those that prefer the standard configurations.

Note that this keyboard is *USB only*, which means that it may be incompatible with some older motherboards. Not a problem for me as I'm using it with a newer laptop. The keyboard does come with software for the programmable keys and extra functions, but it's plug and play right out of the box with WinXP.

I also appreciate the new forward and back buttons for use with web browsing (work with no drivers). The zoom slider in the middle of the keyboard, however, seems inapproriately used. It would have been much more useful as a scroll slider instead.

Sizewise, it takes up slightly more surface space than my wireless elite, but is much, much thinner.

My only complaints are that the space key is a little bit stiff out of the box (maybe it'll loosen up a bit after usage), the distance from Ctrl to the number keys seems to have increased a bit (on the scale of millimeters, this is important for those of us hitting Ctrl+F5 quite often ;-), the Delete key is now the same size as the other keys in the cluster (which some people may prefer, but I need to adjust to due to the extra large delete key on the Wireless Elite set), the Enter key is slightly smaller (by 3-5mm), and the key response is not as "soft" as say the ones I recently sampled on the MS bluetooth keyboard, but still very comfortable.

Overall, a very high quality keyboard. If you can wait, there is sure to be a wireless version coming soon. But anyone that spends a significant amount of type working with computers will be able to appreciate the new layout after 1-2 days of adjustment to the new curvature. I'm very happy with my purchase and would highly recommend this keyboard to my fellow programmers :)

UPDATE: In the past few days, I've had an inquiry into whether I'm still satisfied with the keyboard. The answer is a big, bold *YES*. As I was telling a colleague, this keyboard simply rocks. I can type hours on end without pain. My "seat of the pants" impression is that I also type _faster_ with this keyboard. As I pointed out above, I think that most people will have to go through a period of adjustment to really feel comfortable and fall in love with this keyboard, even if you're coming from a previous Microsoft Ergo series keyboard.
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228 of 236 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2006
Style Name: RetailVerified Purchase
This is a well-constructed keyboard that has a nice feel to it and a good assortment of programmable keys. It isn't advertised as such, but the "zoom slider" is also programmable. Here's how to reprogram it as a scroll slider: Edit C:\Program Files\Microsoft IntelliType Pro5.5\IType\Setup\Files\commands.xml.

Replace:

C319 Type="6" Activator="ZoomOut"

C320 Type="6" Activator="ZoomIn"

With:

C319 Type="6" Activator="ScrollUp"

C320 Type="6" Activator="ScrollDown"
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189 of 199 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2006
Style Name: Retail
I'm one of the many who have been typing for years; from college where I earned money as a typist, to secretarial work, and now as a software engineer and a part-time writer, so needless to say that my keyboard is basically a constant companion.

From years of typing I've come to learn my likes and dislikes of keyboards. I was one of those who ordered the very first Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard as soon as it came out, and I fell in love with it. After seven years, my faithful keyboard finally gave up the ghost and so I was forced to purchase another.

I was at first lured to purchase a different brand name ergonomic keyboard because it was cheaper, and boy did I regret that decision. Some of the keys were moved from their standard positions, the ENTER key was much larger, which meant the SHIFT key was smaller and the back slash key was moved to the last row. The spacing between the number keys was wider so I had to readjust my reach, and, to make things worse, the keys kept sticking. The whole layout was not to my taste.

In contrast, this keyboard is perfectly suited to me. The keys tap much softer which means my fingers don't absorb as much shock when I'm typing. I type over a 100 wpm and when your fingers fly over the board, they tend to tap harder. The keys are also laid out exactly how you would expect them to like any other keyboard. The shortcuts are my favorites where some are pre-set with others that you can set yourself.

Basically, I have no complaints. I'm very happy with my purchase.
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162 of 174 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2005
Style Name: Retail
I just picked this up this afternoon and have been very pleased with it so far. I used it to replace a Microsoft Natural Elite keyboard. The wrist/palm rests feel very nice, and I like the fact that the keys are quiet - I'm trying to train myself to take notes while on the phone using the computer instead of using a pad of paper, and I find that loud typing while I'm talking on the phone can interfere with my hearing the other person, and with their perception of my attention. The software does seem relatively Spartan but to be honest I'm not a big user of customization features, so it doesn't impact my use of the device. In the past, I haven't even bothered to install keyboard driver software. The zoom feature works nicely in Firefox, I don't use IE much.

So, for my use - standard typing for many hours/day, minimal use of special features - it's a great keyboard. I'm glad it's got the older-style cursor key/insert-delete-scroll key setup, rather than the setup used on the Natural Elite, that I never did really become accustomed to.

Chances are pretty good I'll buy another one to use at home this weekend - I am really happy with this, enough so that I'm ready to give up the old ergo keyboard I've got at home that doesn't have the negative tilt but does have the arrow-key configuration that I prefer.

I realize that split keyboards are interesting to a minority of the population (and everyone should use what works best for them) - but if you're one of the split keyboard people, I suggest giving this one a try.
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2007
Style Name: Retail
I use a Mac and I like ergo keyboards. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't make any ergo keyboards. This MS keyboard is one of the few PC keyboards out there that also have the Apple logo on the box - Macs are fully supported and the included CD contains drivers for the Mac.

Installation was easy and all the special keys worked right out of the box. I'm not a big fan of special keys but now I find myself using volume up/down and play/pause buttons which work seamlessly with iTunes. There are five shortcut keys labeled 1-5 across the top. You can set these up to launch five of your frequently used applications. These provide Mac-like simplicity in the setup - you simply push the key and it gives you a dialog box where you can browse and select the application you want to assign to the key. Once that is done, pressing the key launches the application. To change applications, there is a 'star' key that pops up the key settings dialog box for all 5 keys. You can also reprogram the other special keys (e.g. volume up/down, calculator, home, search, mute etc.) if you want.

The zoom function (a two way 'sliding key' you can push up or down), located right in the middle of the keyboard, is pretty useful too. It works great with web pages, letting me quickly make the font bigger or smaller. It also works with iPhoto (letting me zoom into and out of pictures) and many other apps.

The wrist pad is non-detachable but it blends in nicely with rest of the keyboard. It is also built with a high quality material (not the cheap rubbery stuff that makes the wrists sweat). They keys themselves have a good typing feel to them - they're not soft or tinny but pretty well-defined - just the kind I like. Definitely try it out since in the end that's the feature you'll use the most :). Key-press feel is a matter of preference and I've bought keyboards (Adesso Ergo for Mac comes to mind) that I just couldn't use.

Couple of things to remember when using on a Mac - the command, option and control keys (Mac terminology) are labeled the PC-way (i.e. Alt, Ctrl etc.). There is no CD-eject button, but I set-up the 'home' key in the top left corner to eject the CD. Also, watch out for the 'F Lock' key next the F1-F12 function keys - it is a toggle key that changes the function of F1-F12.
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236 of 274 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 10, 2007
Style Name: RetailVerified Purchase
I was disappointed in this keyboard for 3 reasons. First, I thought the mechanical feedback for the key press was poor. Some keys, particularly the space bar, required significantly more "push" than the others. Also, the space bar was particularly noisy when fully depressed. Second, the ergonomic design of the keyboard was quite pleasant, but the spacing and the sizing of the keys (some letter keys are larger than others) made typing a bit difficult; larger hands may find it a bit easier going. Finally, the web quick access button did not permit programming any other browser to open other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer, even bypassing the default browser (FireFox) set up on my computer. Other buttons could be programmed for it, but not the button labeled for the Internet. For those 3 reasons, I returned it since it was going to be too frustrating to live with it.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2007
Style Name: RetailVerified Purchase
I've used the Microsoft ergonomic keyboards for many years. I like their design and they work well. The the keys do feel a little "mushy" without the tactile feedback of some of the better boards, such as those from IBM. My biggest complaint is that the letters easily wear off the keys. Microsoft does not provide replacement keys, but has replaced the keyboards when I complained. However, I'm sick of complaining. I've used a Microsoft Ergo 4000 for about 1-1/2 years. The letters have worn off three keys and are well on their way to "blank" on others. (This hasn't happened on other brand keyboards that I've used.) I'm tired of complaining and will move to another brand when I soon purchase another board.

Added note: It is now almost 2-1/2 years since I wrote this review (above). At that time I ordered a Fellowes ergonomic keyboard. I am still using it and the lettering on the keys is still visible. I do not understand why Microsoft was not able to solve this problem.
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137 of 163 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2007
Style Name: Retail
I spent most of my days writing code and am quite comfortable with split keyboards. That being said, I cannot recommend this keyboard. The space bar is just too poorly designed.

If you look at the pictures of this keyboard you can see that the space bar is quite wide. Now think about where your thumb is when you strike the space bar - off to the side. However, the actuator for the spacebar is centered on the space bar. This increases the amount of force required to strike the space bar.

For a traditional keyboard this generally is not an issue. However, the split nature of this keyboard makes the space bar longer than those found on traditional keyboards (the MS spacebar is a full 1.5 inches longer than that on my traditional Dell keyboard).

Worse, the required force results in a loud clicking noise everytime the space bar is struck. If you don't mind a loud keyboard, you may find this acceptable. If you share an office space or work in a cubicle, you'll drive your neighbors crazy. I've got my own office and drive myself crazy when typing.

The solution is trivial, but apparently didn't occur to anybody at Microsoft: the space bar should be split as well. With a spacebar actuator on both the left and right sides of the keyboard, this problem would disappear and the space bar would actuate like all of the other keys (which respond nicely). Why MS feels that a split keyboard should have one big space bar that spans both sides is beyond me.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2006
Style Name: RetailVerified Purchase
I'm certain I bang away on my keyboard more than any other reviewer, so it's possible that the average or even heavy user may experience with it what I've experienced in just the few months I've owned it. I do think it's a generally better layout than the previous versions of Microsoft ergonomic keyboards I've cycled through, but some of my keys started sticking recently, and about half the letters are worn off - the keys I'm obviously hitting most often. The keystroke doesn't register if I don't hit at exactly the right angle on about 5 or 6 keys, and for these tired hands, after 8 or 10 hours at the glo box, I don't find the touch soft enough, even though I've read it described as soft.

I was thrilled that it was very quiet out of the box, but like every other keyboard I've owned, it was clacking away at the usual grating volume after about 2 days, tops. I'm going to buy another one already in the hopes that my first one was a lemon. Either that or I need to resign myself to the possibility that I'll be going through a lot of keyboards in this profession.

Overall, I think it's their best design so far, but from my unique perspective, there is still room for improvement.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2006
Style Name: RetailVerified Purchase
I don't understand why most keyboard manufacturers don't buy a clue and realize that keyboards like this one (with a negative tilt), (negative tilt is when a keyboard has lifts in front to tilt the keyboard forward, so your fingers are lower than your palm) are what typists need to have correct ergonomic position.

After some careful research, I decided to purchase this keyboard, and I'm not disappointed. This keyboard is extremely comfortable, the keys are very 'soft' the wrist wrest comfortable and the position of all the keys quite natural. It shipped from Amazon's partner in 2 days and I got it quite quickly. It is easy to install with a drivers CD, and I thoroughly recommend it. One of the few keyboards on the market with Negative tilt.

5 Stars.
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