Customer Reviews: Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite
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on June 15, 2010
I work in IT, so I get to try A LOT of different keyboards. This is, by far, the best keyboard that I have ever had. I got my first Microsoft Natural Elite about 10 years ago and am only now replacing it because I took it apart to clean it and lost the screws. These things last and last. It got a little louder as it aged, but other than that (and being filthy), it was as good as the day I bought it before I disassembled it.

When I first purchased this keyboard, I immediately picked up about 10 words per minute. I type fast (average around 100 words per minute), and I attribute a lot of that to using a comfortable keyboard.

I code a lot and I email a lot, and I can type on this thing for hours without any wrist or hand strain. The only real drawback is that it's ruined other keyboards for me. When I use a standard straight keyboard, I'm now much more aware of just how awkward and uncomfortable it is. When I use any Apple keyboard, for example, my wrists hurt and my hands cramp after a few minutes.

I recommend this keyboard to anybody for whom comfort is a priority. You cannot beat a split ergonomic keyboard. There may be a bit of a learning curve for non touch typists, but the benefit to your body is well worth the investment.

A final note: I prefer this keyboard over the larger "pro" models because I don't need or like the extra keys for multimedia, etc. and this one is a bit smaller. Also, be advised that they Home/End/Delete/Page Up/Page Down/Insert keys and the arrow keys are not arranged in the standard way. I use all of these keys a lot, but the different placement has never been a problem for me.
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on March 5, 2004
I've been using my Microsoft keyboard for about 4 years now. I'm a fairly wide guy, and when I put my hands together, the arms are pointed in from the shoulders. If I'm using a regular keyboard my wrists have to bend outward from my arms to make my hands line up with the keys. Using the Microsoft keyboard, my wrists are more straight so long use doesn't tire them out. It also is supposed to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome where the tendons would have to bend through a bent wrist to work the fingers. The keyboard has all the regular keys laid out fairly well. It only takes a few minutes getting used to the split board. The cursor moving arrows and special function keys are in groups between the letters and number pad, which works well. One thing that seems strange is that the upper row, the numbers, are split between 6 and 7, instead of between 5 and 6. That's because there are the dashes and such on the right of that row. Seems strange though sometimes. You get used to it pretty quick. The wrist pad extension seems good too.
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on October 28, 2004
I bought the very first issue of the Microsoft Natural keyboard when it came out. It lasted at least five years, after a terrible adjustment period of nearly three weeks. The next one lasted about 16 months. It went downhill for two or three keyboards after that. I've had several models, including the Elite and the Pro and the one with 99 buttons all over the place. The letters now wear off in six months unless you apply clear nail polish to the key tops right away and keep it up. You can't wash it in the shower any more, it no longer has good isolation inside. Use Dow Bathroom Bubbles on a microfiber cloth - rinse VERY carefully, holding the board upside down. Let it dry naturally, don't blow water all over with compressed air, the keyboard just isn't as sturdy as it used to be.

Your wrists/arms/hands can get so used to the comfort that it's impossible to buy a laptop because your wrists ACHE within minutes of using the usual flat keyboard. That's the only downside I see. Otherwise, this is the only affordable ergonomic keyboard around. Keep your receipts handy, tape them underneath the board, in case you have to use the warranty.
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on May 21, 2002
I used an older Microsoft Natural keyboard for over five years, and it was excellent. By comparison, conventional keyboards are an occupational hazard. Unfortunately, I broke it while cleaning it, and I had to buy a new one. I picked up the Elite model without looking too closely ... but soon after I started using it, I was cursing under my breath ... because of the arrangement of the Home/Page Up/Page Dn/End/Delete/Insert and arrow keys. They've lost the inverted-T configuration used with the older Natural keyboard. Also, these keys are now half-sized, and therefore harder to hit. These may seem like minor quibbles to some of you -- but they preclude the possibility of hitting these keys without looking at them. This inability is detrimental to any serious touch-typist. I'm a full time IT professional, and as far as I'm concerned, this keyboard is unusable. (My suspicious mind guesses that Microsoft used this bogus configuration to push us to pay for the upscale Pro model, which has the correct key configuration.)
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on April 26, 2010
Fair warning, this keyboard is not for the point and peck typer. And the touch typer will be annoyed for the first week or two until you get used to it.

That being said, I have replaced all of my keyboards with these. I actually carry one around in my laptop bag, and it doesn't exactly fit. Why am I such a fanatic about it? Simply, I spend 8-14 hours a day on the computer. Though I'm very athletic, and have strong arms and hands from years of rock climbing, kayaking, and lifting weights, all to fight off the typical computer jockey physique, at the end of a work day, my hands felt week and painful. I started using one of these as a last ditch effort to avoid going on disability.

The simple fact is that I can type faster, longer, and far more comfortably on these then on any other keyboard I have ever used. No, it doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. But I don't need them, or use them. If you can't do it with hot keys, your doing it wrong. This keyboard isn't for casual users, if you want email buttons on your keyboard, move along, this is not the keyboard you're looking for. If you type all day, and your hands, wrists, shoulders and neck are killing you, this is the keyboard for you.

There is a learning curve, but trust me, if you are a touch typer, it's worth the effort to get used to them. You will never go back. I know I haven't, and I've been using them for 15 years now.

Simply the best keyboards you will ever buy.

Now if MS's software were just as good we would really be getting someplace.
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on November 27, 2003
Having used my fingers on keyboards for more years than I want to remember, I finally found a keyboard with my hands, fingers, wrists, and arms in mind. This keyboard takes a few days to get used to because of the ergonomic split in the middle; but, it is well worth the time and effort to get used to it and you'll wonder what you ever did without it. I even got myself an extra one, just in case I should drop a cup of sticky substance in it...I don't want to be without it. You can mostly just rest your hands on the bottom edge and move only your fingers to reach just about all the keys...except for the numeric pad at the right. It even has feet to raise the upper end to a slant if you prefer. I have carpal tunnels and arthritis in both hands and find this has helped them tremendously, it is almost like exercise the doctor would order. I don't think I could ever go back to a normal keyboard again. Try it for a week and you'll be ordering a spare, too. I think it is great that they finally thought of what typists go through when they use a keyboard all day long. Depending on the length of your fingers, you don't even have to lift your hands off the resting part for the heels of your hands; you can just slide them along to the numeric pad and the keys to the left of it. You would only need to lift them to reach the 'F' row at the very top. The way it is layed out, there are even a few extra helpful keys right at your fingertips. In the center split area are little lights that remind you that you have the caps lock key on, and other handy things. I think you know I love it. I think you would, too.
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on February 14, 2005
I have two of these keyboards at home and two at work (I'm a programmer). All four are over 5 years old and still work perfectly. I started using them after I began to develop tendonitis; they feel very natural and I can type quickly and accurately for long periods of time without a second thought. I'm so used to them that I stumble a little bit on regular keyboards, but it's worth the tradeoff. As for the arrow keys being in a non-standard layout, I don't understand what the big deal is; if you can get used to the split keyboard, you can get used to the arrow keys.

By the way, I use both PCs and Macs and these work fine for both -- on Macs, just pretend the Windows key is the Command (Apple) key, Alt is the Option key, F12 is the Eject key, Insert is the Help key, and you're good to go (although there's no way to control volume from the keyboard, like Mac keyboards can).

Beware of cheap imitations. There are a lot of so-called "ergonomic" keyboards out there but I have yet to see one that is as well designed, as well constructed, and, well, as natural as the Microsoft line.

If you do a lot of typing, do your hands a favor and pick up one of these 'boards. If you can last the first several days of transition, you won't go back.
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on August 15, 2002
If you only occasionally type, or you're a hunt-and-peck typist, then this keyboard would be an excellent choice for you. The split keyboard takes some getting used to if you've never used one before, but once you have, you'll never want to go back to a regular square model. The keys on this keyboard are perfectly shaped to cradle your fingers, and the space bar works effortlessly without having to pound your thumb.
But, if you are a touch-typist and your fingers already know where the keys are supposed to be, then you'll be greatly disappointed and/or frustrated with this Natural Keyboard Elite. I agree with the other negative reviews regarding the smaller size and changed arrangement of the Insert/Home keys, and the smaller squished-together arrow keys. To paraphrase a saying, they shouldn't have fixed something that wasn't broke. I use my keyboard 8 hours a day in my occupation as a medical transcriptionist. I've been typing/keyboarding for 30+ years and my fingers know where the keys are even if I can't remember. So it is a great nuisance to have to constantly look down away from the monitor to see what key my finger is trying to reach. I keep hitting the Home key when I intend to hit the Insert key, because that's the place the Insert key is supposed to be. The newly sized and arranged directional arrows are impossible to correctly hit without first hitting every other key around them.
It's been mentioned in prior reviews that the keyboard I'm looking for is the Natural Pro, so I guess I'll need to go for a "test drive" of that one. And I'll be sure to bring along a map of the key placement I know and love so I won't make this mistake again.
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on March 20, 2006
First off, let me say that this is a pretty solid keyboard. No complaints about the quality.

However, be aware that Microsoft decided to rearrange several clusters of keys on this keyboard. The arrow keys are in a diamond pattern rather than the traditional (and IMHO efficient) "inverted-T". Also, the home/end/insert/del/pg up/pg down cluster has been dissected and rearranged, which causes me no end of grief and mis-keys.

As a touch-typist and a programmer, I've come to expect these keys to be in a certain position. I don't see any added value from Microsoft's updated positioning of these keys. However, they definitely do ding my productivity.

Your milage may vary.
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on August 23, 2004
I am a computer programmer who spends 8+ hours a day using a keyboard. I used one of these keyboards regularly several years ago, but switched back to a standard keyboard after that. Recently, I developed severe tendonitis in both wrists and decided to switch back to see if it made a difference. Within two weeks, my tendonitis was gone and has not returned. Although the layout is slightly different, it does not take long to get used to at all. I recommend this product to anyone and everyone who uses a computer.
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