Customer Reviews: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
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VINE VOICEon October 18, 2005
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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on October 13, 2006
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.


C319 Type="6" Activator="ZoomOut"

C320 Type="6" Activator="ZoomIn"


C319 Type="6" Activator="ScrollUp"

C320 Type="6" Activator="ScrollDown"
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on September 6, 2006
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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on October 28, 2005
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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on December 3, 2014
I am a developer, so type all day for work. These keyboard have a nice layout, acceptable key action (a little heavy in my opinion), but I'm giving a one star because the lettering will come off of the keys in about three weeks. So, unless you're a touch typist who doesn't mind having most of your keys all-black with no labels, I'd look elsewhere. Sadly, there aren't that many good, inexpensive ergo keyboards out there.
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on February 28, 2014
So, I really enjoy using my keyboard and have used it most days for the last 3 years--to a greater or lesser amount depending on due dates. It helped keep me from experiencing additional wrist issues when I was transcribing interviews for my professors. Hand placement feels natural. HOWEVER--whenever anyone else comes to try and use my computer, they have a great deal of difficulty with it because many of the markings have worn off. Within a year, the markings started wear down. My S, D E, T, L, M and C keys are completely blank at this point. You can barely see any white marking left on my R, A, F, V, B, O, and J keys. Significant wear on the <, >, and Backspace keys. There is actually some wear on almost all letter keys except Q, N, X, Z, and H. The N and H keys don't have wear because the keys are slightly longer so where my fingers hit isn't on the marking. The matte finish is worn off the space bar on the right side. I did upload a couple of pictures of how the markings have come off the keys.
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on March 5, 2007
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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VINE VOICEon August 10, 2007
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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on April 14, 2007
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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on July 29, 2011
This keyboard is terrible. I bought this keyboard to use my laptop as a desktop. But this keyboard is far from being satisfactory. The buttons on the keyboard are so sparsely distributed that you have to have big hands to type comfortably. The zoom control in the middle of the keyboard kills your speed. The distance between two parts of the button sets are too wide (please see my photos, you can put three fingers between B and N). I mean look at that, it does not make sense to put zoom control in the middle of the keyboard. The buttons are also located terribly. I have to correct and retype almost every word because of the buttons. Some buttons are larger than others, that also bothers me a lot. The space button is awful. It's annoyingly noisy. The keyboard is extremely large. they could have made it smaller and more compact. It's almost as wide as my 21.5 inch monitor. All in all, I don't recommend this keyboard, there are much better products than this one. Don't waste your time and money.
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