Kinesis Advantage2 Ergonomic Keyboard Review
With working from home the norm for the foreseeable future, many of you are without a doubt starting to feel the discomfort with working in a less than ideal environment- if you weren't already back at your office. As a chiropractor that came from engineering and tech, I understand what these long hours can do to your body.
Here I review the Kinesis Advantage2 Ergonomic Keyboard. I chose it because of its novel approach in attempting to alleviate discomfort in the forearms and wrists as well as it's hefty $319 price tag. By chance, they also happen to be a local company based out of Bothell.
In the video, I unbox the Advantage 2, give my first impressions, talk about its design, use it for the first time, and summarize my thoughts after 2 weeks of use. I made detailed daily notes (scroll down below) each day I used it so that you can get a feel for the learning curve with the keyboard.
Day 1, 5/26/20
Today is the day I unboxed the keyboard. In the video I was only able to achieve a mere 12-13 words-per-minute, but I played around with it some more that day to acclimate to it
as using it cold out of the box would is a bit of an unfair true baseline. I was able to achieve 33-35WPM today on typing.com with 95-96% accuracy.
My training was to perform a few typing lessons each day on typing.com or typingtest.com.
Day 2, 5/27/20
I tend to want to use my left thumb for hitting space which is where the backspace now rests under my left thumb. I also want to hit Enter with my pinky which is not there anymore so I have to think about using my right thumb which slows me down.
It’s also easy to experience really brief moments where you feel confident typing like you always have, only to have your ego quickly checked.
As someone who uses my hands a lot to work on patients, I feel having to use my thumb to push down on the Enter key at the current moment requires for effort compared to a quick swoop over to hit the Enter with my pinky.
The tenting on the innermost wall of the bowl they keys now rest in feels very aggressive and currently feels like it takes some effort to hit those keys. Before, I would dart the finger over to get to T and Y but now it feels like I have to reach a little extra.
Movement at the wrist on the other hand feels very minimal which is the goal, but I think my conscious effort to tell myself they don’t need to move much is tiresome. I expect this to improve over time.
I’m used to using left shift for capitalizing letters. I feel tired having to use my left pinky to reach for it on the Advantage2 though. I would probably consider reprogramming the caps lock to be the shift key.
Completing a sentence has not felt so satisfying in years.
Day 3, 5/28/20
Firing up the keyboard for the first moments feels tricky. The only I can compare this to is having to get used to a different clutch on a manual transmission car.
I went straight to the typing tests as was able to achieve typing speeds about 33-35 WPM again with 95% accuracy. I exercised extreme patience and tried to type slower, and felt more confident.
It is apparent that this keyboard will really help you improve your home key technique and that if you have certain habits, they will not serve you well here. Hitting the left Shift with the left pinky and O, P, ;, /, ?, \, and - are driving me nuts because my habit has always been to move my hand over and hit them with the 2nd-5th fingers depending on the word I'm typing.
A very obvious struggle in C,V,B keys today because in the standard keyboard I preferred using the 2nd finger to poke them quickly whereas here I must use the middle finger to drop down and hit C.
The tenting of the keys presents a bit of a challenge to get the T, G, B, Y, H, N keys because in the standard keyboard your finger makes contacts above the key as you approach whereas in the Advantage2, the key is tented toward you so you’re coming in at an oblique angle toward the key which feels somewhat incorrect and makes you question yourself when reach for those keys.
Mistakes take longer to correct as well I have to think about consciously using my thumb to Delete or Backspace.
Day 4, 5/29/20
I still have to get adjusted to thumb keys to start things off when using the keyboard. But there is more confidence hitting the letters that I want today.
I was able to achieve 43 WPM with 96% accuracy today on a three page typing test. I also find that my typing is coming out in a sonnet like output as opposed to continuous stream of characters I would normally be able to pull off on the standard keyboard.
Extremely frustrating keys are X, C, V, B today. I think the issue is because in the standard keyboard I have gotten motor control built down to hit C, V, B with the left index finger, but now I must dedicate the middle finger to dropping down to hit C in the Advantage2 because the keys are arranged in in columns. Normally I would curl my 2nd finger down to get the C, but doing that will continuously yield V on the Advantage2. Likewise, I would do this for X as well but now must dedicate the fourth finger to curling down to hit it.
Day 5, 5/30/20
I did 20 minutes of typing tests today and was able to achieve 45 WPM with 95% accuracy.
Hitting the C is becoming more second nature. Reaching for the Q and P for me feels like a bit of a reach.
Currently I feel like all I can do on this keyboard is type straight text as opposed to doing anything I want with it.
I definitely am starting to notice that the wrist requires less movement as well as less pressure when using the Advantage 2 keyboard, however.
Day 6, 6/02/20
It’s been a few days off so I’m starting out with simple warm ups on typingtest.com for 10 minutes before going to do a 3 page typing test on typing.com.
Hitting C continues to get better but V and B as well as the more tented keys continue to be a bit of a struggle. I was able to achieve 45 WPM again with 94% accuracy. Starting to wonder if I’m hitting a wall. Typing free form and not dictating something is feeling a lot more natural, however.
One thing I’m noticing today is that my wrist is feeling a little funny because I like to keep my thumb very slightly elevated in preparation to hit the space. I would prefer that the space be available to both thumbs to balance the activity out but I can reprogram this with their software later if I want.
I am finding that the tenting feels a bit aggressive for me and wish I could adjust it.
Kinesis offers another model called the Freestyle which allows you to adjust the tenting.
Just like you probably need to ease into a foot orthotic I wish there was a way I could ease into the ergonomics of this keyboard
I think with the huge amount of unused space in the center of the keyboard that I wouldn’t mind having even a delete and backspace there as well just to give my hands and wrists a bit of a chance to move a bit because keeping them in one position for a long period without moving them feels a bit unnatural as well. There’s definitely some opportunity to put some functionality there to help provide more value at the price point that this keyboard is at.
Day 7, 6/03/20
I started the day off on typing.com with a 2-minute typing test and was able to achieve 52 WPM with 95% accuracy, and it’s definitely starting to feel more natural. The pinky reach for the P, Q and ‘ still feel a bit far. I’m also still struggling a bit with the letter V and B.
I did two 10-minute long practice tests on typingtest.com and was able to end my practice sessions for the day with 57 WPM and 97% accuracy so that is a good sign of progress.
Today I tried to use the keyboard as I normally would for my work activities to see how it goes, and while there’s certainly some mistakes here and there it hasn’t been too bad.
I frequently use the shortcuts for undoing, copying, cutting, and pasting so it’s hard to get used to using your thumb for the control key. There happens to be an unused space under the shift key on both sides of the keyboard that I felt the control key could have stayed there as I usually anchor with the pinky and use the index finger to hit the shortcut key.
While I appreciate the premise of keeping my wrists in a more neutral position during the work day, I don’t mind having to move my hands around a bit too to break up the monotony of things.
Day 8, 6/4/20
I often use the 10-key to do some quick arithmetic and I found the experience of using the integrated 10-key very frustrating today. Having to hit the keypad button to toggle the 10 key on adds an extra step that wasn’t needed with a dedicated 10 key.
Now I know there are some 10 key maestros that don’t need to look at all, but I still like to look when I’m punching in the numbers to be careful. Having the 7, 8, 9 integrated into U, I, O and then seeing actual 7, 8, 9 right above is very confusing.
Having the + be integrated with : is unusual as well. zero(0) is also the space key too which is now controlled by the right thumb. With the amount of real estate in the middle of the keyboard, I probably wouldn’t mind just having a dedicated 10 key in the middle of the keyboard. Although it would defeat the purpose of the keyboard to reach to the middle of the keyboard to use it, I think it would be a fairly small price to pay considering the other gains that I am getting from the keyboard.
I have to say though, typing with it is feeling much easier and natural. Unfortunately, I had a busy day today and didn’t have time to squeeze in some typing tests to see how I am coming along, so that will have to wait for tomorrow.
Day 9, 6/06/20
I headed to typingtest.com and went through some simple typing activities they had that consisted of short little paragraphs to challenge you a little bit with the non-alphabetical keys.
WPM was highly variable in these activities. I found myself averaging between 49-70 WPM with mixed key use.
I definitely can say that hitting the C key is 85% under control now. I definitely hate reaching for the Q and the P on this keyboard still.
On a 3 page typing test I was able to achieve 51 WPM with 95% accuracy.
On a 5 minute typing test I got 54 WPM with 95% accuracy.
On a 1 page typing test I was able to achieve 62 WPM with 97% accuracy.
There were moments that I was certain I was going over 70 WPM which is positive.
I’ve noticed with the hands split apart sometimes my coordination of they keys can get slightly out of sync when I start typing faster making me somewhat confused and having to slow down.
With the competency improving, I am also starting to see the benefit of this keyboard in helping keep wrists more neutral and the shoulder open.
Day 10, 6/08/20
I think I’m getting over the speed bump with typing on the Advantage2.
Today I used the keyboard during my workday without too much issue as I found little problem getting to the letters I need to type, but having to relearn how to use short-cuts is tricky.
For example, sometimes when I cut something with Ctrl-X, I will paste it right where I need it be using my mouse to get there, but often I will follow up with a few spaces.
With the space bar having been moved over to where the right thumb is, that’s hard because my left hand is occupied and I got my right hand on the mouse, so it would require more movements for me to do a simple task like that.
I did three typing tests today on typing.com and was able to obtain 62 WPM with 97% accuracy as my best.
This confirms my feeling of productivity increase is real.
The frustration of Q,C,V, and P is becoming quite minimal now, which is good as I’m at the two week mark with this keyboard.
Day 11, 6/09/20
Today was the final day testing with the Advantage2. I concluded my typing sessions by ending with 59 WPM. I estimate that my current typing speed varies between 55-65 WPM with 95-95% accuracy depending on what I'm typing.
At the end of my approximate 2 week journey I was able to achieve a decent working typing speed of around 60 WPM, which I expect to continue getting better as long as I continue using the Advantage2. Here I show the performance trajectory of some of the different tests that I performed on typing.com. The improvement over time is fairly steady.
It won't be a complete walk in the park to learn how to use and there will certainly be moments of frustration as you have read above. But, if you're putting down lots of text each day for several hours, I believe you'll feel the benefits of the keyboard will come after you're able to get over the initial learning curve.
Reprogramming of the keys will likely need to be done for some individuals and fortunately they offer an app that can easily do this. You also have the ability to create custom macros in this app which may be useful for some professionals. This app is loaded on the onboard memory for the keyboard but you can also download the latest version from their website as well.
When I plugged the keyboard into Windows, it didn't detect it, but I learned from the app that you need to initialize the memory on the keyboard to get Windows to see it.
If trying to pick up the Advantage2 seems daunting, Kinesis also offers two more reasonably priced and easier to learn models called the FreeStyle2 ($99.00) and Freestyle Pro ($179.00). The Freestyle2 is shown here:
Both follow the conventional keyboard layout, but still can be split apart or joined together as well as providing tenting to various degrees. Wrist support accessories can also be purchased for each.
The Freestyle models may just suffice for your needs, but the Advantage2 likely confers more long term benefit to your fingers and wrists because of the its unique and novel key layout and shape which is reflected in the price. Although the price can be tough to get over; if you're spending some serious time typing in your career. I believe the Advantage2 is definitely worthy of your consideration as it may help protect your body from repetitive strain injuries better to increase your longevity.
If you're experiencing neck, shoulder, arm, or back pain from working on the computer, then I invite you to seek help from me, your local Kirkland Chiropractor who understands the pain you're feeling having worked in tech and IT myself and seeks to help empower you to take an active role in managing your body's wellness. Click on the button at the top of the banner to schedule your first chiropractic appointment with me today.
-Dr. Frank Wen