You've seen them at
trade shows and on TV, and they're touted for being the ergonomically correct style
a keyboard should be. They are those funny looking keyboards which look like someone
melted a standard keyboard into an arc. They come in a variety of shapes and styles,
and this review is on the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro.
The fact is, the arc shape definitely allows my hands to rest on the keyboard in
a much more relaxing position. The "Natural" in the name rings true. The
space bar is extra fat, as well as the ALT and CTRL keys. The rest of the keys are
pretty much the same size as a standard keyboard, and in the same order, except for
the break in the middle. At the summit of the arc is a break in the keys, between
the "6" and "7", the "T" and "Y", the "G"
and "H", and the "B" and "N". In the space between
are the 3 LED lights which normally appear over the numeric keypad on a standard
keyboard. The left and right sides slope down at a slight angle, and the wrist rest
is also curved and rounded to fit your palms quite nicely (it's not really a wrist
rest, but more of a palm rest). The keys themselves have a good feel to them, and
the "F" and "J" keys are marked with a small raised line so that
you know when your fingers are in the correct typing position.
The keyboard comes with USB and PS/2 support, and the keyboard itself has two USB
ports added on. That is a nice feature.
Adjusting for typing on this keyboard is not easy. I found myself out of alignment
quite a few times until I discovered the raised markings on the "F" and
"J" keys. Even with the markings, however, I struggled. There are instances
where I type a "B" with my right hand, or a "7" with my left,
which is quite a maneuver on this keyboard. If you get this keyboard, you'll have
to break yourself of habits such as that. As much as I did use it, physically it
felt good, but I never did get quite a comfortable feel, mentally.
What I really liked about this keyboard were the hot keys at the top of the keyboard.
Colored in an off-blue, they were easy to spot and good to the touch. The BACK and
FORWARD browser keys were great for web browsing. Other browser keys included STOP,
REFRESH, SEARCH, FAVORITES and HOME. There was also a convenient hot key for EMAIL
at the top of the arc, making it the easiest key to get to. The multimedia keys were
also quite cool, including MUTE, VOLUME UP, VOLUME DOWN, PLAY/PAUSE, STOP, PREV TRACK,
NEXT TRACK and MEDIA. Finally, over to the right, above the numeric keypad, are keys
for MY COMPUTER, CALCULATOR, and SLEEP. The MY COMPUTER and CALCULATOR buttons had
options to be programmed for anything you wanted. The SLEEP key is useful for suspending
activity on the PC (rather than shutting down and later rebooting). The software
for programming the keys and setting other options, Intellitype, was also easy to
install and to use.
There are a couple of gotcha's if you plan on using this keyboard. The first one
is that, unless you switch all of your keyboards to this design, you may find yourself
in a world of confusion. If this is the only keyboard you plan on using, then you're
okay. I use 7 different computers on 3 different platforms, however, and the option
to switch all of them out to "Natural" keyboards is not practical, nor,
with these particular platforms, is it even possible. I'm on a computer 12 hours
a day, so switching back and forth between the arc-shaped keyboard and a standard
keyboard wreaks havoc on my brain. In short, for guys like me, this isn't a practical
For those of you who use terminal emulators, or any other software package which
generally comes with a keyboard template, good luck trying to fit any standard template
on this keyboard. It isn't going to fit.
The last minor gotcha is that the keyboard is bulkier than a standard keyboard, a
little bit longer from side to side, and a lot wider from front to back. In fact,
if you currently enjoy a gel wrist rest, you'll have to give that up to use this
keyboard. The wrist rest is built into the keyboard, rounded and curved, but hard
and plastic, and there is no option to remove it.
All in all, though, this keyboard is a nicely designed keyboard. The architecture
does provide more physical comfort to your hands than a standard keyboard, although
that comfort may be offset by mental struggling, especially if you continue to use
standard keyboards on other computers. The feel of the keys are great, and the layout
is well designed, especially the internet and multimedia hot keys provided at the
top of the keyboard. The keyboard is designed only with the Windows layout, so even
though you can plug it into and operate it on a Macintosh, Mac users will not get
much use out of it.
- Keyboard arc and
slope is more relaxing for the hands
- Hot keys are a great
- The feel and layout
of the keys are great
- 2 USB ports
- Easy to use, functional
- Learning curve to
adjust to keyboard style
- Does not mix well
in a multi-keyboard environment which includes standard layout
- No option to replace
hard wrist rest with felt or gel
- Old templates will
not fit this keyboard
- No version with a
3 1/2 out of 5 Mice