1: Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard – Best Ergonomic Keyboard Overall
If you find yourself complaining of wrist pains frequently, then I highly recommend the Kinesis Advantage2. It comes with a unique design that incorporates various techniques to help you comfortably use the keyboard for long hours.
The keys have been split into two and positioned in a contour on both sides of the keyboards. I was not sure how this would help until I began typing. First of all, it increases my thumb functionality by introducing two thumb clusters. The CTRL, Enter, and Space are on the right cluster and the Backspace, Delete and Alt buttons are on the left cluster. Also, my hands felt so naturally placed I could keep typing the whole day. And not just the wrists but my shoulders too. The split design means that my hands stretch straight from the shoulder instead of the usual V.
I won't lie that typing on this keyboard is hard and will take time before you are back typing at your usual speed. But once you do, you are not going back. If you are having too much trouble adapting to their layout, the keyboard features a smart programming engine with onboard remapping that you can use to switch the buttons. It allows you to change the key sequence in 100 different ways. You can also save each new layout you create and assign any alphanumeric key as its hotkey for easy access.
The key responsiveness is also impressive, but I would not have expected less considering it uses Cheryl MX Brown switches. It is compatible with all Windows PC and Mac computers and does not require any special drivers to program it.
2: Microsoft Sculpt Keyboard – Best Budget Ergonomic Keyboard
Microsoft Sculpt is another keyboard I highly recommend for work ergonomics. It is less complicated than the Kinesis and considerably cheaper. However, they use different methodologies so it would be unfair to compare them. Unlike the Kinesis, this keyboard splits the keys into two by completely removing a chunk of material between them. However, the motivation behind this is still the same. To position your fingers and arms in a more natural position while reducing the amount of strain involved in typing. And it does this excellently. I had a much easier time typing on this keyboard compared to the Kinesis, but it still requires some practice before you can adapt.
Something else I liked is the negative tilt. It is different from the forward lift on most keyboards, but it is surprisingly comfortable. It is further reinforced by a padded wrist rest that ensures you do not bend your wrist too much. The palm rest attaches to the keyboard by a magnet, and you can remove it if you prefer typing on your lap. And what's better is that the tilt is adjustable. You can experiment on different heights to find one that is most comfortable for you.
The keys are also slightly larger than most keyboards. I could tell because there were less typing errors. Most errors I made came from not being accustomed to the keyboard. But my highlight feature for the Microsoft Sculpt has to be the separate num pad. The main reason I don't use the num pad is due to its awkward positioning. I have to stretch to reach it. Now I can place it in a more convenient position. The keypad responsiveness is quick and felt like the perfect integration between a laptop and a desktop. It is wireless, so you don't have to worry about tangles.
3: Das Smart Mechanical Keyboard – Best Smart Keyboard
This keyboard is one of the sturdiest keyboards I have reviewed, and I attribute it to the aluminum top panel. I say this because I applied a fair amount of force on it in an attempt to bend it and it took it like a champ. It may not be the wisest thing to do, but at least it is safe to conclude this keyboard can handle a few falls.
Das keyboard has moved from the usual Cherry MX switches we are used to and is instead using gamma Zulu switches. They claim that these switches can last for about 100 million keypresses. That is about 2x the MX. I cannot confirm this, but I can attest that they do feel different. They are softer and feel like a fusion between black and brown Cherry MX switches.
One of my favorite feature on this keyboard is the wrist rest. It is super comfortable and made me type a little faster. The volume knob and three dedicated media buttons on the top right are also quite useful in controlling media on your PC. And what's better, you can now assign all the 12 function keys to other tasks. Nevertheless, I found the volume knob to be a bit bulky and much harder to handle.
But now to answer the biggest question. Why this keyboard is called smart. It is compatible with the IFTT protocol or otherwise put the 'IF THIS THEN THAT' protocol. You can set various keys to alert you when there is some activity online or around you. For instance, you can set it to notify you when there is a new comment on a thread you are following on stack overflow. Or a more practical example, I programmed it to alert me when my phone was ringing. You might not hear it ring while coding, but you won't miss the blinking keys. They have used laser etching to label their keyboards thus no chances of them wearing off.