The Kinesis Advantage (KB500USB-BLK) is a keyboard that starts from square one and rethinks the whole concept of a keyboard. As you can see below, the kinesis is a fully split keyboard with concave key placement for each hand, which means the left-hand keys are far enough from the right-hand keys that there is no way to “cheat” with your touch typing.
Why design a keyboard this way?
The split design forces your hands into a natural position. In fact, if you tell someone to put their hands in front of them, chances are that they will end up in a position roughly similar to what you get with the kinesis.
This natural position is characterized by a slight elevation of the forearms and wrists (avoiding one of the worst keyboarding positions, “the claw”) while keeping the horizontal placement of the hand relative to the wrist in a perfectly straight line. Vertically, the hands are very slightly pronated.
For sufferers of carpal tunnel, this position results in the most space for the median nerve to pass through the “carpal tunnel”. For tendinitis and tendinosis sufferers, this position places the least stress on the tendons of the hand and forearm.
Combine the split design with the concave key placement, and one finds that wrist and hand contortions to hit common keys (backspace anyone?) are eliminated. Hitting the ‘a’ or ‘;’ key feels like it requires about half as much effort as a regular keyboard.
Key travel is much longer than normal keyboards, but activation of the key happens much higher in the cycle. The upshot of this is that you actually see the character appear on screen before your finger reaches the bottom of the keystroke.
After a few weeks, it is possible to stop the keystroke early, without ever feeling the impact at the bottom. Besides the obvious benefits to RSI sufferers, this improves the speed at which you can type.
Commonly used keys are moved to the thumb
Instead of wasting both thumbs on simply hitting the space bar, the kinesis moves a lot of common keys to the thumbs (which are slightly more resistant to RSI). You will shortly find that using the backspace key, the enter key, or the delete key is orders of magnitude easier and faster.
While there is a learning curve with this keyboard, perhaps significantly more than most of the keyboards on the market, I have to say that most of the reviews on the Internet blow the learning curve completely out of proportion.
Any sufficiently motivated person should be able to completely acclimate to this keyboard in a matter of a few weeks. True, you’ll spend quite a while missing the enter key and the backspace key, but your brain learns the new mapping very quickly. Also, as a consequence of the radically different key layout, I have found that it is not hard to go back to regular keyboards, as the “feel” is different and fails to activate the new mapping.
My biggest regret in the last five years is that I was scared away by how many people said the learning curve was very steep. I ended up trying several other keyboards and wasting a few years before I got around to this one.
The keyboard feels light, but sturdy. It is physically large and feels hollow, but the anchors on the bottom keep it very stable on the desk to prevent rocking.
Perhaps excepting some rubber key laptops, this is about the polar opposite to the classic IBM “clicky” keyboard. Someone experienced with this keyboard is unlikely to make much noise, resulting in the inclusion of an electronic “click” sound that indicates that the key has been activated.
I will note that the keyboard is fully programmable, and it is also expandable with several models of foot pedal. I have not used the programmable functions, but I did get a foot pedal to try it and I was not impressed. After a few days on the foot pedal, I felt like I was going to get Achilles tendinitis from the force and travel required to activate it. Obviously, I don’t recommend a foot pedal.
The bottom line is I’ve tried almost every keyboard out there, and the Kinesis Advantage is probably the best keyboard, not just for RSI, but for any use.
- Keeps hands in the ergonomically correct position. It’s actually impossible to screw this up.
- Avoids key impact at the bottom of the keystroke, greatly helping RSI sufferers
- Someone experienced on this keyboard will get a typing speed boost of 10 to 20 percent
- Fully programmable
- Pretty expensive
- Foot pedal sucks
- Physically large and takes up more room than a standard keyboard