Pros:Nice rubberized wrist rests; fairly affordable; nice function and special purose keys.
Cons:Keys are hard to depress; design take some getting used to.
The Bottom Line: Overall, I would state the Microsoft has designed a good, solid, useful, ergonomic keyboard with a lot to recommend it in the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000.
Let's face it there is nothing sexy or even new about keyboard design, expect for the rise of backlit units. But the keyboard is one of the most essential parts of the computer; after all, without one the computer is close to useless.
Recommend this product?
I loved, loved, loved the feel and sound of the old IBM keyboards, but those old white units are hard to come by these days. The white and black squares clicked and related a fair amount of feedback through the keys. They keyboard on my HP Pavilion dv9000 approximates the feel and of the old IBM's but not the sound, but I like the keyboard nonetheless.
The keyboard that ship with most dell desktop computers, like to one I use at work, are nice units, but they are almost too small for prolonged typing. There is nowhere to rest the wrists while typing and that promotes fatigue with prolonged use, at least for me. And over time, my left wrist will start to hurt.
So the search has been on for quite some time for the perfect ergonomic keyboard; one that feels good underneath the fingers (provides feedback), provides adequate space for the wrists, while also preventing the dreaded wrist ailment c-tunnel syndrome.
I've tried quite a few keyboards over the years so it was time to give Microsoft a try. The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 almost delivers.
Microsoft says of the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 "has been expertly crafted to allow you to work in a more natural position. The new Gull Wing design features a 14-degree gable, a natural arc and a curved key bed - bringing the keys closer to your fingers to reduce reach and unnecessary motion, while encouraging a more natural typing position. It also comes equipped with an optional palm lift for a seven-degree reverse slope and a cushioned wrist rest that encourages better arm and wrist alignment."
There are a myriad of silver special function keys throughout they keyboard face including a Zoom Slider that allows for the magnification of digital pictures, maps, etc. There are also forward and back buttons designed for use with the Internet, as well as (5) customizable My Favorites Hot Keys that can be programmed to "instantly open the programs, files, and Web pages you use the most."
Situated on the upper left hand side of the keyboard are three shortcut keys (Web/Home, Search, and Mail), while next to the My Favorites Hot Keys you'll find the typical multi-media controls. Like most modern keyboards the function keys pull double duty depending on whether or not the F-Lock key is activated.
With the F-Lock on, they perform their standard functions, however with the F-Lock off, the black keys execute a number of useful shortcuts, including save, print, undo/redo, and reply/forward/send for e-mail programs. An added bonus: the function keys are all labeled with their secondary functions.
I installed the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 on a Dell DX4300 running Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. The USB keyboard was recognized right away and all of the function keys worked without installing the included software.
The first thing I noticed-and I am sure any user would-about the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 ($24.95 at Amazon.com) is that it's big! But that is not necessarily a bad thing because the matt black keyboard had amble room for the wrists to rest while typing. And the wrist rest are not made of hard plastic like most keyboards in this class; indeed the rests are cover in rubber giving the wrist a cushioned and comfortable place to rest.
I immediately removed the palm lift; talk about awkward! The palm lift made typing on the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 a very difficult prospect. Luckily it is easily removed.
It is quite evident that Microsoft did not take a page from IBM's keyboard design book when placing they keys on this keyboard; they are hard to push for the most part and give little to no feedback. Needless to say I do not care for them. And because of the "gull-wing" design of the keyboard typing on the unit can take some getting used to. After a few hours of typing on the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 I got used to the unique placement of the keys and I am happy to report that production is up!
Though the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is certainly bigger than some of it contemporaries, that added space is well used. I like the padded wrist rest, as well as the innumerable special function/programmable keys included in the design.
I do not, however, like the feel of the keys, and the gullwing design took some getting used to. Overall, I would state the Microsoft has designed a good, solid, useful, ergonomic keyboard with a lot to recommend it in the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000.
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Amount Paid (US$): 29.95