• Posted on January 16, 2014

Microsoft Ergonomic Natural 4000 Keyboard

I’m on the computer far too often and typing on regular keyboards can cause a lot of wrist and hand strain and pain after a few hours. Because of this, companies started making Ergonomic keyboards, so I figured I should try one. Ergonomic keyboards are keyboards designed to be more comfortable and prevent any strain on your body (hands / fingers / wrists). These keyboards are usually designed in a curved fashion to better fit a natural sitting position.

The Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 is a larger keyboard than you will normally use or see. The keys are different sizes the closer they get to the center of the keyboard. The distance of the function keys (F1 - F12) are a lot higher up than normal. Other than the larger keys, there is an incline to the keys to better fit the length of your fingers when typing, instead of them all being on the same level.

Often times you will hear people talking about Mechanical Keyboards and key switches, this keyboard does not use either of those, which is disappointing. The Ergonomic 4000 uses a membrane “switch” to trigger the key signals to your computer. Membrane keyboards require you to more forcefully hit the keys for them to trigger. Mechanical keyboards require very little effort to press the keys and is much more comfortable to type on. The reason mechanical keyboards are better is because each key uses an actual switch. The switch can be triggered with little movement, depending on the switch. Membrane keyboards, because of their design, require the key to be pressed all the way down to trigger.

One thing I was unaware of when buying this keyboard was the wrist pad. In all the pictures I just assumed it was plastic. This is not the case. Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard uses a rubber / plastic wrist pad. It’s not as comfortable as ones you can be separately, but it does feel better than having your wrists drop steeply onto the desk when resting on the home row of the keyboard.

Now, for the additional buttons on the keyboard, which I find completely useless on this keyboard and all other keyboards. Above the function keys (F1 - F12) you have quick access to your Web Browser, Mail Client, and Computer Search. You then have numbers listed 1-5 which are shortcuts to your favorites. Further to the right you have mute, volume up and down, play and calculator. In the center of the keyboard in middle of the keys, you are given a zoom wheel. I don’t know why you would need to zoom when typing. The only time I need to zoom in is when looking at websites, and that requires mouse interaction anyways. Under the space bar we have forward and back buttons (for web browser navigation).

With all of the shortcut keys added, the keyboard takes up more space and looks cluttered. I would of preferred the keyboard to be a basic QWERTY keyboard, but that sadly won’t make it sell as much in store. People like having all of these additional features even if they never use them for some reason.

At the bottom of the keyboard you will have your Indicator lights. These are the indicators for Caps Lock, Num Lock, Scroll Lock, and the Function Lock. Yup, there is a function lock. This key allows you to disable the keys F1 - F12 but not the windows key or the context menu key. Far too often I hit the Function Lock key (located next to F12) instead of F12 and then have to feel around for the key again to enable function keys again. Most people this won’t matter for, but I use the function keys often in a lot of programs I use.

Should You Buy It?

With all of those details, you are wondering if I would suggest this keyboard. Personally, I’m on edge if this keyboard should really be used. The keyboard could be a million times better if they remove all of the additional keys and add Cherry MX key switches instead. But with that said, my wrists have started to hurt less by using this keyboard, but my fingers are starting to hurt a little more since I’m use to mechanical keyboards. Also if you have small hands, this keyboard is going to be very difficult to use. When I started typing on this keyboard I missed a lot of keys and still sometimes miss keys after using it for about a week, and I have “average” sized hands.

I should also note that if you play video games or thinking about buying this for someone who plays games, don’t. This keyboard is solely for typing and normal computer use such as web browsing. Games require one hand on the keyboard and one on the mouse. The hand on the keyboard won’t be able to reach required keys in most games. Good thing I don’t play video games often enough for this to matter.