Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 Mini-Review

My new
Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
just came in. As
you might expect, given there isn’t a keyboard driver for Linux,
none of the specialized keys work. Hence, I’m not going to spend
anytime on what the keys are intended to do. In addition, the
raison d’être for this keyboard is ergonomics.
Therefore, my mini-review will concentrate on the feel of this
human input device.

With the said, the most noticeable thing about the keyboard is
that it has a negative angle. That is, the edge nearest to the
user is higher than the edge farther away. I’ve often wondered
why keyboards weren’t angled this way because, it seems to me,
that it releases some of the tension on the wrists and even the
shoulders and neck. If you don’t like this angle, you may remove
the rather flimsily attached plastic spacer and use the keyboard
in a more common angle. In any case, score one for MS.

The next thing I noticed is that the key layout quickly rises
towards the center where you will find the 7, t, y, g, h,n, and to a
lesser extent the b key caps being substantially larger than the
other keys. I can already see that this layout is going to take
awhile to get used to. The key placements are just
different enough from the Natural Keyboard Pro that I was using
that I am constantly hitting the wrong keys. I assume I will get
over this but, at best, I have to give a neutral mark on
this.

The feel of the key travel is similar to my previous keyboard
– that is, mushy and without much tactile or auditory feedback. I
know I am showing my age when I say it but I really liked the
original IBM AT type keys. They provided terrific feedback and
felt like you could hit them with a baseball bat without worrying
about it breaking them. These keys have such a soft feel that I
have found that I’m getting double letters because I usually rest
my fingers on the keys and these are so sensitive that a key
press is being registered. So, for me, I give the 4000 a negative
on feel although your may feel otherwise [pun not intended
-ed].

The 4000 also includes a padded, integral wrist rest that
seems pretty comfortable. I don’t know how it will feel after
hours of use but I think it’s better than the hard plastic I had
before. A plus on this feature.

One thing lacking that was present in my earlier keyboard is a
USB hub. The Natural Pro included a two-port hub that came in
handy since the location of the ports were more accessible than
the back or front of the CPU case. In addition, the 4000 is a USB
keyboard and, in at least my case, did not come with a USB to PS2
port adapter. I happen to have a couple of those adapter laying
around but if your motherboard doesn’t support USB keyboards you
may need to purchase such an adapter. I guess, given most modern
motherboards and operating systems will not have problem. Still,
I will also grade this as a neutral.

Finally, a word about esthetics. This keyboard is
predominately matte black with accents in silver/gray and
polished black. To my eye, it makes for an attractive product and
was one of the key selling points (since it matches the color of
my Dell GX260 at work). For me, this is a plus.

The bottom line is is a net positive. But as in almost all
cases, this score may be different for you depending on your
personal likes and dislikes. Still, I grade this as a step up
from the previous keyboards and look forward to many years of
happy keyboarding.

Aloha!

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One response to “Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 Mini-Review

  1. Most ‘natural’ keyboards are not as practial as standard ones if you type in various languages (both linguistic and programatic) and they are a real bad idea if you switch layout between several computers (as in keyb-FR at work, keyb-UK at home and keyb-BE on a laptop).