I recently ran into some issues with the keyboard I had been using for the past few years and decided it was time to opt for something new. The keyboard I was moving away from was the Keychron K2 V2. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with mechanical keyboards, flipping between feeling like they give me a really good typing experience and thinking they sacrifice too much in terms of ergonomics to be worth the price of admission. In this particular case I was leaning toward the latter, so I decided to start looking into ergonomic keyobards.
I’ve used a handful of different ergonomic keyboards over the years. I actually had one in my very first full-time job out of college, though it’s been long enough now that I couldn’t tell you the brand let alone the model. After that, I didn’t use an ergonomic keyboard for quite a few years until the job I was working at managed to have surplus budget and asked everyone to put in requests for peripherals they wanted. I had them buy me a Microsoft Natural 4000 that I ended up using off and on for about 6 years. I was still actively using it as my daily keyboard when I left that job a handful of years ago. As an interesting aside, I want to say that when I got mine, that keyboard sold for roughly $50 USD. It’s now selling from random places on Amazon for $400 USD since it’s no longer being made. Yikes!
During the time that I used the Natural 4000 at work, I also procured a Microsoft Sculpt. It seemed like a pretty nice keyboard, but I only used it for a few days before I accidentally managed to dump an entire beverage into it; my attempts to save it via cleaning couldn’t overcome the damage that had been done, so I eventually had to write it off as a lost cause.
When I started a new job a few years back, my boss had asked me what accessories I’d like with my new laptop. To compliment the Logitech MX Ergo I requested, I also had them buy a Logitech Wave (K350). While ergonomic, the Wave wasn’t a split keyboard. While I don’t know if I feel like it gave me the same benefits that I got from a fully split board, it still worked well enough. I used it every day for a few years until the ‘o’ key stopped working reliably on it. That’s when I eventually decided to get back into mechanical keyboards for a bit, going through several of those since no one who uses a mechanical keyboard seems to be able to stick with the same one for very long.
I had been starting to move back to the “mechanical keyboards are overblown” position and wanted to focus on something a bit more ergonomic again. Of course, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds with something like the Kinesis Advantage360, but I wasn’t looking to spend much north of $100 USD on a keyboard. Spending $300 — $400 on something from Kinesis just feels wild to me. I know several people who own and love their products, but I just can’t justify it.
Microsoft continues to produce ergonomic keyboards, such as the Natural 4000’s successor, the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard. They may no longer make it since it isn’t listed on their website, but they also at least had been making the more premium Microsoft Surface Ergonomic Keyboard. In this particular case, though, I wanted to avoid hardware from Microsoft since I’d be mostly using the device with macOS. While there aren’t any compatibility issues, Windows-centric keyboards will force me to hit the Windows key when I want to use Command in macOS, and that breaks a lot of muscle memory for me.
Ultimately, I decided to go back to the well with Logitech and buy the Logitech Ergo K860. To me it seemed very similar to the Microsoft Surface Ergonomic but with support for both Windows and macOS.
The keyboard itself is quite good. It’s a simple matte black, which is nice since it doesn’t show smudges; I can’t fathom why any company would make a glossy keyboard, which is how the Microsoft Sculpt was.
Typing on it feels very comfortable, though there was a bit of an adjustment period for me. This was due to 3 things:
- Switching from several “normal” keyboards to a split, ergonomic layout.
- Switching from mechanical keyboards to scissor switches.
- Switching from TKL keyboards to a full-sized keyboard.
Amusingly enough, for me the first point was the least impactful. Having spent quite a bit of time typing on ergonomic keyboards, swapping back to one felt very natural. Moving from mechanical switches to scissor switches was a bit more cumbersome than I expected, especially since for the past year I’ve also rarely spent much time typing on a laptop keyboard. The change in experience actually caused me to feel more fatigue when typing on the K860 for a couple of days before I became acclimated.
The big difference in swapping from a copule of TKL keyboards to a full-sized keyboard was the positioning of the arrow keys. While I typically use Vim motions for things like my text editors where I write code, it’s still common for me to use the arrow keys when editing text in email, Slack, Word, etc. I was surprised at what a difference it made moving my hand a few inches further than I had been accustomed.
After a few days for those adjustments, however, typing on the K860 felt very comfortable and natural. There was never a change in typing speed, only in degrees of muscle fatigue. As can be seen in the image above, it’s a little odd that some of the keys (T, G, N) are longer than normal to give the split a uniform edge. Fortunately, the oddity is only in appearance; there’s no discernable difference in hitting those keys versus the more uniformly-sized keys across the majority of the keyboard.
The keyboard has no built-in battery, so it requires 2 AAA batteries (which come included.) Having to worry about keeping batteries on-hand is quite annoying, but Logitech claims you can expect around 2 years of life from them. Given what I’ve experienced first-hand from the Logitech M570 trackball and K380 keyboard, I don’t doubt those claims. I just need to make sure I actually have some spares handy; I’m quite guilty of forgetting to charge my MX Ergo trackball and needing to plug it in when it dies.
It’s very difficult to tell from photos, but the patterned wrist rest is not fabric. I’m actually amazed that the PCMag review I linked to above for claims about the battery life says:
The gray cloth upholstery looks nice and is very breathable; my body heat never made it too warm, as tends to happen with leather and leatherette rests.
That is absolutely not true; it’s some kind of plastic/polymer that simply looks like fabric. Calling it “cloth” is just flat-out wrong. My initial take was that this made it seem like less of a premium device, and that wasn’t a great feeling considering the price. However, doing research shows that a fairly common complaint for the Microsoft Surface Ergonomic was that the fabric wrist rest:
- Got pretty gross over time.
- Is impossible to clean.
I think a padded wrist rest with a plastic surface patterned to look like fabric is kind of the best of both worlds; it looks classy but also offers a surface that won’t accumulate anything and is simple to clean if it somehow does.
Having used the K860 for about a month now, I’m quite happy with it. Various reviews online will complain that it doesn’t feature backlighting, but I honestly couldn’t care less about that. I wanted a keyboard that would give me a solid and comfortable typing experience, and that’s exactly what the K860 offers. It’s worth mentioning that, especially coming from a couple of TKL keyboards, it’s a massive device that will take up a lot of desk space. My new desk setup allows for that, but only because I use a trackball. If I wanted to place a mouse next to this keyboard, I feel like it would be fairly awkward to move around. It’s probably also worth mentioning that I’m well past my gaming days, so I’m not attempting to use it for any PC games. I’d have to imagine that trying to play a game like StarCraft or World of Warcraft that involves using the entire keyboard with a single hand could be cumbersome.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of mechanical keyboards who doesn’t care whether or not your keyboard is mechanical, then this is definitely worth some consideration. And if you’re an ergonomic keyboard user who demands a mechanical keyboard, then I just feel bad for your bank account.