Review of the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 So let´s have a look at this ergonomic veteran as a starting point in the hunt for the best ergonomic keyboard. The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 has been around for about 10 years. This particular model is preceded by three other lesser models. Although I have skipped two models in the series it feels a little like coming home. My first ergo keyboard was the white all plastic Microsoft Natural Keyboard Elite. I actually had two of those but got rid of them when they turned yellow and disgusting looking. This keyboard is still available all over the place and you can get for as little as 47 dollars on Amazon. This is a comfortable entry level price to see if this kind of keyboard is the way to go in your efforts to avoid RSI.
What´s in the box
- The Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
- Tiny user manual
- Front stand
Build quality of the Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
The first thing that struck me when I opened the box was the size of this keyboard. It´s nothing less than massive and no doubt the largest keyboard I have ever used. So it´s quite impractical unless you type or program for a living and need nothing else on the desk. If you use other devices, such as a Wacom tablet, desk space does become an issue. The keyboard is wired and is not available in a wireless edition. Surely this is because of it´s age and price segment. Personally I don´t mind, I always buy wired keyboards anyway. I simply like that it is always working at a 100 percent, unlike keyboards with batteries that slowly stop working. And quite frankly, I think we have enough radiation from other gadgets these days. The keyboard feels sturdy and is made of seemingly good quality material. It is looks nice with a mix of dark gray and titanium grey colors.
Unlike it´s predecessors, the hand rest area on the Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 has soft mat surface. The padding is made of some kind of artificial leather imitation and it actually feels quite comfortable. The soft surface cleans easily with a moist piece of cloth, yet I wonder how this material will stand the trial of time. The padding is comfortable but a couple of extra millimeter of padding would have been a good choice. The hard surface beneath can occasionally be felt.
A very nice surprise was the nice long cable. It is 2 meters long (6,5 feet) and will be able to reach your workstations without an extension in most cases. The cable is a good, soft and bendy quality.
With the keyboard comes a removable front stand can easily be clicked onto the keyboard. The goal is to avoid having to lift your hands too much and is meant as an extra ergonomic counter measure against RSI related arm problems.
It raises the front edge of the keyboard significantly and a little too much for my taste. I almost feel like my arms are hanging from the keyboard. Also, this added weight on the keyboard edge is too much for the soft padding to withstand and the hard surface beneath can be felt. The somewhat flimsy quality of this stand results in the feeling that the structure gives and moves when you write. I know I will never use this stand. I much prefer to keep my soft armrests in front of the keyboard which works perfectly.
Most of the keys have a comfortable resistance to your touch and can still be pressed easily.
The spacebar makes a rather loud, clunky sound when you work fast. When you type fast you tend to hit the spacebar pretty hard and this one is just too loud for me. Also, unless you press the center of the spacebar it has more resistance than the other keys.
Many keyboards out there have special dedicated and even customizable buttons. Apart from the more common ones, like sound control and e-mail functions, the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is no exception and it sports a handful of really useful function keys that can actually reduce your mouse work a little. My selection of favorites are:
- My absolute favorite is the flip switch type zoom button that is placed in the center of the keyboard. This feature works amazingly well and is extremely useful. The zoom function is placed differently in different applications. This feature is usually found in menus, on the plus/minus key, application buttons etc. This button effectively gives you a centralized access to the zoom function.
- Calculator key. I just love the shortcut key to the system calculator.
- Front and center sits a set of forward and backward arrow keys that are useful when you use an internet browser.
- Customizable “my Favorites” buttons. Centered and along the far edge of the keyboard are 5 customizable keys to which you can assign the applications or even webpages that you use the most.
While the standard parts of the keyboard work out of the box you need to get the driver in order to use the extra features. As soon as the driver is installed you can use the features that I just described and more.
There is no driver CD in the box, but you can get it on the Microsoft product support page.
How hard is it to get used to?
Even though I have used the early predecessor extensively, it still does take some getting used to after using a compact, laptop style keyboard for many years.
If you are capable of 10 finger type writing, you will soon fell right at home once you locate the “f” and “j”keys.
On the other hand, if you are a two finger typer you will probably not need to upgrade to an ergonomic keyboard at all.
If you do indeed type a lot, this way of using a keyboard is without a doubt healthier than the traditional straight up and down kind.
Your hands are much more relaxed and your wrist can remain straight without needing to bend neither up nor down.
If writing is a large part of your profession or if you are a programmer you definitely owe it to yourself to give an ergonomic keyboard a shot if you haven´t already. The Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is the perfect way to get going.
The keys are laid out perfectly and the price and overall quality makes this a great entry level ergonomic keyboard.
- Good build quality
- Space consuming, but comfortable hand rest padding
- Long USB cable of good quality
- Great keyboard features that will help you reduce mouse work
- Excellent price/performance relationship
- Somewhat loud and clunky spacebar
- Flimsy front stand
- Narrow enter key
Amazon price at the time of writing: 47 usd,-