Customer Review: “…the only problem is I want a second one…” — Mark Utting

by Mark Utting, Queensland, Australia, January 7, 2021
(*posted by Zergotech with permission and on behalf of Mark Utting)

I’ve been using the Zergotech Freedom keyboard intensively for three months, and am enjoying it more and more. The only problem is that now I want a second one, for my work office! :-)

The keyboard has a satisfying solid click to the keys (I chose the Kailh Brown Box Switches, so not too noisy), and the split layout is great. I’ve used many ‘natural’ or curved keyboards in the past, and the hand-angles of the Freedom keyboard are similar, but the split layout has the added advantage of being able to move the two halves further apart (to about shoulder width) if you want. I’m a good touch typist and a programmer, so keyboard layouts are deeply wired into my brain and fingers, including the punctuation and numbers row along the top. I quickly discovered that it is important to position the keyboard directly in front of me, with both halves horizontally aligned, so that I can find the home keys more easily without looking.

The keyboard has adjustable ‘legs’ that can be used in at least four different configurations to give forward or backward slopes, or a higher degree of ‘tenting’ (both hands sloping up very slightly towards the middle), but I found that the default small level of tenting (with no legs extended) is enough for my needs. I started with the sliding palm rests for a couple of months, then switched to the fixed full-size palm rests as it was one less thing to think about. But I like both approaches and may switch again.

I found there were three challenges in adjusting to the Freedom keyboard in the first few weeks:

1. the Enter key: for good ergonomic reasons (see the Zergotech website, Features / Key Layouts), the default Freedom layout puts the ENTER key below your left thumb (where the left-half of the spacebar was) instead of on the far right side of the keyboard. I tried this for a day or two, but found it too difficult to retrain my fingers — perhaps because I am switching between the Zergotech keyboard and other keyboards several times per week. So I consulted the glossy cheatsheet that comes with the keyboard, and with just a few keyclicks, swapped the ENTER key back to its traditional position. Problem solved! It is really nice to be able to reconfigure the keyboard so easily without having to install any software drivers.

2. the Backspace and Delete keys: these have also been moved over to the far left of the keyboard. This took a few days to adjust to, but it is very convenient to have the backspace key so easily accessible (immediately left of the ‘a’ key), so I stuck with it and it is now automatic to backspace with my left hand. When I switch to my laptop keyboard, I sometimes now hit its ‘CapsLock’ key expecting a backspace, but since I can immediately see that it did not backspace, it is easy to press it an even number of times (to toggle CapsLock off again) and look for the other backspace key. No problem.

3. the semi-orthogonal layout of the QWERTY and number rows: this is the change that I am still a bit ambivalent about — it continues to be a small annoyance because I am switching between Zergotech and traditional keyboard layouts so often. The Zergotech layout moves the QWERTY row very slightly to the right so that it is aligned with the home row — this is not a problem and I rarely make typing errors on the alphabetic keys. But the numeric row is moved a bit more than half a key to the right, so I still sometimes find myself touch-typing 1919 on the Zergotech, instead of 2020, or getting the brackets wrong. Of course the nice solution to this would be to get a second Zergotech keyboard for my work computer, which I may do. But for now I’m happy to put up with a few typos along the top row when I switch between the Zergotech and traditional keyboards, and I hope these will get less with time.

Another Zergotech Freedom feature that I really like is the multiple keyboard layers that allow you to control the cursor and mouse with the keyboard. The arrow keys are directly under your right-hand home keys (when you press ‘Fn Shift’ with your left thumb). There is also a mouse-control layer that you can toggle on/off with a single click, allowing you to use the right-hand home keys (arrow keys) to move the mouse cursor around (including at 45 degree angles!), with various left-hand keys acting as accelerators. I haven’t used the mouse-control layer a lot yet (because I’m switching between different keyboards so often), but I think if you were using only the Zergotech keyboard this would be a great feature.

Overall, I thoroughly recommend the Zergotech Freedom keyboard. It is nicely engineered, lovely to use, solves many ergonomic issues, and is highly configurable.

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Zergotech is the company behind the award winning Freedom ergonomic mechanical keyboard.

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