Why have one keyboard when you can have one for each type of task?
That’s my approach. Keyboards tend to be very personal choices, but that doesn’t mean you need to restrict yourself to one keyboard, if you use your personal computer for different tasks. For example, I have two keyboards attached to my production system. One is the trusty Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. It’s big and clunky, but I’ve returned to it after using a number of other ergonomic designs, because it has the features I want when I’m working.
The 4000 is a split design, allowing my hands to relax a bit when writing. It includes full-size function keys and a full-size numeric keypad. The arrow keys form a nice inverted-T. The 4000 takes some breaking in time, though. The space bar, in particular, requires excessive force when you first start using it, but it softens up over time.
Previously, I used several other ergonomic designs. For years, I used a Logitech K350, aka the Wave. It has a slightly softer touch than the 4000, which I liked, but it also wears out fairly quickly. I went through three K350s in two years. After the last one became flakey, I tried the Microsoft Sculpt. I was intrigued by the leaner design and separate numeric keypad.
Initially, the Sculpt seemed fabulous. However, warts appeared after extended use. The separate keypad seems like a good idea, but that turned out to be a compromise. I had to dig around to find it, because I didn’t keep it on my keyboard tray, and keys like the calculator launcher and backspace keys needed to be replicated. The tiny function keys — buttons, really — on the main keyboard, plus the lack of dedicated media transport keys, was its final undoing. It was back to the 4000.
My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, carries around just the keyboard with her Macbook Pro. She suffers from occasional tendinitis when using the built-in keyboard, so the Sculpt has helped her manage and mitigate the problem somewhat. My younger daughter, Emily, also has a separate keyboard — but it’s a left-handed keyboard, with the numeric keypad on the left side.
Fun and Games
However, I have a second keyboard attached to my production system. It’s a Corsair Vengeance K70, which I use when I’m playing PC games. I bought the version with the Cherry MX Brown key mechanisms, because I wanted minimal noise and key press force. I actually turn off the backlighting, except for the WASD and arrow keys.
I also have another PC dedicated to media editing. It’s currently used mostly to record the Improbable Insights podcast, but I’ll likely use it for video editing if I decide to get more serious about that. The keyboard on that system is a Das Keyboard 4 Professional, also with Cherry MX Brown keys. (I got a deal on a refurbished unit, so jumped at the chance.)
What I Really Want
Having two keyboards on my main PC is a little cumbersome. I have lots of room around my desk, so setting the unused keyboard on top of a nearby PC while leaving it connected is simple. But I would be very happy with a version of the Natural 4000 with Cherry MX Brown keys. That, to me, would be my perfect keyboard.