capsule review

Comfort Keyboard

At a Glance
  • Comfort Keyboard Company Comfort Keyboard

Comfort Keyboard.
Photograph: Rick Rizner

Perhaps you've dreamed of being a champion golfer, a star quarterback, or maybe an Olympic contender. But you probably didn't realize that you're already a keyboard athlete.

That's what the folks at Comfort Keyboard call us. Just as no two golfers have an identical swing, no two "keyboard athletes" are the same shape and size, so the Comfort Keyboard's ergonomic design adjusts to each user's posture, height, and preferences.

To say that this keyboard is adjustable would be an understatement. It can bend and flex into more positions than Nadia Comaneci can strike.

The putty-beige $299 wired model I tried is divided into three sections: left-hand keys, right-hand keys, and the numeric keypad; the detachable keypad can be placed at the end on either the right or the left. Each of the three sections sits atop a wheel on a long track. When you turn one of the wheels counterclockwise, it loosens that part of the keyboard, allowing you to slide, tilt, heighten, or lower each section in a countless number of ways to fit your preferences. Once you've found the ideal location and angle for each section, you lock it into place by turning the wheel clockwise. If you rely heavily on the numeric keypad, for instance, you'll like the way you can place the keypad directly in front of you, so you don't have to reach for it, as you would with a conventionally laid-out keyboard.

The aim is to maintain the natural position of your hands--as if you were holding them by your sides--with palms facing each other, as opposed to facing flat or in a pronated position as can happen when you use a flat keyboard. After I adjusted the sections of keys this way, my keyboard resembled a craggy mountain range. When I began to type on the QWERTY layout, I had a tendency to overshoot the "h" and "y" keys, sending my index finger into the empty crevasse between the sections.

You certainly have to retrain your hands to get accustomed to this keyboard. After years of using flat designs, from sixth-grade typing class to now, I found the Comfort Keyboard's positioning very difficult to get used to.

I tried the keyboard for two weeks and saw my productivity nosedive. I couldn't seem to get the hang of repositioning my hands on the home keys without looking. Every time I took my hand off the keyboard to use the mouse, I would invariably end up one key off the home row. After about ten days, I felt like I spent more time correcting typos than getting real work done. Also, I couldn't remember which function keys were on which portion, so I had to stop and peek.

Although the keys were quiet and felt crisp in action, and setup involved nothing more than plugging the cord into the USB port, I couldn't imagine using this keyboard voluntarily. None of the typing positions I tried felt natural. I longed to just fly over the keys while making very few typos. The keys responded to about the same amount of pressure as my regular keyboard, but my biggest problem was the loss of my typing accuracy. That said, as time went on, I did become better acquainted with the keyboard's orientation, but it wasn't enough to make me ditch my conventional keyboard. It took me about half a second to get used to my regular keyboard again.

The goal here is a worthy one. The design is unique and bound to please typists who are uncomfortable with pronated wrists. I'm not one of those people, though, and I'm back to happily pecking away at my plain, flat keyboard.

At $299, the keyboard is pricey, but you can try it out and return it within 30 days from the shipping date; if you do send back the keyboard, you'll pay a 10 percent restocking fee.

This keyboard provides more adjustments than the driver's seat of a Mercedes, but users who don't need--or can't get used to--its unconventional positions should save their money.

Kimberly Brinson

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At a Glance
  • Comfort Keyboard Company Comfort Keyboard

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