The Microsoft Sculpt

Like it or not, I spend a lot of time in front of a screen and a keyboard. I did not pay much attention to it until recently…

My setup at home is nothing extravagant, a plain table, a laptop stand to have the screen up to my eyes, my logitech trackball (not my original one, but a newer one), a trusty calculator, and my keyboard, a Drevo Gramr.

This is a keyboard I bought to have a good feeling keyboard with English layout at home, mostly for writing blog posts (if I wrote any), the occasional script, logging into the bank etc. This was not aimed to be a main keyboard.

Things change and a couple of years ago I started working a lot from home (a lot!, you can see there’s barely any post in 2018), and it’s clear where this is going right? After such a long time almost exclusively working 8+ hours a day with this keyboard, I started noticing that my wrist was there, that’s the best way to describe it. It wasn’t pain, it simply was there.

I started checking my hand position using the keyboard, and surprise surprise, this was my wrist position while working:

Knowing that, I started to actively care about my wrists, doing daily wrist exercises and stretches helped a lot, but that clearly was a small patch to the situation.

I ended up with one of this:

The Microsoft sculpt

Such a long time since I owned a Microsoft product, but everything I checked online about ergonomic keyboards pointed me to this. LifeWire best ergonomic keyboards, digitaltrends best ergonomic keyboards, gearhungry, not the best on allthingsergo but still recommended, so I jumped into it.

First Feelings

First feelings are weird. It’s a big departure from straight keyboards. And just using it a bit I also sense some of my typing habits clashing with this keyboard design. For example, sometimes typing b with my right index. When I try that with the sculpt, it ends up with either an n or just typing into air.

The palm rest and overall position feels much better with this keyboard.

Although some old habits die hard, and trying to type < fast my hands go into a strange position, it’s something I’ll have to improve myself 🙂

The hardware itself

The first thing to say is that it feels modern, sleek, beautiful and sturdy. It is a well built and designed keyboard.

It’s difficult to appreciate in the provided image, but it has a dome shape which keeps your hands slightly curved as in a resting position.

The keys are responsive and feel clicky, although I prefer the feeling of a mechanical switch, this keyboard has good travel for my taste, and does not need too much pressure to activate the keys

Key shape might have been thoroughly studied to get to the final design, but still feels strange to have such huge T and N, while one of my most used keys esc is so far away and is extremely small. I guess I’ll have to finally remap the vim ESC functionality.

Function keys seem the most common complain about this keyboard, you need to flip a top right switch to go from function mode to the base F1..12 keys. This does not bother me since I rarely use function keys but I get why some complain about it. What I don’t like that much is the build style of those F1..12 keys. They are very small and plasticky (if that’s a word) compared to the rest of the keyboard, not a deal breaker but something to note.

The keyboard comes with a separate number pad that can sit anywhere on your desk, it won’t probably see a lot of use from my side. It has the keys that you would expect so not much to comment here.

On Linux

I had 0 problems setting this up on Linux. Similar to the Logitech wireless trackball it comes with a receiver, so at the end is treated as a simple USB device, and any media key is correctly interpreted via xev.

Batteries

The keyboard uses 2 AAA batteries, I was unable to find any official specifics on how long the keyboard should be able to run without replacement.. The verge lists 3 years of keyboard use and 6 of numpad use. Since that’s not official nor comments about what usage is expected we’ll see over time.

After three months

After three months using this keyboard I can say it improved my position and my wrist is perfectly fine. I have some trouble adapting when writing directly on the laptop’s keyboard, but that’s mostly it.

The number pad is a good addition, I used it a couple of times to test and even mapped the calculator media button to galculate. So if a calculator is not around a simple click there and voilà.

I thought I would not use the keyboard stand (which tilts it a bit more), but after testing it out of curiosity it’s always there for me, much more comfortable. I guess it will depend on the table’s height.

Three months is not that much, but the keyboard is still in one piece, even after carrying it directly on a bag once a week. The arm rest is also in perfect condition but I guess this is the part that will end up wearing the most.

Conclusion

All of this ends up to personal preference, since there’s so many different ergonomic keyboards. But seems that everything I read about this keyboard was right. It’s a good piece of hardware that it’s what it aims to be. Totally recommended.

References

Images from https://www.rsipain.com/equipment.php

Some images of this keyboard open from emmanuelcontreras

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