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Problems for a long time MS Natural Elite user
on January 3, 2013
I am a programmer for a living and an avid PC gamer in my free time, so I can spend up to 12 hours a day or more at the keyboard. A comfortable keyboard is a must. I bought this keyboard as a replacement for my broken MS Natural Elite which is no longer produced, which was the best keyboard I have ever used, and I had been using for over 10 years. This keyboard looked similar enough that I thought it would perform the same or very similar. I was mistaken in several regards.
At first glance, key layout seems identical except for the split space bar and the lack of some space between the up arrow and the delete/insert keys. However, a closer inspection will reveal some key differences, which I will describe in excruciating detail below. The hot keys for email/web/search/etc. on the top of the keyboard are nice, but are under the edge of my desk so I will probably never use them.
My 3 main problems with this keyboard:
1) The space bar is too long on the left side. On the MS Natural Elite, the space bar ends under the V key, while on this keyboard it extends slightly past the C key. As a result, the Alt and Windows keys are about 1/3 thinner than the MS Natural. This causes a problem when trying to hit the ALT and Windows keys with my left thumb. It is awkward and much more difficult to press than on the MS Natural. I use the windows key for a lot of shortcuts and the alt key for games and it was noticeably uncomfortable as soon as I began using this keyboard.
2) Whenever I press the V,B,N,M keys with my thumb, I am often hitting the space bar at the same time. I could not figure out why I was having this problem until I examined my MS Natural keyboard. On the MS Natural, the bottom row of letter keys (ZXCVB...) are all angled UP and away from the very bottom row of keys. This prevents the problem I describe. I really have to arch my fingers to avoid this problem. This is not a problem I could have foreseen, nor saw described by anyone else in their review. If you don't use your thumbs to press those keys, this may not effect you, but after typing this way for 30+ years, it is a big problem for me.
3) I notice when I type fast, sometimes I am pressing O instead of I, or J instead of H, something which never happened with the natural elite. Again I examined the keyboard for differences, and noticed that ALL the keys on the natural elite are angled slightly away toward the side they are on. On this keyboard, they are all relatively flat, meaning I have to stretch my fingers further to press certain keys, especially those towards the middle of the keyboard, which results in mistyping. Stretching is not something I should have to do on a Natural keyboard. This might not be a problem if I kept proper typing form, but I keep my right index on the K instead of the J, as this makes pressing the enter key easier and reduces the distance to backspace (2 most common keys pressed!), and I keep my left index on the D instead of the F as this makes pressing the left shift/CTRL/Windows/Alt keys easier.
Compared to the MS Natural elite, I would describe typing on this keyboard to be "mushy" or like typing on a pillow. This occasionally causes me to mistype, as sometimes I do not press hard enough. Again, this may be something I can get used to, but I wish key pressure wasn't something that I had to spend time thinking about as I type.
I regret not getting the MS Natural Ergonomic 4000, which I did not buy due to its reviews mentioning a problem with the key labels coming off, as well as all the extraneous keys I will not use. I am probably going to return the Fellowes and get it instead regardless of those issues.
Update: After further reading the MS Natural Ergonomic's reviews about its problematic spacebar and key labels rubbing off, I decided to keep the Fellowes. I've been using it now for a few weeks. I seem to have gotten used to the non-angled keys, and I don't have much of a problem mistyping anymore. I also seem to have gotten used to the amount of pressure on the keys and don't notice it. However I do still find the smaller alt and window keys to be problematic when gaming and I still really wish the spacebar was not so long on the left side. Unfortunately there are no alternatives other than the MS Natural Ergonomic so for now I am stuck until something better comes along!
Update 2: Have been using this keyboard for 2 years now, and I am completely used to all the quirks and it still works flawlessly. However, I do have a MS Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 at work and prefer it to this... the key presses just feel nicer. However if this keyboard is able to last another 2 years then it may be the better buy, as the MS keyboards do seems to die on me after 2 or 3 years.