*Model*: Datadesk Technologies SmartBoard UPC-5000
*Switch Type*: ALPS switches.
This one actually came with pretty high hopes, expectations. Not only does it claim to have good switches, it has a interesting ergo layout that kinda makes sense, yet isn’t so different from QWERTY that it’s disorienting.
h3. Layout and Ergonomics
Several features about this keyboard make it interesting from a ergonomic point of view. First, it features a not-so-uncommon angled split layout. Secondly, it features fold out legs under the front side of the keyboard, allowing for negative tilt. And finally, the keys are aligned in a fanned layout where all the keys typed with the same finger radiate out in a straight line from the root of the finger (which also means that keys that are farther towards the end of the finger are also larger.)
In use, all of these features worked quite well. The negative tilt offered by the front supports was small, but not insignificant enough to be ineffective. The split layout seemed to be at a good angle, and the layout, while taking some time to get used to, felt pretty good after a couple days of use.
The only bizarre part of the layout is the function keys. The function keys are rounded, purple buttons that line the top of the keyboard. It’s not clear why they decided to make them so different.
The SmartBoard has a good feel that is consistent with ALPS switches. In combination of with the ergonomic layout, they ALPS switches feel even better. Thanks to the hand friendly layout, it felt as if pressing the keys required even less strength than a standard layout ALPS switch based keyboard.
I really liked this keyboard at first, and I thought I had found a winner. But after a few days, I started to notice ghosting, and it was bad. The T-I-M combination would produce V’s, the E-I-M combinations would produce X’s, so when I try to type “times”, I would get “tivmxes”. Every tivmxe. Totally unacceptable for a $100 keyboard.
So onto craigslist it went. While the layout was nice, the implementation of the actual keyboard was terrible. Kind of like a program with a great-looking UI but that crashes all the time. Unless you type really slowly, I’d strongly recommend against this one.
h3. In Comparison
Compared to both the CVT Avant Prime and the Matias Tactile Pro, I prefer over both the combination of ergo layout and good switches on the SmartBoard. However, the ghosting on this board is extremely annoying, much more so than what one finds on the Tactile Pro.
They advertise that it’s used by the world’s fastest typist. I’m not sure how the world’s fastest typist deals with all the ghosting though. I tried contacting the manufacturer directly, but received no response.