*Model*: Number 1048
*Switch Type*: Silent Rubber Dome
*Cost*: $45 off of Buy.com
Microsoft’s latest entry in the ergonomic keyboard arena. This time, with black and silver stylings and a significantly different shaping.
h3. Fixes
The newer models of Microsoft’s keyboard line tend to have certain annoying features that everyone complains about. Fortunately, they seem to be all fixed in this model.
* F-lock is persistent across boots
* The arrow keys have standard arrangment
* the page up/dn block has the standard 3-across-by-2-down arrangement
h3. Ergonomic features
This version introduces quite a few changes that make it pretty different from previous MS ‘natural’ keyboards:
* Negative tilt: The earliest of the natural keyboards had flip stands that would raise the front end of the keyboard. The 4000 has a detachable mount piece on the front, which raises the front side of the keyboard up.
* Layout: The keys are arranged in a somewhat more ‘fan’-like manner, not unlike the SmartBoard, but not as extreme (inter-row positioning is still offset, like normal QWERTY keyboards).
* Faux Leather Palm rest: Black pleather covers the wrist/palm wrest.
h3. Hits and Misses
I feel this keyboard gets some things right, but also has a few_major_ annoyances. To list a few:
* Negative tilt feels good, but the palm rest part is not wide enough under the arrow keys to be able to comfortably rest your palm and type the arrow keys. Also, because the front is raised up so much, if you have your mouse on the same desk surface, it can become difficult to adjust your seat so that you are at a comfortable level for both your keyboard and your mouse.
* Layout is ok, but somewhat difficult to get used to. I’m sure if you use it for a long time, that’s not much of a problem.
* The key caps are _not_ cupped, and have smooth and slippery surfaces. For me this is a big no-no. I found my self having difficulty orienting my fingers by feeling around. Most all keyboards have cupped key caps so that your fingers can rest in them and feel their way around. Their absence makes the 4000 look more stylish, but in my opinion, much more difficult to type on. Additionally, some keys towards the top of the keyboard have rounded corners, which means they are even more difficult to strike when not looking.
* The space bar is slippery. I tend to push the spacebar down with the side of my thumb, and it feels very awkward and inprecise on this keyboard.
Unrelated to the ergonomics, this keyboard has a few other nice features:
* The software that comes with it for the mac seems pretty decent. It can remap command and option just for your external keyboard, and keep it in tact for your built in one.
* The volume keys worked on a mac without a driver
* The multi-key rollover seemed pretty good. It seems to support USB’s maximum of 6 simultaneous keys pretty well.
h3. Key feel
This keyboard has extremely quiet and somewhat tactile keys. Nothing as good as a laptop-style scissor switch keyboard or a mechanical one, but decent for a rubber dome keyboard. (I’d say the Apple Wireless Pro and the Keytronic are better). The resistance comes at the beginning of the press, and gives way when a certain threshold is met.
The sound, as I mentioned before, is pretty much non-existent. Typing on this keyboard wouldn’t wake a mouse. I guess some people like that, but I’d rather have better feel over silence.
h3. Conclusion
I stopped using this keyboard after a few days. All the minor annoyances were too much, and I preferred the experience of my previous keyboard much more (MS Natural Elite). Here are the things they need to fix before I would try this keyboard again:
* cupped key caps
* adjustable negative tilt: it’s nice to include it, but just having one monster plastic stand makes it difficult to use in many situations.
* a less slippery key surface
* slightly more feel-focused (rather than sound-optimized) key switches

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