*Model*: F8E208-BLK
*Switch Type*: Rubber membrane dome
*Cost*: $25 from newegg.com
*Connector Type*: PS/2

Belking Ergoboard full shot

I found out about this keyboard through my friend Phil at work. He seems to be fairly picky about keyboards like I am, so I took his recommendation seriously. I’d been using a Powerbook for the last year, so I didn’t really get a chance to try out many PS/2 keyboards, but now that I’ve built a PC again, this was the first one on my list.
h3. Layout
The keyboard has a mostly standard layout, but with a few notable exceptions. It is one of the few cheap ergonomic split keyboards with an actualy split spacebar, so you can input a space with either thumb independently. The Return key is the larger L-shape, which moves the backslash key to the right of the right shift (The position of the backslash key is very odd indeed, but it actually hasn’t bothered me that much. The only time you use it is when you’re manually typing paths in Windows). In the upper right, there are three power state buttons, one for Sleep, Wakeup, and Power (since it’s a PS/2 keyboard, you need BIOS support to make the Power/Wakeup buttons work, I think). Also, unlike Microsoft natural keyboards, the 6 key is on the right of the split. Layout officionados will tell you that this is the correct position.

Belking Ergoboard backslash

Backslash is under the enter key.

Also, another minor deviation from the standard layout is that the left set of modifier keys (control/windows/alt) is slightly indented from the left edge — maybe a half key’s worth. This makes the relative position of the modifier keys and the other standard letter keys a little different from a standard non-split keyboard. I was using my Keytronic keyboard before I received this, and soon after I switched, I found myself hitting Alt+F when I was trying to hit Alt+D, because the relative position of the Alt and D/F keys had changed. I quickly got used to this though.

Left modifier keys are slightly indented.
Power state manipulation keys in the upper right.
The ‘6’ key is on the right of the split.

h3. Other Features
As far as split keyboards go, this one has a fairly standard ergonomic design. It’s not the lightest of keyboards, and it doesn’t have fold out legs on the back. There’s a slight raise in the middle of the keyboard, but it’s not quite as prominent as the MS Natural 4000.
Key rollover is implemented by the standard phantom key lockout mechanism. I haven’t found any ghost keys yet, but the standards w+q+a test shows that in some combinations of 3 or more keys, only the first two pressed will register.
h3. Key Feel
Since I had experimented with Phil’s keyboard prior to purchasing this keyboard, I knew what it was going to feel like. It has a pleasantly light feel, with good feedback. I’d say I actually prefer it to the Keytronic, because this keyboard has uniform key resistance so it doesn’t confuse my hands. The keys aren’t the quietest — there’s a noticeable clack when the key rebounds, but I’m no picky about the sound as long as it feels good.
Unlike Belkin’s USB version, all the keys feel the same, and I don’t have any problems with certain keys being harder to press than others. It’s quite amazing to me that a company would sell two keyboards under the same “Ergoboard” brand name, with such different characteristics. It seems like it would be fairly confusing to customers. But like most companies, I’m sure Belking just re-brands an OEM model, so these things are somewhat unavoidable.
h3. Overall Conclusion
I like this keyboard a lot. I’ve regained a very fast typing speed after typing on it for just one day. The feel is easily as good as the Keytronic, and the split design is at least as good as the MS Natural Elite which I was using for a while. It’s already become my keyboard of choice for home use, and probably soon for work use as well. The only real drawback is that it’s PS/2 only (and it comes with a PS/2 -> AT adapter!), so Mac user’s are out of luck unless they find a PS/2 to USB adapter.. and finding one that works can be difficult (I couldn’t find one). I also wish it had a negative tilt option, but most keyboards don’t, so I can’t really fault this one.
At $25 bucks it’s a total steal. Unless you absolutely want mechanical switches or fancier rollover support, it’s hard to justify paying more for a general use keyboard. It’s a great alternative for those people who don’t like MS Naturals for whatever reason.

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