Guest Author - Marji Hajic
It can be difficult to provide a review for a standard keyboard and mouse as people look for very different things from their computer equipment. Some like a soft touch; others like a “click” for feedback; some like a slower response time with their mouse; others need a rapid response time for their specific applications. Also, hand sizes and shapes can vary giving people a different feel on the same piece of equipment.
When purchasing a keyboard, it is worth a trip to the local office or computer equipment storefront to put your hands on product samples and get the feel for the features you like. When making an actual purchase, look for a money-back guarantee just in case the keyboard or mouse does not work for you. However, don’t judge the product too quickly. After having made your purchase, give yourself about two weeks to get used to the new feel before making a final judgment.
Having said that, if you are looking for a comfortable and ergonomic keyboard that consistently receives high reviews, the Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 and 7000 deserve a close look.
Microsoft teamed with ergonomists to design the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 with the goal of producing a keyboard that would improve comfort and reduce repetitive injuries. The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 7000 offers the same features with 2.4 GHz Wireless technology with up to 30 feet of wireless range.
“Natural” describes a more neutral placement of the hand, wrist and forearm in the positions that are the least stressful and the least awkward while typing. This is important because stressful exertions, awkward positioning and repetition are three of the main risk factors for the development of a repetitive strain injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis.
The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard has a 12 degree separation at the lower keys as they swing open (like an upside down “V”). This places the middle finger in a straight alignment with the long forearm bones keeping the wrist neutral. As angling the wrist to one side or the other, typically towards the small finger on a keyboard, promotes injury, this positioning helps eliminate pain at the wrist and tendinitis.
The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard also has a negative tilt feature that places the keys in the top row (the row farthest from the typist) at a slight downward angle. This helps keep the wrist in the neutral position without being bent forward or back. Again, this neutral position is beneficial in eliminating some of the repetitive injuries frequently seen in the typist. This angle does require some time to adjust to the feel. Also, you need to be a touch typist rather than a visual typist in order to truly benefit.
Lastly, with the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard, the keys in the middle are slightly higher than the keys at the side. Once again, the effect is to place the forearm and wrist in a more natural, less stressful, typing position.
Other helpful features include: the ability to zoom in quickly and accurately; customizable hot keys that lets you perform common tasks with the touch of one button; an improved number pad with commonly used symbols in easy reach; easy keyboard access to favorite folders, files websites, multi-media files, the internet and email; lockable function keys; and a comfortable, integrated palm rest. The Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboards have CD-ROM Drive and a USB Port. Microsoft offers a 3 year warranty on its products.
The Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 retails for an MRSP of $59.95 and the 7000 retails for an MRST of $149.95. These keyboards will be well worth the price paid in terms of improving comfort and reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing at the Hand Therapy & Occupational Fitness Center in Santa Barbara, California.Â For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.