First ergonomic keyboard - help choosing one

question

#1

Hi,

Few days ago I read about Keyboard.io and immediately fell in love with the concept. I consider myself ergonomics hacker but pretty much ignored all existing ergonomic keyboards due to how badly they look (I also like to keep my environment pretty), and Keyboard.io perfectly fits me in both areas.

However, when looking for more information I also stumbled upon Ergodox EZ, which - I think - would also fill the gap I have in my heart.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find many resources covering both keyboards, and I see a lot of folks here discussing them. Obviously - this is keyboard.io community, so I recommendations might be a little bit biased - but I would like to hear how they stand against each other and which one you’d recommend as the first one. BTW, I’ve also seen Kinesis Advantage 2, but I find it unpleasant to look at, so that one is definitely out :slight_smile:

In general I don’t have any RSI symptoms as for now (even though I use Emacs, I bind Caps to Cmd/Control) and would say I have average hand size. My current keyboard is Das Keyboard 4 Pro. Slowly I start to feel fatigue from very high step (thus I’m looking for something with a bit lower step). My main environment is Emacs and while I like customizing, I expect sensible defaults from the get go.

Thanks in advance for help :slight_smile:


(Gergely Nagy) #2

I own both an EZ and a Model01, both have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ll offer my - slightly biased - opinion after the pros/cons list.

ErgoDox EZ

Pros

  • Has more keys (76 vs 64)
  • MX keyswitches: better keycap compatibility, and more variety to choose from
  • Recent EZ models have hotswappable switches
  • QMK is more mature than Kaleidoscope (the default firmware of the EZ and the Model01, respectively)
  • The EZ has a smaller bootloader, meaning you can fit about 2k more on it.

Cons

  • The thumb cluster is… not that good. With my average hands, I can comfortably reach three keys out of the six
  • The pinky column is horrible if your pinky is shorter than average (mine are)
  • The tenting solution on the EZ is nice, but caps around 15 degrees. More than traditional keyboards, but 15 degrees ain’t much.

Model01

Pros

  • The thumb arc is comfortable, all four keys are easily reachable
  • The pinky column is positioned noticably lower than on the EZ, which makes it a lot easier to use it with shorter pinkies
  • The tenting solution is super-flexible, just see the custom mounts thread on this very forum
  • Per-key RGB LEDs (the EZ only has an underglow)
  • Open source bootloader (in case you care about that - I do)
  • Custom sculpted keycaps guide your fingers much better than anything else on the market today
  • Palm keys

Cons

  • Only two switch variants: Quiet and Loud, much less than the switch variety available for the EZ (mind you, Matias Quiet Clicks are <3)
  • Custom sculpted keycaps means you can’t buy a custom set of caps; if you need replacements, or a different set, the only vendor is keyboard.io
  • The Kaleidoscope firmware is less mature than QMK (but see below about firmware)

Summary

If you want to buy custom keycaps, go with the EZ, or anything with MX-style switches. If you are not happy with Matias switches, go with the EZ. If you want per-key RGB LEDs, better thumb keys (and a palm key!), a superior, incredibly flexible tenting solution, go with the Model01.

When I was looking for an ergonomic keyboard, my finalists were the Model01 and the EZ, and I chose the Model01 (but still got an EZ, because I needed something sooner, too :P). I chose it, because I wanted to use a very high degree tenting (currently sitting at around 40-45 degrees), I liked the idea of custom sculpted keycaps (I don’t want to buy any custom set, the few keyboard.io provides perfectly cover my needs and desires: a blank, a translucent and a linear A set is all I’ll ever need), and the wood frame hit home hard, too.

I love both the EZ, and the Model01, both are very solid pieces of equipment. But I found the Model01 to be a better fit for my needs. It had more ergonomic thought behind it, so to say. I loved it when I first saw it, but now that I’ve been using it for a good while now, I love it even more. The lowered pinky column was a surprise, which I didn’t even notice at first. But when I found that I’m using my pinky, I was delighted (on the EZ, I only use my pinky for the home row; the rows above or below, I press with my ring finger after a bit of hand movement or gymnastics).

In the end, you can’t make a terribly bad choice, as both devices are great. I find the Model01 more convenient to use, but unlike a lot of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, I don’t care about custom keycap sets, and the Matias Quiet Click switches are the closest to what I imagine the perfect switches are.

About firmware

The EZ ships with QMK as its default firmware, which is a battle-tested, mature firmware. The Model01’s Kaleidoscope has seen much less testing, and isn’t as solid as QMK - yet (but we’re constantly working on that). Kaleidoscope does have an advantage in that it’s - I hope - more user-friendly. When working on the firmware, one of the primary driving forces is ease of use for the novice user. To make it easy to get started with.

I think we’re quite good on that front, we have a number of third party plugins already.


#3

Thank you very much for your feedback, opinion and especially - for time spent writing this greatly detailed answer.

I think I’m sold on Keyboard.io. I was bit worried about lack of wrist rests, but seeing custom mounts made those fears go away. Now only to wait till I can order and, unfortunately, for deliver and customs too :roll_eyes:


(Shriramana Sharma) #4

I can’t afford to buy two ergonomic keyboards right now, but having bought the M01, if I were to buy another ergonomic keyboard, I’d still buy another M01 and not anything else. Everytime I write an email to Jesse for something else I keep profusely thanking him for making this great keyboard.

You can also see my comparison of the two (solely based on the advertised features, before having even ordered the M01).


#5

I saw the keyboardio story in August 2015 and placed my order without much delay! After waiting a long while, I grew a little impatient, cancelled and ordered an EZ. Someone I work with got one, and I thought it would work for me.

So my first split ortholinear board was the EZ and I just could not get used to it. I didn’t like the configurator and I was not able to get on with the thumb clusters, I just didnt love it and therefore I didnt embrace it.

I went back to my old keyboards which were a TopreRealForce and a Matias Bluetooth board, and I had to make good with Jeese and Kaia and re-order my M01. One of the most important reasons I wanted to M01 in the first place was I love the quiet click switches, they are awesome.

So when my M01 arrived the sheer opulence of it just made me want to use it all the time, so I took it to work and made the migration to a split board. I started out with the halves next to each other and I was unable to get any speed up. But I persevered with it and today only a few short months later I am fully split with about 30-40 cm gap and I am much more comfortable on the M01 than any keyboard I own.

However this past weekend I decided to grab the EZ from the garage and give it another go and I am really liking it. The split curve has been overcome, all I need to do is configure the layout to be close to my M01. I think I actually prefer the thumb clusters which was the thing that made me so uncomfortable originally. I do not need more than the two large keys most of the time and those are far easier to hit than the ones on the M01. The extra buttons around the two larger buttons are a bonus but I wont force myself to use them. There are alternatives with the full row of extra keys on either side of the main sections. This is something I had not factored in with the EZ, I just dont need to use all the keys if I dont feel comfortable with their positition, but having the extras is a bonus as it makes it a little more flexible.

Pros for M01 for me are the key choice, the LEDs can be fun and you can make a scheme which helps you remember where certain keys are. I like the Fn keys but they are a double edge as my most common miskey is missing the two outer thumb cluster keys. This is due to my hands never being quite where I want them to be because of the function keys, bu is probably something I can correct over time.

Cons for the M01 is the firmware is still a work in progress but out of the box there is way more functionality available from the outset or at least with a less steep learning curve.

You will not be unhappy with the M01 which I think you have already chosen. I believe you can use Kaliedoscope with the EZ (which means you can get access to part of what makes the M01 amazing) and that will probably be my first customisation. @algernon is there a guide to get started with that?

I still want to try and Maltron or Kinesis, however I think i would prefer to try a Dactyl Ergodox! Here is hoping there is a M02 and maybe a chance to have the curved surface!

dactyl


(Gergely Nagy) #6

There isn’t yet. Closest thing is my ErgoDox sketch, the most important parts are in .kaleidoscope-builder.conf, which sets things up so that the firmware can be flashed. At some point, there will be better docs, but the EZ port was made as a kind of procrastination, there’s plenty of work that could be done to improve it (documentation included…).


(Tom Armstrong) #7

I haven’t used an Ergodox but I feel like I need to heap some praise on the Model 01 palm key design: I find the positioning and shape of the key to be ingenious. For me, at least, they don’t get in the way of other movements, but keeping them depressed while using the function layer for the arrow-keys etc. is effortless, and has generally become second nature.

When I find the time, I really need to tweak my firmware and put together a gaming layout that uses the palm keys somehow.