Product Review — Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

My dear husband found an amazing deal on a refurbished PC, and he decided to get it for me for Christmas.  The machine came with awesome specs; it even included an operating system (which we promptly replaced with CentOS 7.) The machine did not, however, come with a PS/2 port, so the ergonomic keyboard I’d been using for years had to be replaced.

I’ve been typing since I was in the third grade, so I’m a pretty proficient touch-typist.  My efficiency went WAY up “back in the day” though when I switched to an ergo keyboard, so I knew my new keyboard HAD to be an ergonomic one.

Mrs. Claus brought my kids a Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 for Christmas, so when I discovered that I was going to need a new, USB keyboard, I knew which one I wanted. Based on my limited experience with the kids’ keyboard, I expected mine to suit my needs, but I didn’t anticipate it would exceed my needs and expectations by several orders of magnitude.

Ergonomic keyboards have come a long way since their introduction in the ‘90s.  I remember my first one.  It was a 110-key off brand; I couldn’t afford the Microsoft Natural keyboard at the time.  Fred got one though, once I brought him over to the “dark side” as some called it, and it has survived many things over the years.  I think he even dumped tea in it once, and it’s still kicking.

So as you can imagine, I expected a certain standard when I got this keyboard, and as I said earlier, I was not disappointed.  My favorite features include:

  • the padded area at the bottom of the keyboard where my hands rest naturally.  I’d never used a keyboard with this feature, and I definitely like it.  I can’t say how it’ll hold up over time, but I definitely like it.
  • the stand that props the keyboard so that my wrists can rest in a more relaxed, neutral position.  Do you remember the keyboards with the feet on the function key side? Those always seemed so counter-intuitive to me because they forced the wrist to bend unnaturally.  The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 has those feet, but it also has a piece that supports the entire space bar side of the keyboard to maintain a neutral typing position.  I remember trying to “hack” that feature into other keyboards by putting them in my lap and slanting them away from my body.  There’s no need to do that here though.
  • the price point.  I got this keyboard for less than $30, and I couldn’t be happier!the key response.  I feel like I hardly have to push the keys as I type, so I end up typing faster with less effort.  I’ve never had a keyboard with such a smooth key response that requires such a light hand.
  • the myriad of special buttons.  I haven’t managed to get all of them to work in Linux yet, but I’m almost tempted to say that there are too many special feature buttons.  I guess that’s a good problem to have though, isn’t it?

There’s only one thing that bothers me about this keyboard.  When your computer boots or you switch from one PC to another with a KVM, the function lock defaults to “off”.  This means that I have to hit the function lock each time I boot or switch PCs if I want to use the function keys.  And since I use a LOT of keyboard shortcuts, I’m always using them.  It’s not a huge problem for me though because my previous keyboard reacted the same way, so I’m used to that behavior.

As with all my product reviews, I’ll absolutely update this post if something changes, but I’m guessing that I’ll be just as thrilled with this keyboard in ten years as I am today.  The ergonomic keyboard has played an integral role in my computer use over the years, and I’m certain that the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 will prove its usefulness long into the next decade!

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