Ellen Singer is kicking off the Keyboard Corner with a review of the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop keyboard. Thanks for being the first, Ellen!
- Keyboard make, model and price:
Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop
I have been using an ergonomic keyboard for more than 15 years now. As do our office colleagues. It takes a day or two to get used to, but most end up buying one for home use as well. The hand position is more natural, meaning we can work more hours without having to deal with cramps or other uncomfortable issues.
It costs about 100 euro if you do not shop around for a better deal.
The keyboard is split from the number pad as many users do not use it much. I do, as I use the ALT + digits codes to type special characters, mainly in Spanish, but sometimes even when I write in Dutch or even, very rarely, in English. I can now choose where to put it on my desk. I sometimes move it around to find the most comfortable place or, more often than not, to switch the required arm movement.
The domed keyboard shape makes sure you are not doomed to muscle pain (RSI and such).
The Advanced Encryption Standard technology is used to encrypt the keystrokes. The keyboard and receiver are paired at the factory. This means the key stroke information cannot be shared with other devices. In most offices this mainly means you have no interference from one keyboard to another.
The backspace button can be used when navigating the Internet to move to the previous page as long as you are not in a text box.
You can tilt the keyboard in the opposite way if that fits your needs.
The keyboard is light, it weighs just over 400 grams plus the batteries.
The keyboard is also sold as a set with a mouse that is also ergonomic and has a four-way scroll wheel (up, down, left and right).
The set requires 150 MB Hard Drive space. It requires two AAA alkaline batteries, but as opposed to the wireless keyboards of the past you do not have to replace the batteries often (actually, I can barely remember having to replace them except when I had not removed the batteries when I packed it in a suitcase).
It is a Microsoft product, thus it requires a Windows operating system.
- My last keyboard was:
A previous ergonomic model. The number pad was included and so it did not fit in a carry-on bag.
- Why I changed to the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop:
Some keys started to jam with time.
- What I like most about my keyboard:
If I go to a conference but have not been able to complete my project on hand I can take my keyboard in a carry-on bag. It does take up space but not half as much as the previous model. I do remove the batteries and put these with the number pad into a container to make sure the batteries are still working when I reach my destination.
I used to take an old keyboard along and discard it at the end of a trip to make room for souvenirs…
I connect the MS Sculpt to my laptop. I hate laptop keyboards. When will the industry make a laptop with an ergonomic keyboard?
- What I dislike about this keyboard:
Cannot think of anything… except that I should not forget to take the batteries along separately.
Wait! The only drawback is that the soft front section stains easily. It had an imprint of my right hand after having eaten something at my desk soon after I bought it. I can probably remove the stain; I have just not taken action yet.
- Other comments:
Beware, once you have used an ergonomic keyboard for one or two full days, there is no going back!
Ellen Singer is a freelance translator with nearly twenty years of experience as a full time translator and project manager and three years as a translation conference speaker. She owns a small technical translation agency with her husband that focuses on quality. She loves challenges and knowledge and enjoys cooperating with others.
Over to you
If you use the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop keyboard, like or dislike it, or have any questions about it, please leave a comment below.
Want to write about another keyboard? Check out this introductory post to the Keyboard Corner!
Update December 2016:
* Microsoft has just brought out a new version of the MS Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard. It now connects with Bluetooth and the numeric pad is back on the main board. If you have this keyboard and would like to review it here, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
I use Sculpt for about two years now. I went through an array of keyboards before: some cheap stuff with nice click lasting no more than 6 months, a very good Logitech (I still have it and use occasionally) and MS Ergonomic 4000 (actually two, one was destroyed by several drops of coffee). The last one was good, but had a heavy click, requirng a lot of force to type, so I was really happy when I switched to Sculpt, which is comparable to best ThinkPad keyboards (if you know what I mean), with ergonomic layout as a bonus.
What I don’t like – it took me a loooong time to get used to unusual Enter/Del/Ins/PgUp/PgDown layout. I’m also not impressed with the build quality – some keys labels are completely worn out, the ridges on F and J are not detectable anymore and some keys are not working properly, most notably PgDown. and some function keys. Which means I’m thinking about buying new Sculpt (I’m not switching, typing expierience is great).
BTW, when it comes to batteries, mine last really long – I’ve replaced first set after over a year. And wireless connectivity means I sometimes take the keyboard from the desk and keep it on my lap for typing.
I agree, Marek, that one of the drawbacks of ergonomic keyboards is that they tend to place navigation keys in unusual positions. The learning curve is big – and it’s frustrating. Until I learn where these keys are without looking down, it’s a productivity killer. Switching from an external keyboard to a laptop keyboard needs to be easy (unless, like Ellen, you don’t mind travelling with an extra keyboard in your bag).
I never tried one of them. I think it´s because the model made me afraid of not liking it. But it is good to know your story and the benefits of this keyboard. Maybe I will give it a try!
My experience with the MS Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard is limited to just a few hours (when I was working at someone else’s computer). The ergonomic shape was immediately comfortable and the tilt, tenting and split felt natural. But I didn’t like the membrane keys. They felt hard work in comparison with mechanical keyboards that are so light to type on.
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I’ve been using the Sculpt for around 9 months now and I really love it. Granted, I was just using my laptop keyboard before, so I don’t have too much to compare it to, but it has helped me in lots of ways. I hardly get pain in my arms and hands anymore, even after typing non-stop all day (although I do use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which has definitely helped). I think the split design has made me a better touch-typer. I use the bracket that clips onto the underside to tilt the keyboard, which feels very natural and means I don’t have to rest my wrists as much as I do when I use a flat keyboard. I like that the keypad is separate as I don’t use it often and it saves space on my desk. It’s also quite portable and I take it in my backpack when I go to a co-working space once a week. Finally, I like how the keys feel under my fingers – it’s somewhere between a laptop and a traditional keyboard. I would definitely recommend it!
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Another tangential, about battery issues when taking accessories, like keyboards, on travels.
I’ve travelled widely and endlessly with a laptop since 1985 (starting with a Bondwell 2, C/PM with WordStar, Lotus 123 and ProComm for email!). I now have a well-honed battery strategy, with my own writing or text/film editing work requiring a large keyboard. I stopped using my Sharp PDA in 1992, still better than most tablets I’ve seen since!
My occasional trips now see me with an ASUS 14” laptop, a full size Microsoft Wireless keyboard 3000 2.0 and wireless mouse and an Olympus DS voice recorder for broadcast quality IVs. And for back-ups, a USB storage chip in a credit card-like medium, gifted by the Schiphol Hilton. AA and AAA batteries are as essential as my ID and pills! My three-and-a-half tips.
1. Keep batteries in their place, without wearing them down when not in use. Instead of removing the batteries from the mouse and keyboard and maybe losing them, I break the electric current by inserting a thin plastic divider between the battery and device contact points. Best so far: the pull-off tab from a plaster (BandAid). When I need to use the device, I remove the divider and keep it rolled around a battery.
2. One-for-all bag. I keep all my wires, adaptors, jacks, plugs, small accessories (mouse, recorder), spare set of batteries (and some coffee sticks) in a tightly-packed airplane amenities bag. Preferred: Swiss First.
3. Recharge: as a second back-up, I also pack a wee solar battery charger and 2 AA and AAAs.
4. As for the cramped hotel desk issue, with a laptop and large keyboard, I raise the laptop onto a platform made of a) two freezer boxes which have been packed with stuff in my hand baggage, b) four coffee mugs from the night porter, c) two Nespresso capsule cases, or d) two wooden or metal tissue-box casings. The keyboard slides under the platform.
– Paul (NL)
The Sculpt ergonomic keyboard and mouse set has been really helpful in making my working day more comfortable. As Ellen points out, the only drawback is the awful material on the wrist rest, I recommend cleaning it with a microfibre cloth and soapy water fairly regularly. The price is quite reasonable as well, I ended up buying two sets for 160 EUR. The Sculpt mouse was the only upright mouse I could get used to, although one of the smaller thumb buttons needs disabling in the software to avoid accidental clicking. I tried a lot of keyboards before I settled with this one and I’m glad I put so much effort into improving the ergonomics in my office, the health benefits are obvious.