Keyboard Corner: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000

MS Ergonomic 4000 Next up in the Keyboard Corner is a review of the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard by Stefanie Sendelbach. Thank you for your contribution, Stefanie!

  1. Keyboard make, model and price:

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000, bought for €49.99 many years back. Actually, I have been using the successor model (Sculpt, cost €79.99 in August 2014) for the past two years, but since Ellen Singer has already reviewed the Sculpt, I thought I’d talk about the 4000 model and compare it with its successor. I got the 4000 out of the closet just to type this review and remember better what I liked and disliked about it.

  1. Description:

The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 is a wired, full-size ergonomic keyboard with number pad (including equal sign, parentheses and backspace) and a couple of (customizable) special keys. The alphabet keys are split up into two parts that are angled to keep your wrists in a comfortable and straight position while typing. There is a cushioned pad at the bottom for resting your wrists, although I never use that. You can change the slope of the keyboard by adjusting the back or the front of the keyboard (or both).

ms4000_extra_keys

I find the key travel a bit long, but that might be due to being accustomed to the Sculpt model with its very light press and short key travel.

  1. My last keyboard was:

Before going ergonomic with my keyboards I simply used my laptop keyboard.

  1. Why I changed to Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 (and then to the Sculpt):

In order to prevent possible typing-induced problems in the future. I gradually “ergonomized” my complete workstation with an ergonomic mouse, a good chair (HÅG Capisco) and a height-adjustable desk (Leuwico GO2basic) where I can sit or stand while working.

  1. What I love about my keyboard:

I like the angle at which the left-hand and the right-hand keys face each other. It’s a perfect fit for my arms/wrists. When I type, my wrists are as straight as in the ergonomics textbooks!

4000-numeric_padI like the fixed number pad even though it makes the whole keyboard bulkier. With the number keys always in the exact same location, I can almost touch-type numbers, whereas I always need to find and then look at the detached pad of the Sculpt (you can see a photo in Ellen’s review) to type my numbers.

The distribution of the arrow keys and the other special keys is really good. I never miss them while touch-typing. On the Sculpt, I keep hitting the Page Down key accidentally and get thrown to another part of my document. This only happens a couple of times a week, but still it is disruptive to my work flow. And I have not managed to train my hands to avoid this key, so I guess the arrangement of the special keys on the Sculpt is simply not ideal for my hands.

  1. What I dislike about this keyboard:

After having used my 4000 for many years I stumbled across the newer Sculpt model and wanted to give it a try since there were a few things in the 4000 that I thought could be improved, such as getting rid of the cable (the Sculpt works wirelessly) and removing the number pad to have the mouse closer by, downsizing the set. (I thought I would take the keyboard with me when I travel, but I never did in the end). Besides, the 4000 has quite long key travel and the keys also make some noise, both eliminated in the Sculpt.

Wired peripherals always cause extra tangle on the desk. In addition, the cable is getting pretty fragile, as you can see!

4000-cable

  1. Other comments:

I used to love working with the 4000, and I still prefer its size and layout over the Sculpt (for desk work, not for travel). But the 4000 simply requires a lot more finger and wrist work for pressing down on its long-travel and rather stiff keys. And it is louder than the (very silent) Sculpt.

Whether you want the number pad or not in a keyboard is your decision in the end. I find having the number pad always at the same spot helps for a near touch-typing experience with numbers. But of course it makes the keyboard bulkier and heavier, which might be a problem for taking on trips.

An advantage over the Sculpt is definitely the 4000’s key spacing. So much space was saved on the Sculpt that the keys are too crammed together, and after two years of daily usage I still hit wrong keys because they are too close together.

I would definitely recommend the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 over any non-ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic setup is definitely an important investment for anybody who spends a lot of time at the computer.

 

Stefanie Sendelbach_sStefanie Sendelbach has been working as a full-time freelance translator since 2003. She has an MA in Translation Studies from FTSK Germersheim, Germany. Her language combinations are English-German and Portuguese-German, and her favourite projects are all things technical (focus on IT and consumer electronics) and marketing, preferably website and software localizations.

 

Over to you

If you use the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 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!

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4 Responses to Keyboard Corner: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000

  1. Tom Gale says:

    I currently use this keyboard. Interestingly enough, a physio who assessed my workstation recently said that he likes the keyboard, but he said its sheer size meant that my arm had to be very far out to use the mouse, which he thinks is the cause of my current RSI problems. He also thinks the stand that comes with it is counterproductive at best, and harmful at worst (at least in my case). His advice was either to use this keyboard and something like a rollbar mouse to keep the arms inline, or change the keyboard. I think I’ll be changing the keyboard!

    • Interesting, Tom. As far as I can see, reaching out for a mouse from the Microsoft 4000 doesn’t look any worse than with a classical layout. But I agree that mice are often the cause of RSI problems. I’m using a RollerMouse Pad at the moment. It took a while to adjust, but having it right below the spacebar means that I have immediate access to it with both hands, which I love.

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  3. I used this keyboard for many years in my day job, and when I quit a month ago, I was allowed to take it with me. Not very strange, because some of the letters had faded away many years earlier, so it is only useful for people who can type without looking at the keys 🙂 I have however not used it at home yet, because my desk is too small for it. I will buy a stand/sit desk and then I’ll use the keyboard again. No problem with the mouse (by the way, I have been using a Wacom tablet instead of a mouse for years, too) because I am left handed.

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