It took almost 20 years, but Microsoft has finally developed an ergonomic keyboard you won’t be embarrassed to use.
Today, the company is introducing the Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse, which bring some much-needed style to Microsoft’s family of healthy-computing devices.
The new keyboard cuts out pretty much all bulk we’re used to from ergonomic keyboards. Microsoft chopped out the extraneous space between the split keys, and the keyboard’s number pad is also completely separate, allowing you to keep it out of the way until you actually need to use it. What’s left is a keyboard that looks like more of a futuristic stealth bomber (it was code-named “Manta Ray” during development) than an old tank.
The Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard will be particularly intriguing for fans of Microsoft’s Natural Keyboard, which originally launched in 1994 and was the first keyboard to split its keys in half for more comfortable typing. I used the early Natural Keyboard models for years, and they definitely helped me to avoid some serious wrist injuries during college writing marathons.
While not as visually sleek, the new Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse offers plenty of comfort innovations of its own. It’s set a bit higher than typical mice, in an effort to reduce carpal tunnel pressure, and it encourages your hand to rest at an angled position, which is better for your forearm.
Suneel Goud, a senior product marketing manager at Microsoft who now oversees the company’s input devices, told VentureBeat that through research, Microsoft has learned consumers think more about comfort, not ergonomics for their keyboards and mice. You can expect the comfort benefits of these Sculpt devices to be one of their big selling points.
“I think that we’re changing. We’ve been focused on bringing our ergonomic products to the forefront, it’s an area where we truly have leadership,” Goud told us in a recent interview.
I’ve used both devices over the past few days and came away impressed. The Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard feels just as comfortable as the Natural Keyboards I used to love, and its new Chiclet-style keys (similar to laptop keys) made typing a breeze. It’s a well-constructed keyboard all around, though the top row of function keys can occasionally stick.
At first glance, I didn’t expect much from the Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse, but I’ve grown to enjoy how it fits my hand. I’ve been experiencing slight wrist pain over the past few weeks and I was surprised by how little it aggravated that condition. Actual mousing performance doesn’t feel as accurate as some other high-end wireless mice, but for most consumers, it should be fine.
Both devices are paired together to form Microsoft’s new Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop, which will sell for $130 when it’s released later this month. The Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard will be available separately in September for $81, while the mouse will cost $60 on its own.
Below, check out an infographic showing off some results from a recent healthy-computing survey commissioned by Microsoft.