I'm on my second Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard, and have a third in storage for when this one fails.
I've had a hard time finding something as good without paying an excessive price.
Microsoft is a brand synonymous with PCs, not just for its market-dominating Windows operating system, but also for the mice and keyboards we've used to interact with them over the past four decades. But no longer, at least not under the Microsoft label that is. The software giant this week revealed it would end production of …
I'm typing this on my third and final. The left ctrl and shift keys are worn anonymous, c,s, o, l & p (strangly enough) and quickly following them. The faux leather on the bottom left is now black duct tape, there's enough beard droppings for a small mammal to make a nest below the keys and, and I can't find anything to replace it.
I've bought several, some a substantial outlay (I'm looking at you Lenovo Go, your cork trimmings may feel comfortable and look the part, but your layout and key travel are left wanting) - but nothing has come close to my aging, creaking Natural 4k. If only Logitech (as I'm fairly certain they actually make most of Microsofts equipment in this space, especially as they don't even bother to rename the software supporting app for it) would rerelease it, they could charge an arm and a leg, they'd still make bank from those of us who've seen such riches and cannot live with the literal pain inducing competition.
In any case, if you're a long time fan of Microsoft's ergonomic keyboards, you may want to stock up while supplies last.
I think this is just standard for any microsoft product, they'll all come to an end, I'm just sad I've burned through my stock. The mouse that came with the wireless natural 4k desktop combo (7000 maybe?) was also a sad loss when my third one gave up the ghost, I'm reduced to an mx1000 trackball now and an actual mouse for occasional gaming (occasional because it's too painful to do anything more).
This seems to me to be a rebranding along with a huge (doubling) price hike.
Although I've been a fan of Microsoft's Natural Keyboards for decades, I'm not sure if I'll go along with this. Also, their new Ergonomic Keyboard seems to have a non-standard key layout which I absolutely abhor.
I suppose that unless there's a continuous growth of revenue and profit, they deem it not worthy of their attention.
Many buyers will simply abandon the brand if they double the price, hastening its demise. This will mean that eventually some Chinese manufacturer take over the spot they left behind.
Yes, their standard black optical wired mouse works just fine for me too (p/n X800898). At 80g not to light, not too heavy and a pleasing sensible ambidextrous shape. Scroll wheel is light to move but has the clicky detents. I have a few spares. In later years they brought out a newer model with thinner cable and only 60g, but it feels cheap and isn't as good as the earlier model..
I absolutely loved the first Arc Mice with the dongle, but when they changed to the version (Arc Touch I think they called them) that folded flat with the scroll pad rather than a wheel they were, IME anyway, very fragile.
Still got 2 optical mice, one of which is connected to my desktop and the other in a drawer, and a Surface Mouse which I use with my Surface Book 2
...when Microsoft peripherals were *the* peripherals to have...around the late 90s...the Intellimouse 1.1a was *the* mouse for gaming and you could mod the fuck out of it. Custom balls, lube for the rollers, PS2RATE software to "overclock" the PS/2 port. It was an incredible mouse for the time.
STB Velocity 4400, Microsoft Intellimouse with a Sony GDM-F520 CRT set to 120hz (at 1024*768) was the ultimate Quake 2 setup. The smoothness you could achieve was incredible...nothing has ever matched it, not even today. High refresh on a modern panel with a 1000hz "gaming mouse" has never reached the level of smoothness and low latency we had back then.
This isn't rose tinted glasses either, I recently managed to cobble together this setup (alright, near as damn it) a few years back when a GDM-F520 landed on my lap (not literally, my balls would have been crushed by the sheer weight)...I had to take it for a spin...I managed to find my old STB Velocity 4400, got hold of a PC "shitty enough" to support it and bought an old Intellimouse 1.1a off eBay...implemented all of my old tweaks (including the classic Quake 2 console commands for added smoothness). Overclocked the PS/2 to 125hz...my god did we have it good then. It felt just as fresh and snappy 20 odd years later as it did back then.
I had to send off the monitor for recycling as I had no space for it (I lived in a flat at the time), but I regret sending it away. I hope it has a good home.
Anyway, I still have the Intellimouse 1.1a and I recently used it to score some chicken in PUBG after I fully reconditioned it. New rollers, new ball, 3D printed, sanded and coated a new upper shell and buttons. The thing is still incredible. I wouldn't daily drive it, it's just that bit too heavy and it isn't precise enough for modern tasks on a high resolution display...but for gaming...it's still amazing.
Note: I'm not talking about the optical one, the first gen optical mouse that Microsoft released was garbage...the tracking was terrible for twitch based shooters...but the second generation...oh mama.
Yes I know, I know ... there are some people who like those curved or split keyboards. And good luck to 'em. But I hate those damned things.
I've always found them very unnatural to use, and I end-up contorting my arms into weird angles to be able to type. But they're not the worst, and that prize goes to:
Yes, MS and many other manufacturers make a line of "Space-Saving" keyboards. Sometimes they're called "Compact" or "Minimal" or whatnot, but the concept is always the same.
If you REALLY struggle for space .... yeah, you can lose the number-pad, but at that stage you need to stop.
But they don't. No, they shuffle the keys. Now, humans learn type by muscle-memory, so the worst possible thing you can do is SHUFFLE THE FUCKING KEYS.
"Oh left's move the arrows across so they're in with the other keys. That saves some space."
"Oh let's turn that 3x2 block (with home, end, pageup etc.) on its side to make it 2x3. That saves the width of a whole key."
"Hell, while we're at it, let's swap the M with the Q, the P with the A and the Z withe the bloody G"
STOP SHUFFLING THE KEYS. STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT !!!!!!!
Try working on a French (AZERTY) keyboard when you're used to QWERTY in either US, US International or UK layouts. It's truly horrific without a numeric pad alongside it.
How on Earth did they ever develop anything worthwhile in science or economics when all the digits are only reachable via the [Shift] key before extended keyboards offered a separate numeric pad? Yes, I know layouts were originally developed to slow you down for mechanical reasons but this layout doesn't just slow you down, it throws out an anchor and pours concrete around your feet.
At least the Germans (QWERTZ) had the sense to leave that well alone.
(as for Dvorak, the challenge there is that you can only work on your own system, or will have to take your keyboard with you wherever you go).
I disagree: little point being a Dvorak typist who can't touch type and nearly every system supports US Dvorak as key map out of the box: I certainly don't have to take a keyboard with me wherever I go.
The only significant obstacle is effectively two versions of your credentials, a lock screen will be in your chosen keyboard layout but the logon screen will almost certainly be in QWERTY. That means to log on I either have to peck out 'jwoods/password' or, if I want to touch-type it, I have to commit it to memory as 'h,rreo/laoo,rpe'.
I've abandoned the AZERTY layout more than 10 years ago. I switched to US International, which is actually better to type French: it include dead keys for accents/cedilla and Alt Gr shortcuts for plenty of useful characters like «» °
I'm only missing ligatures, which don't exist in AZERTY either anyway.
At least the Germans (QWERTZ) had the sense to leave that well alone.
At one point early in its history my company had German customers who wanted our product on VMS (it was Unix based normally). They lent us a MicroVAX with a QWERTZ keyboard, which swaps Y & Z from the English layout. Ctrl-Z on VMS was end of file if you were typing a file in. Ctrl-Y was break to DCL. This caused much cursing.
Aside from the ergonomics/ carpal tunnel aside, split keyboard was also a great way fo ensure people didn't use my desk when I was away.
Also a great way to find out if you truly are a touch typist - if you just relax, trust your fingers know where the keys are and don't think about it it just works.
Greatly agree with leaving the key layout alone too.
I could never manage with a split/curved keyboard either. I'm mostly a touch-typist, using all the fingers, even; took the classes and was properly taught on IBM Selectric typewriters and the like. Manual ones too, no plug required.
But when I started working for a living, I was mostly using DEC terminals, VT100 and VT220, with keyboards which were pretty determinedly rectangles. Ditto for the Wyse clones and similar.
From my fingers up to shoulders, my "ergonomics" behaviors have been shaped by those years. I doubt I could re-train my fingers and hands for an ergo keyboard at this point, though I did try a couple times long ago before giving it up as a lost cause.
"and I end-up contorting my arms into weird angles"
Those aren't weird angles, that is your body trying to unlearn the horrible positioning you've got used to.
The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Curved keyboard (the first one they did) was an absolute joy to type on. I never found myself adjusting my keyboard, ever. It's just a shame they didn't maintain the level of quality that keyboard had...the modern equivalents have really mushy keys, weird wrist rest material etc etc and they feel awful.
As for muscle memory, if you have true typing muscle memory, it shouldn't matter what shape the keyboard is as long as the keys are within reach of the appropriate fingers...the people that find curved keyboards weird are those that occasionally move their hands to the opposite side of a keyboard occasionally.
Watch yourself typing and keep a track of which fingers you use to hit the R key. My bet is, that every now and then, you'll probably end up using your right hand to hit that key, keep a track of which finger you use to hit the R key or the T key. If the laws of keyboard quantum mechanics kick in, you may change how you type when observed, in which case go and observe someone else typing that can't get used to a natural keyboard and you'll find every now and then, they will hit the empty space in the middle of the keyboard looking for R, T or G.
Circling back to the "doesn't matter what shape" argument...if I know the orientation of a keyboard ahead of time (upside down, flipped over etc), I find I can type on it just fine, because muscle memory doesn't rely specifically on where something is spatially...this is demonstrated when you take your phone out of your pocket, when was the last time you accidentally tried to unlock your phone upside down? Probably never, right...not only because you tend to put your phone in your pocket the same way around, but also because you intuitively know when your phone is upside down. Now that I've pointed this out, it's going to drive you nuts for a while, but don't worry it wears off in a week or so...theres loads of things you probably do that have wide variance in spatial parameters without looking...like taking a mug out of a cupboard and putting it down the right way up. If you were off to the side one day taking a mug out of a cupboard, your body and mind doesn't have a complete meltdown and drop the mug on the floor or put it down the wrong way up, you just intuitively compensate. You don't think about it, you don't have to relearn the skill, you just do it.
If you are genuinely a proficient typist with millions of miles on the clock, try setting up two keyboards, side by side and use one hand on each keyboard for their respective sides of the keyboard...you should find it doesn't matter that there are two keyboards and that your arms are splayed out. Weirder still, you should be able to cross your arms over and type with your hands on the opposite sides they are usually on. I just typed this sentence like that. Remember, you might have two hands, but you only have one brain...mind you, I am ambidextrous (proper ambi, not the fake, almost as good with the other hand, pretend ambi)...
Shame, I've always found MS mice to be OK. When I got a new Mac last year I deliberately sought out a fairly basic wired 5 button mouse, mainly as I don't really get on with the Magic Mouse (and I have a thing against such wireless devices on a desktop).
Also got an old MS keyboard around here somewhere. Not an ergonomic one, never could get used to them.
I never got on with a Magic Mouse either, but I do use Logitech wireless devices but linked to a Universal Receiver (i.e. one USB receiver picks up mouse and keyboard), which frees me from the hassle of Bluetooth linking which especially on laptops doesn't take place until the machine is actually logged in unless it's an Apple branded device. I like the absence of cable, and all of what I have is now rechargeable so no messing around with batteries either.
I have a mouse with a clicky wheel that temporarily 'unclicks' itself with fast scrolling (so it just freewheels until it comes to a stop again, then goes back to being clicky), and I only use the left and right mouse button, not the extra ones it comes with. I started using these mice when I was still using a PC for Linux and a bit of Windows, and although I've been using Macs for years now I stuck with these mice because they fit my hand best.
I think those sort of devices are really personal, which is something I need to keep in mind when we're starting a new company, I think we may need to have a small stock of options so we can give people what really works for them (no, there won't be a budget issue, sensible ergonomics pay themselves back in many ways). For instance, I have a friend who swears by a trackball, whereas I have only ever sworn at it as it just doesn't work for me - each to their own.
I know optical mice had been around for ages with special grid mouse mats, but MS released one of the first generally available optical "Intellimouse" products. I remember parting with my hard earned £80 in Dixons back in, I want to say 99/00 when £80 was a lot of money to me. It was brilliant - USB, but came with a PS/2 adapter (one of those green ones we all ended up with a pile of). And ... I still have it. When I need a wired mouse when building a PC or some such, it plugs in and just works.
Yeah, I noticed that too. It is, of course, recycled plastic, but showing that MS are not just being green by using recycled plastic, they are being "super green" by helping to clean the oceans too! I suppose the fact it's made from plastic recovered from the ocean makes the green-washing that bit easier since it's pre-washed plastic.
There is another rarely mentioned Microsoft peripheral : the Strategic Commander.
It's a gaming complement, a secondary keyboard that is also a mouse (or you can configure WASD if you prefer), which is unbelievably useful. It is so useful that I just can't understand why nobody else has taken up the idea.
In a world where many of today's top-selling titles are of the 1st-person shooter variety, the ability to have your movement and essential commands under your left hand, and your targetting and firing in your right hand gives you the freedom to concentrate on gaming without cramping your W finger one bit. You play better for longer, and you don't really need to learn the game keys since your Commander profiles do the job for you. You just know that, to jump, it's the middle top button - what the game actually needs has been configured and you don't have to worry about it. That makes it easier to switch games as well, but that is true for any configurable gaming keyboard. It's the mouse ability that really sets this peripheral apart from the rest.
And yet, Microsoft has dropped it and nobody else has taken it up after all these years. Surely the copyright has lapsed now, given that it has been abandoned ?
I really would like to be able to buy a new one. The one I have is now more than 20 years old, still running fine but one fine day, the keys will wear out or something. I'm afraid of that day, because gaming will no longer be the same without it.
Wait, what? Xbox was the 3rd leg for years, and only survived in the beginning by lots of Microsoft money... and HALO.
However, Microsoft hardware has been rock solid in my house. I have a MS folding Bluetooth keyboard where:
* It works with Windows, Android, and iPad/iPhone. All the shortcuts such as home, volume up/down, next/prev app, search, and lock work on all 3 OSes. It switches OS at the press of a button.
* It's survived Logitech and Apple folding Bluetooth keyboards bought at the same time, where the batteries have died and they no longer even turn on.
* The Logitech keyboard broke where it folded.
* It's not a complete PITA to pair.
* The keys are relatively nice, despite having almost zero travel. It doesn't feel like you're tapping on a granite slab like the Logitech and Apple keyboards do.
And all my Microsoft mice have been almost unkillable.
It's funny because MS keyboards and mice are very good value for a basic bog standard kit. I've owned various MS keyboards over the last 30 years and I've never found a really bad one, even owned the first ergo/split/curved thingy when it first came out back in the 1990s ( £150 for a keyboard in 1995!!! ) it was good but I had to switch to plain one at work so it ended up in the loft and then in a skip! MS branded basics are good value, good enough and actually a bit of a shame they're going.
Seconded. I really like the Microsoft mice and keyboards. Got an Internet Pro keyboard as my daily driver; the fact that it has a built-in unpowered USB1.0 hub is a clue to its age!
Right now I’m giving my MS mouse a long-overdue break, as I’ve just received my replica Amiga Tank Mouse (www.tank-mouse.com) that I backed on Kickstarter!
"Microsoft has made numerous attempts to expand its hardware portfolio, with some, including its Kin phone, dying a quick death, and others, like its Xbox game consoles, proving wildly successful at one point at least."
Which new lines, apart from the Xbox, have proved successful? Many have flopped, and the surface devices seem pretty lacklustre (and earlier models at least were difficult / impossible to repair or upgrade). I only ever came across one organisation which moved to them - they used them for a few years but weren't impressed with the reliability and went back to Dell.
I've generally found Microsoft peripherals to be fine though - nothing outstanding, but well-made and reliable.
I'm not a fan of Redmond bloatware - but ironically, their keyboards had enough mass to stay still & felt good to use. Their mice were natural to use and usually outlasted other makes (who else remembers scraping the build-up of detritus off the rollers behind the rubber coated steel ball and the feeling of restoring a mouse to perfect tracking?). Must admit, I thought they just rebranded someone's hardware though, I really had no idea they actually made it. Never thought I'd ever say this but: full marks to them for some outstanding tech.
Now to convince them to drop this silly software lark and get back to making decent input devices!
I replaced my Curve mouse/keyboard combo with a Comfort 50/50 setup. Horrible ambidextrous brick of a mouse, ok keyboard for around 100 quid. Not good, both buffer and suffer interference issues. Have to use my Logitech mk backup keyboard and bought a Logitech H5 hero…all wired. MS are dead to me
Despite knowing full well that no Microsoft employee was actually involved in their manufacture, I have never been able to bring myself to buy a Microsoft-branded keyboard or mouse. This has resulted in a succession of Logitech branded devices of variable, but never outstanding, quality.
Am I totally stupid?
Could never care for those (un)ergonomic keyboards. Or the mice, much rather used the Logitech originals.
But it is sad not to have the option to get clients any HD 5000 web cams anymore. Those were for those $30 the best choice by far. They just worked. Plug&Play,, no praying necessary...
The Microsoft Natural Pro is still probably the most comfortable keyboard I have ever used.
...So of course, Microsoft discontinued it and never replaced it with an equivalent model. No Microsoft keyboard since has been as good, culminating in the wretched Natural Keyboard 4000, the final victor in the race to the bottom of the quality barrel.
If Microsoft were to re-release an updated Natural Pro today, made to Natural Pro standards — especially one with mechanical keyswitches — I would very seriously consider one. But a cheap Chinese-made keyboard with a membrane switch and screen-printed keycaps? Fuhgeddaboudit. Kinesis gets my money, for now.