Review: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

One of these days, Microsoft will release a product with a simple, catchy one-word name like “Penguin” or “Albatross.” In the meantime, I’ve spent the last few months testing Microsoft’s top-of-the-line ergonomic keyboard, the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000.

This is a nice keyboard with a good feel. Along with the ergonomic split, it has a very comfortable non-removable wrist rest. The keys and layout have a slightly odd curved shape that caused a few typos the first week, but works perfectly for me now. The keys have a good tactile feel.

Like my previous Microsoft keyboard, this one surrounds the alphanumeric keys with an assortment of extras:

  • The function keys have alternate names, like Undo, Open, and Close, which can be reprogrammed via the Control Panel. An “F Lock” button forces them to act as normal function keys, which I’ve set as the default.
  • Web, Search, and Mail buttons that open the application of your choice
  • Five numbered “Favorite” keys plus a “Favorites” button that lists their contents. These can open any web page, file, or folder.
  • Media buttons: Mute, volume up/down, play/pause.
  • My favorite, the Calculator button.
  • A useless “Zoom” slider that doesn’t work in Firefox, and I wouldn’t be likely to use it regardless
  • Web Back/Forward buttons that hide under the spacebar.

As usual, all of the extra keys are mostly for decoration, but I do find Mute, Volume, Back/Forward, and Calculator handy, and the rest stay out of my way. I programmed five web sites I use constantly into the five Favorite buttons, but haven’t used them as much as I expected. I was able to get the Play/Pause key to work in WinAMP, and I’ve had no problems with the configuration.

After a few months’ use, I’m happy with this keyboard. If you spend lots of time typing and don’t mind paying a bit more for a good-quality keyboard, this one is a good choice.

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