The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 has several significant enhancements over its predecessors and competitors. The first and most noticeable is, the keyboard has a more wave-like look and feel. There is a sharper rise in the center of the device; this makes it a better fit for most people's hands.
Secondly, the palm rests are covered in a padded, soft, leather-like material. During extended typing sessions, this allows for much less stress on the palms and wrists.
The key layout is more traditional than the previous Natural Ergonomic model. The Insert key is back where it belongs above the arrow keys, and the text navigation key set has returned to a two-rows-of-three layout. That also means that the Pause/Break key is now separate from the Scroll Lock key, which is how most other keyboards are arranged.
The keys are quiet and soft, so finger and wrist stress are reduced, as is the noise of typing. The only key that makes any significant noise at all is the keyboard, and even that is considerably quieter than most keyboard spacebars. Some people like big, ugly, AT-style "clacky" keyboards; if you're one of them, you'll hate this keyboard. On the other hand, there is a good reason why those keyboards aren't made anymore -- you should consider your hand and wrist health.
A riser assembly is included (and installed by default) on the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. This allows you to angle the keyboard away from you, which offers better wrist support for some people. The riser can be easily removed if you don't like it. Personally I thought it was great at first, but took it off because it interfered with my typing speed.
The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is not wireless. It connects via USB, but a PS2 converter is included.
Previous ergonomic keyboard models required an F-lock key that would shift the functionality of the traditional F keys. By default, F-lock would be off, which meant that your F keys would not perform their intended functions. I was relieved to discover that Microsoft fixed this annoyance in the Natural Ergonomic 4000 -- the F-lock key is now on by default.
Lastly, there are the "bells and whistles" -- the extra buttons and such that keyboards seem to have these days. The Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 has a zoom slider for magnifying text; keys for various Web browser functions; five programmable keys; four sound control keys; and a calculator button. Of all of these, the only one I find consistently useful is the calculator button. For all of the others, my multimedia controls and Web browser are already open and easily accessible, so I don't need these functions on my keyboard. The calculator button though, since it is near the numeric keypad, is very handy for the math-challenged. Instead of navigating the Start menu, you just hit the button and key in your equation.
Does it work with GNU/Linux? Yes, but many of the special buttons and functions will not work without manually configuring your keyboard map. In Windows, the IntelliType software is required to use all of the special keys. Without it, about half of the extra functions will work.
The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is only available as a standalone keyboard -- there are no desktop bundles in production as of this writing.
The included IntelliType software is only available in 32-bit binaries. That means that 64-bit Windows users will not be able to take advantage of the extra features of this keyboard.
Keyboards don't get any better than this -- at least not with currently available technology. The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is quiet, comfortable, and overall a joy to work with. Highly recommended to anyone interested in a more comfortable computing experience.
If you're trying to decide between this keyboard and one of Microsoft's Comfort Curve designs, the Natural Ergonomic 4000 is superior in every way. However, if you've never used a "split" keyboard design before, it'll take a few typing hours to get used to it. Once you become accustomed to it, though, you'll be glad you made the switch.
|Model||Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 v1.0|
|Interface||USB, with a PS/2 adapter included|
|Price (retail)||U.S. $60 Buy it from Amazon.com|