Ergonomic keyboards: Microsoft Sculpt vs. Logitech Ergo K860

For decades, I've been typing on laptop keyboards, on the one hand because I like the flatness of the keys and the compactness of the layout; and because I didn't want to be clumsy with the laptop keyboard when I travel. As a result, I've been suffering from that laptop keyboards are straight and narrow and force the wrists into unnatural positions.

After kids, I now rarely travel, so continuing to use the laptop keyboard has become less justifiable. Of course, I'm too lazy to learn a new keyboard out of sheer strength of will. And so, the down arrow key on my laptop broke and it happens to be a model for which there is currently no key replacement. So I took this chance to look into more ergonomic keyboards.

I wanted to keep the flatness and compactness, so I found the two options in the title that looked the most attractive.

First, I ordered the Logitech Ergo K860. I used it full-time for 5 days, typing many emails, programming and gaming:
  • I came to dislike the fully spread-out, traditional layout of Ins, Home, PgUp, Del, End, PgDn, and the cursor keys. After decades on laptop keyboards, I thought I would like these keys spread out. I do not. It makes only the typing area of the keyboard ergonomic. The navigation part still forces the hand into long movements and contortions.

  • I dislike how Right Ctrl is straight under Right Shift. I'm used to it more toward the left, with the cursor keys closer in.

  • I'm not big on the feel of the keys on the Logitech. Pressing the keys feels "meh" – it's fine but not satisfactory. However, the function keys are large and nice, and what feels like low resistance may also make typing less tiring.

  • Unlike on my previous laptop keyboard, I found I make many more mistakes like THis (or SHift, WHich, or ARrow).

Since the Microsoft Sculpt is similar but more compact, I figured it might improve on the above, so I tried it as well:
  • I prefer the compact placement of Ins, Home, PgUp, Del, End, PgDn and the cursor keys on the Sculpt.

  • I like the placement of Right Ctrl and the cursor keys being closer, so that Left Arrow is under Right Shift.

  • I greatly prefer the feel of key-pressing on the Microsoft keyboard... except for its function keys, which are shoddy. However, I worry that the reason it's more pleasant is higher resistance, and that this may be harder on the hands.

  • Even though the Logitech Ergo is currently $129.99 vs. $66.16 for the Microsoft Sculpt, the Sculpts feels fancier. The keys feel better. The parts snap together with magnets. The numeric keypad is full-size but separate and can be placed left or right. Despite being half the price, the Microsoft keyboard seems more sophisticated.

  • This is with exception of the function keys (Esc, F1-F12, PrtScn), which do not feel sophisticated but half-done.

  • The separate numpad is fancy, but I don't like it separate. I want it attached, and I want it level with the keyboard. I had to craft a support out of cardboard paper and scotch tape to make it level, and the result is wobbly.

  • There seem to be no lights indicating the state of Caps Lock or Num Lock, or the on/off state. Yikes.

  • It turned off by itself multiple times during the second day of use, with no clear cause. Batteries should not be low because they're new. I found no way to turn it back on except to remove and reinsert the USB transceiver.

  • Sadly, I still seem to make just as many mistakes like THis (or SHift, WHich, or ARrow).

I was also initially misled by some apparent differences in descriptions that aren't actual differences. For example, the description for the Logitech Ergo stated it has a USB receiver, whereas for the Microsoft Sculpt, it did not. Both keyboards have a USB receiver, are powered by much the same batteries and connect to the computer in much the same way.

If you're used to full-size desktop keyboards, you might prefer the Logitech Ergo. I find the compact layout of the navigation keys on the Microsoft Sculpt much more ergonomic, and I like the feel of the keys. However, I don't like the separate numpad; or how it turned itself off twice in the second day, and how difficult it is to turn it back on.

Verdict: After trying out the Sculpt for two days, I returned to the Logitech Ergo. At first it seemed less satisfying to type, but it seems to make my RSI-afflicted hand less tired. It is overall a better, more well-rounded keyboard. Its main disadvantage is the traditional, spaced-out layout of the navigation keys. In this regard, I like the compact layout on the Microsoft keyboard better. However, the Sculpt has too many other, quite unfortunate and unnecessary disadvantages.

My wife, meanwhile, prefers a traditional, mechanical keyboard. I got her the Corsair K70, which she is happy with. :)

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