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Product: Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Company: Microsoft
Website: http://www.microsoft.com
Estimated Street Price:
$64.95

Review By: Robert Stein

One of the latest products coming out of Redmond has been anticipated for quite some time - a new Microsoft "Natural" style keyboard. Microsoft is attempting to win over users by updating the "Natural" design to be even more ergonomic (not to mention sleek), all while including new functionality and features users have come to expect from Microsoft hardware. Does the new Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 really put us at ease? Read on to find out.

  • New! The advanced ergonomic keyboard design of new Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 delivers the ultimate in comfortable computing. The proprietary “gull wing” design brings the keys closer to the user’s fingers, reducing reach and unnecessary motion while encouraging a more natural position. The keyboard has an optional palm rest for a 7-degree reverse slope, which in a usability study was found to encourage better arm and wrist alignment.3 It also features a cushioned wrist rest that is 7 millimeters taller than the keyboard, which places wrists in a less awkward alignment.
  • New! Easy-to-access forward and back buttons are located at the bottom center of the keyboard for more convenient PC navigation.
  • Zoom Slider features effortless control of digital photos and documents with just the touch of a finger, delivering true compatibility between hardware and software. Simply push the slider, located in the middle of the keyboard, to zoom in and out when navigating large documents or images. It’s the perfect companion for digital camera owners, because 80 percent of them store or access their images on the computer.4
  • My Favorites Keys deliver one-touch access to your most-used Web sites, files and folders. Simply push and hold the key to assign it to the current destination, just as you would with a car stereo’s preset buttons. The key assignments also move with the individual user settings. In addition, you can simply push the Show Favorites Key to reveal the current assignment of each of the five My Favorites Keys.
  • Enhanced F Keys make it easy to complete common tasks with one touch. Keys are conveniently grouped according to usage patterns, such as New, Open and Close. You also can set traditional F Key functions with the F Key lock.
  • Customizable Hot Keys, including Mail, Web/Home and Search allow you to quickly launch these programs with the touch of a button.

Setup & Installation 

The keyboard is wired USB only, so will obviously not require any advanced set up. To gain the added functionality of the favorites keys, etc. you will have to install IntelliType 5.3 software which is included on CD.
 

Microsoft IntelliType Pro Software

If you would like to adjust your keyboard settings, i.e. reprogram its hotkeys, then you’ll want to install Microsoft IntelliType Pro 5.3 software. Installation of the IntelliType Pro 5.3 software (although not needed) is a breeze. Just pop in the CD included or download the software (about 8 MB). To customize your keys, select either “Keyboard” from the Control Panel or “Microsoft Keyboard” from the Program menu. On the Key Settings tab, you’ll see a list of thirty hot key defaults, which you can reprogram if you like. Another nice feature is you can print out a list of the key assignments, which is good for those who like to reprogram a significant amount of keys. From here you can edit your key assignments from a list of fifty-five available commands. Options include disabling, programming to open a webpage or file, and reprogramming to fit Microsoft’s available commands. Some keys, however, such as the Caps Lock, you can only disable the key, not reprogram it.

To customize your keys, select either “Keyboard” from the Control Panel or “Microsoft Keyboard” from the Program menu. On the Key Settings tab, you’ll see a list of thirty hot key defaults, which you can reprogram if you like. Another nice feature is you can print out a list of the key assignments, which is good for those who like to reprogram a significant amount of keys. From here you can edit your key assignments from a list of fifty-five available commands. Options include disabling, programming to open a webpage or file, and reprogramming to fit Microsoft’s available commands. Some keys, however, such as the Caps Lock, you can only disable the key, not reprogram it.

Keyboard Design

The keyboard has a standard length of just over 19 inches and width of just over 9.5. The keyboard is very slim at 1.5 inches high, although still very sturdy. The design is two-toned black matte and a dark silver, with black keys and floss silver function keys. I think the advanced function keys are much more integrated than on previous years' keyboard designs. The keys fit the curve of the design - much more sleek. Starting from left (top) there are the web/home, search, mail, favorites, media, and calculator keys. Instead of the zoom slider being on the far left as in previous designs, it is now in the middle between the split keyset of "Natural" form. In the middle directly in front of the space bar are the back/forward web keys designed for easing browsing. Next to that are the function lights lined down the middle. Something new for this year's keyboard design is the improved number pad which includes four new additional key positions for =,() and the backspace key. Lining the front of the keyboard is an integrated cushion, which is of the same black material as in previous models. For those of you who are new to the "Natural" ergonomic keyboards, the keys have a 12-degree split down the middle to allow for natural wrist and fingertip posture to prevent problems after long-term typing. This keyboard is the first "Natural" model keyboard released in quite awhile, and Microsoft should take note to release more varieties of the same type in the future. This keyboard also has a 14 degree to improve on ergonomic designs in the past. Included as an option with the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is a removable palm lift which creates a 7 degree reverse slope for an even more ergonomic position.


 

Final Comments

How It Grades

Installation: 95%
Performance: 95%
Design: 92%
Price/Value: 90%
Overall: 93%

This keyboard was definitely designed around ergonomic ideals. Microsoft has taken a well-tested split "Natural" keyboard design and ergonomically improved it even more for the heavy user in mind. In addition to the ergonomic improvements, Microsoft has updated the style and design to give a more sleek/tech feel, all while still including additional functionality such as the zoom wheel and improved numeric keypad without wasting space on the keyboard. Including Microsoft Research aspects such as the reverse slope attachment is appreciated. We definitely hope this keyboard is just a taste of what to come, "Natural" fans have long awaited new designs which include additional features - Wireless Bluetooth, perhaps? If you are a "Natural" style fan, have wrist problems while typing, or are just in need for a high-end wired keyboard I definitely recommend this product. Some people will not be able to get over the fact it has a wire, so hopefully a wireless version will come in the future.

Specs & Package
Overall Score 93%
Version Reviewed Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Release Date Out Now
The Good Points "Natural" Design
Ergonomic Improvements
Updated, Sleek Style
The Bad Points Wired
Not Bluetooth
Similar Product  
System Requirements

To use Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, users should install IntelliType Pro keyboard software for full functionality of Zoom Slider and My Favorites Keys and enhanced function keys. Users also need the following:

For a Windows-based PC:

  • Microsoft Windows® 2000 Professional or Windows XP Professional, Home Edition, Media Center Edition or Tablet PC Edition

  • Pentium 233 MHz or higher processor

  • 128 MB of RAM

  • 60 MB of available hard disk space

  • CD-ROM drive

  • An available PS/2 keyboard port or USB port on the PC

For Macintosh:

  • One of the following operating systems: Mac OS 10.2 to 10.3.X
    (OS X 10.0 to 10.1 not supported)

  • 30 MB of available hard disk space

  • CD-ROM drive

  • USB port

Additional system requirements:

Internet Hot Keys are supported for use with the following:

  • Windows-based PC: Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.0 or later; MSN® Explorer versions 7.0 or 8.0; Netscape Navigator versions 6.1, 6.2 or 7.0; AOL versions 7.0, 8.0 or 9.0

  • Macintosh: Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.2.3 or later, Netscape Navigator version 7.0, Mozilla Firefox 1.0, Opera 7, Apple Safari 1.2

Multimedia Hot Keys are supported for use with the following:

  • Windows-based PC: Versions of Microsoft CD Player, Microsoft Deluxe CD, Microsoft Windows Media® Player, and certain versions of other popular media players and browsers

  • Macintosh: iTunes

 

 

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