Our first sample of the SmartFish ergonomic keyboard arrived today and we're putting it through it's first paces today. The ErgoMotion Engage solution takes the traditional keyboard experience and shakes it up a little. Citing the need to reduce repetitive movements, the keyboard aims to have you occasionally adjust the angle of your wrists throughout your day. Every 2500 keystrokes or so, the keyboard will adjust to make you adjust your normally fixed typing position. This subtle adjustment should reduce the the threat of RSI related injuries. But what is it like in action? Read on.
The Ergomotion Engage itself is normal sized but it sits on its motorized base which gives it a bit more presence than normal keyboards. It has a slight heft to it but that is to be expected for a self adjusting keyboard. A quick scan through the instruction manually reveals that there are no complicated setup procedures to learn, they have made the extremely simple to operate. If you can locate a free USB port on your computer, your part is done. The Engage keyboard was immediately recognized and installed by Windows, Apple users should find the same ease. Sadly the Engage keyboard I received is a bit bowed on the bottom in the middle, this doesn't actually cause a problem once you have any weight on it but it does give it a bit of a wobble until you start typing.
Typing on the Engage is similar to most keyboards. It does have a bit of a cheap feel to it, keys are a little sticky and we're finding that it doesn't register about 1 in 100 of my keystrokes. This is probably a factor of the key travel and pressure required to activate a key-press that we're just not used to yet. The adjustments should occur at about 500 words, this is quite a bit for the average user so reaching the adjustment event doesn't happen too often.
On the upside, the keyboard operates solely on USB power, which is surprising once you hear the keyboard adjust itself the first time. It's pretty loud. If you've ever tested a remote control (RC) car in your hands, kicking the power to full throttle to see the wheels whir into action, you know what the Engage sounds like in transition. The whirring noise is significant and could be distracting in an office setting that doesn't require employees to wear ear plugs. Loading docks, warehouses and gun ranges will not notice the sound at all. The adjustment can be kicked off manually if you like with the included button or turned off altogether if you are noise sensitive, pregnant or hungover. To their benefit this mini explosion is a perfect alarm clock and once your heart starts beating normally again you've had a good reminder that it's time to take a typing break. We've had no problem typing throughout the adjustment and it wasn't stymied by wrist pressure or typing. Technically work is not interrupted by the transition if you don't count the very obvious noise.
It is quite a marvel that they were able to accomplish what they have with USB power for a price of only $149. We were definitely expecting to see another power supply fall out of the box. Not having to mess with any type of driver setup was also a bonus. Unfortunately, anyone spending $150+ on a keyboard is going to expect a little more quality and a lot less noise. We'll give the ErgoMotion Engage keyboard a few more days to break-in the keys and see if the missed key count goes down. Unfortunately with the noise and the cheap feel of the keys, we won't be throwing away the packaging just yet.
- Get SmartFish Engage Ergonomic Keyboard now for Amazon at $149.99