Kinesis Adavantage Review For Technologists

Table of Contents

I recently purchased a Kinesis Advantage Keyboard for the following reasons:

However, I was really uncertain whether I would like the keyboard because I wasn't able to find many reviews from technologists (like programmers or system administrators). I am one of those people so I hope that someone else might gain something from my experience.

The Good Parts

It's Programmable

You can actually program macros into this thing and then use them on any computer. This has been useful to me in two ways:

  • By default, the Insert key can only be used after pressing the Keypad key. This is a pain. I therefore found instructions in the user guide that showed me how to fix this with a simple macro.
  • You can actually switch the computer between "Windows", "PC", and "Macintosh" modes. I switch between Linux and Windows during the day and I would much rather have a right Alt key than a Windows key. Again, you can easily program this into your keyboard in about 5 seconds using the docs.

There a lot more that can be done with these tools and I am only scratching the surface.

Great Documentation

I was fairly disappointed to only find a two-page manual when I opened the box for my new, complicated keyboard. However, I was then amazed to see that it (along with the online FAQ) answered all of my questions, no matter how esoteric.

Great Customer Support

I had a pretty substantial issue with the keyboard when I first got it (which I'll mention below) so I sent an email message to their support account. Within a few hours I got a response and an offer to send a converter cable for free.

It's Really Is Great For Emacs

It's hard to beat having a Ctrl and Alt key under each thumb when you spend a lot of time in Emacs.

It's Big

I'm 6'5" and have pretty broad shoulders, so most keyboards feel pretty tiny and compressed to me. This keyboard is significantly more comfortable and allows me to relax my shoulders a lot more.

I doubt that after using this I will ever be able to go back to a keyboard that doesn't at least give me the option of splitting it in two.

The Not So Good

Windows 7 Compatibility With USB 3

For work I use a Windows 7 laptop that only has USB 3 ports. Well, for some strange reason this keyboard has a lot of issues with USB 3 and Windows 7. Not USB 3 and Windows 8. Not USB 2 and Winows 7. Heck, it even worked like a charm with Linux. No, the only combination that doesn't work is the combination that exists on my work laptop.

There are some BIOS settings that you can try, but unfortunately none of them worked for me. I therefore had to request that they send me a "conversion kit", which they did very quickly and without any questions asked.

I assumed that I would be receiving some sort of cable that I would plug my keyboard into that would magically make it work with my Windows 7 machine. However, when I did receive the kit, I was surprised to see that it required me to open my keyboard case and replace the USB cable with a PS2 cable.

Now I've performed lots of PC repairs and upgrades in the past, so opening a case and discharging static and such is really no big deal. The entire process actually took about 10 minutes from beginning to end. However, if you're reading this and the idea of doing something like upgrading the RAM in your laptop is terrifying, then please make sure that you check your Windows 7 laptop for a USB 2 port, just in case the BIOS changes don't work for you either.

Also, I wanted to point out that in addition to a PS2 cable, they sent me a free PS2 to USB converter.

Small Function And ESC Keys

Even though I use Emacs for most of my editing these days I still use Vim a lot when I am using an SSH terminal. This means that I use the ESC key a decent amount, and for some reason the ESC key and function keys are all about half the size of a regular key. This is only a minor inconvenience, but I'm still not used to it after a couple of weeks.

Conclusion

It's very rare to find something that really feels like it was made for you by someone who thinks just like you do. I really feel that despite a few small quirks that this keyboard is really perfect for my needs, or at least as perfect as I've ever seen. I highly recommend it if you are a technologist who is trying to take better care of her hands.

Last Updated 2015-05-08.