I’ve been using ergonomic keyboards exclusively for a decade, and sometimes I forget what a learning curve can be. Most ergonomic keyboards are unforgiving for the newly converted, and expensive too. Cherry’s new inexpensive ergonomic keyboard might be the best “beginner ergonomic” keyboard.
It’s worth getting into what makes an ergonomic keyboard just briefly, though the truth is there’s no universal answer to that question. You’ll find a few common features in most ergonomic keyboards, and those come down to “split” style keys, a negative tilt (that is, the keys closest to your wrists are higher), and some style of tenting (the keys closest to your thumbs are higher than the keys closest to your pinkies).
Beyond that, all the details are up for debate, from “how far it should tilt” to “should you omit the numpad or wrist rest.” No two ergonomic keyboards are perfectly alike, but you’ll at least find similarities among the major players like Microsoft and Logitech. Those companies favor a tilt around -7 to -11 degrees, curved keys to emulate tenting, built-in wrist rests, and numpads.
I mention those two brands because if you look at images of the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard, the Logitech Ergo, and the Cherry Ergo from the topdown, you’d almost think they were the same keyboard. But once you go hands-on, you’ll learn that’s far from true. And at first, I wanted to hate it, but eventually, I learned that Cherry’s differences are actually good for the right people.
A Budget Keyboard with Budget Features
Shaped for Beginners and Easier to Learn
I'm Surprised I Like the Keys So Much
A Good "My First Ergonomic Keyboard" Option
A Budget Keyboard with Budget Features
Before we get into those differences, let’s get a few housekeeping items out of the way. At $45 or so (prices vary depending on where you buy it), Cherry’s ergonomic keyboard is well into budget territory for an ergonomic option. Logitech’s Ergo keyboard and Microsoft’s Sculpt ergonomic keyboard are $130 apiece, while the famous KINESIS Gaming Freestyle Edge keyboard is $230. Even Microsoft’s budget ergonomic entry usually tips the scales at $60.
But bringing down the price means giving up features you might find elsewhere. This Cherry keyboard is not wireless, for instance. Thankfully the integrated USB cable is plenty long at six feet. You also won’t find backlighting, adjustable tilt legs, or mechanical keys.
That last one might come as a surprise considering Cherry is primarily known for its mechanical keys, but honestly, those are all acceptable ommissions at this price range. Even the $130 Logitech option doesn’t include backlighting or mechanical keys.
The bigger hit comes down to the quality of materials. Compared to all the rest, the Cherry Ergo feels very plasticky and not in a good way. The colors are fine, but the feel of the components doesn’t scream premium. Thankfully the keys themselves are quite nice for a membrane option, although I’ll get into that later. The real loss is the wrist rest (sometimes called a palm rest). It feels cheap, it’s not soft or forgiving at all, and it’s just the wrong shape. Which actually might be a good thing for some people.
Shaped for Beginners and Easier to Learn
When I first went hands-on (literally) with this keyboard, I was severely disappointed by the wrist rest. You see, in most ergo keyboards that bother with a wrist rest, it rises above the keys to support your arms. That’s an important part of ergonomics because one of the worst things you can do is bend your wrist downward.
On top of that, the tilt on the Cherry Ergo is dramatically lower than most other keyboards. And you can’t adjust it beyond laying the keyboard entirely flat. Those two decisions put together initially led to discomfort. Instead of “reaching down” to the keys, the lowered wrist rest led to “reaching up and out” to the keys. I wanted to abandon the keyboard right away and never use it again.
But I’m a reviewer and can’t do that. So I marshaled on and realized one simple thing: I just needed to skip the wrist rest. In truth, you should do that anyway. If you lift your hands slightly, the rest of Cherry’s ergonomic choices are good enough to accomplish the goal. And in some ways, because the tilt is less extreme because you’re lifting your wrist, it’s easier to adapt to than other keyboards.
Even Cherry’s “tenting” is less pronounced than other competitors, but it’s there. It’s just a little “better than flat,” but Cherry did a good job of extending certain keys, like the H and T, to better fit where your fingers will land in the new ergonomic position. You’ll still have growing pains: it’s amazing what bad habits you don’t realize you have, like hitting the T key with your right index finger. A split keyboard won’t allow you to do that.
But overall, the learning curve should be easier than some other ergonomic keyboards. And for new converts, it’s probably helpful that Cherry included a numpad. Ergonomic purists will tell you to dump the numpad, so your mouse is closer to the keyboard, but relearning to type numbers without a numpad is painful. At least you’ll avoid it.
I’m Surprised I Like the Keys So Much
These may not be mechanical keys, but if any company can make membrane-style keys feel good, it’s apparently Cherry. I’ve primarily used membrane keys for years, and these have to be among the most tactile keys I’ve used. They don’t feel like mechanical, certainly, but it’s probably the closest you can get.
In some ways, that helps the ergonomics. You don’t want something too hard to push that will strain your fingers, but you also don’t want mushy keys that feel terrible. For a membrane option, these are darn near perfect. They even make a satisfying clackity sound as you’re typing, though yes, they still fall short of true mechanical. Cherry’s placement is fine, too, and as a seasoned ergonomic typer, I didn’t have to make any real adjustments except one.
Frequently I hit the lock key instead of backspace in the beginning. The lock key is just above , and somehow I made that stretch. Cherry offers free software that lets you reprogram the media keys to launch programs or macros, but alas, that doesn’t include the lock key. Even still, it’s a nice bonus feature.
I would be remiss not to mention one issue I ran into: halfway into testing this keyboard the backspace key started sticking. I’d hit it, and the entire paragraph would delete until I smacked it again in desperation. But a good cleaning solved that, and it hasn’t happened again since. I’m not too worried, as stuck keys are a common keyboard malady.
A Good “My First Ergonomic Keyboard” Option
For a lot of people, the idea of switching to an ergonomic keyboard can be intimidating. It looks so different and costs so much. What if it turns out to be a waste of money? If that’s you, and you’ve wanted to make the switch but are unwilling to take the risk, the Cherry Ergo keyboard is the one you should look at. It’s not overpriced, and it’s not as drastically different from the keyboard you know and love.
You may find that it’s just right, and it’s the last keyboard you’ll use. Or it may show you that ergonomic keyboards aren’t as bad as you thought, and you’ll upgrade down the road. It’s certainly good enough to fit either of those roles. And in the worst-case scenario that you hate split keyboards, well, at least you didn’t spend a hundred dollars or more. Get the Cherry Ergo if you’re interested in trying out a more ergonomic life.
But if you’re already a seasoned ergonomic typist, I can’t recommend the keyboard so highly. It lacks features like variable tilt or a truly comfortable wrist rest. The best reason to get this instead of other options is if you want to save some money. Just be aware that you always get what you pay for.
Here’s What We Like
- Excellent membrane keys
- Long cord
And What We Don't
- No adjustable tilt
- Very plastic feel
- Wrist rest is wrong shape and hard