Kinesis Freestyle2 Ergonomic Keyboard Review
Although many users found the key arrangement frustrating or confusing at first, the Freestyle2 is a winner. The learning curve is well-worth the ergonomic advantages this keyboard brings to the table. Folks who have suffered from an RSI or are concerned about developing one should look no further. This experts' choice comes highly recommended for any treadmill or standing desk user.
Say hello to an ergonomic superstar. The unusual, split keyboard design of the Freestyle2 makes it a weapon of choice in the fight against carpal tunnel. Extremely responsive keys need only a soft touch to activate, and are relatively quiet.
The bizarre key layout may take some getting used to, and a series of hotkeys on the left take up more space than they’re worth. Users who frequently enter numbers should know that the Freestyle2 does not come with a numpad, although the upgrade can be purchased separately.
If you’ve dropped by our ergonomics section then you may have had some lightbulbs go off when you saw the picture of the Freestyle2. For those who haven’t, we’ll spare you some time – the Freestyle2 is a masterwork of posture doctoring. A normal keyboard often forces pronation, which, in this case, refers to the twisting of the hand inward (e.g. the right hand twisted clockwise). Another postural malady this keyboard fixes is ulnar flexion, in which the hand is bent horizontally outward at the wrist. Both of these positions are commonly found among users of smaller keyboards (picture hand position in the classic computer hunch) and they’re awful – both place unnatural pressure on your wrist and forearm while constricting important blood vessels.
So how does Kinesis do it? Well, the split keyboard style reduces ulnar flexion by letting you keep your wrists straight while your arms are in a good, neutral position (elbows by your sides). If this sounds minor, it isn’t; cramped laptop keyboards can do some awful things to your arms. As for pronation, Kinesis offers some handy add-ons that we’ll discuss later. If you suffer from serious muscle fatigue while typing - or worse, carpal tunnel syndrome - the Freestyle2 may be the board for you. These simple fixes work wonders.
What’s this Button do?
The only complaints we’ve seen about the Freestyle2 have to do with key arrangement - it uses the standard alphanumeric board, but split, and with some additions. Some of these stem from the unavoidable learning curve that comes from adapting to such a novel piece of equipment, but others point to valid and persistent issues. A few folks will doubtless fall in love with the hotkeys on the left side of the board, but most users are just going to be annoyed. These keys perform “mouse-intensive” actions such as copy and paste. Most of us have our fingers trained to "ctrl c" and "ctrl p", so this takes some serious getting used to, but those digital-yoga stretches aren't good for you - bottom line, use them if you can, but it will take some getting used to.
Entering numbers with the Freestyle2 quickly devolves into an unusually deliberate game of whack-a-mole. If you use number keys with any frequency at all, just don’t even try; buy the numeric keypad that Kinesis sells alongside the Freestyle2.
Even if you ignored the ergonomic advantages that the Freestyle2 brings to the table, it would still be an excellent keyboard. Users have been universally delighted by the responsive keys. Standing and treadmill deskers should take note of this – the vibration caused by heavy typing can cause some serious monitor jiggle (especially apparent if you’re working on a desktop riser), but the keys on the Freestyle2 activate with a brush, and should minimize the issue. The board they’re attached to is a slender, solidly built piece of work that could blend into the classiest of offices without issue. While a split keyboard is an unusual thing to spot in an office the conventional rectangular design is in no way freakish looking, like some others in the market.
Kinesis is at the absolute top of its game in its field. Their products have proven to be innovative and reliable; you’re buying from the best, really. Spend some time on their website for more unique ergonomic products, as well as an excellent rundown of posture problems. We'll be reviewing some of their more exotic keyboards in the near future.
The optional accessories for the Freestyle2 come highly recommended. As mentioned before, a numerical keypad is an absolute must for those dealing with numbers. The Freestyle palm supports, which are included with the VIP3 Accessory Kit are also a good investment while crafting a full-featured keyboard.
We would urge buyers to also consider the VIP3 Accessory Kit itself (or to buy it already installed). The V lifters allow a user to elevate the inside edges of the two halves of their keyboard. Another very minor change, but again, another important one – this fix eliminates pronation and helps injury-proof your workstation.
Those of you who like vertical keyboards can go in for the Ascent Accessory Kit. This add-on allows full tenting of the keyboard halves, to the point of standing them on-end if you’d like. Vertical keyboards aren’t for everyone. They do a wonderful job preventing pronation, but they’re certainly not for people who have to watch where they type (for obvious reasons). Seriously competent touch typists might consider this option.
The Freestyle2 comes with an excellent two-year warranty covering the original purchaser of the keyboard. Accessories have a one year warranty.
|Freestyle2 - 20" Separation*||$119.00|
|Freestyle2 - VIP3 Keyboard*||$149.00|
|Freestyle2 - V3 Keyboard*||$134.00|
|Kinesis Freestyle2 Accessory||Price|
|Freestyle2 VIP3 Accessory Kit||$40.00|
|Freestyle V3 Accessory Kit||$24.95|
|Freestyle Ascent Multi-tent Accessory||$199.00|
|Freestyle2 Palm Supports||$24.95|
|Replacement Palm Pads for the Freestyle Keyboard, Black||$12.00|
*Mac version costs $10 more