Ergodox Keyboards - DIY Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboards

So I was debating whether or not the world needs another dude rambling on about how much he loves his ergodox, and yadda, yadda, yadda.  I wasn't going to write a review, but I feel like the Ergodox deserves the attention it gets. 

This thing is awesome. 


So, I guess I should give you a bit of background about myself and past keyboard usage so you can gain some context into my experience.  I taught myself to touch type at a young age, and since I taught myself, my typing habits are a little bit on the unorthodox side.  I realized this in my middle school computer class some years ago when we practiced our typing skills on a program called typing time.

By that time, I was already a pretty fast typist (I believe I was the fastest in my class at like 60wpm) but the lessons did help.  Fast forward more than 8 years later, and I'd plateaued at about 85wpm.  Throughout this time, I'd never used a mechanical keyswitch in my entire life.  All membrane and chiclet keyboards.  After hearing so much about mechanical keyboards in the youtube computer community, I decided it was time to ditch the membranes and go mechanical.  The problem was choosing a good keyboard.  For a long time, I was eyeing a Corsair K70 or K95, but I continued to agonize over the decision.  Months passed, and my indecisiveness kept me from committing to one.

In the mean time, I'd discovered MassDrop, as I'd purchased several items on there.  Then, I saw that they were running a drop for an ErgoDox kit.  I was disappointed that it was a DIY kit instead of an assembled product, so I let the drop pass without picking up my wallet.  However, the thought of this keyboard was gnawing at me.

I wanted one. 


So, I steeled my reserve, and decided that in the next drop, I was going to man up, get myself a soldering iron, and build myself a keyboard.  The May drop rolled by, and I was a day one reservation.  Since Massdrop sells so many of these things, I was fully confident that it would make it to the final drop price and I'd be locked in, but an anxious feeling set in that could only be dissuaded by making SURE that I got a keyboard, even if it meant locking in at a higher price, so I watched that drop like a hawk. 

The drop completed, and I received my receipt for the purchase.  I'd gone with the full hand case as opposed to the one without any sort of hand rest, and the Cherry MX Brown switches.  One thing to note is that the Ergodox doesn't come stock with keycaps.  However, you can add in a set for $40, or buy your own on another site.  I won't fault MD for this one, seeing as this keyboard is meant to be tinkered with like any good DIY build, and they probably assumed that a lot of people would like to go with higher quality keycaps and save the money that would go towards the included ones. 

Then came the wait, and my god, did I wait.  It generally takes about 2 months from the end of the drop for people to start receiving their kits, and at the two month mark, I started to check in.  Massdrop was unusually silent, but then after about a week and a half of being pestered by myself and other MD community members, we got news that our drop had been delayed due to shipments from oversees taking longer than anticipated, but the kits would be shipping soon.

I got my kit about a week later, and set to work building it.  It wasn't the hardest job in the world, but it was long and tedious.  The general rule of thumb for the time it takes to build one is that those with experience with soldering irons would be done in 2-3 hours, and those with no experience could take up to six.  I finished with a nice medium of 4 hours, give or take a few minutes.  However, I discovered that I was missing two of the acrylic case layers (both layer 2), and started emailing massdrop.  While the customer support could've been faster, they got back to me within two days, and after a few emails clarifying the situation, my new acrylic pieces were being sent out to me postage paid, 2 day air.  After receiving the pieces, I completed my keyboard and started typing.  Then I fell in love.


About the keyboard:

So the Ergodox isn't like other girls.  It was designed up as a DIY project centered on the ergonomics by a group of keyboard enthusiasts and modders on Geekhack.  Unlike most keyboards, it's a split design, meaning there's two halves of the keyboard that are separated from each other.  Unlike most split keyboard designs, though, the two halves aren't attached at all.  The design is actually quite clever, using one artfully designed PCB that can double as both the Left or Right hand.  It uses a TRRS interconnect to communicate with the other half, and uses a Teensy USB expander to connect to your computer.  You can find out all the details elsewhere if you'd like, but I figured the basics were necessary, at least. 


My take on it all:

At first, this thing definitely slowed me down.  On day one, I was down to about 15wpm.  This was unacceptable.  I kept at it, though, and kept practicing my typing (this article is also partly a good typing exercise for me).  After about 2 weeks, I was up to about 65wpm again.  Another two weeks later, and I'm actually past my previous 85wpm plateau, hitting a fairly consistent 90.  While this isn't a HUGE improvement, it's still definitely the fastest I've ever typed, and I do have to give some credit to this awesome keyboard.  Since the keyboards have thumb clusters, I no longer have to waste both of my thumbs on a single spacebar, instead assigning space, bkspc, delete, enter, etc., to the thumb clusters, saving a lot of work for my pinkies.  No more stretching over with my right pinky to hit enter or to mash the backspace button. I've also sharply increased my accuracy in reaching for the standard number buttons since I can't cheat and switch to the num pad. As for the build quality, it'll be as nice as you can build it.  The parts all seem to be fairly high quality, and there are tons of modifications you can do to this thing if you'd like.  Go nuts with it, it's a DIY kit.  This thing is amazingly comfortable, and I actually find typing to be quite a bit of fun now that I have this thing.  I think I might've prefered going with the blue switches since I feel like the browns aren't stiff enough, but so far that's my only complaint. 



If you've been on the fence about this board, I suggest taking the plunge.  If this is the first you've heard of it, I definitely recommend checking it out.  Either way, you can get in on the action about every two months thanks to massdrop who've sold hundreds of these things already.  I hope you enjoy, and let me know if you have an ergodox, and whether you liked it, loved it, or even hated about it.



Oh, and pictures will come later.  I need to be at work in 6 hours, so I need to get some sleep in the mean time.