Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard Review

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

The Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard came out in .

I've been eyeing Kinesis contoured keyboard since 1992, with its weird bowl shaped keys surface. It is truly ergonomically designed from the ground up.

But now, after 25 years, finally i own it. I've been using it now for exactly 1 year. Here's my review, typed entirely on the Kinesis.

Kinesis top view 194406-s
The keyboard. Model Advantage2 QD, where the keys are labeled with both QWERTY and Dvorak. Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard

Total Key Count

68 full-sized keys, plus 18 small function key buttons.

Size Comparison

kinesis microsoft keyboard sizes

It's smaller than a full-sized PC keyboard.

Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard introduction.

What's the difference between Kinesis Advantage and Advantage2?

Advantage2 is newer model, released in .

The shape and size of keyboard is exactly the same.

On-The-Fly Key Remap and Macro

Kinesis right f keys 194620-s
Kinesis Advantage2, right side. Those functional key buttons are mechanical keys, Cherry ML switch, with plastic key cap. Also, see the “progm” key on the right? That key lets you switch key layouts, or set your own key remapping, or program key macros.

How to Remap Keys

Suppose you want to make Caps Lock do Ctrl.

  1. Hold progm then press F12. Release both.
  2. Press Ctrl, release, press Caps Lock, release.
  3. Press progm again to stop.
  4. That's it. Now, pressing Caps Lock will send Ctrl signal.

Do this to remap any key.

To make a key back to default, you can simply start remap and press the key twice.

〔►see Kinesis Keyboard Key Remap/Macro/Layout How-To

How to Record Key Macro

Suppose you want to make F2 do Ctrl+c (copy).

That's it. Now, pressing F2 will do Copy.

The triggering key can be a key chord. For example, you can make Ctrl+n do , so that when holding control, right hand keys can become arrow keys.

〔►see Kinesis Keyboard Key Remap/Macro/Layout How-To

Typing on Kinesis

Typing on Kinesis contoured keyboard. Trackball is DT225 Trackball. Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard
Typing on Kinesis contoured keyboard, angled view. Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard

Design Advantages

There are several quality designs that went into this keyboard. I explain each item below.

Thumb for Modifier Keys

Control key is now pressed by the most powerful finger the thumb.

Kinesis keyboard doll
Kinesis thumb keys. image source ©

The ⌫ Backspace key is one of the most frequently used key, now it's under your thumb too.

Kinesis 202039-s
Sculpted thumb keys, with different height and shape, designed for comfort.

Key Columns Not Staggered

Kinesis 194544-s
Left side. Look at the keys 1 Q A Z, forming a straight line.
mechanical typewriter key detail
Staggered column from mechanical typewriter, so that the levers at the bottom of the keys can be aligned.

Palm Higher Than Finger Tips

Kinesis 195645-s
Side view, atop kitchen sink. Note the bowl shaped surface. When your hands rest on the keyboard, your wrists don't bend up. Your fingers naturally dip in on the keys.

Mechanical Key Switch

Mechanical switch is so much nicer to press, lighter, easier on the fingers, and gives you tactitle feedback.

Mechanical switch also lasts hundreds times longer than common rubber dome switches used in normal keyboards. Many people online i know have used Kinesis for over 10 years, and the keyboard is still going strong.

Does Mechanical Keyboard Reduce Risk of Repetitive Strain Injury?

〔►see Guide to Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms

Mac, Linux Support, Yes

I use it on Linux. It's plug-and-play. No need to install any driver software.

Works fine in Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux.

Kinesis cmd key  key puller 194827-s
Included 4 extra keys, for the Mac. And comes with a key puller.

How long does it take to get used to?

I thought it might take me sometime to adjust to the bowl-shaped surface, but to my surprise, i typed on it like a pro the first day. I've been typing on a vertically aligned keyboard for past 3 years, but never on bowl-shaped surface before.

If you never used a grid-layout keyboard, it'll take about 2 weeks to stop mistakes, 3 weeks to become fluent. (based my experience when using grid-layout for the first time, and Kinesis user comments online.)

Any Cons?

  1. tiny functional keys. (even though they ARE mechanical keys)
  2. not designed for small hands.

Tiny Function Keys

On the original Advantage model, the function keys F1 to F12 are tiny rubber buttons.

This is fixed in the Advantage2 models. The Advantage2 use Cherry ML mechanical switches, with plastic keycaps.

However, I'd still prefer full-sized keys, because full-sized keys are easier to use.

Most people don't use the function keys, but i use them heavily. 〔►see What's the Use of Function Keys F1 F2…?

On the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard, i have function keys set up to do copy, cut, paste, undo, and switch to browser, switch to terminal, max window, etc. But now on Kinesis, i find that i don't use them anymore. Because now it's harder to hit the small function keys. You either have to look at the keyboard, or gingerly grope for the correct key.

Not Designed for Small Hands

I'm Chinese. My hands are smaller than average white people's hands.

Most thumb keys require stretching my thumb to reach. Only the two closest thumb keys are easy reach, the ⌫ Backspace and Space.

If your hands are small, do not try to press the thumb keys by stretching. Press the thumb keys by moving whole hand.

For example, I move my whole hand to press Alt key, and move hand slightly to press Ctrl key. Moving hand is healthier than stretch.

Layout

Kinesis advantage 2 keyboard layout 53127
Kinesis Advantage2 US default layout.
  1. By default, QWERTY and Dvorak layouts are builtin, in any of the Kinesis models.
  2. It also allows you to create multiple layouts. You can create 30 or more layouts, and easily switch to any one by pressing a few buttons.
  3. You can design your own layouts. For example, placing Esc key on the thumb, place Ctrl Alt ⌘ command ⌥ option ❖ Window or arrow keys on any key position you like.

For some layout design, see

Kinesis and ErgoDox Optimal Thumb Cluster Layouts

Using vim, Emacs?

Kinesis is perfect for vim or emacs.

For vim, i recommend:

For emacs, i highly recommend one of the following:

  1. ergoemacs-mode at http://ergoemacs.github.io/. You should set the ⌫ Backspace as Alt. For small hands, set right arrow key as Alt.
  2. evil mode (like vim keys) https://bitbucket.org/lyro/evil/wiki/Home or use http://spacemacs.org/
  3. Most efficient, modal. Emacs: Xah Fly Keys. Set Caps Lock as Home.

Truly Ergonomic vs Kinesis

Kinesis Advantage vs Truly Ergonomic Keyboard

Where to Buy

Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard

Here's specific models:

Note: all models support builtin Dvorak layout. The one with Labeling Qwerty/Dvorak provides you dual labels. I recommend that one.

Kinesis Keyboard SmartSet How-To

Kinesis Keyboard Key Remap/Macro/Layout How-To

Photo Gallery

Kinesis Keyboard Unboxing Gallery

Kinesis Keyboard Gallery