Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard Review
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.
Total Key Count
68 full-sized keys, plus 18 small function key buttons.
It's smaller than a full-sized PC keyboard.
What's the difference between Kinesis Advantage and Advantage2?
Advantage2 is newer model, released in .
- Advantage2 has mechanical keys for the function buttons at top row. Cherry ML switch, with plastic key caps. Original Advantage had rubber buttons.
- Advantage2 has a new engine SmartSet for programing the keys.
- Advantage2 has 2 megabytes of memory. Original Advantage has 4k.
- Advantage2, key macros and layouts are stored as text files in the embeded flash drive. You can open and edit and load the text file, or share it with friends. No special driver software needed.
The shape and size of keyboard is exactly the same.
On-The-Fly Key Remap and Macro
How to Remap Keys
Suppose you want to make Caps Lock do Ctrl.
- Hold progm then press F12. Release both.
- Press Ctrl, release, press Caps Lock, release.
- Press progm again to stop.
- 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.
How to Record Key Macro
Suppose you want to make F2 do Ctrl+c (copy).
- ① Hold progm then press F11. Release both.
- ② Press F2, release.
- ③ Press Ctrl+c.
- ④ Press progm again to stop.
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.
Typing on Kinesis
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.
The ⌫ Backspace key is one of the most frequently used key, now it's under your thumb too.
Key Columns Not Staggered
Palm Higher Than Finger Tips
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.
- Model LF (linear feel) uses Cherry MX Red for the main keys.
- Other models uses Cherry MX Brown, which has light tactile feedback.
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.
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.)
- tiny functional keys. (even though they ARE mechanical keys)
- 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.
- By default, QWERTY and Dvorak layouts are builtin, in any of the Kinesis models.
- 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.
- 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
Using vim, Emacs?
Kinesis is perfect for vim or emacs.
For vim, i recommend:
- Set one of the thumb key as Esc.
- Or, set Caps Lock as Esc.
For emacs, i highly recommend one of the following:
- ergoemacs-mode at http://ergoemacs.github.io/. You should set the ⌫ Backspace as Alt. For small hands, set right arrow key as Alt.
- evil mode (like vim keys) https://bitbucket.org/lyro/evil/wiki/Home or use http://spacemacs.org/
- Most efficient, modal. Emacs: Xah Fly Keys. Set Caps Lock as Home.
Truly Ergonomic vs Kinesis
Where to Buy
Here's specific models:
- Kinesis Advantage2 Buy at amazon
- Kinesis Advantage2 Linear Feel Buy at amazon
- Kinesis Advantage2 Dual Labeling Qwerty/Dvorak Buy at amazon
- Kinesis Advantage2 Silver Buy at amazon
Note: all models support builtin Dvorak layout. The one with Labeling Qwerty/Dvorak provides you dual labels. I recommend that one.