Ultimate Hacking Keyboard

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This keyboard, was announced back in 2015 or so. It certainly took them a long time. But is now shipping.

Superb. First impression: compact, solid, well built. In fact, been using it in the past 2 days for real work. Super impressed with the software. It is the most intuitive firmware UI and most advanced keyboard software i've ever seen. I'll be adding more video in the comping days.

2019-01-19 I've been using this keyboard for 50 days now, typing on it more than 3 hours per day. I consider it best compact keyboard money can buy.

Ultimate Hacking keyboard ca42c
Ultimate Hacking keyboard ca42c [image source https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DsNBvdxWoAAUjJY.jpg:large]

Total key count: 64. Plus 2 thumb (mouse-like) buttons.

Features:

  1. Ergonomic design. Can use as split, tented, or connected as one rectangular piece. (firmly connected by magnets)
  2. Compact. Good for travel.
  3. Mechanical key switches of your choice: Kailh red blue brown. Cherry MX green, clear.
  4. Hardware support for QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak layouts out of the box. (press Fn+1, Fn+2, etc to switch.)
  5. 3 digit alphanumeric LED display to show current layout.
  6. Supports Mac or PC configuration (the position of ⌘ command/❖ Window and ⌥ option/Alt keys).
  7. Programable keys.
  8. Advanced prommability of the keys. Unlimited profiles. Macros. Special function keys. Dual role keys. For example, a key can temporarily act as Control when held down.
  9. Configuration for entire keyboard can be imported/exported as file, share with friends.
  10. 32k onboard memory.
  11. 2 extra mouse-button-like buttons in thumb area. Can be programed like any other key.
  12. Builtin, hardware based mouse emulation by key. i.e. you can use this keyboard as mouse.

Addon modules (sold separately):

UHK addon modules trackball 33001-2
UHK addon modules

Video Review of UHK

Xah Talk Show: Review of the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard. 2019-01-19

Unboxing

Ultimate Hacking Keyboard unboxing
ultimate hacking keyboard 20181210 aad8e
ultimate hacking keyboard 20181210 841

Physical Build

UHK 20181214 980-s1542x649
UHK 4032×1696

When the 2 pieces are connected, no connecting wire is necessary.

To disconnect them, just pull them apart. They are connected by magnets.

UHK 20181214 split 0dfd2-s1155x866
UHK 4032×3024
UHK connector 8d1e9-s1155x866
UHK connectors, with magnets. 4032×3024
UHK 20181214 907-s959x511
UHK LED display.

The alphanumeric display shows 3 letter abbrev of your current keymap (aka profile).

Base Layer

UHK base layer c9c05
UHK base layer

There are several layers:

Mod Key Layer

UHK mod layer a0fc1
UHK mod layer

The Mod key layer gives you all the navigation keys, and some macros by default to switch tab/window/workspace.

Hold down the Mod key to change other keys into navigation keys.

Press the Mod key twice to lock it. Press it again to unlock.

When the Mod key is locked, the Mod indicator lights up.

The mod layer by default also lets you switch browser tabs, new tab, close tab. And switch window and workspace.

The mod layer is the best thing.

Function Key Layer

UHK Fn layer a41a1
UHK Fn layer

The Fn key layer lets you switch among QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak, PC/Mac layouts, and gives you multimedia keys.

The digital display shows the current layout you are in.

Press the Fn key twice to lock it. Press it again to unlock.

When the Fn key is locked, the Fn indicator lights up.

Mouse Key Layer

The keyboard is designed to also function as a full-featured pointing device.

UHK mouse layer 98044
UHK mouse layer 98044

Hold down the Mouse key to change keyboard into a mouse.

Press the Mouse key twice to lock it. Press it again to unlock.

When the Mouse key is locked, the mod indicator lights up.

I think it's very nice for casual use, but if you do a lot image editing or 3D modeling, using a real mouse, or trackball, or digital pen, is much better.

Software

The software to program the key into memory is called Agent. It's available for Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux.

UHK software 02ebe
UHK Agent software

Download at:

https://ultimatehackingkeyboard.com/start/agent

It is also open source:

https://github.com/UltimateHackingKeyboard/agent

It is the most smooth, most intuitive, and most feature rich keyboard software out there.

One particularly nice feature is that a key can also work as a modifier. For example, when Space is pressed once, it inserts space, but if held with another key pressed, it acts as Ctrl (or ⌘ command, Alt, ⌥ option, or any special modifier such as Mod, Mouse, Fn) Note, some Operating System based keyboard app lets you do dual key function, but they go thru OS, so is not reliable and have glitches. The dual key function is hardware on UHK. This means, it's 100% reliable. [see Keyboard Firmware]

Xah Keymap

For emacs users, this is my curent configuration, designed for use with Xah Fly Keys [see Emacs: Xah Fly Keys]

UHK xah keymap 2018-12 41faa
UHK xah keymap 2018-12

For detail, see xah-fly-keys with Ultimate Hacking Keyboard

Here's my setup.

UHK xah desktop 2018-12-15 c80d4-s1039x779
UHK xah desktop 2018-12-15 4032×3024

Gallery

Ultimate Hacking keyboard 09502
Ultimate Hacking keyboard 09502 [image source https://twitter.com/ElDanDanito/status/1064362523456004096]
Ultimate Hacking keyboard ab16c
Ultimate Hacking keyboard ab16c [image source https://twitter.com/ElDanDanito/status/1064362523456004096]
Ultimate Hacking Keyboard 7c37f
Ultimate Hacking keyboard [image source https://twitter.com/waynejwerner/status/1065053386784026625]
Ultimate Hacking keyboard c524f
Ultimate Hacking keyboard c524f [image source https://twitter.com/radevops/status/1062658330781466624]

Xah's Verdict

This is one of the best ergonomic keyboard on the market. I'd say, among top 3.

Among compact keyboards, this one is the best, period.

The programing capabilities of this keyboard is the best out there. The software, is also best on the market, bar none. Because of the programmability of the keyboard, you can actually buy this keyboard and use it as a programing pad by itself. e.g. Buy 2, and use one as main keyboard and use another as macro keypad. Since this keyboard is so compact, it works well that way. The ease and intuitiveness of the software makes it super easy.

The keyboard is highest quality built.

The additional trackball/trackpoint/touchpad modules, are true innovation. (it's not released yet as of 2018-12-15.)

My wish list for next version:

Actually, i can't say i have any cons for this keyboard. I would like a ortholinear grid layout, but if you do that, you reduce potential buyers by some 90%, because vast majority of people are still very used to the staggered layout.

Also, i'd wished there's physical arrow keys. The way they did it, by holding thumb key (Mod) and right hand I J K L becomes arrows, works fine. Also, press Mod twice will lock it into place. So, you can play pacman while eating pizza with this keyboard. But still, physical arrow keys are nice.

Where to Buy

https://ultimatehackingkeyboard.com/

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If you have a question, put $5 at patreon and message me.

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