X-Bows Keyboard Review
The most gorgeous and wondrous keyboard, the X-Bows keyboard.
Once you plug it in, the keyboard lights up, in a red wave effect, washing from left to right.
It's one of the most easy-to-adopt ergo keyboard. Enter, Shift, ⌫ Backspace, Alt, ⌘ command/❖ Window, all have traditional positions too, besides thumb keys. This means, you can use this keyboard right away, without fumbling for keys.
Out of the Box
For lots more unboxing photos, see X-Bows Keyboard Unboxing
Total number of keys: 86.
- 5×4 main left hand
- 5×4 main right hand
- 10 center and bottom
- 12 function keys
- 6 left edge
- 18 on right side.
Open Key Design
Normally, keyboard's edges rise up to the bottom of keycaps, so you cannot see bottom of keycaps. It protects the keys.
But since 2012 or so, many mechanical keyboards have keys-on-a-slab design, where the keys are like chocolates on a slab, and you can see their bottoms, for styling reasons.
The open keys trend perhaps began with Corsair K60 Keyboard in 2011.
Weight, Size, Build Quality
The built quality is superb.
The keyboard frame is aluminum alloy.
The keyboard cannot be bent or twisted. If you hold both sides of the keyboard and try to twist it, it won't yield.
The keyboard is not heavy. Rather light.
Weights 0.8 kg. (1.76 pounds)
Some people, like things to be heavy weight, as if, heavy equals quality. I prefer things as light as possible, yet with functional weight, meaning, zephyr can't blow it off. This keyboard is light weight, as in, suitable for use in space travel.
Key Switch Mechanism
The keyboard use mechanical switches. Mechanical switch is easy on your fingers, and last some 10 times longer than cheap keyboards that use rubber-dom switch.
[see Guide to Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms]
[see Mechanical Keyboard and Repetitive Strain Injury]
The maker of the key switches is Gateron, available in following types:
- Gateron blue → tactile touch, also makes a click noise.
- Gateron brown → tactile touch.
- Gateron red → linear feel, light touch.
- Gateron black → linear feel, heavier touch.
You can pick which one you want when you order.
Mine is Red by request. I recommend red if your load is as heavy as data entry clerks. Or, if you are a gamer, or, you text chat all day, day and night.
[see How Many Keystrokes Programers Type a Day?]
The various light show is beautiful. 15 effects by default. Including interaction with key presses.
Have effects like the matrix letter drop. Or, lights linger by key press. Or, flashy rainbow neon show in your face! Or subtle rainbow tide. Or, well done breathnig effect.
Each effect can be set to 1 of 9 colors: 7 from rainbow , plus white, and a multi-color one.
Each key has a RGB LED, and can be programed independently.
Adjust Key Light Brightness
- Fn+↑ → increase brightness.
- Fn+↓ → decrease brightness. Lowest is off.
- Fn+→ → change color, to one of: red, yellow, cyan, blue, violet.
Fn+right_space → cycle modes for the logo light. • cyan • red • purple • blue • bright green • yellowish white • white • slow color cycle • breathing • off.
Switch Key Lighting Effect Modes
- Fn+Print Screen → cycle thru 3 different lighting modes. ① breathing ② slow color cycle ③ steady 1 color.
- Fn+⌦ Delete → cycle thru 3 different lighting modes. • slow wave wash. • fash wave wash. • key stroke radiation.
- Fn+Page Up → cycle thru 3 different lighting modes. • randomish. • moving sine wave. • key stroke radiation row only.
- Fn+Page Down → cycle thru 3 different lighting modes. • key stroke slow fade. • solid color. • rainbow neon sign.
Typing and Design
• Note the gaps between columns. I thought this may be a problem for smaller hands, but turns out, not at all. When I started to touch-type on this keyboard, i didn't even notice the gaps. (am Asian, my hand size is smaller than average White people.)
The keys 5 and 6 had me mistype a few times. You have to reach out more for those keys.
• The pinky column, is vertically offset to a lower position. Again, when touch-typing on it, i did not notice anything. Did not even misstyped a pinky key once.
(note, i've been using modern ergo keyboards for 3+ years. If this is your first modern ergo keyboard, the lower pinky column might take a week to get used to.)
• Huge Alt Space keys, 2 on each side. This is the most wonderful ergonomic design. You use your thumb to hold Alt or Ctrl keys. (for Mac, you can make a thumb key do ⌘ command)
• Big Ctrl Shift keys, in middle. This is also wonderful. Shift key in middle will need some getting used to. But i liked it on the first day of using this keyboard. Note that the shift key is also available in traditional positions, each is labeled as a triangle with open bottom. 🢕 Half of the time am still using those keys to type shift due to habit.
• ⌫ Backspace key, one in center, and one in traditional upper right position.
• Extra Ctrl keys at corners, as the traditional location for control keys. This is also good, to have corner keys. Some ergonomic keyboards omit this. The corner key is great because corner keys are one of the easy keys to press. You can use edge of palm to press it. You can make it do any of Ctrl Alt ❖ Window ⌘ command, or, better, set it to switch to last app/window, or toggle full screen.
Am highly impressed by the design, the thought went into the design, the arragement of keys.
This keyboard is one of the modern ergonomics design.
The key columns are all straight. This is absolutely wonderful. If you never typed on such a keyboard before, will take about 2 weeks to get used to, in particular your left hand.
Why is modern ergonomic keyboards shaped this way? Because we are getting rid of the 2 hundred years old mechanical typewriter design that makes no sense today. See Computer Keyboard Design Flaws
Physical Function Keys and Arrow Keys
O, how wonderful it is, to see physical arrows keys again, on a modern ergonomic keyboard! Finally, i can eat pizza with one hand and play pacmac with the other hand at the same time!
• You also have physical Page Up Page Down. Together with arrow keys, are super convenient for navigation, one-handed. Especially when browsing web.
• Full physical function keys F1 to F12, in groups of 4. This is really nice. Now, you can just peck a single key to do copy paste, or other macros. This is a great hand saver. Many ergonomic keyboards dropped the physical function keys, very annoying.
[see Why Function Keys Are Useful]
[see Function Key vs Key Chord, Which is Healthier, Which is Faster?]
You use their software to program the keyboard.
The software is available for Microsoft Windows, with Mac and Linux still in the works, as of 2017-10-14.
The keyboard does not have the feature of driverless key programing. That is, you cannot program the keys by just pressing keys on the keyboard.
For Dvorak users, the keyboard itself does not have modes to switch to Dvorak. Again, you'll need to use their software to set it to Dvorak.
[see Dvorak Keyboard Layout]
I haven't yet used their software to program the keys yet. So far, i don't really need to. And, am also waiting for their Mac version to come out. Will update this page when i have more info.
The keycap material is PC+ABS plastic, with two-colour injection molding, for the milky key labels that the LED lights shine thru.
If you look at the keycap closely, you see that the main key label (for the LED to shine thru) is in fact a separate part of plastic from the surrounding plastic. They are essentially melted together into 1.
This is the best technology. It means, the labels are part of the plastic, and is impossible to wear off.
(the secondary labels, e.g. the lock icon on the Windows key, are either painted or laser engraved then painted. I have yet to find out.)
[see Keyboard Key Label Tech]
[see Keyboard Keycaps: ABS, PBT]
USB Cable Length and Connectors
The cable length about 1.5 meter.
The connector, one side is standard, that is, type A, plug into your computer.
The other side is type C, plug into the keyboard. (Type C connector is the “latest”, from USB 3 standard.)
If the cable isn't long enough for you, buy it: USB cable type a to c
I consider X-bows keyboard to be one of the top 4 best ergonomic keyboards available.
- Extremely well designed.
- A joy to type on.
- Excellent build quality.
- key arrangement for special keys such as Enter ⌫ Backspace are duplicated, so that anyone can type on the x-bows right away.
What are something i think can improve?
- I wish there's a switch that turns on Dvorak layout, out of the box.
- I wish there's a feature of driverless key programing. i.e. just press keys on the keyboard to remap the keys.
Where to Buy
xbows home page http://www.x-bows.com/
if you buy this, tip me https://www.patreon.com/xahlee thanks
I will be updating this page, in coming months. Things i'll be adding are:
- Optimal setup for emacs Emacs: Xah Fly Keys
- Review of the keyboard software and key programing capabilities when Mac version comes out.
2019-02-06 Addendum. The keyboard firmware has changed since they send the prototype to me. So, i can't program the keys, therefore no more upcoming review about it. Nor can i use it with extensive customization for emacs. I need firmware programability, because, ① am using Dvorak, ② there are many duplicated keys on this keyboard, and programing keys via OS keyboard tools can't distinguish duplicate keys.
If you have a question, put $5 at patreon and message me.