The Best Ergonomic Keyboard for You

CR's testers reviewed eight popular models. Here's what we learned.

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A CR tester typing on a Logitech ERGO K860 ergonomic keyboard.
A CR tester typing on a Logitech ERGO K860 ergonomic keyboard.
Photo: Dana Keester

A few years ago, Caitlin Cadieux decided to go all-out to battle the chronic pain in her right wrist—a malady she attributed to the many long hours devoted to her work as a digital animator.

She got a standing desk. A better chair. Did physical therapy. Was more mindful of taking breaks throughout the day. She also bought an ergonomic keyboard—the Microsoft Sculpt—designed to alleviate the wear and tear on her body. It won her over.

“Going back to a different keyboard is a non-starter for me,” says the 29-year-old Troy, N.Y., resident. “I still get pain if I spend too much contiguous time typing, but sitting at the keyboard is much less stressful on my arm. If something happened to it, I'd buy another Sculpt in a heartbeat.”

More on the Home Office

You may have eyed a keyboard like the Sculpt in recent years—even if just out of curiosity. Readily available at retailers such as Best Buy and Home Depot, ergonomic models are flush with curves like a sci-fi spaceship. But the designs are so funky, it can be hard to pick the right one.

So we put eight popular options to the test, evaluating them not only on how sound they are ergonomically but also how difficult they are to type on and how much they can be adjusted to suit your particular needs.

“At the end of the day, ergonomics is about reducing the risk of developing some kind of musculoskeletal disorder,” says Dana Keester, the human factors specialist on Consumer Reports' consumer experience and usability research team. “Buying an ergonomic keyboard is a small investment to make, so why not?”

Here are a few key things we learned about ergonomic keyboards in our testing.

They Look Strange for a Reason

“Is that a keyboard?” my father asked when he saw me typing away on the Microsoft Sculpt.

That gives you some idea of just how odd the thing looks.

But, rest assured, there’s method to the madness.

Ordinary keyboards often place your wrists in an awkward position, says Carisa Harris, Ph.D., director of the Ergonomics Research & Graduate Training Program at the University of California Berkeley. And that increases pressure on the median nerve and carpal tunnel, which can lead to tendonitis and discomfort.

Poor design puts lots of strain on your shoulders, too.

“The ideal working posture is one in which as many of the body’s joints as possible are in a neutral position,” says Keester. “The elbows should be bent at an angle between 90 and 100 degrees, with the wrists neutral and in line with the shoulders.”

Ergonomic keyboards have a few features that help them to accomplish that feat.

Palm rests: When positioned properly at the top of the keyboard—or slightly higher—these reduce extension and keep your wrists in a neutral position. In fact, you can even consider purchasing one as an accessory. That’s an easy way to reduce wrist strain without springing for a new keyboard.

A split and/or splayed design: Slicing the keyboard into two parts allows you to comfortably place each half in line with a wrist and a shoulder, reducing tension even in the upper back. Arranging the keys in a splayed, inverted V formation cuts down on joint deviation, too.

Tenting: When you raise the center of the keyboard, it limits wrist strain by placing the area where your thumbs and index fingers rest higher than the area for your pinkies. In some models, the angle is predetermined. In others, you get to adjust it to fit your needs.

Tilting: Traditional keyboards often slope upward toward the keys in the back, but that actually increases wrist extension. It’s much better to have the keys dip away from you, so you simply reach down with your fingers to activate them. In the best case scenario, the keyboard comes with front legs that can be raised or lowered to help you adjust the pitch.

To evaluate those features on the keyboards we tested, we photographed a volunteer as he typed away on each model. We then reviewed those photos looking for signs of stress in his wrists.

Beyond those ergonomic features, you may want to consider a model that lets you connect wirelessly to your laptop via Bluetooth. That frees you up to place the keyboard almost anywhere you want, though it also requires regularly replacing the batteries required to power the device.

Many models also offer keys that provide shortcuts, media controls, and programmable functions.

As you’ll see in the product cards below, the keyboards are compatible with various operating systems, including not only Mac and Windows but also the Android and Apple iOS systems used in mobile devices. That won’t interfere with your typing, but it may impact the shortcuts, media controls, and port access for devices like mice, printers, and external hard drives. 

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