Thursday, October 15

TypeMatrix 2030: Initial Review

If you've never taken a look at a TypeMatrix keyboard, you should. Go ahead,, I'll wait.

I first stumbled onto this keyboard about two years ago but never felt like I wanted to pony up the cash to try one out. For some reason, I finally pulled the trigger last week. After a full day of coding, here are my initial thoughts

Before I get too far, I have to take issue with one thing:


Today, my much anticipated package arrived in what can barely be described as "one piece" thanks to that fine example of government service, the US Postal Service. Rain, snow, and heat may not stop them, but Columbus Day sure can send them for a loop. Their package tracking was down from the time the keyboard was shipped to the time I received it today. That didn't have a huge effect on the reality of things except that I couldn't verify if anything had actually been sent... and I couldn't perform my usual ritual of clicking refresh on the tracking page to see if my package had arrived somewhere new in the last 20 seconds. Luckily I talked to Henry on the phone and he assured me that it should be in the mail and would get here today.

Additionally, as I took my new toy out of its wrapper I was greeted with a sticky residue from what I can only guess was an exploded can of coke or some type of cola and a nice little note with the bold text "WE CARE" at the top. To paraphrase the long note, it basically says, "We know it looks like this package has been a seat cushion for Newman from Seinfeld and we're really sorry. You are a nice person, you don't deserve this, but we ship a LOT of mail and things like this happen. If it's broken... sorry, we REALLY apologize... we aren't going to do anything for you even though we admit that the condition it is in is our fault but we are offering you a really sincere apology. Again, we really do care and we apologize that your package looks like crap. Have a nice day and thank you for supporting our antiquated service whether you actually use us or not."

There is really only one way to tell me that you care and that is, don't crush my package while you are delivering it to me. I don't care what your volume of traffic is, if you can't get me a package in good condition, you have the choice of replacing it or stop delivering packages and stick to snail mail. By the way, I'm missing a whole week of mail that is lost somewhere in your system too... thanks a lot. Luckily for me I've relieved you of your responsibility for anything really important because I get it online now, so you can rip the 75 credit card offers to shreds for all I care.

Ok, with that out of the way, on to the keyboard. Even with the damage to the packaging, the keyboard itself seems no worse for the wear. It was nicely packed and the keyboard itself seems very sturdy. And no, you don't get pictures. I'm not Jeff Atwood and I don't really want to deal with any licensing issues I would incur by stealing graphics from the TypeMatrix website. That's why I included the link at the beginning.

First impression, beyond the fact that this keyboard is probably sturdy enough to have survived it's trip without the packaging, is that it is smaller than I had imagined. The keyboard on my Thinkpad is bigger as far as the actual key space goes. I also ordered a black skin to go over it which has some nice additional features in that it marks the boundaries of the key spaces. I thought that would be a lot more beneficial than it is... more on that later.

So, I quickly unplugged the gigantic Natural keyboard on my desk, slipped the skin over the TypeMatrix and plugged it into my Thinkpad running Ubuntu 9.04. As I have come to expect, everything worked right away. The only minor point of concern was the fact that when I hit the eject button on the right side of the keyboard, it actually gives me a caps lock. I don't really care that it does that and I ordered the version with blank keys so I have no idea what that key is actually supposed to do. All I know is, it's a caps lock and I'm fine with that since I never use the keyboard to eject a disc anyway. Keys of note are the switcher key, the cut/copy/paste function keys, and the dvorak switch. On the switcher key, it does the equivalent of alt+tab in 1 key that doesn't force you to contort your hands. If you've been keyboard centric for a long time, it's probably not a big deal, but I find it actually very nice to be able to bring up the switcher like this even though I will likely remap it to bring up the compiz cover switcher and continue to use alt+tab for the default switcher.

Getting used to typing on it has been a little more difficult than expected. I go between keyboards a lot and purchasing the TypeMatrix is an attempt to quit doing that. However, after a day of typing on it I am probably about 5-10 wpm slower than with a conventional keyboard. However, I fully expect to exceed that as I get more accustomed to this one. I have two main issues. The two letter keys you stretch the greatest distance on are b and y. Because most keyboards are offset, the y and the b are a huge stretch and I find myself overreaching both unless I remain cognizant of what I am doing. When I overreach the y I end up on the delete key and overreaching the b hits the enter key. There have been quite a few errant IMs sent today because I accidentally hit enter when I was trying to hit b. I thought the bead on the keys would prevent me from doing that by giving me a frame of reference, but I am so far over that I go right over it. That said, I find that I am doing it less and less and expect that it won't happen much more after tomorrow.

What I couldn't understand in the marketing of this is, how can this little keyboard can relieve wrist pain? Isn't that what the split keyboards are about? What I discovered after about 20 minutes of using this is, I have developed some bad typing habits that my natural keyboard has been enabling. If you do not hold your hands correctly with this, you get pain. Wrists, arms, everything. What I discovered is that I have been resting my hands on their sides and typing with my hands nearly sideways. When I adjusted my hands so they were flat on the keyboard, all the pain went away and my speed and accuracy improved dramatically. So, if you are the kind of golfer who purchases custom clubs that correct deficiencies in your swing, this probably isn't the keyboard for you. However, if you are the type who would rather use blades, steel shafts, and develop your swing, then Mr Jones, this is the keyboard for you.

So I'm one day in and so far this keyboard has lived up to expectation. I am excited to take it on it's first trip tomorrow to see how it holds up to being tossed in my laptop bag. I'm sure there will be updates to this down the road. Maybe I'll get adventurous and purchase the Dvorak skin at some point but that's a crossroads I've decided I don't want to come to for a while. For now, this little guy is about all the adventure I have time for.


Ivan Ivanić said...

Thanks for a great review :)

Dmitry Vodianytskyi said...

Are you still using it? Do you still like this keyboard?

Michael Nishizawa said...

Sorry for taking so long to respond. I am still using this keyboard and I still think it's great. In fact, at one point the keyboard skin wore out. I contacted their customer service and they said they normally expected that I would get a year out of it but they sent me a free new one anyway. I think they've done a great job both in customer service and product development.

The only downfall is, I can't replace my laptop keyboard so when I have to travel or be away from my desk there is a small amount of adjustment period when I am forced to use the laptop. However, it doesn't last long and I am able to quickly get back up to speed.

Dmitry Vodianytskyi said...

1340 treInfThanks for reply, Michael!

Yes, it is sad that they don't have these keyboards in a format suitable for Dell/Lenovo/HP laptops.