Bill Bennett

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Truly Ergonomic Cleave: Odd, comfortable keyboard

Truly Ergonomic Cleave keyboard showing handsTruly Ergonomic’s marketing claims the Cleave is the most comfortable keyboard on the planet and will improve your productivity. The claim is far from ridiculous, but there should be a few qualifiers in there. You may see a benefit, but don’t bank on it.

Truly Ergonomic Cleave keyboard at a glance

For:Well built, solid key action with feedback, can stop you from getting a painful injury
Against:Does not include number pad, expensive. It’s not easily portable.
Maybe:Could be hard to learn but worth the effort if you persist. No wireless connection.
Verdict:If you find typing painful, you need to consider the Cleave keyboard.
Rating:4 out of 5
Price:US$330 – with cheaper options – see below.
Web:Truly Ergonomic

 

The Truly Ergonomic Cleave Keyboard looks like no other computer keyboard. It is narrower and deeper. The keys rise higher out of the backplate and, unlike traditional typewriter styles keyboards there’s no offset between the rows.

This, says, Truly Ergonomic is all deliberate. The design will reduce your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpel tunnel syndrome

Carpel tunnel syndrome is as nasty as a it sounds. You can get it from spending hours typing with a poorly designed keyboard. It is a painful infliction and hard to treat.

If you get it, you may not be able to type again for weeks or months. For many people it can mean looking for a new job away from computers and keyboards.

Anything that stops carpel tunnel syndrome is welcome.

Sturdy design

The keyboard is sturdy and heavy by modern standards. You can carry it with a laptop in a backpack, but it’s not for mobile computing as we know it.

It has a solid aluminium backplate. At the front there are padded, but firm, wrist rests on both sides. While the keyboard is smaller than many Windows computer keyboards, it is massive next to the Apple Magic Keyboard.

Compared to a standard desktop keyboard it is narrow. There are no number keys. Truly Ergonomic says a narrow keyboard means less reaching for the mouse, which is, bad for your hands and wrist.

Key layout

Keys are laid out symmetrically with a small split down the centre. Letter keys are arranged in the familiar Qwerty pattern. in rows and columns.

Back in the first paragraph of this review it says: …”there’s no offset between the rows”. This needs an explanation.

Traditional mechanical typewriter keyboards were designed to stop keys jamming. Part of that meant the keys in each row are offset by a few millimetres from the keys in the row above. The A key is the first key on the second row. It sits below and slightly to the right of the Q key which is the first key on the top row.

The Cleave keyboard doesn’t have this offset. Each key sits directly below the key in the row above. This means a grid-like pattern of columns and rows.

The photo should make this clear.

Truly Ergonomic Cleave keyboard sideways view

The rest of the keys

Truly Ergonomic has moved certain other keys from where you might expect to find them.

A row of function keys sits across the top in the usual manner. There are left and right return keys and two space keys instead of a bar. There is also a set of arrow keys on both halves of the keyboard.

The backspace key sits near the centre, again there are left and right versions. The function key is here too.

This arrangement says Truly Ergonomic keeps your wrists straight. And that is how you can avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

In practice it takes a lot of time to adjust to the alternative key positions.

Construction

The keyboard construction is solid, bordering on rugged. It’s heavier than many of the cheaper ergonomic keyboards, but that’s down to the robustness. You’ll get more years out of this keyboard than a cheaper ergonomic alternative.

It’s not a pretty keyboard. Although ergonomic keyboards never are. You can have comfort and health or looks. Pick one.

Truly Ergonomic doesn’t use Bluetooth. You’ll have to connect it to a computer using an old style USB 2.0 port with a metre long cable. That can be a problem with, say, a modern laptop where there is a limited selection of USB C ports. In that case you’ll need to buy an adaptor.

A smart move would be for Truly Ergonomic to switch to using USB-C like the rest of the world and include an adaptor in the box for people who need an older connector.

Clicky

The review keyboard came with the “clicky” key option. It gives a satisfying noise when you hit a key along with tactile feedback. It’s a welcome reminder of when all keyboards where made this way. There are options for a silent keyboard without the tactile feedback and silent with the feedback.

Truly Ergonomic says the keys are waterproof and dust proof. It wasn’t practical to test this during the review, but the opened out design does make it easy to clean up crumbs if you get them between the keys.

One important upgrade from the earlier Truly Ergonomic keyboard is backlighting.

How does all this work in practice? The simple answer is that it can mean a significant adjustment on your part. Retraining those mental and physical muscles is far from trivial.

Hard work for a touch typist

It is 40 years since I learnt to touch type on a manual typewriter. If my fingers can find the home keys on a keyboard I can type without looking at what my hands are doing. There are fumbles, but it works. My speeds aren’t great but they are good.

What’s more, I now “think with my fingers”. By that I mean there’s no barrier between my thoughts and seeing words appear on the screen. My typing is unconscious.

That was not the case when I tested the Cleave. My typing speed slowed right down. I needed to look at the keyboard all the time and returned to two finger typing. My fingers could no longer automatically find the keys. The result was my flow was ruined. I can’t use this keyboard.

Hunt and peck typing is different

It’s not all about me. You may not have years of touch typing drilled into your brain.

The Cleave could be a perfect fit for you, but what I can’t tell you is that it improved anything for me. I couldn’t use it long enough to be sure. After a couple of days of not being productive, I gave up.

The words you are reading here were not typed on the Cleave. I’ve gone back to my old, standard not even remotely ergonomic Apple keyboard.

Same product, range of prices

The Cleave’s official list price is US$330 and, frankly, the price structure is odd. There is an option of paying US$249. The cheaper price means a two year guarantee and a 60 day trial instead of three years and 90 days.

At the time of writing there is a limited time offer of US$199 with a one year guarantee and a 30 day trial period. With each option you get exactly the same keyboard.

While the price is expensive by everyday keyboard standards, the amount Truly Ergonomic asks for is reasonable if it delivers a clear benefit. US$330 is a bargain if it keeps you out of surgery.  And anyway, the price is in line with other upmarket ergonomic keyboards with mechanical switches.

Verdict: Truly Ergonomic Cleave keyboard

If you find typing painful, the Cleave has to be on your list.

As the experience outlined above shows, Cleave doesn’t work for everyone. Yet it could be the answer for you.

The biggest barrier to buying the keyboard, is that you won’t know if it is right until you’ve used it for a while. Truly Ergonomic offers options with a trial period, which makes a lot of sense to customers in North America. It may be harder to manage those trial options if you live elsewhere in the world.

There are alternative keyboards, the best known is the cheaper Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard which is widely available in retail stores and costs about half the price of the Cleave. The Microsoft keyboard can help, but the Cleave is much better for people with serious carpel tunnel symptoms.  If you’ve tried the Microsoft keyboard and not seen an effect, then you should consider the Cleave.

5 thoughts on “Truly Ergonomic Cleave: Odd, comfortable keyboard

  1. My touch typing means I don’t get pains from the keyboard, but using a mouse is a huge problem. I think I need a desktop keyboard with a laptop style touchpad, but can’t find one that I like.

  2. I use ambidextrous-shaped mice so I can be left-handed at work, and right-handed at home. Spreading that load has been a been a limb-saver.

    It’s hard finding a track-pad for Windows.

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