Introducing the TECK

Back in late January, I received the TECK for review, a keyboard that goes by the not-so-humble name of “Truly Ergonomic Computer Keyboard”, manufactured by a company that likewise uses the name Truly Ergonomic (hello name space collision). I’m sure other companies that make ergonomic keyboards might take exception to the name, but as far as I’m concerned that’s mostly marketing. The real question is how the TECK fares in day-to-day use, and whether it’s really a better keyboard for serious typists—and particularly typists like me that suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)—compared to the other options.

I won’t sugarcoat the difficulty of the initial learning curve: it’s brutal, and I already wrote some first impressions on the subject. If you buy a keyboard like this, you’re going to need to plan on a solid three or four days minimum before you can start to approach your previous efficiency. Give it another week or two, though, and as with most things it becomes mostly second nature. With over a month of regular use now in my back pocket, I’m ready to provide some thoughts on the TECK experience. Can any keyboard possibly be worth a price of entry well north of $200? I suppose that depends on what you’re doing with it.

My Background—Why the TECK Matters

Let me start with a bit of background information so that you know where I’m coming from and why I would even be interested in using the TECK. Currently, I’m the Senior Editor of the laptops/notebooks section at AnandTech, but I also provide proofing/editing on various other articles, and I dabble in the occasional other section. I’ve now been with AnandTech for 8.5 years, and during that time I’ve gone from 30 years old to a ripening 39 year old. I have a habit of being perhaps more verbose than necessary in my reviews (my current record goes to the ~25K word socket 939 SFF roundup back in late 2005—and it’s the reason I try to avoid roundups these days). Succinctly put, I type quite a bit on a keyboard and as I got older I started having issues with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

I’ve tried a few other approaches during the years to help mitigate the irritation of CTS, including doing a lot of dictation using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for a few years. I actually like Dragon, but when I got married and then had one young child and later a second enter into the equation (I now have a 10 year old, nearly 3 year old, and our baby just turned 1 this past weekend), I found that getting the necessary privacy to do proper dictation can be rather difficult. So as much as I like the idea of speech recognition, it’s probably not going to be viable for me until either my children get old enough that they can learn to leave dad alone while he’s working, or I get an office with a soundproof door I can lock myself behind.

My secondary approach to alleviating my CTS has been threefold. First, try to type less; I basically quit commenting on most hardware enthusiast forums because it was creating extra wear and tear on the aging carpals. Second, try to exercise more, eat healthier, and take breaks from the computer every hour or so—I’m not doing so well on that last part, though I’m definitely in better shape and eating healthier than when I was in my early 30s and 20s! Finally, I switched to a split keyboard back in 2004, a Microsoft Natural that I still have today—it’s so old that it doesn’t even have a USB connection if that helps. All of the above help to varying degrees, but until I fully quit typing I suspect I’m going to have to continue the search for ways to avoid causing my carpals undue stress.

When Dustin started reviewing mechanical keyboards last year, I started taking a minor interest. I have plenty of other keyboards around the house, not to mention a bunch of laptops as well, but they’re all “cheap” membrane-based keyboards. I was curious to see if anyone offered a good mechanical switch keyboard with an ergonomic design—basically something like my MS Natural but with Cherry MX switches. There was only one option at the time, from Kinesis, and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for plus it was priced way higher than I wanted to spend. Then early this year a press release crossed my email inbox (forwarded from Dustin) about a new ergonomic keyboard with mechanical switches, the TECK. I was intrigued and sent an email asking for a review sample, and that brings us to today’s review.

Now you know something more about my background and interest in the TECK. For the record, I now have a Kinesis Advantage for review as well, which will replace the TECK once I finish with this review. Then I’ll use it for a few weeks and will provide some thoughts on how they compare. But for now, let’s move on to the TECK itself and look at the design along with a subjective evaluation.

TECK: Rethinking Ergonomics
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  • Azethoth - Friday, March 8, 2013 - link

    I use the Corsair Vengeance K90. I would be interested in a split keyboard, but I will not give up numpad. It makes 2 factor authentication mindless and fast among other things.

    One thing I like about it as a programmer is binding stuff to the 18 G keys on the left side.

    Simply having Undo Cut Copy Paste as single keys is a huge stress relief and so much faster. So yeah, I guess I am waiting for split keyboard with numpad plus G key pad + some rubbish keys removed and better placement of delete home end page up and page down.

    Also, inverted T style for the arrow keys. Anything else is dumb, including the throwback style they use on this keyboard.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 8, 2013 - link

    Maltron could probably accommodate your request...though they're 375 Euro or thereabouts (not sure if that's with or without VAT).
  • Azteca - Friday, March 8, 2013 - link

    "Also, inverted T style for the arrow keys. Anything else is dumb, including the throwback style they use on this keyboard."

    The 3-column 2-row diamond arrow full-size keys in the TECK is better than the "inverted T". And no, you do not press them with the palms while typing. And yes, completely different from the Microsoft Elite (2-column 3-row small keycaps).

    But I guess you have to use it before making dumb arbitrary comments; and not use it for only a few seconds but for a few days or weeks, as Jarred mention. Evidently I own a TECK, and I appreciate all its benefits.
  • interrobang - Friday, March 8, 2013 - link

    There is one easy way to fix the problem of the keypad making the mouse reach longer: use a left-handed mouse. This also helped with my incipient carpal tunnel syndrome. My right index finger was sore. Also, moving the mouse around was painful. I switched to a Logitech trackball and configured it to use with my left hand. Both problems solved! So, if I were to go with a TECK, I would want one with a numeric keypad.

    I have a Microsoft Natural keyboard. I like it, but I think the keystroke is longer and harder than it needs to be. I really want a keyboard with the shortest, lightest possible keystroke. Perhaps the TECK would be it. Or perhaps I'm one of those people who really want a cheap ergonomic keyboard with membrane switches.
  • DaveCline - Friday, March 8, 2013 - link

    I'd like to get this made. I'm in the process of 3d printing a frame. And buying Cherry keys for a circuit board. Any opinions on this layout?

    and one with a trackpad

    Spread the hands that's the point. And the directional/nav keys to the right are there for programmers who use them to navigate code docs. But I like to have the numpad available for frequent number entry.
  • themr23 - Friday, March 8, 2013 - link

    I've been using the Freestyle 2 now for a half year and have found it to be a nice improvement over the 'standard'. There is a learning curve with it due to some non-standard key locations, particularly the Delete. I don't use a 10-key, being proficient with the top-row.
  • zanon - Friday, March 8, 2013 - link

    I'm also on a Microsoft Natural, and while it's an improvement over my old regular keyboard I'd still love to have something better. But one thing that never ceases to be an immense disappointment is how all of these high end ergo keyboard makers absolutely insist on gimping their offerings in terms of keys. It really, truly SUCKS. Taking the TECK, only 3 metakeys per side is just nuts. Be it Mac, Unix, or Windows every single metakey gets used. While the standard positions of stuff changes between operating systems, all of them have use for all four keys, even without doing anything fancy. That's just such an absolutely basic thing, what were they thinking?

    The lack of a numpad, extra control keys and so forth (although at least those could possibly be made up on the mouse or elsewhere) means a very expensive keyboard full of compromises. I mean sure, I have no problem if they want to offer an ultra compact keyboard as well. Almost everyone seems to do that (particularly for keyboards meant to be wireless and portable). But I really hope they someday consider an ergonomic full size keyboard as well. An FN key absolutely does not cut it.
  • Zan Lynx - Friday, March 8, 2013 - link

    You could add one of those gaming keypads like a Logitech G13 or similar. Shows up on the system as a keyboard and I believe you can assign every key on it as a metakey.
  • zanon - Saturday, March 9, 2013 - link

    Right, but the point of metakeys for combos is that they're right there, ready for constant use in combo with other keys. As I said, numpad or other extra keys could at least be augmented elsewhere, but that really doesn't work very well for metakeys. They need to be on-hand, literally. It'd have only been one more key to add, but somehow they missed it, and that's the sort of frustrating compromise these keyboards always seem to have. They go for ultra minimalism to a nearly fetishistic extent, which makes it a much harder and less satisfying choice then it should be.
  • Maryon Jeane - Monday, July 8, 2013 - link

    You can use keyboard shortcuts - and should if you have any RSI etc. problems or use the keyboard extensively - in virtually everything. I very rarely use the function keys (I was using keyboards when they were first introduced and realised then that they were a bad idea in terms of stretch and reach away from the home keys) and the big bonus is that you operate much faster by using keyboard shortcuts.

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