Kinesis Maxim Ergonomic Keyboard (model KB200PC) w/Numeric Keypad (AC200USB)

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, October 2004, updated April 2007
Manufactured by: Kinesis Corporation
Requires: Any Windows PC with available PS2 keyboard port, Mac and Sun compatible with Kinesis interface boxes
MSRP: $149.00 (keyboard), $69.00 (numeric keypad)

The medical books which will be published 20 or 30 years from now will likely profess mild shock at the degree to which keyboard users of the '80s, '90s & 2000s assaulted themselves with carpal tunnel syndrome, bad posture, lousy computer desks, mushy and otherwise barely responsive keyboards and a host of related nonsense, all tolerated because the hardware makers had us all convinced that keyboards and other crucially important input devices were really nothing more than a nicety as opposed to a trenchant necessity. What you need is something which allows you to type at Cheetah-like speeds while providing board and key angles, dimensions and layouts designed to accommodate the natural biomechanical geometry of your fingers, wrists, forearms, elbows and shoulders. A keyboard manufacturer who pays attention to typing tendencies, frequently used keys and other practical matters couldn't hurt either.

That awkward and non-intuitive QWERTY keyboards laid out in a flat rectangle are often not anywhere near as comfortable to use as a 40 year old Olympia typewriter is only half the problem with the vast wasteland of standard (or Internet or multimedia) keyboards out there. The rest of the problem resides in poor quality springs and stops (in mechanical key switches), poor quality synthetics (used in non-mechanical key switches), poor key shape because of inconsistent or inappropriate cup, angle, dimensions and height, and poor or simply sub-standard key layout. With millions more people every day sending email and communicating through their keyboards and computers, buying the best possible 'board would seem to be a smart thing to do.


As a writer and researcher since long before the existence of the Windows PC, I've spent years of quality time with typewriters, electronic word processors, and word processing software on computers running every popular operating system of the past 20 years (DOS, UNIX, Atari, Amiga, Mac OS, Windows and Linux). The only really great memories I have of keyboards are restricted to three pieces of typing hardware: the Olympia SM-9 manual typewriter, the IBM Selectric II/III electric typewriter and the IBM Buckling Spring Computer Keyboard connected to my old 8086 DOS box running WordStar and WordPerfect. They were all great in their day and, for some very few purposes still are. Runners up in the keyboard wars include the Keytronics Lifetime Keyboard (1992) and the original Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro/Elite (1994). But over the past 10 years, some newcomers have made themselves known. Kinesis Corporation is one of the best and with all the talk (and medical expense) surrounding carpal tunnel syndrome and a variety of other tendon, joint, ligament and muscle problems associated with excessive amounts of time spent in front of the computer, we decided to review something which we've been using for several years now. Say hello to the Kinesis Maxim ergonomic keyboard.

The Maxim features four major adjustments: keyboard split, lateral angle, vertical angle, and tent angle. The lateral angle can be adjusted to 0, 8 or 14 degrees. The split can be adjusted continuously from 0 to about 30 degrees. The padded palm supports contribute to tent angle adjustment which is variable between 0 & 10 degrees. Because of it integrated numeric keypad the Maxim is not as wide as the Microsoft Natural keyboard, but key spacing is much better with slightly larger and better shaped keys with much more positive feel and response. The mechanical design of the Maxim keys provides a comfortable feel, quick action and relatively quiet operation.

Cons: The built in numeric keypad works by pressing the special Fcn key with your left hand and using your right hand to work the M/J/K/L/U/I/O/P/7/8/9/0 period and slash keys which each have the secondary numerals and arithmetic symbols printed in their upper right corners. Unfortunately, the color selected for the alternate numerals and keys does not provide high enough contrast for quick recognition in low light. The rounded rubber feet mounted underneath each section of the keyboard can shift slightly so you may need to secure them with better quality adhesive—disappointing in such an expensive keyboard. We stabilized the physical position of the keyboard by attaching thin rubber traction strips to the base plate. The optional outboard numeric keypad is real workhorse but unfortunately most often needs to be positioned to the left of the keyboard unless you want to position your right hand mouse really far away.

Pros: Once I stabilized the keyboard in the position which suits my particular physical geometry, the Maxim was a flawless performer. Almost any wrist pronation, natural joint angle, elbow geometry and natural tilt angle can be accommodated—it's really quite remarkable. Just as important as ergonomics, key feel and overall touch is excellent, with keys requiring only 52 grams of force to actuate. Key response is superb and there's just enough soft key clatter to help audibly identify positive strokes. This is a touch typists dream. Despite my criticism about the built-in numeric keypad, hunt 'n peck and two finger typists will also enjoy excellent letter visibility on the keys which feature a large, clean font in a medium contrast color on the beige key tops; quick recognition while also being easy on the eyes. Large Backspace and Enter keys. Page Up and Page Down keys are logically laid out above and below each other. Easy to see LEDs for Num Lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock. Nicely cupped key tops provide lots of leeway for strikes at odd angles; key action is positive even when key strikes are completely off center. Wide key bases keep nice separation between keys. Home row finder ridges are prominent but never interfere with typing. It's a great keyboard, destined to become a classic. For busy typists, writers, administrators and anyone else who does a lot of typing and wants to avoid repetitive stress problems while at the same time making use of a keyboard which seriously enhances productivity. Highly recommended.




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