Per-Key Quality Testing

In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyser that is programmed to measure and display the actuation force of the standard keyboard keys. By measuring the actuation force of every key, the quality and consistency of the keyboard can be quantified. It can also reveal design issues, such as the larger keys being far softer to press than the main keys of the keyboard. The actuation force is measured in Centinewton (cN). Some companies use another figure, gram-force (gf). The conversion formula is 1 cN = 1.02 gf (i.e. they are about the same). A high-quality keyboard should be as consistent as possible, with an average actuation force as near to the manufacturer's specs as possible and a disparity of less than ±10%. Greater differences are likely to be perceptible by users. It is worth noting that there is typically variance among keyboards, although most keyboard companies will try and maintain consistency - as with other reviews, we're testing our sample only.

The machine we use for our testing is accurate enough to provide readings with a resolution of 0.1 cN. For wider keys (e.g. Enter, Space Bar, etc.), the measurement is taking place at the center of the key, right above the switch. Note that large keys generally have a lower actuation force even if the actuation point is at the dead center of the key. This is natural, as the size and weight of the keycap reduce the required actuation force. For this reason, we do display the force required to actuate every key but we only use the results of the typically sized keys for our consistency calculations. Still, very low figures on medium sized keys, such as the Shift and Enter keys reveal design issues and can easily be perceptible by the user.

Due to the special physical layout of the FreeStyle Edge, we had to test each and every key individually and manually. We only tested the main keys, omitting the extra macro keys, the ESC key, and the control/cursor keys. Only the result from the left Spacebar key is being shown.

The Cherry MX Blue is not a new switch and several of keyboards using them have already found their way through our lab. The Kinesis Freestyle Edge is not any different than any of them, with Cherry’s switches once again delivering exemplary consistency and performance. The average actuation force is 49.7 cN, which is just about right for this type of switch, and the disparity is down to a mere ±2.91%. There are very small inconsistencies between the keys, even between the large Spacebar key and the main keys.

Hands-on Testing

I always try to use every keyboard that we review as my personal keyboard for at least a week. My typical weekly usage includes a lot of typing (about 100-150 pages), a few hours of gaming and some casual usage, such as internet browsing and messaging. I personally prefer Cherry MX Brown or similar (tactile) switches for such tasks. The Cherry MX Blue works well for me most of the time, but the loud clicking noise tends to become annoying for others near me, or even to myself when I am tired or have a headache. I faced no such problem with the Kinesis Freestyle Edge, as the designers managed to lower its noise output a little, yet just enough to increase the comfort levels considerably.

The real problem that I had to face with the Freestyle Edge was the learning curve. It is obvious that a keyboard with such a different layout will cause problems at first – not only it is split in half, but the position of significant keys (like the ESC key) is different as well. With the Freestyle Edge, these issues will be significant if you are used to pressing keys with the hand that now sits on the other half of the keyboard. It takes at least a few hours for the hands to initially get accustomed to the keyboard, yet it might take days, even weeks, before “muscle memory” moves (such as reaching for the ESC key) get fully reprogrammed by the user’s brain. When the user becomes accustomed to its different layout, using the Freestyle Edge for long-term professional use is a treat. With the Lift Kit and both arms sitting right on the chair’s supports, the comfort feeling is just perfect.

Using the Freestyle Edge for gaming left me with mixed feelings. The ability to remove the right half of the keyboard and place the mouse in straight line with the user’s arm creates a very comfortable gaming setup. At the same time, the right half of the keyboard stays within reach and it can be reprogrammed to assist with gameplay. For example, common replies can be programmed for online/MMO gaming, allowing quick in-game chat responses. Also, if the game utilizes keys that are on the right half of the keyboard, keys on the left side can be reprogrammed to host them. The primary and perhaps only issue that we faced here is the inability to program complex macro commands (such as commands that include mouse movements) into the keyboard, and the keyboard cannot launch external applications, so compiled executable macros created with a third-party app were not usable either. 

The KinesisGaming SmartSet App Final Words & Conclusion
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Chapbass - Monday, February 5, 2018 - link

    "This will just not work for people who need to be using more than one keyboard during the day. Perhaps someone who is using the Freestyle Edge alongside with a typical keyboard for weeks in parallel can get used to using both of them at the same time, but that will undoubtedly take several weeks of training."

    The first part of this quote simply isn't true. I use the Advantage keyboard, which is SIGNIFICANTLY "different" than the freestyle, and I can go back and forth between that and a normal keyboard, laptop keyboard, Microsoft ergonomic, etc, with ease. Yes, it took a few weeks to be perfectly comfortable, but saying that it "will just not work" is just not true.
  • kmo12345 - Monday, February 5, 2018 - link

    I agree. I am typing on a Freestyle2 right now (non-gaming version of the reviewed keyboard) but will soon be heading to work where I have a Microsoft Natural. When I'm travelling I type on a Thinkpad X1 Carbon... I can switch between all three with no issues.
  • voicequal - Monday, February 5, 2018 - link

    Give it 2-3 weeks and don't switch keyboards right before a deadline or competitive gaming session.
  • wujj123456 - Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - link

    I also agree. The major part of keyboard is same as traditional layout and that made my transition quite easy. When I am on laptop, my brain immediately knows to not use any of the macros somehow and I had no problem switching between them. That has been said, I still switched to Freestyle Edge for both my work and home since that's the only decent programmable split keyboard I found so far. I will give UHK a shot once all their modules are out, but they are constantly delaying.
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - link

    I also have an Advantage2 never saw any major "portability" problems.

    Split keyboards are the way to go, ergonomically. It's a shame that so many fancy, expensive mechanical keyboards, that are so in vogue these days, suffer from the same layout problems that have plagued keyboards since the days of typewriters.
  • PeachNCream - Monday, February 5, 2018 - link

    The anger management lessons thing made this review for me.

    It's nice to see there still split keyboard development happening out there. My poor little arm and hand tendons like the idea of improved ergonomics.
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - link

    You might do well to check out their Advantage2 keyboard.
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Monday, February 5, 2018 - link

    If they would just put a Y on the left side and a B on the right side...

    I cannot be the only potential customer they're missing out on because they are a good, fast typist but not a strict, "Mavis Beacon teaches" typist.
  • negusp - Monday, February 5, 2018 - link

    Sorry to say, but you're in a vast minority.
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Monday, February 5, 2018 - link

    Sorry to say, but you're trolling with no source and the guy who responded below you is anecdotal evidence that you don't know what you're talking about.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now