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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  • branney - Saturday, July 06, 2013 - link

    Oh dear.. The curved staggering on the keys is a good idea, so why on earth did they go with this cursor key layout? On a standard inverted T the index finger naturally sits between the up and down cursors. For a standard keyboard user down and up will be used equally so this does not need to be changed. The layout on the TECK favours the UP key, and this layout was only really useful back in the 80s when it suited platform games (up to jump) and racing games (hold up to accelerate). Major fail in this regard.. Reply
  • hansmuff - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    I'm so happy to see this keyboard reviewed! Very few sites review stuff like that, and I actually eyed this very keyboard a while ago before it was released. I think I will hold off until I see your review of the Kinesis. That has me similarly tempted, but it is so hard to get a good comparison between that and conventional keyboards; to have the opinion of a TECK user thrown in there as well makes it gold!

    Thank you, this has been helpful.
    Reply
  • friedpenguin - Sunday, March 24, 2013 - link

    The Kinesis Freestyle is frakkin' awesome to say the least. Get the tilt kit so you can have it at two different heights plus the freedom to angle each half however you want makes for some incredible comfort and the typing experience is great. I've had mine for a couple years and have never had a better keyboard. It's also great for multiple users because you can slip the halves together for a more common keyboard feel for those not used to a 'natural' keyboard. It's also great for gaming since you can push the right half out of the way to bring your mouse in closer. Reply
  • cosmotic - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    The second page of this article points lots of fingers at QWERTY. Might I recommend reading this article: http://reason.com/archives/1996/06/01/typing-error... Reply
  • Klug4Pres - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    What a great article! The myth of Dvorak's superiority comprehensively and stylishly debunked. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Interesting read. I have actually never fully committed to trying Dvorak, simply because the change is so massive that without properly labeled keys I don't know that it would be worth the time. There's no question that QWERTY has some odd decisions in the modern typing world (e.g. why are so many popular letters on on home row, like E, S, T, and R?), but proving that something is clearly superior to QWERTY is quite difficult. Personally, unless something can either dramatically improve my typing speed or dramatically reduce fatigue/RSI, it's not worthwhile. Fact is, much of the time when I'm writing I'm actually waiting on my brain to figure out what to say next, not waiting for my fingers to type the sentence. :-)

    On the other hand, that article doesn't seem to prove QWERTY is superior; just that it's not significantly worse than other options. If something were to reduce fatigue and strain by 10% relative to QWERTY, even if I typed at the same speed, that 10% would be worthwhile. Perhaps even 5% would be worthwhile, but that's probably pushing it. They seem set on disproving the QWERTY myth, and they accomplish that, but they don't ever show that QWERTY is best. Which is why the comparison with x86 momentum remains appropriate in my mind; x86 isn't a terrible ISA by any means, particularly today, but we continue mostly to use it because of software compatibility and the fact that Intel is the best fabrication company than for any other reason.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    Not even close.

    To suggest QWERTY was designed ergonomically for our keyboards is false.
    Dvorak is not the best, but at least he was making an attempt at designing a better keyboard layout.

    It is a worthy pursuit, and far from worthless. QWERTY is an awful design.
    Just look at the position of J, for crying out loud. One of the least used letters, right there under your right index. Worthless.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    QWERTY was designed to slow typers down to prevent jamming old type writers.

    Unfortunately we will be stuck with it for the long term.
    Reply
  • uc404s - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    That was an incredibly interesting article. Thanks for sharing. Reply
  • Silma - Thursday, March 07, 2013 - link

    This is a political vindictive us-vs-them article that unfortunately deters even more from research in the field.
    Not defending the dvorak layout but notice how all his studies are based on proficient qwerty typers. It would have been fairer to also include test groups with 0 typing experience as well as test groups with typists having only ever typed in Dvorak and then retraining to qwerty.
    Also the only metric is speed where other aims may be more suitable: least finger traveling, non-rts-promoting typing patterns and so forth.
    In any case r&d should be promoted as we know much more than they did then, have the computing power to do deep simulations and that the production cost would not skyrocket, the same way it isn't that expensive to manufacture other international layouts.
    Reply

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