Conclusion

Kinesis took a huge leap of faith last year with the Kinesis Gaming brand, focusing on ergonomic peripherals designed exclusively with gamers in mind. Following a crowdfunding campaign, Kinesis released the Freestyle Edge, the first mechanical keyboard that combined ergonomics with advanced gaming. Despite the fact that most users do not react positively towards products that stray from the standard designs and layouts – and this is especially true with gamers – the Freestyle Edge did quite well on the market. Now, over a year later, Kinesis has introduced the successor to that keyboard, the Freestyle Edge RGB, a keyboard that adds a whole lot more than just RGB backlighting.

Getting right down to matters, for users coming from more traditional keyboards, the Freestyle Edge RGB’s split layout definitely requires a learning curve. On the other hand, it is definitely more comfortable for long-term use, especially when using the optional lift kit at a low tilt. Using the Freestyle Edge RGB for just a couple of hours is enough to notice that the strain on the arms, fingers, and tendons is greatly reduced, making the keyboard perfect for both professional use and long gaming hours. Gamers will also benefit from the ability to move the right half out of the way and get their mouse straight in front of their arm and towards their body, which is a much more natural and comfortable position for the arm than extending it to the right. For gaming, the Freestyle Edge RGB is a very flexible device, capable of adjusting to virtually any user and/or situation.

Another advantage of the Edge RGB is the integration of all advanced programming into the keyboard itself. The supplied software reprograms the keyboard at the peripheral level, rather than being implemented as a software package that runs on (and is tied to) the host OS. Once programmed, the keyboard does not require any software to perform any of its advanced functions. It will retain its functions when connected to any other system, even if that other system runs an entirely different OS. Some OS-specific commands may not work but that is it. This feature admittedly comes with a drawback – the keyboard cannot perform very complex macros or commands that have to signal the OS, such as launching external applications – so gamers who use third-party macro programming software will want to take note of this.

In some sense then, it's unfortunate that Kinesis integrated so many improvements into the Edge design and merely called it an RGB model, as that significantly undersells what the company has done. Rather than being an RGB-ized version of the original Edge – as is usually the case with "RGB" keyboards – this is a new and improved keyboard in and of itself. In fact even I didn't initially pick up on this; at first I expected the Freestyle Edge RGB to be the same – just a classic Freestyle Edge with RGB switches on it and that’s it, off to the store shelves you go. Instead, Kinesis took their time and gathered feedback, evaluated it, and then restructured the keyboard to improve it. Little adjustments, such as the move of the ESC key back to where it belongs and the fantastic wrist cushions, make a great difference, allowing me to honestly say that the Freestyle Edge RGB is truly a better keyboard than the last year’s version.

All-in-all, the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB is a very high-quality keyboard and is made by a company that listens and seems to care a lot about their customer base. For professional users or gamers who spend very long hours in front of a PC, and especially those who switch between different PCs, the Freestyle Edge RGB is a definitely worthwhile investment. Once accustomed to it, your hands and body will verify just how good of an investment the keyboard really is.

If the keyboard has any real drawbacks then – other than a split keyboard not being for everyone – it would be the $220 price tag. Make no mistake, it's a great keyboard that I think is worth the money, but it's very much a premium keyboard in every sense of the word. This, I suspect, is likely why Kinesis is offering a risk-free customer satisfaction plan for the keyboard, allowing buyers to return the keyboard within 60 days if not fully satisfied. 60 days, in turn, should be more than enough time for someone to get used to the keyboard and decide if it is the right product for them – or at least decide if the keyboard is worth the price. Ultimately, if you are considering the purchase of an expensive gaming keyboard and are willing to entertain the thought of checking out an ergonomic design, we strongly advise giving the Freestyle Edge RGB a try.

Per-Key Quality Testing & Hands-On
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  • bldr - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    Maybe it's just me, but this review is so positive it reads like a paid advertisement. To the point I was looking for clues or comments thinking the same. As I didn't see any, maybe I've just developed review trust issues lol. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    To be sure, it's not a paid review. E. just really, really liked it. I'm pretty sure he's found his perfect keyboard. Reply
  • marc1000 - Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - link

    hi Ryan. since we are talking keyboards, what would you think of reviewing an "office" one? I love gaming and high-end reviews, but spend most of my online time writing things at office - where it is the company who decides what to purchase.

    recently I discovered Dell KB522, which is cheap, silent, has a couple programable keys (directly on regedit, no fancy software/driver), and also a couple extra USB ports (think mouse and headphone), all with a really familiar layout. for me, it is amazing for office usage, but I would love to read more "corporate reviews" if at all possible.

    https://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/accessories/apd/33...
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - link

    Any keyboard reviewer is going to hate it. They're all mechanical keyboard snobs and sneer at membrane designs. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - link

    Hmm. I completely understand why you'd want to see such a review. But to be honest, it probably wouldn't be worth our time. High-end keyboards do as well as they do because of the window shopping effect; but history indicates that there's probably not much reader demand (i.e. traffic) in reviewing budget Dell keyboards. Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - link

    High-end keyboards? Did you see my post about the Advantage 2, below? Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - link

    I'm literally typing on one of these right now and I never noticed the extra USB ports until you mentioned them. It has, or rather it started off having what I considered to be a decent key feel for a membrane keyboard, but I have recently found that some of the keys are getting squeaky after less than a year of use, which is disappointing. Call me a mechanical keyboard snob if you must, but a Cherry MX-based keyboard wouldn't be doing that.

    Other than the longevity issue, I doubt I have much to add that you don't already know from your own experience. It's head and shoulders above the newer, flat-topped chiclet-style Dell keyboard that came after it (which I have only briefly had the "privilege" of using), which is listed on Amazon as the KB216 (but I think there are a few different, similar models).

    It's also superior to its contemporary non-multimedia keyboard, the KB212-B, because that keyboard has switches that wear rather quickly and require harder and harder presses to register. Again, not a problem with any mechanical switch worth its salt.

    I believe that the older Dell keyboards with the full-sized keycaps were better than the KB522, but since I never had a brand new one sitting in front of me to break in, I can't provide a direct comparison. Eventually they wore down, too, with squeaky, hard-to-press keys, but I've used ones that were old to the point where some of the more heavily-used keys had smooth, shiny caps, legends long since completely obliterated, but the board was still usable.
    Reply
  • twtech - Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - link

    The older non-RGB Kinesis Freestyle Edge is actually what I use as my office keyboard. If you were one of those people who liked/used the MS split keyboards, and don't want to switch to a more exotic layout, but wished they made a mechanical version - this is where you end up.

    I participated in the Kickstarter, and have been using two of them since launch. Haven't had any issues so far, which is more than can be said for most of the split mechanical keyboards I tried in the past.

    I actually also owned a Kinesis Maxim before this, which was a similar keyboard, but the two halves were tied together, and the keys were rubber-domes.
    Reply
  • Powerlurker - Thursday, July 18, 2019 - link

    Owner/user of a 17-year-old MS Natural Elite and that's exactly why I kinda want one of these. Reply
  • twtech - Thursday, July 18, 2019 - link

    Another plus if you're coming from a MS board, is that the Kinesis puts the 6 on the left side, just like the MS. Some split boards have it on the right.

    If you go for it, the lift kit is a must, and if your desk surface is smooth, you'll want to get one of those big mouse-pad-material mats to put the keyboard on to keep the halves from sliding around slightly during use.

    One thing that takes some time to get used to is that there are other keys immediately to the right and left of your typing keys. For example, I found when I first started using it, that I had a tendency when not typing to locate the "Enter" key by feel from the right edge of the board. Well, on this board, that's not the Enter key right there at the edge - it's PgUp. So I remapped the navigation keys to the left side of the board as a workaround.
    Reply

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