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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  • lauren jonczak - Friday, December 6, 2013 - link

    I really like the <a href="http://www.ergodirect.com/105-ergonomic-keyboards&... of this ergonomic keyboard</a>. I was trying to come up with a useful gift to give my boyfriend for Christmas and this would be perfect since he is constantly on the computer. Thanks for the great idea! Reply
  • skirmishdirmish - Saturday, December 7, 2013 - link

    I prefer my Microsoft Scult Ergonomic. Plus, I had a dreadful time with this company when trying to return my TECK. Multiple emails gone unanswered (I even had to contact them through their Facebook page to get any response at the outset!) and after I shipped it back a month and a half ago, still no word, nor any sign of a refund. Major bummer. Reply
  • Azteca - Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - link

    If you returned the TECK (manufactured with awesome Mechanical switches) to change it for a dreadful Microsoft Sculpt (manufactured with very cheap quality - like everything from China, rubber domes under the scissor switches, and stickers that’ll be gone in a few weeks) you DO deserve a Sculpt “a misleading board for dummies” that will force you to visit a wrist therapist very soon.

    Besides, we should call it the Microsfot Scrooglpt semi-ergo board - a misleading board for dummies. Microsfot is hard-working and spending a lot of money at trying dishonoring Google with an anti-positive campaign named Scroogled. http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/ca...
    "At best, it’s a distraction from what the company should be doing—working on good software, services, and hardware products. At worst, it reeks of desperation." "Embarrassing when deployed as corporate branding."
    http://www.wired.com/design/2013/11/what-is-micros...

    We are no longer expecting anything less from Microsfot, they can no longer create “innovative” products as they cannot longer steal from others which they have been doing for the last 30 years.

    Microsfot, the not-even-the-last-place you want to do business with.
    Reply
  • lostmind - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    I purchased one of these in late 2013 as I spend the majority of my time working on my pc. Upon receiving it, I eagerly plugged it in only to find, like yourself; that numerous keys would generate 2 repeating characters for each keystroke.

    It was constant and repeatable across several - 5? - keys. I had my wife and a friend test it. Confident the switches are duds. It occurs on every single keystroke.

    I submitted several support tickets (I work in support, so I was very friendly about it) and received no response. I eventually submitted a request for return, but that was also ignored.

    There is no other way to contact them. I even happen to live in the same city as they operate from, but their address is a postal box and not an actual office.

    I will say that TECK is *not* interested in fixing or replacing the keys at this time.

    I did of course get the standard auto response to all my tickets, but that's it:

    -----
    Dear Valued Customer,

    Thank you for your interest in the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard. We believe our product is an excellent investment in your personal health and comfort, and can serve to increase your typing efficiency.

    We have received your e-mail and are grateful that you have contacted us. Please consider it could take us some time to respond to you personally due to the amount of inquiries and the level of detail of such inquiries we are currently receiving.

    In the meantime, please make sure to review our Answers To Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) as well as our Troubleshooting section, where you can find helpful information in most regards.

    Additionally, we are pleased to mention that we now have an application that helps you to reprogram your Truly Ergonomic Keyboard. You can change the logical position of any key as well as adding logical keys, allowing you to create your own custom layout. In addition, you can also use layouts already made for diverse contexts. Please visit our Layout Designer to learn more and to be able to create your own custom layout.

    Regards,
    Customer Service
    Truly Ergonomic Ltd.
    -----

    So unfortunately, I have a device I can not use that cost me a significant amount of money. Personally, I would warn everyone avoid this product even though I think it was a good concept.
    Reply
  • bwbecker - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    I purchased a Truly Ergonomic keyboard in April, 2015 and used it for a month. No complaints about the quality of the product but the key placement didn't work for me, even after remapping the most problematic keys. So I started the process of returning it. It was difficult, to say the least. As of today, I do have my money back but... If you choose to do business with Truly Ergonomic, please consider that their web site doesn't provide any contact details other than their web form (which they can ignore) -- no email, no address, no phone. If you do happen to locate their phone number (look them up in the Vancouver BBB on-line directory), you go immediately to an answering machine and won't have your call returned.

    After threatening legal action via their web form, I finally got an email back with excuses and directions for returning the keyboard. I returned it, but then waited for a refund. Follow-up emails were again ignored until I (again) threatened legal action.

    My recommendation is to avoid the company unless you have had prior experience with the keyboard and know that it will work for you. Even then, I don't know what to do with the reports of faulty switches. Probably just avoid it entirely.
    Reply
  • moshev - Friday, January 22, 2016 - link

    I used to be very happy with my TECK, but after about a year and three months, it has started to miss letters and produce double letters. I tried cleaning the affected keyswitches with warm water and leaving it to dry for two days, tried with alcohol, and nothing seems to fix the problem. Additionally, Truly Ergonomic don't seem to read their e-mail at all, all my correspondence to their customer support has been ignored.

    I really love the ability to edit the layout in firmware and the physical form-factor is absolutely perfect, but quality can be a crapshoot with this company it seems. Which is a shame, as they are the only ones making a keyboard with this shape.
    Reply

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