The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB Gaming Mechanical Keyboard Review: An Ergonomic Masterpieceby E. Fylladitakis on July 16, 2019 1:30 PM EST
Per-Key Quality Testing
In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyzer 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 RGB, we had to test most keys individually and manually. We only tested the main keys, omitting the extra macro keys and game key, as well as the control/cursor keys. Only the result from the left Spacebar key is being shown.
Cherry is known for their strict quality control and it is common for keyboards carrying original Cherry MX switches to showcase excellent performance figures. The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB is no exception, with the keyboard’s Cherry MX Brown RGB switches showing exemplary consistency and performance. Just a look at the disparity, which is below ±2.2%, indicates exceptional quality control and product consistency. The average force at the actuation point (not the maximum pressure point) is at 44.9 cN, which is just perfect for a Cherry MX Brown switch.
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, making this particular version of the Freestyle Edge RGB theoretically ideal for me.
As expected, using the keyboard at the same speed as a typical ANSI layout keyboard required a learning curve. However, this learning curve was quite short for me – I have used similar keyboards in the past, including the previous version of the Freestyle Edge, so my brain adjusted in a matter of hours. The movement of the ESC key back to its long-established position helped me a lot too, as I do not accidentally press F1 anymore. That said, this will not be the typical experience for typists who have never used a split keyboard before. It takes a few hours for your hands to initially get accustomed to the keyboard. And for people who are accustomed to pressing keys with the hand that now sits on the other half of the keyboard, it might take days, even weeks before your “muscle memory” fully catches up with how the keyboard works.
But once you become accustomed to its different layout, using the Freestyle Edge RGB is, simply put, fantastic. The keyboard is exceptionally comfortable, even after hours upon hours of continuous use. With the Lift Kit and both arms sitting right on the chair’s supports, the comfort feeling is just perfect. At this point, I should point out how comfortable the wrist cushions of the Freestyle Edge RGB are. Although I am skeptical regarding their longevity, these truly are by far the most comfortable wrist rest that I ever placed my hands upon. Using the keyboard even for a little while makes you quickly appreciate resting your palms on them instead of avoiding them and, even after long hours of typing, they always feel soft and cozy.
I found the Freestyle Edge RGB very versatile and comfortable for gaming use as well. The split keyboard adjusts to any situation with ease – you can push the right half away and enjoy your mouse in a straight line with your shoulder while playing an FPS/ARPG game, then pull the right half back in place for some typing or keyboard-based games. The programmability of the keyboard is versatile enough, allowing for text/chat commands and simple macros to be programmed and tethered to any key, as well as for very quick profile/layout switching. The Fn layer is particularly useful for online gaming, as macros and advanced commands can be programmed into one layer and a standard layout can be retained into another, allowing the user to switch between gaming and chatting/socializing with the press of an easily accessible button.