I was presented with a gift at the 2013 ErgoExpo in Las Vegas - Microsoft's new Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop, successor to the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 that has sat on Best Buy's shelves for the better part of a decade. As the resident keyboard and mouse guru, I was naturally eager to bring it back home and take it for a spin. More importantly, I wanted to see how it stacked up feature-wise to our most popular ergonomic mice and keyboards - specifically, the Goldtouch V2 keyboard and the Evoluent VM4R mouse.
The latest in a long line of "natural" style ergonomic keyboards, the Sculpt keyboard certainly looks ergonomic at first glance. The fixed split design curves inward at the center, and a low profile key set gives it a slick presentation. The palm rest along the bottom of the keyboard provides sufficient support for your wrists while typing. Perhaps most noticeably, the numeric keypad, which previously stuck out like a sore thumb on the 4000 keyboard, has now been split off into a separate pad. The package is topped off with a bulbous mouse that has a slightly rotated grip angle as well as thumb-mounted back and Windows buttons, the latter of which is likely to be more annoying than useful for anyone not using Windows 8. All of these components connect to a single wireless USB dongle.
In comparison, the Goldtouch V2 doesn't have the same slick look as the Sculpt, but what it lacks (comparatively) in modern aesthetics it makes up for with superior functionality and adjustability, features that are much more important in an ergonomic keyboard. While the Sculpt keyboard does offer a split and slightly tented design, the Goldtouch V2 uses a locking ball-joint system that allows you to manually adjust the tenting angle and split separation distance, making it more customizable and comfortable for you.
The Goldtouch V2 does not have built-in palm rests, opting instead to let you choose whether or not to add them, either by adding Goldtouch Gel Filled Palm Supports or by utilizing a keyboard-tray mounted wrist support. Goldtouch also offers an external keypad for users who frequently use one, but for those who use it less frequently, the Goldtouch V2 offers an integrated numeric keypad that can be accessed simply by activating the Num Lock on the keyboard. While not wireless, the Goldtouch V2 ultimately offers far more in the way of ergonomic comfort than the Sculpt's fixed design could ever hope to.
The Sculpt Mouse's design is similarly awkward in comparison to its contemporaries. The Sculpt Mouse's angled hand placement and thumb scoop is vaguely reminiscent of the "handshake" grip and thumb scoop of the Evoluent VM4R, but while field testing mine, I did notice one significant issue that ultimately made the Sculpt Mouse more painful to use than even a traditional mouse. Due to the height and angle of the Sculpt Mouse, I found myself elevating my palm in a very uncomfortable way in order to properly use it since the buttons were still up on the top of the mouse.
With the Evoluent VM4R, the buttons are placed on the side since the mouse is designed to be used with your hand in a vertical position, which means it's far easier to grasp the mouse. As an added bonus, the VM4R also has more buttons than the Sculpt, all of which are programmable. While the Evoluent Vertical Mouse comes standard in a multitude of variants for righties, Evoluent does make a vertical mouse for left-hand users. Also available of course are the wireless versions of the mouse.
While the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop might be less expensive than the Goldtouch V2 and Evoluent Vertical Mouse, the level of ergonomic flexibility is very much worth the price difference. After all, you can't put a price on comfort!
Learn more about ergonomic mice and keyboards at TheHumanSolution.com.