Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 Keyboard and Mouse Set
The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 is a mainstream solution: It's likely not going to solve the unique problems of clinically injured computer users, but it does seem like a decent entry point for the average user who wants a slightly more body-friendly desktop setup than a standard keyboard and mouse. And it's priced accordingly, at $150--pricey for a desktop set, but really at the entry level for ergonomic solutions.
We used the Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 with our primary computer for several weeks, and we're mostly pleased with the level of comfort it offers. Our only gripes come from resistance: The keys feel just a bit too stiff, and the mouse scroll button requires just a bit too much force. These weren't enough to outweigh the other comfort benefits of the set's design for our moderately achy wrists, but they could very well be deal-breakers for those with more serious injuries.
The design of the keyboard in the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 is essentially the same as the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, though the former connects to your computer wirelessly via a USB receiver. The split design rises in the middle to keep your wrists and arms in a naturally rotated position. An optional riser snaps under the front of the keyboard to create a backward slant that prevents you from flexing your wrists. You can further adjust the keyboard's height and angle via snap-up feet on the rear corners. The keyboard's wrist rest is padded with a faux-leather cover that's preferable to bare plastic but nevertheless not as comfortable as the gel wrist rests you can get elsewhere.
All these features add up to a rather comfortable typing experience; after just a few days with the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard we came to prefer it to traditional keyboards for all our typing. However, we were frustrated by the stiffness of the keys, especially the space bar. Even after prolonged use we felt we had to press just a bit too hard to type--not exactly ideal for a keyboard that's supposed to reduce repetitive stress injuries and certainly a deal breaker for anyone whose hand and wrist pain starts in their fingers.
The keyboard also incorporates a number of features designed to cut down on mousing. A row of silver buttons at the top of the board comes preprogrammed to do things such as launch your default Web browser or e-mail client, control media playback, and open the desktop calculator. Five additional numbered buttons can be programmed (via the included IntelliType Pro software) to launch any software or open a file of your choice. In case you forget what you've assigned to each button, the My Favorites button in the middle of the board calls up a window that shows you. In the area between the split keys resides a two-way toggle that lets you zoom in and out of the active page. Below the spacebar (and between the wrist pads) are two buttons--back and forward--that allow you to move between Web pages without having to reach for your mouse.
Not that mousing is all that painful with the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000. In fact, though wrist pain forced us to start mousing with our left hand years ago, we found ourselves eschewing our own Logitech MX610 left-handed mouse in favor of the right-handed Microsoft Natural Ergonomic mouse. (Though we'd still prefer to have a left-handed version, which Microsoft sadly lacks.)
The elevated mouse looks more like a piece of fruit than a computer accessory, and its buttons, wheel, and palm rest all veer toward the right side. The idea behind the design is that it turns your wrist upward (almost, though not quite, like a handshake) and lets you rest your hand on the right side instead of putting pressure on the carpal tunnel area. The thumb rest and sides of the mouse are made of a rubberized material that lets users avoid the mouse death grip that so often accompanies extended computer work.
As with the keyboard, our primary complaint relates to resistance: In this case, the rubberized scroll wheel offers a bit more drag than we'd prefer. Also, though the mouse does incorporate thumb buttons, their poor placement between the thumb and forefinger meant that we hardly used them--they were just too difficult to reach without moving our entire hand.
Microsoft offers a three-year warranty on the Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000. Phone support is free for the first 90 days--after that, support will cost $35 per request. The company's support Web site has a searchable knowledge base, FAQs, and software updates. You can also access chat and e-mail support at the site.