Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop review: A keyboard and mouse for a new generation

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The Good The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop is a simple split-key keyboard with integrated shortcut keys and a spherical mouse, designed to take undue weight off your wrists.

The Bad Split keyboards are an acquired taste, setup takes up a lot of desktop space, and some users will lament the glossy shell on the mouse that attracts sticky fingers and fingerprints.

The Bottom Line Whether you're already noticing early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome or just want to get started on prevention, the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop is a cost-effective, well-thought-out solution that puts a healthy posture at your fingertips.

7.3 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Support 7

There was a time when secretaries, data input professionals, and stenographers were generally the only ones who suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries. Fast-forward a few decades and everyone's posture is out of alignment thanks to the ubiquity of computers in the office and something called "text neck."

Microsoft endeavored to combat the physical effects of sitting in an unnatural position all day, and after two years, the design team came up with the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop: a keyboard-and-mouse combo that positions your hands to alleviate pressure on the wrists. Though it's priced ambitiously at $129.95, the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop will certainly satisfy users craving a more natural, comfortable position to keep wrist pain at bay.

Design and features

Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft tells us that the keyboard earned the code name Manta Ray during its test phase, a hat tip to the angled-in design of the keypad and the teardrop cutout in the center that truly emphasizes the separated form.

The keyboard is especially flat on the sides and gradually rises toward the center, forcing your hands into the proper position that feels very natural.

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The design saves room by splitting off the number pad into a separate unit, which you can stick in a drawer if you're not using it. Without the number pad, the keyboard only measures a little more than 15 inches wide.

When you place your hands on the home row, you'll find that your wrists are delicately guided to the softly padded wrist rest that stretches beneath the device and measures nearly the width of the keyboard itself.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The integrated wrist pad is designed to combat bad habits before they become an issue. Those already suffering through carpal tunnel syndrome are surely familiar with the splints worn to prevent the hands from moving into problem positions.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The keyboard also comes with a removable riser bar that attaches to the bottom and pushes your wrists up even farther; personally, I prefer to type without it and still feel a relief from prolonged strain compared with a traditional, horizontal keyboard.

The riser and the battery compartment door underneath include magnets that snap them into place, and Microsoft adds another nice touch by including Duracell batteries instead of the usual generic brands typically bundled with other peripherals. The keyboard uses two AAA batteries for power, the mouse uses another two AAs, and a small internal lithium ion battery juices up the number pad.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Every keyboard requires some time to learn in order to get back up to normal typing speed, and this is especially a factor with the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop set. While the keys gave my fingers a comfortable home row, I found myself getting thrown off by the placement of the B key. Glance down at any standard keyboard and you'll see that the B sits directly underneath the G and the H keys, with an equal distance to access with either the right or the left hand.

Sarah Tew/CNET