In the Forums...
Posted: April 3, 2000
Written by: Chris Burek
ESP: $74.95 (at time of review)
Microsoft's newly refined Natural Keyboard Pro adds a wealth of new quirks and fixes to their already trendy Natural Keyboard and Natural Keyboard Elite. Using the same split-key design and palm rest, Microsoft has also equipped the Keyboard Pro with 19 hot keys lining the top of the keyboard, and two built-in USB ports. Among other changes from the original version are half sized function keys, allowing room above for the hot keys. The last refinement removes the lousy arrow key layout Microsoft introduced in the Natural Keyboard Elite, which had the down arrow key below the others, instead of between the left and right arrow keys. This proved to be a very unpopular move on Microsoft's part, and going back to the default layout is wise. I might also note the Ctrl, Alt, Space bar, and Windows keys are also almost double in size in comparison to a standard keyboard.
The 19 hot keys positioned on the keyboard cover mainly Web browsing and multimedia control. The main row across the top includes the following functions, in order from left to right:
Back, Forward, Stop, Refresh, Search, Favourites, Web/Home, Mail, Mute, Lower Volume, Raise Volume, Play/Pause, Stop, Prev Track, Next Track, and Media, which lets you select from all the supported media programs on your PC. Above the number pad on the far right, the last three hot keys for My Computer, Calculator, and Sleep are housed.
Many of the hot keys can be customised via the IntelliType Pro software, as well you can change the time the on-screen display is shown, and various other settings too.
Keyboard installation is about as simple as it gets. The keyboard's cable splits into two sections, one with the standard PS/2 connector, and the other the USB connector. If you choose to use the built-in USB ports, you need to also plug in the USB connector to the back of your PC. It should be noted however, that the USB ports on the Natural Keyboard Pro only support USB devices requiring less than 100mA. Additionally, there are two feet at the back of the keyboard allowing you to raise the height if it should be necessary. Finally, the included Microsoft IntelliType Pro software needs to be installed in order to use the hot keys and change certain settings.
Testing / Conclusion
Being new to the split key layout, I can vouch that at first it takes time to get used to the change, but I soon found myself at a productivity level matching that of my previous keyboard. The Natural Keyboard Pro has great feeling and comfort to it, not to mention the keys don't make annoying clicks when pressed like some keyboards are known to. Another handy addition are labels on the keys that serve as Windows Hot Keys (ie. New, Save, Print, Open, etc.), made for easy reference.
Overall, the Natural Keyboard Pro is an excellent product jam packed with features, and a 3-year warranty. Additionally, I've found when going back to using a standard keyboard, it feels very cramped when typing. In short, its hard to go back once you've used this keyboard.
If you're comfortable with making the transition to the split key layout, and have around $75 you're willing to spend on a keyboard, go get yours now!
This fine product has received the prestigious "Tweak3D Barrel of Monkeys" award!