Introducing the TECK

Back in late January, I received the TECK for review, a keyboard that goes by the not-so-humble name of “Truly Ergonomic Computer Keyboard”, manufactured by a company that likewise uses the name Truly Ergonomic (hello name space collision). I’m sure other companies that make ergonomic keyboards might take exception to the name, but as far as I’m concerned that’s mostly marketing. The real question is how the TECK fares in day-to-day use, and whether it’s really a better keyboard for serious typists—and particularly typists like me that suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)—compared to the other options.

I won’t sugarcoat the difficulty of the initial learning curve: it’s brutal, and I already wrote some first impressions on the subject. If you buy a keyboard like this, you’re going to need to plan on a solid three or four days minimum before you can start to approach your previous efficiency. Give it another week or two, though, and as with most things it becomes mostly second nature. With over a month of regular use now in my back pocket, I’m ready to provide some thoughts on the TECK experience. Can any keyboard possibly be worth a price of entry well north of $200? I suppose that depends on what you’re doing with it.

My Background—Why the TECK Matters

Let me start with a bit of background information so that you know where I’m coming from and why I would even be interested in using the TECK. Currently, I’m the Senior Editor of the laptops/notebooks section at AnandTech, but I also provide proofing/editing on various other articles, and I dabble in the occasional other section. I’ve now been with AnandTech for 8.5 years, and during that time I’ve gone from 30 years old to a ripening 39 year old. I have a habit of being perhaps more verbose than necessary in my reviews (my current record goes to the ~25K word socket 939 SFF roundup back in late 2005—and it’s the reason I try to avoid roundups these days). Succinctly put, I type quite a bit on a keyboard and as I got older I started having issues with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

I’ve tried a few other approaches during the years to help mitigate the irritation of CTS, including doing a lot of dictation using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for a few years. I actually like Dragon, but when I got married and then had one young child and later a second enter into the equation (I now have a 10 year old, nearly 3 year old, and our baby just turned 1 this past weekend), I found that getting the necessary privacy to do proper dictation can be rather difficult. So as much as I like the idea of speech recognition, it’s probably not going to be viable for me until either my children get old enough that they can learn to leave dad alone while he’s working, or I get an office with a soundproof door I can lock myself behind.

My secondary approach to alleviating my CTS has been threefold. First, try to type less; I basically quit commenting on most hardware enthusiast forums because it was creating extra wear and tear on the aging carpals. Second, try to exercise more, eat healthier, and take breaks from the computer every hour or so—I’m not doing so well on that last part, though I’m definitely in better shape and eating healthier than when I was in my early 30s and 20s! Finally, I switched to a split keyboard back in 2004, a Microsoft Natural that I still have today—it’s so old that it doesn’t even have a USB connection if that helps. All of the above help to varying degrees, but until I fully quit typing I suspect I’m going to have to continue the search for ways to avoid causing my carpals undue stress.

When Dustin started reviewing mechanical keyboards last year, I started taking a minor interest. I have plenty of other keyboards around the house, not to mention a bunch of laptops as well, but they’re all “cheap” membrane-based keyboards. I was curious to see if anyone offered a good mechanical switch keyboard with an ergonomic design—basically something like my MS Natural but with Cherry MX switches. There was only one option at the time, from Kinesis, and it wasn’t quite what I was looking for plus it was priced way higher than I wanted to spend. Then early this year a press release crossed my email inbox (forwarded from Dustin) about a new ergonomic keyboard with mechanical switches, the TECK. I was intrigued and sent an email asking for a review sample, and that brings us to today’s review.

Now you know something more about my background and interest in the TECK. For the record, I now have a Kinesis Advantage for review as well, which will replace the TECK once I finish with this review. Then I’ll use it for a few weeks and will provide some thoughts on how they compare. But for now, let’s move on to the TECK itself and look at the design along with a subjective evaluation.

TECK: Rethinking Ergonomics
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  • mbz - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    There's another fully ergonomic choice out there:

    http://www.maltron.com/

    And you thought the TECK is expensive. I've been using one for about 20 years and I love it. My first one lasted about 19 years, I just finally bought a new one.
    Reply
  • Gadgety - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    BTW, there's surgery to remove Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. For someone who types that much, Jarred, could it be worth considering? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    Surgery is only about 50% effective, and if you don't address the root cause (e.g. my typing), it often comes back. Anyway, it's not so bad that I can't live with it, but I'm doing my best to keep it from reaching that point! Reply
  • DorkMan - Saturday, March 9, 2013 - link

    Sorry, didn't read all the comments before making my own comments a couple of pages above this one.

    I had CT surgery in both wrists, 100% successful, no relapse issue at all. The surgeon cuts the ligament across the tunnel and when it heals itself it is looser, eliminating the constriction on the tunnel. NOT caused by typing, according to the doc. Just happens in some people as they get older.

    Go for it. Huge difference, full sensation back over time. Wait too long, nerves die.
    Reply
  • Nintendo Maniac 64 - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    You've completely missed the Colemak layout, a modern design that specifically addresses several of the issues with Dvorak:
    http://www.colemak.com
    http://www.colemak.com/wiki/index.php?title=FAQ#Wh...

    I personally used Dvorak for about two years but found it caused more hand-stress than even QWERTY (particularly on the pinkies). This is what motivated me to switch to Colemak, and I've been on it for about 5 years now and can type faster, smoother, and less stressfully with it than I ever could or currently can with QWERTY.

    Also, having your computer layout not match your key-caps is a great way to improve you touch-typing skills.
    Reply
  • Manabu - Saturday, March 23, 2013 - link

    Another good thing about colemak is that it strives to keep as many keys as possible in the same place as QWERTY, like the ZXCV combo. This means less problems with shortcuts and a faster transition than to dvorak. But not a easy one by any means...

    I tried it once only to give up two weeks latter... I don't type that much, so it didn't seem like it was worth the trouble... And I don't have carpal tunnel (yet...?) for the comfort factor weight that much...
    Reply
  • tygrus - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    A Dvorak version of this keyboard would be more ergonomic but even less people would want to use it. Steeper learning curve. Reply
  • SilverRubicon - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    I have a TEK and while I like it, I had to quit using it. There are too many middle keys and I was constantly hitting tab or delete when I wanted return. It's a mental issue on my part, but one I was never able to get over. The funny thing about it, I was always great with it in the morning but by the afternoon I could never find the right key. Exactly opposite of what I expected. I've since moved over to a TypeMatrix. Similar idea and layout, one less key in the center strip. I'm more comfortable with the TypeMatrix but dearly miss the mechanical keys on the TEK. Went so far as to purchase a second TypeMatrix for home.

    I've recently been using the TEK at home on my gaming pc. Maybe if I keep hammering away I'll over come my mental and dexterity issues and fall in love with it again. I like it too much to get rid of it, too frustrated to use while writing code.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    I wonder how much of a difference moving to a mechanical keyboard makes? I'm moving from a membrane to a Cherry MX Blue, which are apparently the good ones for typing (and it gives me severe nostalgia for the Commodore 64). Browns are meant to be more for gaming I thought? [Insert Overclock.net's thread on keyboards] Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 7, 2013 - link

    Hey, I started out with a Commodore 128 (used in C64 mode 99% of the time)! Actually, I used something called a Magnavox Odyssey^2 before that when I was maybe 5-8 years old that had a cartridge system and a keyboard, with games that routinely broke. LOL. Did the C64 really have mechanical switches? Ah, those were the days... 16 color animated sprites and D&D Gold Box adventures like Pool of Radiance were the stuff of my youth. :-)

    As for switches, my understanding is that Blue are the loudest and clickiest, but a lot of people like them. Red are linear (no "bump" unlike the Blue and Brown), and many have said those are best for gaming. Browns were specifically created for ergonomic keyboards at the request of Kinesis back in 1992 or so, but they've been used elsewhere since. I've heard some like to replace Browns with Clears to get a bit more click but not as much as Blue. Having only personally used Blue and Brown though, I can't offer much input on what's "best" overall. I know my wife didn't like the sound of me typing on the MX Blue switches, so that's something to keep in mind.
    Reply

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