A split keyboard is not a new idea for a PC gamer, but it’s not exactly ubiquitous with gaming, either. Split keyboards have been more popular with folks looking for a more natural, ergonomic setup for typing. Kinesis has been making these sorts of keyboards for a while now (since 1992) but has only now made a model that’s designed explicitly for gaming.
The Freestyle Edge is similar in design to its earlier Freestyle 2 model, which splits the keyboard right down the middle. Each side is connected by a wire, but otherwise, it looks a lot like a regular keyboard. This allows the keyboard’s placement to be configured exactly to a player’s preference, although the sides cannot be disconnected.
Unlike Kinesis’ earlier models, the Edge is a mechanical keyboard using Cherry MX switches—Red, Brown, or Blue. There are two rows of programmable keys on the left side of the keyboard, which gamers have become accustomed to on more traditional keyboards. Likewise, the keys are lit with blue lights, which can’t be changed.
The whole idea behind the split keyboard is the range of possibilities for use. While gaming, the most clicked keys are typically WASD, which reside on the left side of the keyboard. If it suits you, with the Edge, you can simply move the right side of the keyboard aside and have your mouse closer to the keys. Playing flight simulators? You can place your flight stick in between the two sides. There’s a lot of options, but these placements make things weird if you’re switching between gaming and something else. Moving the right side of the keyboard aside really renders those keys useless, and while you can rebind some of the keys, it’s still not going to work for typing. There’s a lot of rearranging involved in these different setups.
The same goes for placing something in between the two sides. I tried putting our microphone between the two sides, and it is convenient for streaming or podcasting. But what’s really annoying is the gap between the two sides—especially if you’re not a traditional typist. My typing style has me using my right hand more so than the left, and I see my right hand traveling to the left side of the keyboard quite often. With something in the way, I struggle to type in a way that feels most comfortable for me.
My favorite way in using the keyboard was in a traditional placement, with a tiny gap between the two sides. The slight amount of space between the keyboard sides was comfortable for me, but is it worth investing in a split keyboard? I’m not sure. This is one of the keyboards that you’re going to want to try before buying, unless you find traditional keyboards too uncomfortable.
It’s a good keyboard, with satisfying switches and a good quality build—albeit, without the included lift kit, the keyboard lays really flat.
That said, I won’t be switching over to a split keyboard. I simply don’t have the need for it. I don’t stream much and I don’t play flight simulations, so there’s no need for anything in the middle. Likewise, I don’t have a reason to really push half of my keyboard aside for gaming; I’m perfectly comfortable with a standard layout. But if a standard keyboard layout is an issue for you, you’re going to enjoy this keyboard. Proponents of the ergonomic design are going to be really pleased with a keyboard that offers a non-standard design with mechanical keys.
It’s just not something for everyone.
Pros: The Freestyle Edge has great build quality with industry-standard Cherry MX key switches. It’s a good keyboard, especially for someone who needs an ergonomic design.
Cons: Not everyone is going to like this design, and for more than $200, it’s a risky buy if you’re not certain.
Price: $219 on Kinesis