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Kinesis FreeStyle Edge Gaming Keyboard - Bringing Ergonomics to Gaming

Hardware Reviews By Robert Baddeley on November 24, 2017

Kinesis FreeStyle Edge Gaming Keyboard - Bringing Ergonomics to Gaming

Keyboard innovation - not a term you hear thrown around a whole lot but that’s exactly what the new Kinesis FreeStyle Edge Gaming Keyboard brings to the table.  Boasting authentic Cherry MX switches, eight fully programmable macro keys, onboard memory and software, and an ergonomic split down the middle, Kinesis makes a splash into the gaming market with this beautiful backlit keyboard.  Check out our hands on review!

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Specifications

  • 20” adjustable split
  • Smartset Programming Engine (No Install Required)
  • Cherry Mechanical Switches
  • Blue backlighting
  • Compact, Tenkeyless Footprint
  • Optional Lift Kit
  • Eight Programmable Macro Keys
  • Three “Layouts”
  • 100% Anti-Ghosting
  • Multimedia Controls
  • N-key Rollover Mode
  • 1MS Response Time
  • 4MB OnBoard Memory
  • Game Mode
  • Braided USB Cables

The first thing I want to talk about is the obvious: what’s the deal with that split?!  I personally had never really seen a split keyboard before my friend Steve put me on to it.  He’d been using them for a long time to overcome a wrist injury and save his career (programming). Once the package arrived, I set it up on my desk then stared at it.  I couldn’t see how this was going to be comfortable.  I’ve been using a solid keyboard for years for all my typing and gaming but I was determined to see this through.  It took about five minutes to get used to it and, even better, it just felt better than using a traditional keyboard.  I personally set the two halfs up so that my arms could rest on my chair and stay straight when typing.  After writing a few reviews back to back using this keyboard I noticed a dramatic increase in typing stamina (yes, it’s a thing, I swear).

Gaming

The next step was to boot up a few games to give it a whirl.  Bottom line up front is I LOVED it for FPS but ran into some minor annoyances when playing WoW and Witcher 3.  The single thing I loved the most about playing Overwatch and Destiny 2 with this keyboard is the ability to move the right half out of the way and open up tons of mouse realestate.  I game with an extra large mouse mat that houses my mouse and keyboard, so being able to move half the keyboard out of the way allowed me to crank the DPI down on my mouse for added accuracy.  All the hotkeys I needed to access were located on the left side of the keyboard anyways, so it was a net increase in my performance hands down. 

MMOs and RPGs were a bit different of a story.  As we all know in these games you tend to have hotkeys all over the place:  “M” for the map, “P” for party, “J” for journal, etc.  So while all your movement and action may be on the left side of the keyboard, you often need the right half in game.  I never quite got used to the extra space and it threw off my long developed habit of hitting those keys with my left hand and maintaining control of my mouse with the right.  That’s not to say this couldn’t be overcome to an extent, however.  It’s easy enough to push the two halfs together, though that adds a little space down the center that may throw off your muscle memory.  But I found the easiest method was to reprogram some of my macro keys to carry out the same function.  I know I’m being overly nitpicky here as there are a bunch of solutions to fixing my ridiculous problem, but when you have a keyboard as nice as this one the issues you are bound to have will be petty.

Most keyboard for gaming have five or six macro keys located on the left side of the keyboard. The Kinesis FreeStyle Edge has eight - two rows of four.  On top of that, you can actually bind 16 different macros because they allow the utilization of the function (Fn) key, usually reserved for media keys on your F1-F12 keys.  I absolutely LOVE that they added this seemingly small detail, opening up an entire new set of macro keys and giving us a total of 16 different bindings per layout.

In addition to macro keys the board is fully programmable, meaning you can rebind any key to another.  This can be done by recording straight on the keyboard via the remap button (top of the right half) or using software. “But wait!? I thought you said there was no installation required?” - There’s not.  In a method I find quite brilliant, the software is stored on the keyboard itself.  It can be accessed by pressing a special button on the top right half of the keyboard and F8, which is sub labeled “v-drive”.  This will open up the 4MB on board storage as a drive in your explorer, which houses the executable for the keyboard. 

The software is simple, bug-free, and effective.  It allows you to rebind keys, type in your macros, adjust the backlight brightness, and switch it between static and breathing modes.  You can even bind special functions to the keys like mouse clicks, which for me is tremendously useful when playing games like Diablo 3 to save my right index finger from overwhelming fatigue.

Final Thoughts

Everything about this keyboard screams quality.  It’s a fully fleshed out experience right down to the ‘game mode’ that, among other things, disables the windows key.  Kinesis pulled no punches and the problems I do have with this keyboard I really nitpicky.  I like RGB so I wish there was that option but lacking that I would have rather seen a white backlight over a blue.  Additionally, split keyboards are not easy on the wallet and the Kinesis is no exception with a price tag of $219 as of this writing.  That’s not an easy pill to swallow for most people, but given the pure amount of features, care, and quality present in this board it’s obvious Kinesis has done everything they can to make sure you get your money’s worth.

Pros

  • Excellent Ergonomics
  • Good software
  • Onboard software
  • Lots of macro keys

Cons

  • Rather expensive

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.