Since the 1990’s split mechanical keyboards have become increasingly popular among keyboard enthusiasts. The primary reason for choosing a split keyboard is for the ergonomic benefits. If you spend a lot of time using a keyboard in an unnatural position you may develop repetitive stress injuries (RSI), or even arthritis. Having a neutral wrist and arm position when typing can prevent these injuries from happening over time.
The benefits of split keyboards are well documented, and there is clear evidence that split keyboards prevent long term injuries and pain as a result of keyboard use.
What are split mechanical keyboards?
A split mechanical keyboard takes the layout of a standard keyboard and separates it in half. The standard straight QWERTY keyboard is based on the 1878 patent of Christopher Sholes, four staggered straight key rows, and one singular uniform piece.
In 1915 this design was improved on by Fritz Heidner, patenting the original split keyboard design. This original work was adjusted and tinkered upon by many designers since that date, adding tilt to the keyboard, hinges, and further optimizing the unit. Today there are a variety of split mechanical keyboards available in all shapes and sizes, from 60% to full-size keyboard layouts.
Why should I use a split mechanical keyboard?
There are a number of health benefits associated with the use of a split keyboard.
There is a scientific consensus that long-term use of a keyboard in an unhealthy position can lead to lasting negative health effects.
The development of hand, arm, and shoulder pain is common when constantly typing, whether it be for work, school, or gaming. The root cause of this pain is mostly from poor posture, and unnatural wrist and arm position.
When using a standard keyboard, it is common to have our forearms pointed inwards, while our wrists are pronated outwards. This position strains the wrists and can lead to rheumatoid arthritis later on.
In order to avoid pronating our wrists outward, the split keyboard design allows us to tilt each divided section perpendicular to our wrists. This ensures that our wrists are not bent when typing for long hours, and as a result, there will be little to no joint irritation.
Which split mechanical keyboard is right for me?
There are a number of different split keyboards available, varying in size, shape, and cost. There are fixed-split keyboards, which separate the keys but keep the keyboard as one solid piece. Additionally, there are adjustable split keyboards which are two separate pieces. Let’s dive in and find the perfect keyboard suited to your needs!
- The Top 7 Split Mechanical Keyboards
- Our Runner Up: Kinesis Freestyle Edge
- Best Fixed-Split: Kinesis Advantage 2
- Best For Office: Matias FK403 Ergo Pro
- Best Budget: Koolertron Programmable
|Top Pick||Mistel Barocco MD770||5.0|
|Runner Up||Matias FK403 Ergo Pro||4.8|
|Best Fixed-Split||Kinesis Advantage2||4.8|
|Best For Office||Koolertron|
|Best Budget||Kinesis Freestyle Edge||4.6|
|Best Luxury||ErgoDox Ez||5.0|
Mistel Barocco MD770
The Mistel Barocco MD770 is our choice for the best split mechanical keyboard. This keyboard is super versatile and checks all the boxes for what we are looking for in a mechanical keyboard.
This 75% keyboard comes with RGB backlighting and double shot PBT keycaps. A lot of ergonomic keyboards have cheaper ABS keycaps, so this is a nice addition. Another great attribute of this keyboard is that it is wireless, the Bluetooth capabilities are solid, a single charge on the MD770 lasts about 7-10 days of frequent use.
The two keyboard halves are connected by a coiled USB-C cable, since it’s coiled you get a couple of feet of length out of it, so the length is definitely not a limiting factor. The MD770 is fully programmable, with macro and remapping support if that is your thing, 3-layers of saveable configurations are able to be swapped between.
Kinesis Freestyle Edge
The Kinesis Freestyle Edge is our runner up for the best split mechanical keyboard. This keyboard covers a lot of bases for us, it’s marketed for gaming but has solid components that are perfect for any use.
The cable linking the two separate pieces is about 20 inches, this is a good amount of length and you likely won’t be wishing for more. The Freestyle Edge is tenkeyless, so you have all the standard keys that a full size would have, but without the attached number pad. This keeps the footprint a little smaller, which is nice as split keyboards take up a fair amount of desk space.
Additionally, the keycaps on the Edge are PBT and it is fully programmable. Overall this keyboard has all the bells and whistles you would expect in a high-end mechanical keyboard.
If you are thinking of purchasing this keyboard we would recommend the lift kit that is sold separately. This allows you to further optimize your wrist position, its an added comfortability factor that some would probably prefer to have.
The Kinesis Advantage2 is our choice for the best fixed-split mechanical keyboard.
This keyboard is perfect for an office environment, it’s available with your choice of Cherry MX red or brown switches. At 2.2 pounds the Advantage2 has some solid weight, it really gives this keyboard a solid premium feel, so it won’t slip or slide around when typing.
The Advantage2 is a tenkeyless or 75% keyboard, but it does actually come with a functioning number pad on the right side, just on a separate key layer. The keyboard is fully programmable, has macro support and key remapping. It’s compatible with all operating systems, and Kinesis has thrown in a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty, which is a nice addition.
Matias FK403 Ergo Pro
The Matias FK403 Ergo Pro is our choice for the best for office work split mechanical keyboard.
The Ergo Pro first and foremost is a super comfortable keyboard, the wrist rests are padded and keep your hands at an ergonomic angle. Leg supports for tilting and tenting are included. This keyboard isn’t flashy, like some of the aforementioned split keyboards, so this one is perfect for office use.
Overall this is a pretty barebones split mechanical keyboard, it has no programmable options, and has ABS keycaps. If you’re looking for something simple and comfortable for your office space, this would be a decent choice.
The Koolertron programmable takes the place of best budget split mechanical keyboard. This keyboard contains a lot of decent components, without the big-ticket price tag.
As for the actual function of this keyboard, given by the name it is of course fully programmable. You can create up to 8 macro keys, and each key is individually customizable if you’re wanting to remap some key functions.
The Koolertron is an 89-key, so that would put it around the 75% or tenkeyless size. Overall this is a fair quality split mechanical keyboard that would be great as an entry-level purchase.
The ErgoDox Ez is our best luxury split mechanical keyboard. This keyboard is composed of great components and is endlessly customizable, lets dive in and find out what justifies its heavy price tag.
We would recommend purchasing the tilt kit for the Ez, along with the wrist rests, these components are much needed if you’re looking to get the most ergonomic keyboard possible.
ErgoDox uses QMK firmware for its keyboards, which is a great open-source solution to key customization. Reprogramming keys and setting custom layouts is super simple with this firmware.