Dygma Raise keyboard review: Raising the laws of ergonomics

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June Wan/ZDNet

Gaming keyboards come in all shapes and sizes. They’re often built with the most clicky keys, covered in RGB lights, and offer “ergonomic support” in the form of padded palm rests. However, as most typists and industry professionals can attest, a true ergonomic keyboard goes beyond extra padding. And until now, there has not yet been a full-fledged ergonomic keyboard that is as good for gaming as it is for physical health.

Professionals in their early twenties suffer from frequent neck, back and wrist problems. If they already have health problems, what will they be in 10 years?

That’s what Luis Sevilla, CEO of Dygma and former eSports coach of two-time LEC champions Fnatic, set out to solve by turning his career-inspired passion project into an ergonomic solution for the masses in 2017. Last two weeks, I had the opportunity to test Sevilla’s latest keyboard – the Dygma Raise – which has been designed to relieve common pain points such as carpal tunnel, ulnar deviation and extension. The keyboard is not cheap. But with the abundance of customizable and modular features, its starting price of $319 is an investment that becomes easier to justify over time.

As

  • Highly customizable keyboard
  • The modular nature is an ergonomic dream
  • Thumb cluster is functional for all users
  • Carrying case and keyboard tools included

Do not like

  • $89 Tent kit is not included
  • Requires some muscle memory/typing
  • Bazercor software is still a work in progress
  • More expensive than standard ergonomic keyboards

Design

There is no doubt that the Dygma Raise is a looker. The keyboard features a 60% or 68-key layout that ditches the numeric keypad, function keys, and arrow keys, in favor of a smaller form factor. In doing so, the Raise feels much more compact than traditional keyless (87 keys) and full-size (104 keys) offerings.

What really sets the Raise apart from other ergonomic alternatives is its two-piece design. Split keyboards aren’t new, and Dygma’s angled approach does a reliable job of keeping elbows pointed outward (instead of against the body) when typing, wrists snug against the soft padding on the inside. touch and shoulders aligned with back. All of this allows for a more natural typing experience, without any long-term discomfort. The only caveat, really, is the need to recalibrate your tactile and muscle memory.

dygma-raise-tenting-kit.jpg

June Wan/ZDNet

A separately sold tent kit can be fitted to the base of the Dygma Raise and is intended to reduce pronation in your wrists. Pronation occurs when your palm is facing down, like when typing on a traditional slab keyboard. In this position, the ulna and radius bones of your forearm twist in a way that reduces blood flow and can be uncomfortable.

With the tent kit, the inner sides of the Dygma Raise can be raised up to four degree stakes (10°, 20°, 30° and 40°). This way your wrist and forearm are angled so that they are supinated or untwisted. In testing, I found the 20° angle to provide the most comfortable elevation for all-day typing. Anything higher and my wrists would slip off the keyboard.

Also: Best ergonomic keyboards: Work more comfortably

The Tent Kit is essential for users looking to achieve the ultimate ergonomic keyboard solution. It is unfortunate that Dygma does not group the

Accessory at $89

with the already expensive Raise.

dygma-raise-pins.jpg

June Wan/ZDNet

Still, there are more than add-ons that the Dygma has going for it. Pin connectors, on the other hand, make attaching and detaching the two keyboard halves simple and intuitive. By blowing magnets into the inner sides of the Raise, I was able to switch seamlessly between split-keyboard mode and the standard QWERTY layout. However, after my first few days of testing, I was spoiled with the comfort and ergonomics of the split keyboard design.

The Raise is wired via USB-C to what Dygma calls the Neuron, a centerpiece that functions as a dongle and storage for your backlight profiles, key layouts, and functions. It has three USB-C ports: one for each side of the keyboard and one to connect to your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. For the sake of modularity, the Raise can work even if you disconnect either side of the keyboard. This is especially useful for gamers who primarily use the QWER and WASD keys, as they can detach the right side of the keyboard in place of a larger mouse surface.

dygma-raise-neuron.jpg

June Wan/ZDNet

My main concern about transitioning from a wireless network

Logitech MX Keys

to the Wired Dygma Raise was how the wired would handle standing desks. I’m one of those “desk-on-the-floor” users, so I often run into connectivity issues with shorter cables. This was not the case with the Dygma. The Raise’s braided cord was long enough to stretch from the floor to the highest elevation of my standing desk. However, I still want to see a wireless version of the Raise in the future.

Also: ZDNet’s most recommended standing desks

As for typing on Dygma Raise, it took me a good week to fully adjust to the changed layout. With a 68-key design, the absence of the arrow keys and number pad – which I commonly used on my MX keys – was very noticeable.

Dygma accommodates full-size users like me with an eight-key thumb cluster and remappable buttons through its Bazecor software. You see, most keyboards on the market have a singular elongated space bar. Instead of following the sequel, Dygma split the singular spacebar into four remappable keys, with another row of four discrete keys below. For my entertainment and gaming needs, I ended up setting the bottom row to volume controls and high and low functions.

My review unit came in a silver case and silent Kailh pink switches, but you can mix and match colors, PBT keys, and switches when purchasing the keyboard from the Dygma website. Whichever combo you choose, the Raise comes in a tidy carrying case, complete with an “upgrade kit” filled with different colored switches to test out, thick and thin O-rings for sound dampening and a key switch puller. Yes, that means the Raise’s keys and switches are hot-swappable and compatible with third-party accessories.

dygma-raise-extension-kit.jpg

June Wan/ZDNet

Software

As you might be able to deduce, Dygma Raise’s typing experience is enhanced by its Windows, Mac, and Linux compatible open-source software, Bazecor. Using the program, I was able to change keyboard backlight and underlight settings, remap keys (as previously described), and configure up to 10 layout layers or profiles.

This last feature is particularly useful for creative tasks such as video editing or programming, where you depend more on certain keys and macros than others. Still, with up to 10 fully separate and customizable input layouts, the amount of functionality Dygma has managed to squeeze into a 68-key body is staggering.

It’s important to note that each macro or layer comes at the expense of one of the 68 Raise keys, so you’ll have to choose where and how many you set – wisely.

bazecor-0-3-3.png

Most users, myself included, probably won’t use all 10 key modification layers, but there’s still a lot of tinkering that could be done at the basic level. To ease the process of setting up your ideal keyboard layout, Dygma pushes a short survey each time you purchase the Raise. The quiz measures your typing expertise, use cases, profession, and other user data, and takes those responses to suggest layouts that match your profile. For more options, you can find a host of user-generated layouts on Dygma’s subreddit and wiki page.

Also: Best gaming keyboards: All the hits and clicks

Rich in customization possibilities, Bazecor usually requires a lot of time and effort. Luckily, the user interface is simple, easy on the eyes, and works on both Mac and Windows. The software remains in beta, but it’s an important first step towards the freedom of customization that gamers, professionals and typists have been waiting for.

Conclusion

The Dygma Raise is a valiant attempt to redefine what it means to be an “ergonomic keyboard”. Starting at $319, the Raise is by no means cheap. It also faces fierce competition, with alternatives such as the

Kinesis2 Advantage

and

ErgoDox EZ

price close to the range. But for enthusiasts who crave the thrill of traditional gaming keyboards and the benefits of ergonomically-fitted keyboards, the Dygma is a sizable choice that offers the best of both worlds.

As for me, I have since returned to the

Logitech MX Keys

. But every once in a while, as I type articles like this, my wrists ache for the ergonomic euphoria that was the Dygma Raise.

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