Kinesis Freestyle Keyboard Review

If you’re the kind of user that can’t quite settle on a keyboard position, read on – because you will never find a keyboard more configurable than the Kinesis Freestyle.

Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with VIP kit on the author's desk

The Kinesis Freestyle keyboard used in this review

Update: Kinesis has upgraded this model to the Freestyle2. After reading over the basics here, you might want to check out what’s new in my article on the new version.

Is it one keyboard… or two?

The outstanding feature of the Kinesis Freestyle is the separation of its two halves (“keying modules”). On the basic model, you can split them up to eight inches, which is the length of the cord connecting them. This variable split eliminates the need to scrunch your arms inward, and also accommodates different shapes and sizes of users. Really big guys may even want to consider the wider version of the Freestyle, which can split up to twenty inches. The split design also allows you to get exactly the wrist angle you want, and to vary your typing position if desired.

Configuration kits

Kinesis offers several different kits to configure the Freestyle the way you want it. Each practically creates a new keyboard, so let’s go through them one at a time.

Solo – No accessories

Kinesis Freestyle Solo keyboard


For those needing greater separation or splay angle, but otherwise comfortable with a standard keyboard, the Freestyle Solo is the basic choice. The only separable accessory you get with the Solo is the pivot tether – the plastic hinge that holds the two halves together. (Even if you don’t end up using the pivot tether, it makes a great desk toy to fiddle with, until you lose it.) The Solo setup will not provide any kind of tilt (front-to-back slope) or tenting (higher in the middle) so your wrists will be pretty much rotated flat during use. The twisting action inherent to this position can be harmful – which brings us to the first optional kit.

V3 – Tented without palm rests

Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with V3 kit

V3 Kit

The V3 kit is the most basic mod available for the Freestyle. It consists of two leg assemblies that snap on and raise the middle of the keyboard into a tent shape. You can switch between low and high tenting angles by rotating the leg assemblies. This kit basically turns the Freestyle into the Goldtouch keyboard – adding the ability to split the halves but removing the infinite tilt adjustment of the Goldtouch.

VIP kit – Tented with palm rests

Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with VIP kit


Some people get rather tired holding their hands out over a keyboard all day, and want a place to rest between fits of typing. Ordinarily these folks would just go out and buy a long, straight palm rest, but the varying angles of the Freestyle make this a dicey proposition. Kinesis sells a set of palm rests that actually snap onto the front of the keyboard, thus staying with it in every configuration. Combined with a different version of the V3 feet called V-lifters, this makes the VIP kit.

The VIP Kit is probably the most popular accessory for the Kinesis Freestyle, and it is the one I originally ordered with mine. I have to admit that I wasn’t overjoyed by the fabric on the included self-adhesive pads. Frankly, it feels like sandpaper to me – but my wrists are more sensitive than most. If you prefer hard plastic you can choose to remove the pads, or not attach them at all.

Incline kit – Tented with palm rests, fixed base

Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with Incline Kit

Incline Kit

The Incline Kit is a fixed-base platform that holds the two halves of the Freestyle together at an adjustable angle, making it look and work exactly like the old Kinesis Maxim keyboard. Much of the Freestyle’s freedom factor is lost when you use the Incline Kit. Infinite adjustment of splay, for instance, is no longer possible – there are just a few fixed positions into which you can snap the keyboard. This will at least keep you from driving yourself crazy repositioning your Freestyle every five minutes!

Ascent kit – Up to 90 degrees

Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with Ascent kit


It may look like a badly-broken accordion and cost twice as much as the keyboard itself (!), but the Ascent kit could be a lifesaving last resort for certain RSI sufferers. At its maximum elevation, the Ascent puts the Freestyle at 90 degrees from your desk, essentially turning it into a Safetype keyboard. Speaking of which, if a 90 degree angle is what you want, you’re probably better off buying a Safetype, which costs only a little more than the Freestyle/Ascent combo and has extra features like a middle kepad and mirrors.

Alternatively, you could achieve almost the same thing with a Freestyle keyboard, two bookends, and plenty of tape.

Key layout

Kinesis Freestyle US Layout

US Layout – Click to zoom

The Freestyle is missing a dedicated set of keys found on most standard keyboards – the numeric keypad. This allows a narrower footprint, but might be an obstacle to those who do a lot of ten-key. If this describes you, you’ve got two choices with the Freestyle: Purchase a separate standalone numeric keypad, or learn to use the ten-key overlay on the main part of the board (activated with the FN key at the lower left). Not being much of a ten-keyer, I can’t comment on how easy or difficult this is. It works just like a typical laptop, though, so you ten-key folks have probably already experienced it.

While the Kinesis Freestyle may be missing some familiar keys on the right, it compensates by adding some new ones on the left. It has dedicated keys for copy, paste, and other commonly used functions – plus an extra Delete key. At first these keys didn’t seem all that useful, but I’ve actually found them quite handy and I’m starting to use them more.

Kinesis Freestyle Ergonomic Keyboard
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One element of the layout that often brings complaints is the positioning of the Alt keys. For some reason, they’re placed in such a way that it’s almost impossible to press one without moving your whole hand. Users of the Freestyle for Mac will find this particularly annoying. A mild personal gripe of my own is the lack of a Windows logo key on the right. With the Freestyle, I can no longer one-hand Windows-M to minimize all windows, something I do a lot while working.

My most major problem with the layout is the presence of the special Browser Home key on the left, which is worse than useless to me. Useless because I rarely load my homepage at all while working; I do everything with tabs and Firefox’s built-in search box. Worse than useless because the key is located right next to tab. When filling out a form online, what key do you hit repeatedly? Tab. And what do you not want to do above all else when filling out such a form? Leave the page and lose your work – which is exactly what the Home key will do to you, and has already done to me more than once when my finger failed to find Tab correctly.

Despite these problems, I like the layout overall. I can always remap the Browser Home key to something else – maybe an extra Alt key!

Typing action

Good, easy key action is an underrated but vitally important feature in any keyboard, particularly if you don’t have the hands of a weightlifter. Most standard keyboards, and even certain ergonomic keyboards such as the MS Natural 4000, have keys that are rather mushy and – worse – difficult to press.

Kinesis Freestyle Ergonomic Keyboard
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When I ordered the Freestyle, I was fresh from the Kinesis Advantage, which uses high-end mechanical keyswitches. I’d grown rather fond of the easy-actuating clickety-clacking keys, and was apprehensive that the Freestyle might not live up to its more expensive cousin’s standards. I was pleasantly surprised. Though the Freestyle uses relatively inexpensive rubber-dome keyswitches, they are specially designed for low-force typing and work nicely.

I like the feel of the Freestyle’s keys better than any other board I have ever used, with the possible exception of the Advantage itself. They are easy to press without being jarring when you reach end-of-travel. They have a pleasantly light, airy quality – not mushy, but not too stark either. They’re also relatively quiet, which is good news for anybody who works within earshot of others and wants to remain popular.


In some ways, the Freestyle is the ultimate ergonomic keyboard, simply because of its vast configurability to match the individual user. It can be an ergonomic powerhouse with outrageous angles and built-in palm rests – or just a nice narrow keyboard that leaves plenty of space to move your mouse. Either way, it’s a high-quality board with a great layout and superior typing feel. If your current keyboard isn’t measuring up, you really should try the Kinesis Freestyle.

Disclosure: This review was made using my own personal Kinesis Freestyle keyboard, duly purchased at the retail price.

This entry was posted in Ergonomic Keyboards, Featured, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. Wendy Markham
    Posted April 20, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    This keyboard is fundamentally flawed and I’m astonished that no one seems to notice or care. The angle of the key columns follows that of a bog standard cheapo keyboard and by doing so the Freestyle must forgo any claim to being considered ergonomic in any meaningful sense.

    Look at the standard column of keys for your right inex finger: U J M all angled from top left to bottom right which is suitably apt for this right finger. Now take a peek at the equivalent column for the left index finger: R F V are NOT angled top right to bottom left as they should be to be truly ergonomic. Instead, as with all mass produced cheap keyboards, they have inherited the old mechanical keyboard layout of angling them in the same direction as those for the right index finger.

    This is madness. And it is NOT ergonomic as I understand the term.

    • Jason
      Posted April 28, 2016 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Thanks for your thoughts. Opinions will vary, of course, on what is “ergonomic” as there is no absolute standard. On orientation of keys, for example, some passionately believe there should be no offset at all, but rather a strict grid layout. In the end it’s a judgment call each manufacturer has to make; if their choice doesn’t work for you, then fortunately there are plenty of other products to try. 🙂

  2. John Salmon
    Posted November 9, 2015 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    I have been using an ordinary keyboard for years and had lots of trouble with my right forearm muscles over this time. When it started interfering with going to the gym etc I decided to act. I bought the Kinesis Freestyle keyboard with the VIP kit. I have the keyboard in the medium tenting position and splayed – the difference is amazing and difficult to believe! Wonderful device.

    PS I use a Penguin mouse – the hand stays in the natural position – I was surprised how much difference that made as well.

  3. Nick
    Posted April 10, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Jason for reviewing the Freestyle and for your informative content in general!

    I have tendonitis in my right index finger as well as some in my wrists from my work in web and graphic design. I’ve toyed with various “off-the Staples shelf” keyboard and mouse configurations such as the Microsoft Sculpt and am ready to invest in the specialty keyboard\ mouse market. I plan to purchase the Freestyle 2 along with getting a trial of the R:ed roller mouse to see how it feels.


  4. Marinus
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Nice review- you really get down to the helpful details! Example: no Windows Logo key. I’d never have found that out otherwise.
    About “you could achieve almost the same thing [a Safetype] with a Freestyle keyboard, two bookends, and plenty of tape.” That makes it sound like a thrifty shortcut, but if you crunch the numbers, you save very little, and you don’t get a keyboard that looks better [no homemade uglies].
    Finally, and this isn’t just me, i’d want the 20″ cable [full separation or else it’s not worth the extra cost/hassle]. And they charge $40 for a 16″ longer cable. Grrr.

    • Jason
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I hope I did not confuse you on the point of the Windows logo key – there is one on the left, just not on the right where I like to have it.

      I was not entirely serious about the bookends and tape, but I’d still have to disagree with you on the number-crunching. A Safetype keyboard, even reconditioned, is $189. A Freestyle solo with an Ascent kit is even more than that, at around $268 (granted, it does have intermediate levels of tilt such as 45 degrees). My theoretical improvised vertical keyboard would cost less than $100 to make, counting a Kinesis Freestyle Solo and $5.00 for a pair of bookends. Even upgrading to the longer cable, it would still be less than a Safetype. Of course, not having tried the bookend setup, I have no idea whether or not it would actually work. Maybe a future blog post!

      I agree with you that $40 for 16 inches of cable doesn’t seem very reasonable. I would like to see Kinesis fix that price to be more in line with common sense. Personally, however, I have no need for 20 inches of separation between the halves, and indeed I really wouldn’t know what to do with it. Even the about-6-inches of separation I currently have effectively makes the keyboard so wide that my mouse gets pushed out to Siberia. Some people deal with that by moving the mouse to the center, but that setup really wouldn’t suit me.

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  • About The Blogger

    Jason, the All Things Ergo bloggerI'm Jason, a user of many ergonomic devices by necessity and choice. I'm also a partner in a business that operates a number of commercial enterprises, including All Things Ergo.

    I have no particular training or expertise in the area of ergonomics. My views are based on my own personal experience, and what works for me won't necessarily work for you.