Matias Ergo Pro Keyboard Review

It’s here. The long-anticipated Matias Ergo Pro, the fulfillment of every ergonomic dream and the highest ideal of all keyboards everywhere. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit. Let me just put it this way: as Alan Ladd said in a certain well-known Western, “It’s as good as any, and better than most.”

If the Kinesis Freestyle were mechanical…

As a longtime user of the Kinesis Freestyle ergonomic keyboard, I have often wished that it came with an option for mechanical keys (the awesome benefits of which will be presently explained). At first glance, the Matias Ergo Pro would appear to be the fulfillment of this wish – or the nearest thing to its fulfillment ever likely to materialize. It’s a split keyboard like the Freestyle, with tenting and palm rests roughly analogous to the Freestyle’s VIP3 kit, and it features the excellent Matias mechanical keyswitches.

But there are notable differences too. The Ergo Pro is much thicker than the Kinesis board – probably of necessity, due to its mechanical nature. And while the Matias keyboard comes with an equivalent of the VIP3 kit (and doesn’t sell it as an addon like Kinesis), it lacks an answer to the Freestyle’s V3 lifters. In plain English, this means that you have to the use the Matias palm rests if you want to tent the keyboard. More on that after the jump.

The Matias Ergo Pro, seen here in fully split configuration and without palm rests.

The Matias Ergo Pro, seen here in fully split configuration and without palm rests.

Mechanical action

While mechanical keys aren’t the magic bullet of typing, they are the choice of many developers, gamers, and all-around serious typists. This isn’t just because developers and gamers are weird people who live by overkill. Let me explain.

Matias Ergo Pro
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Most lower-cost keyboards – including the best-known ergonomic models from Microsoft and Goldtouch – use what’s called a “rubber dome” or “membrane” switch under each key. Picture this as a squishy button you have to smash with the key in order to register a stroke.

Mechanical keys work on a completely different principle. Instead of a squishy button to mash, there’s a tiny trigger-like switch on a spring, and that switch is mounted to the side of the traveling key rod, rather than below it. Why is this important? It means you can register a keystroke without bottoming out the key. That eliminates the sudden shock at the end of each stroke, allowing most users to type faster and more comfortably.

One big caveat: It’s lusciously tempting to hammer a mechanical keyboard, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to make a lot of noise. But if you succumb to this temptation, the mechanical keys won’t do you any good. A mechanical keyboard actually has no shock absorption at the end of the stroke. Instead, the typist has to be disciplined enough to touch the key lightly. The space itself – the air under the key – is in a sense the shock absorber. Mash the keys down all the way, from stress or delight or whatever, and you’re essentially back to a membrane keyboard.

You can bring the two modules of the Ergo Pro as close together as you like for a compact keyboard.

You can bring the two modules of the Ergo Pro as close together as you like for a compact keyboard.

Big key, small key: The Matias Ergo Pro layout

It is quite common for ergonomic keyboards come with their own special, nonstandard key layout. The makers usually claim that this key layout is the best one ever, incorporating everything useful that has been discovered since the invention of the typewriter. Some keep it reasonable, just putting the keys in a grid formation and perhaps moving one or two around. Some go extremely radical, like the Truly Ergonomic keyboard. And some, like the Matias Ergo Pro, try to find a happy medium.

Of all the keyboards I have used, the Matias layout reminds me the most of the Kinesis Freestyle keyboard. I don’t have space here to go over the positions of all the keys – you can look up anything you’re interested in on the diagram below – but I will touch on a few high points.

The Matias Ergo Pro key layout (US).

The Matias Ergo Pro key layout (US). Click image for larger view.

When you look at the Matias Ergo Pro, it is immediately obvious that some keys have been enlarged at the expense of others. Notably, the Space, Alt, and Ctrl keys are gigantic. This would seem to be the reason why the F keys are so small – but rest assured, they are still fully clicky mechanical keys, not squishy rubber jokes like those on the Kinesis Advantage. (Which, we may hope, will soon be improved, as the Advantage is otherwise an awesome board.)

Small function keys I can live with, but I’m not so excited when the cursor navigation keys get minified as well. Home, End, PgUp, PgDn, and the arrow keys are all half-size – which looks a bit strange next to the mega-jumbo Ctrl keys and spacebar. At the risk of sounding like a socialist, I think the available space could have been distributed a little better.

On the plus side, the Ergo Pro does include a left-hand column of useful keys. These include Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo. I also give the Ergo Pro points for its Fn key implementation, which is momentary rather than toggle. In my opinion, this is the only way that makes any sense. It enables easy access to the media control keys at the upper end of the function row, without having to toggle Fn on and off. Maybe Kinesis would like to take a memo.

Tilt up your keyboard and rest awhile

As I mentioned earlier, the Ergo Pro’s tilt functions are built into its palm rests, each of which has two folding feet along the front. Pop out all four and you get negative tilt for low work surfaces. Pop out just the middle two, together with the corresponding middle feet on the keyboard, and you get 9 degrees of center tilt. Take off the palm rests entirely and you get… well, a flat keyboard. The feet on the keyboard itself are pretty much useless alone. This isn’t exactly a design flaw, but it is something to be aware of: If you don’t like, don’t have room for, or otherwise can’t make use of the palm rests, they’re easy to remove – but then you can’t make use of the tilt features either.

IMGP5842

This is the Ergo Pro’s negative tilt position. The palm rests are required for negative tilt and center tenting; thus their presence even though I don’t need them with my Contour ArmSupport Red.

A sturdy keyboard that will go where you go

Matias Ergo Pro
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I cannot properly finish this review without at least a nod to the quality of Matias. Even though the Ergo Pro isn’t a metal tank like some more radical mechanical keyboards, it is very solid without being monstrously heavy. This is a keyboard you could easily tote back and forth to work, using the box itself for a carrying case. (It has a plastic handle for that purpose, and since there are pictures on the box, all your friends will see what an awesome keyboard you have).

Transportation is also facilitated by the way the cables are done: All of them detach at both ends, and none are proprietary and difficult to replace. The connecting cable between the two halves, in fact, is nothing more than a TRRS cable like you might use to hook up your phone to some speakers. Speaking of cables, the Ergo Pro also has three handy USB ports where you can get to them – always handy for flash drives and peripherals, whether you’re at the office or on the road.

Here’s to the next billion keystrokes

The world – at least, the geeky part of the world – has waited many years for a split, mechanical ergonomic keyboard at a price that people not named Gates can afford. With the Ergo Pro, Matias has brought about an amazing fulfillment of that dream. I believe this product will take its place with enduring favorites like the Kinesis Advantage – machines that pros and ordinary folks alike will use and love for many millions of keystrokes to come.

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19 Comments

  1. Nic
    Posted November 22, 2016 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Hi, I just started using a Matias Ergo Pro keyboard and love it — when it works.
    The first one I got lasted 3 weeks. Key no. 5 did not work after that.
    I got it replaced, that one lasted 2 hours. The i key started doubling, missing, or going out of sequence.
    That disappeared after another hour of use (correcting all the letter i errors!).

    So I am concerned by the quality, robustness and longevity of that keyboard. I am debating sending
    that second back and asking for a refund.

    What has been your experience with these keyboards? Do they last? Did I just get unlucky?

    Thanks for any comments, Nic

    • Jason
      Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      I have had three of these so far. The first (my demo) worked fine as far as I can remember. The second came with an incorrigibly repeating letter F key. After recommending a couple of home remedies that didn’t permanently fix the problem, Matias issued a replacement keyboard, which has worked perfectly since. So, glitchy keys do seem to be an issue – but if you’re sure you like the keyboard, I’d just keep requesting replacements until you get one that works.

      • David
        Posted November 28, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

        My first one had key doubling and other odd key responses. Got a replacement from place of purchase, new one has issues as well (although less frequent).

        I love the feel and layout of the keyboard, but with these issues am definitely regretting the purchase.

  2. Noah Skocilich
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious about the amount of noise made by the regular and the quiet version, as it’s very important to me that a keyboard make as little noise as possible.

    Can someone elaborate on that?

    Thanks!

    • Jason
      Posted March 19, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      If noise is paramount, don’t get mechanical. The word “quiet” means quiet for a mechanical keyboard, not quiet as compared to most other keyboards. All mechanical keyboards are still louder than most rubber domes. It’s the nature of the beast.

      • Per Aspera Ad Astra
        Posted May 30, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        The Paste key is driving me crazy as I hit it by accident when ever I try to hit the shift key. Is there anyway to disable the extra keys for Cut, Copy and Paste? As I use Ctrl+X, Ctrl+C & Ctrl+V, these extra keys are only a nuisance rendering an otherwise very nice keyboard useless.

        • Jason
          Posted May 30, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          I doubt there’s any way to disable these keys (short of remapping Ctrl-V on your machine), but I’m reaching out to Matias to see if they want to offer an answer here.

        • Jason
          Posted May 31, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          Matias has confirmed to me that there’s no way to disable those keys. I suppose you could at least pull the keycaps (really sloppy) and put something over the switches to keep from hitting them (even sloppier).

  3. anon
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Hi.
    Just received a Ergo Pro Quiet Click – will be using it mainly at work.
    Many of the things you mention in your review are correct.

    However, one really big omission is the distance to the Enter button.
    It really is a stretch for the little finger, and I have long fingers.
    I would imagine that this for many would be a deal breaker, especially those suffering the onset of some form of RSI.
    Terrible design decision.

    What they should do is split the space bar into two keys the size of Alt. In that way one would have two Enter keys (right and left), whilst also allowing better utilisation of the thumb, and thus minimising strain.

    I think the pressure needed to actuate a key press is also too high.

    Having a Kinesis I appreciate the ability to use the left space as backspace, and also like the right control, although would be could good if it could easily be used with right thumb – perhaps a higher key cap would help this.

    I have also swapped Caps Lock with Control.

    My other other major gripe is the keys.
    Not the switches but the actual keys/key caps.
    They are both wobbly and noisy – and this is without pressing down on the switch.
    They also feel rather cheap.

    As you also mentioned, the burnt legend on the key caps is also annoyingly discernible.

    My last gripe is how easy it is to lose the home keys. The little bump on F and J is not pronounce enough, and is easily lost. I guess I’m spoiled by the Kinesis Advantage which atm is in another class with regards to keylayout and design.

    Overall though, I like the split. The build is solid apart from the wobbly noisy key caps.
    They are definitely onto something with this keyboard, although this revision lacks the needed creativity and adventurousness to be truly special.
    It is instead a little to much hit and miss. – The Enter key, especially, is a problem.

    I would partly recommend this keyboard to others looking for an ergonomic split keyboard.

    • Jason
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the detailed thoughts. I think users are more likely to find the Enter-key stretch a problem if they’re used to something other than an ordinary keyboard. Those who appreciate the specialized key positioning of the Kinesis Advantage, as you do, will likely be disappointed with more conventional placement of the Ergo Pro keys. For myself, the jump to Enter doesn’t bother me; I use a Kinesis Freestyle. Probably for the same reason, I haven’t notice the build quality issues to which you referred.

  4. Mike
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jason, what do you think about the force needed to press the switches? Is it an issue? Also since sometime has passed(and perhaps you’ve used the Ergo pro for more than a month), have you replaced your Freestyle2 with the Ergo Pro and if not, why? I certainly prefer mechanical over rubber, but am not sure about the switches on this keyboard, so I am wondering if I should get it.

    • Jason
      Posted November 9, 2015 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      If you already like mechanical, you’re not going to be disappointed. Key force is totally not an issue with this board as far as I am concerned.

      I didn’t end up replacing my Freestyle with the Ergo Pro, but not because of key action. The Matias just proved a bit too thick for my particular setup and needs. This gave the edge to the much-thinner Freestyle, which also has pretty good key action in its own right (for a non-mechanical board).

      • Mike
        Posted November 10, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        And what is your personal comparison between the Ergo pro and Kinesis Advantage? Since they are both thick and mechanical.The form of Advantage seems nice, but seems like the non-adjustable split is a deal killer. Also I’ve tried only the Advantage LF and I just don’t like MX Reds, so I can’t say how it’d feel if it was with browns. As for the Matias, the closest I’ve tried are black alps which should be a clone to the normal alps, but I wonder how close is that to the Matias quiet click switches.

  5. David
    Posted October 20, 2015 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Hi Jason,

    How does this compare to the Freestyle2 and Goldtouch? My Freestyle with lifters/palm rests has started playing up after many years faithful service, and I’m not sure whether to replace it with a Freestyle2 or look for something else. This looks like a nice alternative, like a Freestyle but with nicer key action (?).

    I’ve also previously used a Goldtouch which I really liked, but not sure if I could go back to a keyboard without palm rests.

    Appreciate any opinions you have on this.
    Regards,
    David

    • Jason
      Posted October 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Long time no speak, David. Hope you have been well since your Not So Excellent Typing Adventure. 🙂

      If you’ve tried and liked mechanical keys, and if you can afford the higher price, I think it would be very unwise to pass up the Matias for another Freestyle. The caveat here is that not everybody is going to be in love with mechanical. It’s just something you have to try for yourself.

  6. Cheung
    Posted August 23, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the detail review. How’s it working with the Roller Mouse Red?

    • Jason
      Posted August 24, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      It works quite well with the RollerMouse Red as long as you don’t need to use the Matias palm rests (or tilt the keyboard). Some have had success jerry-riggin the RollerMouse keyboard lifters to tilt the two halves of the Matias. I tried this, but I wasn’t totally satisfied with the results.

  7. Steve
    Posted August 22, 2015 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the review!

    I’ve been using the Ergo Pro at home for a couple months, and it’s my first mechanical keyboard. Here my thoughts and opinions about it….

    The switches are fantastic compared to my MS Natural 4000 (which I’ve used at home and work for over 10 years).

    At first look, I thought the Esc key would be strenuous to reach, but I found I can get it with my left middle finger easily enough.

    I use the left side of my left hand to press the giant control key on the left half. Not using my pinky to press control (like on the MS 4000) prevents a lot of strain I used to get.

    My biggest gripe about the keyboard is that the 6 key is on the right. Ugh.

    I don’t really use the undo, cut, copy and paste keys.

    Also, the embedded number pad it useless to me, as I’m too accustomed to a real number pad. The embedded number pad just complicates the legends on the key caps.

    I sometimes unintentionally press Del instead of Backspace (or vice versa).

    I wish that the function keys were above their corresponding number keys (e.g. F9 above 9).

    I can’t get used to the Home, End, Pg Up, Pg Dn cluster without looking down at what I want to press. This contrasts with my muscle memory of using the “6 pack” keys (i.e. insert, delete, home, end, page up, page down) on the MS 4000.

    The build quality is excellent! The wrist wrest doesn’t seem cheap.

    The TRRS cable is meh. I wish something more durable was used (like RJ11).

    The included angled micro USB cable points in the wrong direction. I wish it was pointing to the right instead of the left.

    The USB port near the inside (left side) of the right half is practically useless if you have both halves close to each other.

    I’d pay extra for backlighting.

    A dedicated number pad accessory with the “6 pack” keys and inverted T arrow keys would be great. I’d pay a lot more for this.

    • Jason
      Posted August 24, 2015 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Thanks for posting some detailed observations. I hear you about having 6 on the right; that nearly drove me crazy for awhile, but I got used to it eventually. As to the angle of the USB cable, I thought the keyboard came with two different ones, a right and a left? Maybe I am getting mixed up with the Mini Quiet Pro, which I reviewed previously.

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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.