Introduction

Since the QWERTY key set became the universally accepted keyboard layout, comfort specialists have been constantly complaining about the stress inducting characteristics of the average keyboard. Granted, key sets that are much more efficient have been designed (i.e. the DVORAK system) and produced by a few select manufacturers. However, the fact that QWERTY keyboards are so widespread today means that these specialty keyboards are rare to come by and impractical to adopt for common usage.

Thus, in an effort to bring stress reducing keyboards to consumers unwilling to learn a new key layout, many companies have decided to design ergonomic keyboards that still retain the popular QWERTY key set. One such company is Typematrix. Today we will be looking at their flagship keyboard, the EZ-Reach 2020 DE Series. Read on to find out.

(picture)

Specifications

  • PC Compatible (Mac and Sun compatible with optional USB convertor)
  • 5' cord with PS/2 connector (USB convertor available now!)
  • Plug 'n Play
  • Standard size keys - 19mm.
  • Key switch - Membrane technology with "double-scissors" mechanism beneath each keycap (distributes force evenly over entire keycap).
  • Key switch lifecycle - 10 million strokes
  • Key travel - 3.0 mm ± 0.5 mm
  • Key force - 55 gm ± 10 gm
  • Measurements: 14" x 7" x 1/2"
  • Weight : 1 lb. 9 oz.

    Design

    The premise behind the EZ-Reach is a technology Typematrix has dubbed “Matrix design” that they believe is much more effective at reducing stress than even other more expensive ergonomic keyboards.

    According to Typematrix, “Matrix design reduces the motions known to cause Repetitive Strain Injury, and intelligent rearrangement of the keys places the hands, wrists and shoulders in a neutral position.”

    But what exactly is Matrix design? Basically, it is the combination of vertical columns and enlarged keys to shorten finger movements, which is supposed to decrease typing stress and increase accuracy. Take a look at the labeled diagram from Typematrix below for a clearer picture of what the EZ-Reach’s design is all about.

    (picture)

    Performance

    One of the first things we noticed about the EZ-Reach is its compact size. At about 14” long, it takes up considerably less space than my wireless Logitech Access keyboard. We were also surprised by how thin the EZ-Reach is; only ½” thick. See the picture below for visual evidence of its smaller size.

    (picture)

    After plugging the EZ-Reach in (it is plug and play, no additional software required) and loading up Microsoft Word, we decided to see how well we could type with it. At first, the EZ-Reach’s vertically aligned keys were tough to adapt to. After years of touch typing on keyboards featuring staggered keys, the straight columnar layout of the EZ-Reach resulted in a lot of initial typing errors.

    (picture)
    The key layout we are accustomed to.

    (picture)
    The key layout of the EZ-Reach.

    Besides the aligned keys, Typmatrix has also adopted a semi-split keyboard layout and switched around several keys. The most notable are the Enter and Backspace keys; they have been repositioned smack dab in the middle of the keyboard “for easy access and reduction of stressful wrist movements.”

    It took about a week before we finally got used to hitting Enter and Backspace with the index finger.

    (picture)

    Performance Continued

    We mentioned earlier that the EZ-Reach was small in comparison to other keyboards, a nice feature of the keyboard that allowed a mouse to be placed closer to the hands. Well, with the smaller size comes sacrifice in dedicated keys.

    If you had not noticed earlier from the pictures of the EZ-Reach, the entire Numpad has been chopped off and integrated into the main body of the keyboard. In order to utilize these keys, you must depress a special Function Key.

    (picture)

    So if you wanted to type the number 456789 you must press down the Function (Fn) key - then use the integrated numpad - to avoid typing the first priority keys for these numbers, which would yield ./l;’ .

    (picture)

    Other important keys that have been integrated as a secondary function of other keys include the following: Page Up, Page Down, Insert, Home, and End as to (Fn)F11, (Fn)F12, (Fn)F8, (Fn)F9, and (Fn)F10 respectively.

    (picture)

    The integrated keys proved to be an inconvenience, but a minor one at that. We were already getting used to pressing the Function key to toggle the secondary roles of many keys within a week, and over time, pressing Function will most likely become as second nature as pressing Shift is to you now.

    Conclusion - Word of Caution

    The Typematrix EZ-Reach keyboard is one of the most effective and affordable keyboards to incorporate ergonomic design into a slim and compact package. Granted, the initial learning curve and absence of conventional dedicated keys might set you back at first. However, these setbacks will fade with use and experience.

    That said, I would warn against adopting the EZ-Reach if you are a businessperson or one who uses other computers away from home (at work, school, etc.) on a regular basis. This is because once you have adapted to the matrix layout of the EZ-Reach, it is hard to use a staggered keyboard such as one you would encounter at work, on business trips, or virtually anywhere else.

    Because is very hard to maintain speed and accuracy with both conventional keyboards and the EZ-Reach, those who try to use the EZ-Reach and a conventional keyboard at the same time will usually experience poor performance with both. Although the EZ-Reach may reduce stress and improve accuracy, it is still very much outnumbered.

    Thus, the people that would benefit the most from the EZ-Reach are avid writers and home computer users who are concerned about stress, or those who simply wish to improve typing accuracy. And while the keyboard is not suited for business users, those who mainly do their typing at home cannot go wrong by investing in a Typematrix EZ-Reach 2020.

    Pros:

  • Slim profile, space saving construction
  • Larger keys and vertical alignment improve typing accuracy
  • Hassle free install (plug and play)
  • Great value

    Cons:
  • Impedes ability to type on conventional keyboards
  • New layout takes getting used to
  • Key overlay is inconvenient

    SCORE: 8.2/10

    Introduction

    Since the QWERTY key set became the universally accepted keyboard layout, comfort specialists have been constantly complaining about the stress inducting characteristics of the average keyboard. Granted, key sets that are much more efficient have been designed (i.e. the DVORAK system) and produced by a few select manufacturers. However, the fact that QWERTY keyboards are so widespread today means that these specialty keyboards are rare to come by and impractical to adopt for common usage.



    Thus, in an effort to bring stress reducing keyboards to consumers unwilling to learn a new key layout, many companies have decided to design ergonomic keyboards that still retain the popular QWERTY key set. One such company is Typematrix. Today we will be looking at their flagship keyboard, the EZ-Reach 2020 DE Series. Read on to find out.



    (picture)

    Specifications

  • PC Compatible (Mac and Sun compatible with optional USB convertor)

  • 5' cord with PS/2 connector (USB convertor available now!)

  • Plug 'n Play

  • Standard size keys - 19mm.

  • Key switch - Membrane technology with "double-scissors" mechanism beneath each keycap (distributes force evenly over entire keycap).

  • Key switch lifecycle - 10 million strokes

  • Key travel - 3.0 mm ± 0.5 mm

  • Key force - 55 gm ± 10 gm

  • Measurements: 14" x 7" x 1/2"

  • Weight : 1 lb. 9 oz.

    Design

    The premise behind the EZ-Reach is a technology Typematrix has dubbed “Matrix design” that they believe is much more effective at reducing stress than even other more expensive ergonomic keyboards.



    According to Typematrix, “Matrix design reduces the motions known to cause Repetitive Strain Injury, and intelligent rearrangement of the keys places the hands, wrists and shoulders in a neutral position.”



    But what exactly is Matrix design? Basically, it is the combination of vertical columns and enlarged keys to shorten finger movements, which is supposed to decrease typing stress and increase accuracy. Take a look at the labeled diagram from Typematrix below for a clearer picture of what the EZ-Reach’s design is all about.



    (picture)

    Performance

    One of the first things we noticed about the EZ-Reach is its compact size. At about 14” long, it takes up considerably less space than my wireless Logitech Access keyboard. We were also surprised by how thin the EZ-Reach is; only ½” thick. See the picture below for visual evidence of its smaller size.



    (picture)



    After plugging the EZ-Reach in (it is plug and play, no additional software required) and loading up Microsoft Word, we decided to see how well we could type with it. At first, the EZ-Reach’s vertically aligned keys were tough to adapt to. After years of touch typing on keyboards featuring staggered keys, the straight columnar layout of the EZ-Reach resulted in a lot of initial typing errors.



    (picture)

    The key layout we are accustomed to.



    (picture)

    The key layout of the EZ-Reach.



    Besides the aligned keys, Typmatrix has also adopted a semi-split keyboard layout and switched around several keys. The most notable are the Enter and Backspace keys; they have been repositioned smack dab in the middle of the keyboard “for easy access and reduction of stressful wrist movements.”



    It took about a week before we finally got used to hitting Enter and Backspace with the index finger.



    (picture)

    Performance Continued

    We mentioned earlier that the EZ-Reach was small in comparison to other keyboards, a nice feature of the keyboard that allowed a mouse to be placed closer to the hands. Well, with the smaller size comes sacrifice in dedicated keys.



    If you had not noticed earlier from the pictures of the EZ-Reach, the entire Numpad has been chopped off and integrated into the main body of the keyboard. In order to utilize these keys, you must depress a special Function Key.



    (picture)



    So if you wanted to type the number 456789 you must press down the Function (Fn) key - then use the integrated numpad - to avoid typing the first priority keys for these numbers, which would yield ./\l;’ .



    (picture)



    Other important keys that have been integrated as a secondary function of other keys include the following: Page Up, Page Down, Insert, Home, and End as to (Fn)F11, (Fn)F12, (Fn)F8, (Fn)F9, and (Fn)F10 respectively.



    (picture)



    The integrated keys proved to be an inconvenience, but a minor one at that. We were already getting used to pressing the Function key to toggle the secondary roles of many keys within a week, and over time, pressing Function will most likely become as second nature as pressing Shift is to you now.

    Conclusion - Word of Caution

    The Typematrix EZ-Reach keyboard is one of the most effective and affordable keyboards to incorporate ergonomic design into a slim and compact package. Granted, the initial learning curve and absence of conventional dedicated keys might set you back at first. However, these setbacks will fade with use and experience.



    That said, I would warn against adopting the EZ-Reach if you are a businessperson or one who uses other computers away from home (at work, school, etc.) on a regular basis. This is because once you have adapted to the matrix layout of the EZ-Reach, it is hard to use a staggered keyboard such as one you would encounter at work, on business trips, or virtually anywhere else.



    Because is very hard to maintain speed and accuracy with both conventional keyboards and the EZ-Reach, those who try to use the EZ-Reach and a conventional keyboard at the same time will usually experience poor performance with both. Although the EZ-Reach may reduce stress and improve accuracy, it is still very much outnumbered.



    Thus, the people that would benefit the most from the EZ-Reach are avid writers and home computer users who are concerned about stress, or those who simply wish to improve typing accuracy. And while the keyboard is not suited for business users, those who mainly do their typing at home cannot go wrong by investing in a Typematrix EZ-Reach 2020.



    Pros:

  • Slim profile, space saving construction

  • Larger keys and vertical alignment improve typing accuracy

  • Hassle free install (plug and play)

  • Great value



    Cons:

  • Impedes ability to type on conventional keyboards

  • New layout takes getting used to

  • Key overlay is inconvenient



    SCORE: 8.2/10

    SLRating: 8/10



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