The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB is a mechanical keyboard that might be way more tech than a guy like me can handle… but I think I love it.
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this product.
For a guy who spends as much time staring at computers as I do, I never really invest in the user experience. I've got a collection of monitors of all sorts of sizes that I've found at thrift stores over the years, and piles of mice and keyboards to match. My computer is a totally utilitarian device. It's a tool I use to get things done, and as long as my setup is working I don't go out of my way to upgrade it.
A while back, the folks over at Kinesis got in touch with an opportunity to review one of their gaming keyboards. I've heard talks of cherries and switches for years but hadn't ever used a modern mechanical keyboard, and thought it'd be fun to check it out.
I opted to take a look at the Freestyle Edge RGB, which seemed like it'd be well-suited for playing games and typing. Now that I've had it at my desk for a while, I'm an absolute convert. This keyboard is fantastic.
Unboxing and Immediate Impressions
The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB came in a nice box with secure packaging and looked gorgeous as soon as I took it out. The keyboard is nice and weighty so that it feels solid sitting on a desk, and has soft wristpads that are an absolute godsend if you are coming from a plain old stock keyboard. Of course, if those get in the way of your setup, the palm rests are detachable. Two plastic catches on the bottom can be lifted up and they slide right off.
There is a six-foot braided USB cable to hook the keyboard up to your computer, which at first seemed like overkill, but after I rearranged my desk I really appreciated the extra reach. The two halves of the keyboard are connected by another short, braided cable. Or, at least it appears short out of the box. A compartment on the left side houses the rest of the cable. When you take it all the way out you can have nearly two feet between the two halves!
The only disappointment I was struck by upon first taking a look at the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB is that it doesn't have any way to angle the keyboards at all. On other keyboards, I almost always lower the feet at the top so that the whole thing tilts forward, but that's just not an option here. There are separate “Lift Kits” you can buy from Kinesis, but it looks like those just give you left-to-right tenting, and not the angled-forward feel I'm used to.
Click and Shine
Getting started with the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB keyboard felt great. I ended up opting for the MX Cherry Brown switches which are a little clunkier than the Reds that were also available but were more suited for typing. Part of the sell on these switches is that there is a bit of a click where a keystroke is registered before the key bottoms out.
In practice, that click is a bit hard to find for me. When I'm thinking about it I can push the keys down just enough to hit that register without feeling like I'm hammering on the keys. If I type like that, this is a bit louder than a normal keyboard, but not in a terribly obnoxious way.
Unfortunately, I don't normally think about it and end up pushing each key all the way down as I type. This still feels good, in fact, better than a normal keyboard, but it's dang loud. Real loud. My wife gets annoyed with me loud.
There are also, of course, RGB lights built into the keyboard. There are a ton of different options for how you want the keys to display, including cascading rainbows or solid colors. My favorite setup has the entire keyboard blue until a hit a key, at which point purple waves spread out from that key across the board. I'm not a touch typist, but when I'm thinking I often look down as I type, and watching the flashes of blue and purple makes me super happy. It is kind of a bummer that those waves only apply across whichever keyboard you hit the key on, though.
Usability and Flexibility
There are a couple of different aspects of usability that need to be addressed with the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB. There's the general comfortability of the form factor, how it is for productivity, and how it works as a gaming keyboard.
For the general form factor, I've got very little to complain about. The wrist rests are super nice and the split form means you can angle things to your heart's content. I usually have each side rotated in a bit so that the top corners are almost touching. I do miss being able to tilt the keyboard up a bit, but even without that, I find it super comfortable.
For productivity, I mostly like this keyboard. Even after a few months with it I still find that the mechanical keys lead me towards missed keystrokes way more often than a standard keyboard would. On the other hand, the actual feel of punching the keys is so satisfying that I don't mind having to hit backspace a bit more often. There are 8 programable hotkeys on the left side of the keyboard, which are nice for programming in commonly used short-cuts or alt key codes. The biggest drawback on the productivity side of things is the lack of a number pad on the right side. I've experimented both with using the built-in shortcut that turns some of the letters on the right-hand side into a 9-key, the top row numbers, and a separate 9-key accessory, but so far I just end up frustrated whenever I'm working with numbers.
For gaming, this thing is really nice. I'm more often a console gamer, but I find myself leaning towards keyboard and mouse controls since I've been using this. Outside of the good feel of the buttons and the programable hotkeys, the biggest advantage for gaming is that the split keyboard means you can move the entire right side out of the way. Having the left side of the keyboard and my mouse side by side feels super nice. The only downside is that the right side of the keyboard is the one with the tether to the PC, so figuring out where to move it can be a bit tricky.
I really wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB keyboard. Before sitting down with it, I thought of mechanical keyboards as more of a novelty than anything else. Now that I've got it set up at my desk, I'm really turned around. Typing on this keyboard feels absolutely wonderful, and the flexibility of the split design and the programable hotkeys has been an absolute game changer for me in both productivity and gaming. I do wish that it had some built-in options for angling the device and that the USB cord was coming out of the left half instead of the right, but other than that I really love this thing.
I really realized how much I loved the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB when I was out of town for a while over the holidays and was using plain old boring keyboards day in and day out. Getting back home to my Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB keyboard was as exciting as getting back to sleeping in my own bed.