Dygma Raise keyboard review: elevating the laws of ergonomics

dygma raise hero 2


Jun Wan/ZDNet

Gaming keyboards come in all shapes and sizes. They are often built with the most clickable keys, covered with RGB lighting, and offer “ergonomic support” in the form of cushioned wrist rests. However, as most typists and industry professionals can attest, a truly ergonomic keyboard goes beyond the extra padding. And until now, there has yet to be a full-fledged ergo keyboard that is as good for gaming as it is for physical health.

Esports professionals in their early twenties often suffer from neck, back and wrist problems. If they already have health problems, what will it look like in 10 years?

That’s what Luis Sevilla, CEO of Dygma and former eSports coach of two-time LEC champion Fnatic, wanted to solve when he turned his career-inspired passion project in 2017 into an ergonomic solution for the masses. I had the chance to test out Seville’s newest keyboard – the Dygma Raise – which is designed to alleviate common pain points such as carpal tunnel, ulnar deviation and extension. The keyboard is not cheap. But with the plethora of customizable and modular features, the $319 starting price is an investment that becomes easier to justify over time.

Like

Highly customizable keyboardModular character is an ergonomic dreamThumb Cluster is functional for all usersCarrying case and keyboard tools included

Not fun

$89 tent package is not includedRequires a bit of muscle memory/touch typingBazecor software is still a work in progressMore expensive than standard ergo keyboards

Design

There is no doubt that the Dygma Raise is an eye-catcher. The keyboard has a 60 percent or 68 key layout that ditches the numeric keypad, function keys, and arrow keys, in favor of a smaller form factor. In addition, the Raise feels a lot more compact than the traditional range of tenkeyless (87 keys) and full-size (104 keys).

What really sets the Raise apart from other ergo alternatives is its split design. Split keyboards are nothing new, and Dygma’s angular approach ensures that the elbows point outwards (rather than against the body) when typing, the wrists rest well against the soft cushioning, and the shoulders are aligned with the back. All of this makes for a more natural typing experience, free from prolonged discomfort. “A normal keyboard forces the wrists to bend toward the pinky side of our hand. Rotating the halves of the Raise allows you to keep your wrists at a neutral angle, reducing pressure and tension over time,” said Sevilla during an interview.

The only caveat I have found is the need to recalibrate my touch typing and muscle memory. That applies to all split keyboards.

Jun Wan/ZDNet

A separately sold tent kit can be installed on the base of the Dygma Raise and is intended to reduce the pronation of your wrists. Pronation occurs when your palm is facing down, such as when you type on a traditional flat keyboard. In this position, the ulna and radius bones of your forearm actually rotate in a way that reduces blood flow and can be uncomfortable.

With the tenting kit, the inner sides of the Dygma Raise can be raised up to four degrees of pitch (10°, 20°, 30° and 40°). This way, your wrist and forearm are angulated in a way that is supinated or untwisted. During testing, I found that the 20° angle offers the most comfortable height for all-day typing. A little higher and my wrists would just slide off the keyboard.

Also: The best ergonomic keyboards: work more comfortably

The tenting kit is essential for users looking for the ultimate ergonomic keyboard solution. It’s a shame Dygma doesn’t bundle the $89 accessory with the already expensive Raise.

Jun Wan/ZDNet

Still, there’s more than just the add-ons the Dygma has. The pin connectors make attaching and detaching the two halves of the keyboard simple and intuitive. Placing magnets on the inside of the Raise allowed me to switch seamlessly between split keyboard mode and the standard QWERTY layout. But after my first few days of testing, I was spoiled by the comfort and ergonomics of the split keyboard design.

The Raise is connected via USB-C to what Dygma calls the Neuron, a centerpiece that functions as a dongle and storage space for your backlight profiles, important 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 modularity in mind, the Raise can work even if you unplug either side of the keyboard. This is especially useful for gamers who mainly work with the QWER and WASD keys, as they can detach the right side of the keyboard instead of more surface area for the mouse.

Jun Wan/ZDNet

My biggest concern when moving from a wireless Logitech MX Keys to the thenewsupdate Dygma Raise was how the cabling would handle standing desks. I’m one of those ‘desktop-on-the-floor’ users, so I often experience connection issues with shorter cables. That was not the case with the Dygma. The Raise’s braided cord was long enough to run from the floor to the top of my standing desk. However, I still want to see a wireless version of the Raise in the future.

Update: Dygma shared with me that a wireless version of the Raise, called the Dygma Defy, is officially in the works and will be made available for crowdfunding in the near future. More information about the Defy can be found here.

Also: ZDNet’s Most Recommended Standing Desks

As for typing on the 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 numeric keypad—both of which I used frequently on my MX Keys—was very noticeable. Here’s a demo of what it’s like to type on the Raise.

Dygma accommodates full-size users like me with an eight-key thumb cluster and reassignable buttons via the Bazecor software. See, most keyboards on the market have a single, elongated space bar. Rather than follow suit, Dygma has divided the single space bar into four reassignable keys, with another row of four inconspicuous keys below. For my entertainment and gaming needs I ended up setting the bottom row to volume control and up and down functions.

My review unit came in a silver case and silent pink Kailh switches, but you can mix and match colors, PBT keycaps and switches when you buy the keyboard from the Dygma website. Whichever combo you choose, the Raise comes in a neat carrying case, with an “Enhancement Kit” filled with different colored switches for testing, thick and thin o-rings for noise dampening, and a keycap switch puller. Yes, that means the buttons and switches on the Raise are hot-swappable and compatible with third-party accessories.

Jun Wan/ZDNet

Software

As you might infer, the 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 the keyboard’s backlight and underglow settings, remap keys (as described earlier), and set up to 10 layers or layout profiles.

The latter feature is especially useful for creative tasks such as video editing or programming, where you rely more on certain keys and macros than others. Still, the amount of functionality Dygma has managed to pack into a 68-key body is astounding, with up to 10 completely separate and customizable input layouts.

It’s important to note that each macro or layer comes at the cost of one of the 68 keys on the Raise, so you’ll want to choose wisely where and how much to set.

Most users, myself included, probably won’t be using all 10 layers of major changes, but there’s still plenty to tinker with at the basic level. To facilitate the process of setting up your ideal keyboard layout, Dygma conducts a short survey when you purchase the Raise. The questionnaire measures your typing knowledge, usage scenarios, occupation, and other user-related data and uses those answers to suggest layouts that fit your profile. For more options, you can find a wide variety of user-generated layouts on Dygma’s subreddit and Wiki page.

Also: The best gaming keyboards: all the hits and clicks

Bazecor is rich in customizability and generally requires a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, the user interface is straight forward, easy on the eyes, and works just as well on the Mac as it does on Windows. The software continues to see quality-of-life updates, bringing it ever closer to the freedom of customization that gamers, working professionals, and typists have longed for.

Conclusion

The Dygma Raise is a bold attempt to redefine what it means to be an “ergonomic keyboard”. Starting at $319, the Raise is not cheap by any means. But for enthusiasts seeking the thrills of traditional gaming keyboards and the benefits of form-fitting ergo keyboards, the Dygma Raise is a substantial choice that offers the best of both worlds.

As for me, I’ve since gone back to the Logitech MX Keys. But every now and then, as I type these kinds of articles, my wrists ache for the ergonomic euphoria that was the Dygma Raise.

Alternatives to consider

Even with its extraordinary design, the Dygma Raise faces stiff competition. These are the best alternatives to consider:

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