When you think of sports-related injuries, PC gamers probably aren’t the first group to come to mind. Use a keyboard for long enough, however, and you’ll soon learn that there’s a price to be paid from spending so long fragging your enemies. That’s where Kinesis Gaming comes in with their brand new Freestyle Edge RGB. It’s a premium mechanical keyboard complete with every gaming feature you could wish for and enhanced with an ergonomic split to keep you gaming comfortably for hours. At $219, though, it comes in at quite the premium. Is it worth it? Join us as we find out.
- MSRP: $219
- Operating Systems: Plug and Play on Windows, Mac, Linux & Chrome
- Connectivity: Wired 6’ Braided USB Type-A
- Response Time: 1ms
- 100% Anti-Ghosting
- N-Key Rollover Toggle
- Switches: Genuine Cherry MX Switches (Brown, Blue, or Red), up to 50M keystrokes
- Lighting: Per-Key RGB Lighting (16.8M colors)
- RGB Presets: Wave, Spectrum, Breath, Rain, Reactive, Loop, Pulse, Rebound
- Macros: Eight Macro Keys w/ Onboard programming or Smartset APP
- Ergonomics: Split Keyboard w/ detachable palm rests and optional lift kit
- Connecting Cable Length: 20 inches
- Dimensions: 1.25 x 15.5 x 10.25 inches
- Weight: 3.0 lbs
- Warranty: 2 Year Limited
The Freestyle Edge isn’t the first split keyboard I’ve used but it’s definitely the timeliest. When I received the email asking us to apply for a review sample, I’d been working overtime pre-writing articles leading up to my medical leave at the beginning of July. In that time, I was typing away for three to four hours a day, every day, for a good two weeks. By the end of that span, my hands had begun to hurt from my wrist up to my knuckles in my right hand. The index finger stayed sore, making it hard to play guitar for two solid weeks after my surge of long writing days. Like anyone would be, I was worried but had no way of stopping without missing my obligations.
For gamers, it’s much the same. The demands to “be there” exist like never before. Online worlds dominate our time and if we don’t show, we’re often letting whole teams of friends down. Likewise, because Games as a Service revolve around group-play, we’re often playing for longer stretches. As any pro gamer will tell you, your keyboard is a tool and it may just be your most important consideration after your PC itself.
The Freestyle Edge RGB is designed to prevent situations like what I went through and the many other cases of Carpal Tunnel and repetitive stress injuries that result from long hours at a normal keyboard. It’s most definitive feature, the split, reveals just how poorly designed a normal keyboard truly is.
A standard 104-key keyboard isn’t designed with ergonomics in mind. Want a test to see for yourself? Let your hands fall to your sides. Now, raise them up and extend them in front of you without adjusting that natural, shoulder-width spacing. That’s how far your hands should be spaced when typing. Notice also how your hands are not completely flat (unless you’ve turned them) and are instead angled, palms in. Along with being more widely spaced, your hands rest at an angle. Virtually no mainstream keyboard, especially in the gaming space, is actually designed around your body. The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB is.
The Kinesis’ new gaming flagship is a compact beast, even with the split, which makes it perfect for gaming. By default, it’s separated roughly in the center and connected with a nice bit of braided cable. When first unboxed, the cable is about a foot long, but because gamers come in all shapes and sizes, additional cable up to a total of twenty inches is hidden in a rear cable management compartment – a nice touch to keep your desk tidy.
The standard key area adopts a 75% layout, which means it has your normal letters, numbers, function row, and arrows, but chops off the usual editing/navigation cluster and numpad, instead putting the most common keys on the right-hand side (Home, End, Page Up, Page Down). This allows you access to virtual all of your most used keys without the added width. In truth, the whole keyboard is closer in size to a standard TKL because the left-hand side includes a complete eight-key macro cluster for all of your programming needs.
What it doesn’t have out of the box is any way to tilt the keyboard. There are no flip feet at all and if you want to address the other half of typing ergonomics, you’ll need to buy the “lift kit” separately to take care of your angling needs. I wish they has at least included tilt feet but Kinesis earns major points for including an excellent set of wrist rests in the box. They’re plush and comfy and go a long way toward getting the proper angle for comfortable typing even without angle adjustment. Still, you might want to look into a set of tilt feet if you prefer an angle or, better yet, the lift kit itself.
When you go all in with the split and lift kit, it’s not an exaggeration to say that you’re pretty radically changing your typing experience. In fact, Kinesis recommends users to give the keyboard a solid two weeks of adjustment time before making any hard judgments. This is very fitting and absolutely necessary, especially if you’ve never used a split keyboard before as you’re likely to make lots of mistakes when you’re starting out. It doesn’t take long to overcome this but it is frustrating at first; you’re unlearning years of muscle memory.
I’d wager you do better than two weeks, though. I’ve used several split keyboards over the years and, every time, there’s a steep learning curve. Even for me, someone who has made the switch several times, after going back to a normal keyboard for a while, returning to splits-ville is always a challenge. Except here, they’ve so dialed in the wrist rests that I found the Freestyle Edge RGB to be much, much easier to adapt to. I’m not sure I ever returned to my normal typing speed on those other keyboards but here I was typing like my old self in just several days. Still, I’d highly recommend taking it in baby steps. Follow Kinesis’ recommendations: start with the halves close together at first, space them out as you get more comfortable, and save the lift kit for last. That process got me up to speed quickly and should do the same for you.
Of course, it’s not all about ergonomics. It’s 2019, so the keyboard offers full per-key RGB illumination with upwards of 16 million choices. It’s also completely remappable and programmable. The best part about this is that the software doesn’t need to be installed to run. That means you can take your Freestyle Edge RGB to work and still have full lighting and macro programming without needing install permissions. At home, it means no pesky software constantly running in the background and eating up your memory.
The software itself is easy to navigate and understand. I didn’t run into any issues changing my custom lighting scheme or assigning commands to the left-side macro keys. There are quite a few lighting presets, too, so if you’d rather not fuss with creating some unique for yourself, you can get your keyboard looking nice in no-time. Since the software does not run in perpetuity, all of your changes get written directly to the keyboard so they’ll travel with you even after it’s unplugged. You can even assign multiple profiles which is great if you’re polyamorous with your gaming or simply have too much to bind for a single layout.
Another thing gamers will surely appreciate is that the split allows you to push one side completely out of the way. If you’re gaming, you probably won’t need the right side at all. With the provided slack, I move it right up under my monitor, leaving the left-side as a de facto gaming pad not unlike the Razer Orbweaver Chroma.
And, of course, it uses genuine Cherry MX key switches. The unit I was sent featured Cherry MX Brown switches, but Red and Blue are also available. I loved how it felt to type on with my Browns, though, so I’d highly recommend you consider them. Despite being plastic-bodied, the Freestyle Edge RGB felt remarkably solid without any reverberation throughout the body.
Enough beating around the bush – this is an expensive keyboard and what you really want to know is whether the benefits justify the cost. At first, I didn’t think so; I never do in the beginning because when you’re first learning to use it, you’re making mistakes and actually slowing down. After the first week, however, my opinion completely changed. Like I mentioned previously, I was able to get back up to speed quickly, much faster than my last Mistel split keyboard. At the same time, after only a single day my hands started to feel better. That pain I had running along the back of my hand disappeared, something I put firmly at the feet of the split and the Lift Kit accessory. The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB freed me of the pain I’d been dealing with and reassured me that I wasn’t going to have to give up writing anytime soon. That’s an incredible relief.
I’ll be frank: this is the kind of keyboard that’s hard to sell people on. No one (and especially younger people; I’m only 33, by the way) thinks they need something like this until the day comes when they actually do. If you’re someone who spends hours at a computer every day, though, whether that’s working or gaming, this is the kind of device you need to consider before something goes wrong. For a lot of people, by the time you feel it, it’s already too late. I consider myself lucky that I was able to dodge that bullet.
And here’s the reality of it: the Freestyle Edge RGB is expensive compared to normal keyboards but surprisingly reasonable compared to other ergonomic and split boards. Those other boards rarely have features like extra macro buttons, great included wrist rests, and full programmability without the need to install the software package. The package Kinesis has delivered is outstanding in the ergonomic market and the modularity of being able to push one side out of the way really makes it a great fit for gamers.
Spend the extra money and take care of yourself. Save desk space when gaming. Get rid of the software bloat. This is an outstanding split gaming keyboard for ergo-faithful and newcomers alike.