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In a previous article How to Make Your Laptop Ergonomic, we suggested using a foldable keyboard as a tool that would enable you to place your monitor on a monitor riser or laptop incliner while allowing you to type comfortably. To reassure this statement, we decided to invest in a foldable wireless keyboard and test it ourselves to fine-tune our advice. The testing result was underwhelming, and in this article we provide all the reasons why you should refrain from buying a foldable keyboard that doesn’t address and resolve the issues we discovered.

Why should you buy a foldable keyboard? The theory

The idea behind this keyboard is to allow you to place the monitor on a monitor riser or laptop incliner while continuing to type comfortably, because typing for prolonged times with your keyboard extremely inclined on a laptop incliner can be uncomfortable and unideal for your wrists.

Creating this arrangement will make the top of the screen meet your eye level, which stops you from bending your neck while staring at it.

Ergonomic screen height relevant to eye level

Before moving on any further, it is important to mention that bending your neck as a standalone concept is not dangerous. Humans have been bending their neck to look at things way before the industrial revolution and the computer era. Our parents and grandparents used to bend their neck for prolonged times to read newspapers and books, so if you hear or read that bending your neck is bad for you, rest assured that this advice lacks context: that context being the time you spend bending your neck or in any one posture rather than the shape of your posture itself. For more scientific information on that matter, check our article about posture.

We’re mentioning this here so that you don’t get the wrong idea that you shouldn’t bend your neck at all, as this would be an unrealistic and toxic advice that would only make you feel guilty that you are hurting yourself simply by bending your neck. What you need to know is that having an external keyboard along with a monitor riser does not fix the root issue when it comes to work-related neck and shoulder pain, they simply provide you a more comfortable work experience and more time before you start feeling the soreness and discomfort during your computer work.

Keeping your neck around a neutral alignment is usually more comfortable than bending it when you sit for prolonged times. But the ultimate solution would be always to take movement breaks every 1-1.5 hours of sitting, and do some mobility exercises when you start feeling stiff.

With all that cleared up, let’s dive in to why this foldable keyboard is a terrible idea.

What do ergonomic and high quality keyboards actually look like?

Ergonomic alternative keyboard Microsoft sculpt

The keyboard and mouse setup you see above are the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop Keyboard and mouse. This entire setup costs less than a 100$, and it’s been working amazingly for us for almost a year now. The keyboard is an ergonomic/alternative keyboard that takes some training before you get used to it. It only took us few days before we had our original typing speed but that’s just anecdotal. Scientifically it can take up to 4 or sometimes 6 months before you restore your typing speed. You don’t necessarily need an ergonomic keyboard and we wrote an entire article about that with the link in the description. But what makes this keyboard great is its sturdiness, stability, and the external number pad which serves like a mobile calculator when doing lots of calculations.

The other high quality keyboard we use is the Microsoft Surface Pro keyboard. It’s important to mention that this is not your typical standard laptop keyboard, as it is detachable in case you want to use the Microsoft Surface Pro laptop as a tablet, and it can be elevated if you feel more comfortable to type on a slightly elevated surface. Moreover, you get to enjoy a pleasant key stroking experience when typing where they provide the absolute necessary resistance to the pressing forces, minimizing the amounts of typing errors that would be done.

Why you shouldn’t buy a foldable wireless keyboard

Now that we set the standard for what decent and high-quality keyboards look like, let’s dive in to why the foldable wireless keyboard can easily be a bad idea:

Foldable keyboards are excessively small

While comparable in length to the Microsoft Surface keyboard (30-32cm), foldable keyboards lack height. Their height is usually 8-9cm which is excessively small, forcing the manufacturers to cram the keys together and reducing their size as well. The idea behind owning a foldable keyboard lies in having a small, pocket-sized keyboard you can carry around, but most manufacturers take this too far in their design.

Foldable keyboards are slippery

This poor manufacturing aspect is the real deal breaker for foldable keyboards. It can differ from manufacturer to another, but it is a great area of concern as the last thing you want to experience is playing catch with your keyboard while trying to type on it. There is no justification for why any manufacturer would create such a flawed design, as it has become a standard practice to create keyboards with stable surfaces that provide maximal friction against surfaces, especially wooden ones.

The video below shows exactly how slippery foldable keyboards can be. Note that it took some force to move the Microsoft Surface keyboard and it didn’t slide smoothly on the table. The Microsoft Sculpt keyboard was significantly sturdier too, requiring significant force to slide on the table, whereas the foldable keyboard, well you can judge for yourself.

Foldable keyboards have glued-on letters

High quality and standard keyboards have their letters laser-printed, which means that it will take a very long time of repetitive and frequent stroking for the letters to start rubbing off. Moreover, the seamless printing of the letters provide a smooth surface when typing on the keyboard and promote a comfortable and pleasant experience doing so.

Microsoft Surface keyboard letter print: this picture is taken after 9 months of frequent use of mostly typing. Notice how the letters have maintained their original printing quality
Foldable keyboard letter print: notice how they are glued to the keys and the reflecting glare from the lamp above

Foldable keyboards have small and poorly designed keys

Comparison of three different keyboard keys

While the slipperiness of the foldable keyboard could be the fault of the specific manufacturer I purchased it from, the key size is a general issue for most if not all foldable keyboards to date. Notice how small the function keys such as the Tab, Caps Lock, Ctrl, and other keys are. The space bar and space in the middle was also annoying and uncomfortable, but that would be something worth sacrificing for the mobile and small size of the keyboard, if this size was practical and functional.

These four combined disadvantages lead to the fifth negative aspect of foldable keyboards:

Foldable keyboards require a long time to practice

Say that the slipperiness of the keyboard was fixed by adjusting its bottom surface, the size of the keyboard, the print of the letters, and the small and poorly designed keys will demand a long practice time, probably much more than the ergonomic keyboard since it would be a totally new interface that you’re typing on with no resemblance whatsoever to any keyboard you’ve probably ever used.

To make matters more complicated, the time you’ll need to practice typing on a foldable keyboard wouldn’t be productive and enlightening in any sense; it’s not like practicing how to drive with manual gear, but more like practicing how to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Foldable keyboards are not ergonomic overall

Combining all the mentioned aspects of why foldable keyboards are more aesthetic than practical, we can judge that they are simply not ergonomic in their purpose.

Ergonomics is the science of work law, and applying ergonomics in the workplace means that we are revolving the system around the needs and capacities of the user, rather than forcing the latter to adapt to the system and processes.

When it comes to foldable keyboards, it’s clear that the user will have to adapt to its poor design and functions, which defies its theoretical idea of making life easier.

When are foldable keyboards useful?

This article discusses the idea of foldable keyboards as primary typing tools for office and computer work. That being said, if you want to buy a keyboard that you can easily connect to your phone or TV and type few sentences to serve very specific functions, foldable keyboards can be a good accessory that you can store easily in any shelf or drawer and even keep in your pocket as it’s smaller than a smartphone.

To ensure that you’re getting the best out of your investment, make sure that:

  • The keyboard is supported with materials that prevent sliding over the desk or table;
  • The keyboard height is big enough to ensure large appropriate size of the function keys.
Example of a higher-end foldable keyboard with better design

Some foldable keyboards have a touch screen surface that serve as a mouse which could prove handy when connected to your smart TV. If you were able to overcome all the issues mentioned in this article, then maybe the foldable keyboard can be a good alternative to a regular one.

If you feel that this information is complex and overwhelming and you’re having a hard time taking control over your health at work, book a free consultation by clicking the link on the bottom right of the screen. This consultation will assess your current workstation design, work habits, and overall work experience from a musculoskeletal and physical health perspective, and we will provide you guidelines on what needs to be done so you can work well and prosper.

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