Moonlander Mk1 Review - A Year In
The Moonlander Mk1 is my first real foray into ergonomic keyboards, outside of maybe a brief sprint with an older Microsoft split keyboard. I’m not huge for reviews, but I thought it was worth of one after spending about a year with it.
The keyboard itself is beautiful and extremely well-built. It feels very solid, and the palm rests offer no real “flex” that would give it a cheap feel. Granted, it is a fairly expensive keyboard, but there’s no doubt it will last me many years.
The LED lighting is multicolored and customizable and supports some animations out of the box along with hotkeys to easily switch between then. I didn’t think originally I’d really care to use any lighting but to be honest I really like it.
The tenting legs are easily moved around, and the locking mechanism keeps it in place without having to worry about it ever moving.
If I had one fault, and it’s extremely trivial, I wish there were USB-C ports on both sides instead of just one just because it would make my cable setup a little cleaner.
The keyboard itself uses the QMK firmware so it’s pretty much infinitely customizable within the firmware. You can change the individual keys, setup macros, tweak the lighting and even have it make noise.
The layering function is probably something that makes it the most difficult for me to go to other keyboards because I’m able to build out custom layers of keys and macros and easily switch between them. It’s hard for me to really convey just how much I love layering on this keyboard.
I created a special coding layer with the most common symbols and macros, I have a gaming layer I switch to which gives me a TON of hotkeys available on the left side. There’s a layer for media control and one for VIM hotkeys.
This ability does come with two real downsides:
- The learning curve is, not going to lie, substantial, and I nearly gave up a few times in my first few months - but - it’s worth sticking through it.
- I use this keyboard pretty much 99% of the time, so now when I switch to a laptop or standard keyboard, it has had a noticeable effect on my overall speed and accuracy with it. I’ll find myself reaching for layers and things, which slows me down.
Ergodox provides a nice starter tool called Oryx which provides a visual tool to customize the keyboard. It works well, and I used it for quite a while until I started wanting to experiment with things it couldn’t provide. Once you start to grow past it, you can (fairly easily) take the source from Oryx and set up a QMK environment to build your firmware directly.
Ultimately, the reason I decided to pick up this keyboard was because I was starting to develop RSI issues in my right hand, and I decided that was no bueno. So, I ended up grabbing the Moonlander since I had been eyeing it for a while anyway.
I don’t have a lot to compare it to, as I have not really tried very many ergonomic keyboards, so take what I say about its ergonomics in a pure vacuum.
I find the keyboard layout to be very nice, even if switching to a linear layout did have a pretty serious learning curve. Since I was already a pretty good touch typist, it wasn’t hard to deal with the split layout (other than, apparently, I used my left hand for Y and 5). The hardest part was the linear key layout, because I’ve typed on staggered layout keyboards for all of my life.
The biggest question though is: did it help my RSI.
Well, it definitely helped. It didn’t cure it totally (mostly because mine turned out to be more related to how I use a mouse)-but it did drive me to be able to use more keyboard-driven workflows, including using Vimium in Firefox for web browsing.
Will it help you, honestly it’s impossible to say really. It’s such a personal thing based on you that you just need to try it.
I absolutely love this keyboard and do not see myself ever switching back to a non-split keyboard, so I thought here at the end I’d just summarize my pros and cons.
- Layers are fantastic, don’t know how I lived without them
- Build quality is worth the cost, I really think it’s a beautiful looking keyboard
- The level of customization is fantastic - from LED colors to key macros.
- Did help my RSI a decent bit
- Large learning curve honestly, easy to want to give up
- The red thumb cluster buttons are, to me, kind of useless in most cases
- The default keyboard layout is rubbish, I guess it’s a decent starter position but be prepared to start changing it almost immediately
- Can make it hard to switch to laptops/other keyboards after developing muscle memory for it
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