Moonlander Keyboard Thoughts

February 11, 2021

New keyboards are always fun. I always found they tend to have that ‘new touch’ that you are enamored with for a few weeks. The last time I chose a new keyboard was a decade ago when I picked up a Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard. It took some getting used to with some bad typing habits going away pretty quickly with the split design. I really enjoyed that keyboard, but they’ve since moved onto other styles and I wanted something different and customizable.

Last December I recently purchased something new. A keyboard to improve ergonomics by relieving wrist pain and to keep my arms at shoulder width while I type. I looked around and there were so many more options than I ever realized. I did not want to build my own and eventually I purchased a white Moonlander).

My current layout

Intro

Split keyboards are not new and there are quite a few to choose from or build your own. The Moonlander is a split keyboard that aims to improve ergonomics by keeping your hands at shoulder width, providing tenting to keep your hands at a natural position and is fully customizable in so many ways. It’s layout is much different than what folks are probably used to, with an ortho-linear approach and a completely split keyboard design.

It comes fully assembled and from what I can tell, very premium in quality. Each are hand built in Taiwan and take some time to build and arrive, mine took about a month.

Since this design is completely split, I’ve had some fun finding what goes well in the middle.

  • A surface pro fits perfectly
  • Google Home also fits well so you can keep an eye on your 1 year old
  • Coffee
  • A notebook for notes

You can put many things in the middle

What’s in the box?

  • The Keyboard
  • Travel Case - I’m not sure how often I’ll travel with this, but I may find it handy if/when we return to our office life post-covid.
  • Tools - A wrench is provided that allows you to change the tenting angle and the key extractor provides an easy way to move keys and switches.

Here are some unboxing photos Unopened Box

Side of Box

Opened Box

Carrying case

Keyboard

Keyboard QC label

Let’s talk about keys

My current layout

Initial impressions

The keys feel fantastic, they have a small amount of texture that you can see above. I chose the Cherry MX Brown switches which feel great when typing. They aren’t too loud but may annoy someone nearby (I might avoid bringing this to work). Each key has full RGB lighting which you can customize. You can toggle the in-build animations, or, have your own colors scheme for each layer which may help identify keys during training.

Eventually, I may swap out the keys for blanks as most of my typing is touch…I rarely if-ever, look at the keys. Some keys do not do what they’re labeled so it makes more sense to do.

Key Customization

The keyboard is very customizable. You can swap physical keys and change what keys do which command/letter/digit, etc. If you prefer different mechanical switches, you can swap those out. If you find keycaps online you want, you can swap those out too.

The web based tool is fantastic and every time you make a change, it creates a new revision (it has a source-control feel to it) so you can revert changes easily. You can also search, discover and clone other layouts users have created which is handy at the beginning. Once you have a solid layout foundation, you’ll likely steal ideas from other layouts for placement but build your perfect layout.

My current layout is below and you can view the full version here. I use visual studio/VSCode daily to develop software in C#, ASP.NET Core, React, Typescript and MSSQL so certain keys must be easily reachable.

My current layout

The hardest adjustment with this keyboard is learning how to type a little differently. Keys are columnar and you have less keys than a regular keyboard. It took me some time to find good location for brackets, the numpad, etc.. All of those are on separate layers (you have 3) so it only takes a few days to get used to that.

Below is a fantastic video I found going through the various animations:

Tenting

You can customize the tenting so the keyboard is angled more upwards (for smaller hands) or downward (for larger hands.) I’ve chosen to have the tenting downward as I have medium sized hands.

Tenting allows you to customize the tilt

Tips

  • Bad Typer? - If you are a bad typer, it will take longer but it’ll be worth it in the end.
  • Columnar Keys feel different - Columnar is different and it’s hard to explain until you try it, but you’ll get used to it.
  • Customize your layout - Find which keys you use daily and consider thier placement.
  • Key Placement matters - Do not put the enter and backspace keys together to prevent sending messages in chat not quite ready for sending.
  • Tenting matters - Try out different tenting angles that fit your hands, try both extremes to see what you like and don’t like.
  • Give it time - I set my keyboard aside for days at a time to get things done at work. When ready, take it out and give it another go.
  • Custom Color layer is awesome - Use the custom color layer to help identify keys you want to hit.

Closing

I’ve really enjoyed this keyboard over the last month or so. It takes some time to adjust and customize, but you’re hands and shoulders will thank you. I honestly had a week or so where I just couldn’t use it efficiently and that’s OK. The price certainly isn’t for everyone, this is a very expensive keyboard—but if you type all day long, consider some sort of split keyboard.

Pros

  • Very customizable.
  • Comfortable to use once you’ve nailed down the right tenting height.
  • Premium build quality.
  • Layers, lighting and split make it unique from your average keyboard.

Cons

  • Expensive!
  • May not fit certain hands.
  • Thumb cluster keys are hard to reach, I only use the top 2 for enter/space.

More Resources

A few additional videos from other folks are below that are great intros if you’re looking for more:


Hi there. I'm Lee McKinnon and I live in the Greater Boston area. I build software for Investment professionals and poke around all things tech. You can follow me on Twitter