Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE review: A strange-looking keyboard with a huge learning curve

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Techaeris Rated 8.6/10

Keyboards and computers obviously go hand in hand. For the most part, they haven’t changed much over the years, offering up a consistent experience. Sure, there have been split keyboards that offer better ergonomics, different key switch and keycap types, and even different sizes. But for the most part, the layouts have remained the same. Every once in a while, however, a new entrant tries to re-design the keyboard for a better experience.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Our Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE review looks at an ergonomic keyboard that looks very confusing at first but does offer up some logical changes once you get used to them. Read on for our full review!

Specifications

The Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard we reviewed has the following features and specifications:

  • The Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE Keyboard has been redesigned from the ground up to be ergonomically-accurate
  • Custom columnar layout with a vertical stagger arrangement that keeps all the keys in a naturally sweeping arc
  • A unique split symmetric layout that aligns naturally with your hands
  • State‑of‑the‑art optical mechanical key switches using Infrared Light to register every keystroke, providing an extraordinary comfortable feel and the fastest actuation
  • Custom Optical Infrared Switches guaranteed for 100 million keystrokes
  • Replaceable and swappable switches
  • Three switch options: Tactile Silent, Tactile Clicky, Linear Silent
  • Ergonomically perfect actuation point distance of 1.9mm
  • Blazing fast Debounce time of only 0.01ms
  • 1000Hz ultra-fast polling rate
  • Onboard memory
  • Custom macros
  • 100% anti-ghosting technology with full n-key rollover
  • Water-, dust-, and snack-resistant nano-coating
  • 10 brightness levels
  • 8 customizable backlight profiles
  • 10 predefined backlight profiles
  • 15 backlight effects
  • Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux
  • 6’/1.8m USB Type-A cable
  • Dimensions: 13.6 x 8.8 x 1.25 inches (345 x 225 x 33 mm)
  • Weight: 2lb (950g)

What’s in the box

  • Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard
  • Keycap/switch puller
  • 4x extra switch w/ standard blank keycap
  • Quick Setup/guide sheet
  • 60-day money-back guarantee
  • 2-year warranty
What's included with the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard
What’s included with the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard.

Design

Anyone who has seen this keyboard sitting in my office has been taken aback. There is no question that it looks different, and the layout is the main reason for that. Compared to the standard keyboard most of us are used to, the layout is weird. The enter and backspace are in the middle, and the space bar is angled and split. The CAPS LOCK, Windows, and function keys are also moved to the center, right under the Fn keys. The keys are stacked and not staggered, and as a result, I was constantly hitting ` instead of 1, or b instead of v… at least initially. There are also no back legs, so the keyboard lays relatively flat, which I understand as far as ergonomics go.

On the plus side, there are dedicated copy/cut/paste/undo keys. Keys like delete, backspace, enter, shift, and the dual spacebars are slightly raised over the others, making them a bit easier to distinguish while moving your fingers across the keyboard. The complete list of key placement changes and additions include:

  • Custom wide Ctrl to the left of the “A” key. Shift, Ctrl, and Alt keys conveniently running down both the left and the right hand side
  • Custom Tab and unique Single Touch Back‑Tab keys for rapid task/cell switching
  • Custom central Shift, Enter, Backspace and Delete keys along with Single Touch Cut, Copy, Paste, and Undo keys enable high speed editing
  • Rarely used Caps lock, Windows and Menu keys relocated to the top center to avoid accidental actuation
  • Dual directional key arrays (arrow keys on the right, PageUp/PageDown/Home/End keys on the left) allow for fast and precise navigation
  • Extended Functionality like volume up/down/mute, media play/pause/previous/next
The vertical middle delete, backspace, enter, and shift keys on the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard
The vertical middle delete, backspace, enter, and shift keys on the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard.

I haven’t looked at my keyboard while typing on it for years, it felt like that is all I was doing with the CLEAVE initially. Unlearning 30 years of muscle memory isn’t an easy task. Sure, you can remap some of the keys and if done right can swap out the keycaps if you remap the same size keys.

As far as the physical aspects are concerned, the keyboard has a nice aerospace-grade aluminum frame to it. Adding a bit of weight, it is slimmer at the front and built up slightly towards the back. A shiny bezel exists on the sides and back. The keyboard isn’t as wide as standard keyboards, but it is missing the number pad. It is, however, a bit deeper (taller). All told, the keyboard measures 13.6″ wide, 8.8″ in depth, and 1.25″ in height.

The ABS keys themselves are decent enough and float above the keyboard for easier cleaning. If you want, you can swap them out with any Cherry MX style key, however, you may have issues finding the exact match for some of the custom keys. The palm wrist is split as well and, while fairly comfortable, is a bit stiffer and more rigid than I’m used to. In fact, it is constructed from polyurethane which is typically the same as the cushioned armrest of most office chairs. The Truly Ergonomic logo is printed between the palm rest.

The underside of the keyboard has three rubber pads towards the front and two towards the back. The plastic-coated cable (given the price this should have been a braided one), is hard-wired to the keyboard. There are cable channels on the bottom so that you can feed the cable out through the middle of the top or the upper left or right edges, based on your setup.

Ease of Use

I get it. When you think about it, some of the key placement — like the enter, backspace, and shift — makes perfect sense. Accessing these with your thumb saves time and actually feels better than the slightly pinky stretch. Other keys like the dedicated copy, paste, and cut keys are nice additions.

However, the placement of the Fn and Windows keys near the top feels counterproductive, especially if you use your Windows and Fn keys frequently. CTRL+Win+arrows to quickly swap desktops? Forget it. It’s almost impossible to hit those three keys, even with bigger hands.

The CAPS LOCK, Fn, and Windows key on the top of the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard
The CAPS LOCK, Fn, and Windows key on the top of the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard.

At first, the keyboard was pretty difficult to use. I’ve used other split ergonomic keyboards before, but the CLEAVE takes things a step further. Not only are some frequently used keys are in a different place, but the straight alignment of each column makes it a bit difficult to use as well. In addition, as an ergonomic productivity keyboard — although it does conserve desk space — the omission of a dedicated number pad is a bit of a letdown. That being said, once you spend some time with the keyboard, some of the new key placements become almost second nature. It did feel much more comfortable hitting enter or with my thumb or delete with my finger. The copy/paste keys were great as well when I wasn’t accidentally hitting them. Given enough time, I’m positive this keyboard would eventually become almost as easy to use as a standard or split ergonomic keyboard. On that note, they do have a 60-day money-back guarantee, which should be plenty of time to decide if it’s for you or not.

There is no software app for the CLEAVE keyboard. However, you can change features like the main layout, backlight features, add macros, and reprogram the spacebar, central tall keys, and the secondary left control key. Of course, you’ll want to keep the included Quick Setup guide handy to do so.

Performance

As for performance, the tactile clicky custom optical infrared switches with their 1000Hz polling rate are responsive and slightly clicky. You can also get the keyboard with tactile silent or linear silent switches if those are more your style. I had no issues with the keys responding accordingly… when I was able to hit the right one. My initial typing test resulted in a dismal 10-17 wpm, down from my usual 100-110. At the end of two days of use, I hit 40ish, by the end of day 3 it was up to 50. However, after a week with the keyboard, I was able to get between 64-78 wpm with 90% accuracy. It’s still less than I’m used to but I believe that given more time, that would only increase.

This is an ergonomic keyboard and it aims to provide a more comfortable typing experience by allowing your hands to be placed in a more neutral position. On that note, it does a great job and after prolonged use, I didn’t feel any of the normal cramping that I sometimes experience with normal keyboards. In addition, even though it doesn’t have a number pad, this allows for a closer mouse placement to your keyboard, further enhancing the ergonomics of your workspace.

The Tactile Clicky switch on the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard
The Tactile Clicky switch on the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard.

Price/Value

The Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard retails for US$330, which is pretty pricey. However, you can also purchase the keyboard for $249, which, while still pricey, is a little better. The only difference is that your order won’t be shipped within 24 hours but you should still get it in the same shipping window. In other words, if you pay the full retail price, you’re maybe getting it a little sooner and offering more support to the company for future development. You are also getting a 60-day money-back guarantee and a 2-year warranty when you purchase this keyboard.

Depending on where and how you work, you’re either going to have to take this with you everywhere or buy more than one for the office and home. Trust me, if you do decide to bunker down and dedicate yourself to this keyboard layout, you won’t be doing yourself any favours switching back and forth between it and one with a standard layout.

Wrap-up

This was a tough keyboard to review, primarily because it is a pretty big disembarkment from the “tried and true” keyboard design we’re all used to. While the overall score seems a little low, I’m certain that after using the keyboard for a month or two, the Ease of Use score would increase significantly. On that note, if you’re up for a challenge, are looking for something that could likely increase your productivity, and have money to burn, the Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard might be worth a try.

Last Updated on December 8, 2021.

Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE

US$249+

Design

9.0/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Performance

9.0/10

Price/Value

8.5/10

Nailed it

  • Great build quality
  • Ergonomic layout
  • Decent typing performance once you get used to it
  • Macro support
  • Floating keycaps for easier cleaning
  • No software required
  • Windows, macOS, Linux compatible

Needs work

  • Huge (un)learning curve
  • Some of the key placements make some tasks more difficult
  • No number pad
  • ABS keycaps
  • Plastic coated cables
  • Pricey
Truly Ergonomic CLEAVE keyboard
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