Splitting the difference between gameplay and ergonomics with Dygma Raise

The term ergonomic is frequently used to describe everything from seats and workstations to mice and, most importantly, keyboards. Split ergonomic and ortholinear keyboards are readily available from a variety of manufacturers. However, only a few manufacturers include features in their keyboards that would appeal to enthusiasts. The Dygma Raise, like the ZSA Moonlander Mark I, defies the trend by combining ergonomic features with enthusiast customizability.

The Dygma Raise is presently only available through the company’s website, with a starting price of $319.00 for the basic model. In the split keyboard ecosystem, a high price point isn’t uncommon, but the Raise is a cut above in that regard.

PROS

  • A work of art that is both beautiful and useful
  • Extremely adaptable
  • Overall, the typing experience and acoustics are excellent
  • The software is lightweight, open-source, and simple to use

CONS

  • Extremely costly
  • It takes some getting used to the split layout
  • The additional cost of a tenting kit appears to be unavoidable

The goal of ergonomic keyboard design is to reduce the amount of repetitive motion performed by your fingers and hands. Ergonomic boards also allow you to spread your hands wider to ease shoulder strain, or tent the keyboard to relieve wrist strain. Both aspects are accommodated by the Raise.

The Raise is a 60 percent ergonomic split layout keyboard with RGB backlighting. Split layout keyboards do exactly what they say on the tin: they divide the available keys down the middle, usually between the 6 and 7 keys. This allows you to rest your arms at 90-degree angles for a more ergonomic experience.

The customization choices and how receptive it is to modding, thanks to its open-source software, hot-swap PCB, and tiny but energetic community, are what really set this keyboard apart. It only takes a quick look at the Reddit or Discord servers dedicated to this keyboard to see that it has a fan base.

dygma raise travel case
Dygma Raise

Luis Sevilla, Dygma’s creator, and CEO has experience in esports, having previously served as the coach for the Fnatic League of Legends squad in 2016. Luis has a unique insight into the issues that esports athletes confront as a result of his work with them. He saw far too many 18-year-old players disabled by repetitive stress injuries that are usually reserved for adults twice their age. He was motivated to create the Raise as a result of this.

It’s evident right away that this keyboard was built with no expense spared. The keyboard, wires, and an odd-looking USB-C cable splitter are all included in the Raise’s protective carrying case. Another lovely touch is the keyboard’s “improvement kit,” which includes samples of Dygma’s additional switches, as well as rubberized o-rings, a combined switch and keycap puller, and an appropriately called “crap remover” (it’s a brush, y’all).

The Raise has a svelte appearance, thanks in part to its 60 percent arrangement. No function row, number pad, directional arrows, or text navigation keys are present. There’s no apparent branding here, simply a brushed aluminum chassis with a pair of strong leatherette wrist rests on either side. The wrist rests are held in place on either side by a peelable glue, however, they can be removed and reapplied if necessary.

The Raise appears to be one piece, however, it can simply be divided into two parts by tugging on either side. A number of magnets pins hold the two boards together. Even when held up by one side, this hardware is quite durable and can maintain both ends together. Given the weight of the keyboard, this is impressive.

The Raise is a one-of-a-kind gaming experience. While it’s promoted as a gaming keyboard, it lacks many of the features you’d expect from other manufacturers, such as dedicated media controls and extended key layouts, with the exception of macros and RGB lighting. Because of the split design, you can utilize one-half of the board as a gaming pad while moving your mouse hand closer to the center.

The Raise can be configured with eight different third-party switches, ranging from Cherry MX Reds to the Kailh Speed Silver linear switches that came with mine. You are also free to use any three- or five-pin switch you like. It can be set up to accommodate either ANSI or ISO layouts, and it comes with PBT keycaps for six different layouts. All of the basic keys have a standard keycap layout, which allows you to swap in custom keycap sets. The Raise comes standard with a black aluminum backplate, however a silver backplate and white keycaps can be requested for an extra fee.

The tenting kit, which costs an extra $89, is another alternative. This allows you to slant each side of the board upwards in 10 to 45 degree increments. It’s also possible to flatten it out. With the exception of its sticky rubber feet, the tenting kit has the same build quality as the rest of the keyboard, being almost entirely made of aluminum. Even with the tenting kit, the Raise, like other ergonomic boards, has no means to be slanted like ordinary keyboards.

The Raise’s two parts are connected by a pair of USB-C cables that run to the “Neuron,” a packed USB-C terminal that connects to your PC. None of the wires used with the Raise are permanent, so if you prefer custom cables for your setup, you can easily replace them.

dygma raise enhancement kit
Dygma Raise

Bazecor is Dygma’s proprietary program for remapping keys and macros. This program is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The UI is simple to use and allows you to experiment with your settings to personalize the Raise. Apart from the lighting effects encoded into the keyboard’s firmware, Bazecor allows you to customize the RGB lighting on a per-LED basis, but it presently doesn’t offer any animations.

All of your Bazecor macros, layers, and other custom configurations are saved in the Neuron, so everything will stay the same even if you transfer machines. This also means you won’t have to keep Bazecor running in the background to maintain your settings.

There are a few aspects that are critical to the operation of this keyboard. When you press or hold a key, layers allow the keyboard to store secondary key operations beneath the original 60 percent arrangement. This gives you quick access to items like arrow keys and media controls.

The eight-bar, a cluster of eight keys centered around where you’d ordinarily find the spacebar, is the other feature. While these keys can be remapped to any function, they are typically used to switch between layers. Aside from distinct functionalities, each layer can have its own RGB illumination, allowing you to visually highlight the keys you need, which is a novel and useful feature.

The Raise was easy to set up and setup, but getting acclimated to its layout was much more difficult, especially for someone who is used to full-size keyboards. But, according to popular belief, it wasn’t the split design that threw me off; rather, it was the condensed 60 percent layout. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reached for my arrow keys or number pad just to discover there aren’t any. My first few days with the Raise were spent tripping over keys and reaching for functionalities that were no longer available, resulting in irritation and audible moans. While I finally grew accustomed to its strange layout, I still found myself looking at my keys more frequently than I would have wanted. In this regard, the Raise isn’t unique – many split ergonomic boards have a steep learning curve when you first start using them, and getting used to them can take weeks depending on your typing style and use cases.

While this keyboard has a steep learning curve, especially for those who are used to larger keyboards, the skill ceiling is great. You can get a sense of what’s possible if you really commit to this keyboard by looking at the Dygma Wiki‘s macros page or this Reddit discussion.

Splitting the difference between gameplay and ergonomics with Dygma Raise
Dygma Raise

I understand that this keyboard is a match made in heaven for some people, but for me, it seemed more like a shotgun wedding. Even after spending a lot of time with the Dygma Raise, I’m still not convinced if it’s the right keyboard for me, or even most keyboard users. To enjoy using this board, you must fully commit to the ergonomic design and peculiarities of the 60 percent layout.

DYGMA RAISE: AGREE TO CONTINUE

Before you can use a smart device, you must agree to a set of terms and conditions — contracts that no one actually reads. We won’t be able to read and examine each and every one of these agreements. But, because these are agreements that most people don’t read and can’t negotiate, we started counting how many times you have to touch “accept” to use gadgets when we reviewed them.

Both the Bazecor software and the firmware for the Dygma Raise are open-source, and you don’t have to agree to an EULA before using them. On the Dygma GitHub page, you can find all of the files related to Bazecor and the firmware. While Dygma does not encourage changing the firmware, you can find instructions for doing so here.

There are a number of less expensive solutions out there for anyone who is attracted by the look of the Dygma Raise but is put off by the astronomical price tag. As I have stated, the Moonlander keyboard from ZSA is unquestionably the closest analog, but it still costs roughly $270. However, there are some slightly less expensive solutions, such as the Kinesis Freestyle Edge, which costs around $200.

Dygma also just started a Kickstarter effort to raise funds for a project that adapts and refines the Raise keyboard’s foundations into an ortholinear design. I’m interested to see what they come up with next, given the amount of thought and care that went into their initial design.

While the Raise’s price tag may be excessive for some, it does add a unique perspective to the world of ergonomic keyboards. The Dygma Raise is absolutely worth considering if you’re a 60% keyboard enthusiast who can ignore a gigantic price tag in search of your next obsession.


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