Kinesis’ “Freestyle” family of split keyboard designs offer intriguing layouts, but with the exception of last year’s gaming-focused Freestyle Edge, they unfortunately lacked mechanical switches. With the release of the new Freestyle Pro, though, the company has kept the more office-friendly look of the Freestyle2 but loaded it up with Cherry MX Brown switches.
Indeed, the Freestyle Pro is essentially an update to the Freestyle2, although Kinesis says that’s it’s also a sort of little brother to the Freestyle Edge. The split-style Freestyle Edge offered an ergonomics-inspired lift kit so you could prop up the two halves like a tent. It also had blue LED backlighting, palm rests, four dedicated buttons, and two vertical rows of macro keys on the left side. Compared to the Freestyle Edge, the Freestyle Pro lacks backlighting, and the palm supports (which you can buy separately for $24.95) are not included.
However, on the Freestyle Pro, that left-side bank of macro keys is loaded up with numpad functions, whereas they’re undefined (and simply numbered 1-10) on the Freestyle Edge. The Freestyle Pro is also pre-loaded with Mac and Dvorak layouts, has eight hot keys (for Desktop, Last App, Select All, Undo, Cut, Delete, Copy, and Paste), and includes four extra Mac keycaps.
Both the Freestyle Pro and the Freestyle Edge boast Kinesis’ SmartSet Programming software. Although you can do a fair amount of programming on the fly with the four buttons (the “Programming Cluster”) on the upper right side of these keyboards, the software gives you a handy GUI to work with. It lets you program and edit macros, remap keys, and more, and it lives on a 4MB “v-drive” on the keyboard itself instead of on your desktop (points for Kinesis!). You can see it in action here:
- The “Programming Cluster” (the four dedicated buttons on the top right of the Freestyle Pro) have Cherry ML switches underneath. One would normally expect to see membrane switches. Points!
- Plug-and-play compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Chrome, although the pre-loaded SmartSet Programming app works only on Windows and Mac operating systems.
- The chassis are plastic. So much plastic.
- You can tuck most of the 20-inch cable that connects the two halves into the chassis to hide it.