Kinesis Contoured

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Kinesis Advantage2
Model no. KB600, KB600QD, KB600LF, KB605
Keyswitches Cherry MX Brown/Cherry ML
KB600LF:Cherry MX Red/Cherry ML
Interface USB
Introduced 2016
Supersedes Kinesis Advantage line


Kinesis Contoured is a family of ergonomic keyboards. They have been Kinesis' flagship products since 1992 and are often referred to as simply "Kinesis".

The current generation is the Advantage2 family which replaced the Advantage in autumn 2016.

The keyboards have had been part of a contiguous series of serial numbers for most, if not all models and generations.

Design and features

The Kinesis is adjusted to short pinky-fingers


The primary feature and selling point of the Kinesis is undoubtedly its physical layout.

The alphanumeric keys (together with Shift and Caps Lock) are split into a contoured key-well for each hand. The key-wells have a columnar layout with each column at a different depth to account for different lengths of the fingers. The keys-wells are also slanted and separated approx 7 inches apart.

The most-often used non-alphanumeric keys are on the thumbs. There is also a fifth row of keys in each key-well in front of the others.

In those ways, the layout is quite similar to the Maltron's, but there are some differences. For instance, the pinky columns are not just higher but also offset from the others. The home keys are coloured differently and spherically dished to be easy to find.

It is possible to connect proprietary foot switches and use with the keyboard.

Configuration and programmability

All but the earliest and the Essential models have been programmable.

Almost all keys can be remapped using special key combinations. It is possible to record macros as key sequences mapped to key combinations. Read more under each keyboard generation's heading.

All configuration is stored in non-volatile memory inside the keyboard itself and will survive power failure. No special drivers are needed on the host computer.

Unfortunately, because the keys have different shapes for different rows it is not always possible to move keycaps around to match a programmed layout.

Aural feedback

The keyboard has a built-in speaker. By default, it will emit a click sound on each key press and a beep when it engages/disengages a locking mode. These audio signals can be switched off with key combinations.

Embedded numpad

There is no separate numeric keypad. Instead there is one embedded in the right key-well that can be activated with the special Keypad key. There is an indicator light for this mode.

Feature variants

Different models of the same generation have had different words in their names to distinguish certain features:

The Essential
No memory for mappings or macros.
Double the memory for mappings and macros compared to the base model. The Advantage Professional was also silver, came with a foot pedal and a write-protect switch.
"QWERTY/Dvorak". Has legends for both QWERTY and Dvorak (US layouts). The keyboard can switch between them with a key combination.

Many non-QD models have also supported both in firmware. Keycap sets can be purchased separately from Kinesis.

"Mac/PC combo". Has dual legends for Mac and PC. Early keyboards came with both PS/2 and ADB connectors. MPC/USB implies only USB but Mac and PC functions can be switched on certain keys with a key combination.
"Linear feel". Has Cherry MX Red switches instead of the standard Brown. Introduced in 2011. Replacement key-wells with Red switches have been available for retrofitting older keyboards.

Kinesis Advantage2

The current generation of Kinesis' contoured keyboards is the Kinesis Advantage2 family. The first keyboards became available to beta-testers in August 2016.

The function keys rows look the same as on previous models but are now plastic and use mechanical Cherry ML key switches.

The keyboards use an updated controller with a new SmartSetTM firmware with many improvements over the Advantage. The on-board memory is 2MB in all models (previously 2KB, or 4KB in the Advantage Pro). It supports macros and multiple custom-programmable layouts that can be brought forward through programmable hotkeys.

Unlike the previous controller, it is able to switch between QWERTY and Dvorak without forgetting settings.

Besides being able to remap and assign keys on the keyboard on-the-fly the keyboard also acts as a USB storage device, exposing each layout as a text file allowing layouts to be backed up and shared.

Model name Model no Case Layout Primary key switch
Advantage2 KB600 Black plastic US, UK, SE/FI, DE Cherry MX Brown
Advantage2 QD KB600QD QWERTY/Dvorak (US)
Advantage2 LF KB600LF QWERTY (US) Cherry MX Red
Advantage2 Silver KB605 Silver-painted, black bottom Cherry MX Brown
Advantage2 Graphite Graphite HydroskinTM, black bottom

All models have USB and come with keycaps for both PC and Mac and a keycap puller.

Discontinued models

Model 100

The first Kinesis keyboard, the Model 100 was introduced in 1992. The Kinesis Corporation logo is printed on the top/right on the white case. Indicator LEDs are in several places in front of the function keys. The keycaps are doubleshot-moulded in DCS profile in white with black legends, except for the home row which has dished grey keycaps.

It has a slightly different case design from later keyboards. The top is straighter and there are raised borders on the left and right key-wells. [1] The design is protected by the US Design Patent D370669.

Second generation

With models 110 and 120 the case design lost the raised borders and the function rows slope more. The keycaps are double-shot blue on white and white on blue. They come with AT interface and support for foot pedals.


Kinesis 130E "Essential" with Cherry MX browns and an A/T plug

With Model 130, the case design was updated with a printed label with the model name and LED windows in the centre of the keyboard.

Some time during this era, the keycaps changed from double-shot moulded DCS-profile to slightly higher OEM profile with pad-printed legends.

The difference between the Essential, Classic and Professional is the size of the memory for storing layouts and macros. Essential has none. Classic has one memory chip and Professional has two.

The MPC (Mac/PC switchable) variants support both Apple Desktop Bus and PS/2 and has double Mac/PC legends. QD variants have legends for both QWERTY and Dvorak printed on the keys.

Name Model no Layout Interface
Essential 130 AT
The Essential KB132PC PS/2
Classic KB133PC
Classic QD KB133PC/QD QWERTY/Dvorak
Professional KB134PC
Professional QD KB134PC/QD QWERTY/Dvorak
Essential MPC ADB and PS/2
Classic MPC
Professional MPC

Kinesis called the KB133/KB134 models' generation the "sixth", probably counting also unreleased prototypes and internal changes. [2]

Uncategorized models (more information needed:)

  • Essential, Classic and Professional with AT connector?
  • "Natural" ?


Name Model no Layout Interface
Ergo Elan KB333PC PS/2
Ergo Elite

Kinesis Advantage

The Kinesis Advantage MPC/USB was released in 2002 and replaced in 2016 by the improved Advantage2. The feature that most sets the Advantage apart from its predecessors is that it has a USB interface (with a two-port USB hub) while the previous generation had PS/2 or were MPC (Mac PC Combo) keyboards with both PS/2 and ADB. All Advantage are compatible with Mac and carry the MPC moniker.

Model name Number Case Layout Primary keyswitch Memory
Advantage MPC/USB KB500USB-wht White plastic Cherry MX Brown 2 KB
KB500USB-blk Black plastic US, UK, SE/FI
Advantage MPC/USB QD QWERTY/Dvorak (US)
Advantage Pro MPC/USB KB510USB Silver-painted top, black bottom QWERTY (US) 4 KB
Advantage LF KB500USB-blk-LF Black plastic Cherry MX Red 2 KB

The standard Kinesis Advantage MPC/USB originally came in two colour choices: black (KB500USB-blk) and white (KB500USB-wht). In later years, only black and silver models were available. The home keys are always blue.

The Pro model has a case that is silver in colour and comes with twice the capacity of on-board memory for programming. It also came bundled with a foot switch and has a DIP-switch for locking the current programming.


The USB converter does reportedly not work with some Windows 7 and USB 3.0 - sometimes not even when connected to a USB 2.0 port if a USB 3.0 port exists. Some people have worked around it with BIOS settings. Windows 8 and higher, Mac and Linux have not been reported to suffer the same problem.

It is reported to have bugs with the Caps Lock state and the Shift keys staying active. The state should normalize by pressing the key. Kinesis has known about this bug for some time. Unfortunately, the developer of the firmware had gone out of business. This has been fixed with the latest version of the keyboard, the Advantage2, released in 2016[3].

The keyboard has 6-key rollover over USB (excluding modifiers). If a seventh key gets pressed at the same time as six keys are held down then it will tell the host that those keys are released and only report new presses.


The Cherry MX switches within each key-well are snapped ("plate-mounted") to a plastic frame and soldered to a flexible circuit board. The key-wells are screwed to the top of the case. Replacement key-wells compatible with the Advantage have been available to buy separately.

The switches in the thumb clusters are mounted on rigid circuit board(s). The longer thumb-keys do not have stabilizers.

The internal layout has changed a lot between models[4].


Most of the alphanumeric keys are standard OEM profile keys but there are some notable exceptions.

First of all, the blue home keys are spherical.

The Windows/Command, Alt/Option and Ctrl keys are unusual in that they are higher than those on the top row.

The 3 and 8 keys do not have top-row profile, but that of the row under it. The outermost columns have keys that are all 1.25 unit wide. Only the number row has keys of top-row profile. The others have a profile of a typical home-row key.

The top row on both sides, which includes Escape, Function keys and programming keys have chiclet keycaps. These keys have been flimsy rubber in the the first Model 100 through the Advantage. Starting with the Advantage2 the function key row now has Cherry ML switches with rigid plastic keycaps but the style remains the same.


It was originally a request from Kinesis to Cherry for a "quiet blue switch" that caused Cherry to make the Cherry MX Brown[5].

Several keyboards were used as props in the movie Men in black (1997), painted black. Demand resulting from the movie eventually persuaded Kinesis to offer the keyboard in black. In the movie, each keyboard was placed together with a Spaceball 2003 6DOF joystick, also painted black. The Spaceball's profile being similar to the Kinesis' is a lucky coincidence. The telephone next to them is a Swedish Ericofon (also a collectors' item).

See also


  1. Kinesis Keyboards on Twitter – Kinesis Model 100 from 1992 (Serial No. 0001). Dated 26 Feb 2015. Retrieved 2016-11-06
  2. Kinesis® ContouredTM PS/2 Ergonomic Keyboard Family – User's Manual. June 2005 Edition
  3. Geekhack — Suggestions for Advantage Keyboard (retrieved 2016-03-27)
  4. Geekhack — Kinesis Advantage - Everything you want to know but are afraid to ask!. Dated 2009-12-13. Retrieved 2016-11-06
  5. Geekhack — Split with great keys?, post by (Kinesis employee) natas206. Posted 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2015-07-23.

External links