Kinesis offers some of the most innovative keyboards ever to grace a desktop. The company‘s laser-focus on ergonomics takes their designs to some unapologetically unusual places. Their Kinesis Gaming brand leans hard into ergonomics as well, and the new $219 Freestyle Edge RGB (See it on the Kinesis website) is for gamers looking to stave off repetitive strain injury (RSI) with a comfortable and customizable two-piece gaming keyboard.

Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB – Design and Features

The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB is an update to the company’s older Freestyle Edge, adding (as the name suggests) per-key 16.8 million color RGB lighting (and a handful of other enhancements). But before we get to all of that, let’s get this out of the way up front: If you’re not familiar with split keyboards, well, it’s split. Into two halves. Right down the middle.The idea here is based on sound physiological research that’s been around since the Great Depression. Traditional keyboards strain your wrists by forcing you to keep your hands parallel when you type. A split keyboard lets you arrange the two halves however you like – you can move them apart and turn them at an angle, which is an antidote to RSI.

The Freestyle Edge RGB looks weird because of the split, but at its core, it’s a tenkeyless keyboard with an arrangement that marches to the sound of its own drummer. The left side (which I’ll refer to as the QWERT half) is lined with the “Game Bank,” which features nine keys that arrive as a blank slate where you can store special keys and macros, or to remap important keys from the other half. (The Game Bank also houses the lighting toggle and Function key.)

The eastern side of the board (YUIOP) has a weird arrangement of navigation keys like Home, PageUp, PageDn, and arrow keys in a sort of reverse-L arrangement on the far right that gets in the way if you’re expecting to find the Enter key at the edge.

There are two separate Function keys with distinct purposes, and while that might at first seem weird, it makes sense. The Function key on the QWERT side is the general-purpose Function key that gives you access to macros and remappings everywhere on the keyboard. It also controls F1 through F6, which doubles as media controls. On the YUIOP side, the Function key takes the form of a special Kinesis “gear” button that activates the special functions of F7 through F12 – these are all unique to the keyboard, like mounting the virtual drive (more on that later), toggling n-key rollover (you get 6-key rollover by default), and Game Mode, which disables the Windows key.

Last but not least, you’ll find the programming cluster – four keys for changing profiles, editing macros, and remapping keys – high atop the right side.

When pushed together to mimic an ordinary keyboard, the Freestyle Edge RGB spans about 15.5 inches wide (only a little smaller than a typical full-size keyboard), but of course the appeal here is that you can position the two halves wherever you like. A braided cable allows for up to 12 inches of separation, but there’s another eight inches tucked into a convenient cubby on the bottom, if you really need to set them 20 inches apart. The USB cable is also braided, by the way – a nice touch. It looks built to last.

Kinesis equips the Freestyle Edge RGB with Cherry MX switches.


Guess what the keyboard doesn’t have any of? If you guessed “feet,” you win. Out of the box, it lies completely flat, which hardly seems very ergo. (Though it does have a generously padded wrist rest, which I love). To get feet, you need to buy the optional $25 Lift Kit, which snaps into the bottom of the keyboard and lets you “tent” the two halves at 5, 10, or 15 degrees. A virtually essential purchase, there’s no question that the Lift Kit should be standard equipment. The keyboard feels way too flat without it, and it only takes a few minutes with the tented keyboard to know this is how god intended you to type.

Kinesis equips the Freestyle Edge RGB with Cherry MX switches. You can choose from Red, Brown, and Blue varieties (Cherry MX Red is what I tested, and is generally preferred for gaming because of its linear response. Blue is clickier, and many typists prefer Brown for the tactile feedback.) And as you can guess from the name, the keys, of course, are full RGB – an upgrade from the older Freestyle Edge that only offered blue illumination. No matter which color profile you choose, the letters illuminate crisply, and the base glows under and around the keycaps.

Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB – Software

This is where things get a little unusual. The control panel for the keyboard – dubbed SmartSet – is a lightweight, driverless app that you can run from anywhere on your PC (there’s also a Mac version). But to make it work, you press a key combo that mounts the keyboard as a virtual drive, where all the changes are saved. It’s simple enough, but the process takes some getting used to.

You can also assign up to three macros to any key with the use of modifiers, with up to 100 macro per profile.


Nonetheless, it’s super portable – since all the profiles are stored on the keyboard, you can take it anywhere, plug it into a PC, and you’re ready to rock and roll. And you get a lot of customization. You can create up to nine completely different layouts, with two layers (a top layer and Function layer) for each.

And while you can create macros and remap keys on the fly with the keyboard alone, it’s a lot easier to launch SmartSet. Remapping is easy; just click the key you want to change in the on-screen map and then press the key you want to reassign it to. There’s also a suite of special actions that include mouse clicks, multimedia controls, and so on. You can even bind a full keypad to the Function layer on either side of the keyboard, but good luck finding it when you need it – thank god you can assign special lighting on a per-key basis to help hidden layouts stand out.

You can also assign up to three macros to any key with the use of modifiers, with up to 100 macros per profile. You get to specify the playback speed (up to 250 actions per second) and number of repeats while the key is held down. The app even includes a pretty handy macro editor, with triggers, modifiers, mouse clicks, and even copy & paste controls just a click away.

Out of the box, each of the nine profiles get their own distinctive color theme (so you can tell at a glance which profile is active) but you can apply ten effects or set different lighting effects to individual keys. The app includes presets for key zones, so you can assign lighting to the WASD keys, function row, arrow keys, and other groupings with a click.

With so much customization here, it would be great to be able to rename the profiles within SmartSet. But no joy on that front, so you’ll need to remember which numbered profile you built for which game. (Or which profile you converted to the Dvorak layout, which is something else you can do if you hate yourself.)

Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB – Gaming

Back in the heyday of PDAs, I tried every kind of keyboard imaginable – split keyboards, laser projections, and gadgets that wrapped around your forearm. But I have always had a special fondness for split keyboards, so I found that it was super easy to fall in love with the Freestyle Edge RGB. After a few days of getting used to the split form factor with both sides pushed together for routine typing, I started easing them apart and angling them for better ergonomics. Kinesis advises that you take it easy at first – don’t separate the halves and tent them at 15 degrees on day one, or you’ll get frustrated.

For gaming, I feel that one of the Freestyle Edge’s greatest advantages is being able to play with just the QWERT side of the keyboard, so I was anxious to try moving the YUIOP half out of the way and dive into a game.

I spun up Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (as well as Fortnite and Planetary Annihilation: Titans) with this arrangement, and loved the sense of immediacy. My right hand didn’t have to be all the way over… there… to move the mouse. The critical gaming keys were right where I needed them under my left hand, and after some practice, I really enjoyed having important game keys bound to the Game Bank. This is gaming bliss – you don’t realize how comfortable it is to have the mouse so near to the WASD keys until you try it.

This keyboard would be awesome for flight sims.


I don’t have a flight stick anymore, but this keyboard would be awesome for flight sims as well – you can space the halves and put a joystick between them. My only complaint? I wish the cable connecting the keyboard halves had a disconnect, so if you really don’t need the YUIOP half, you could just unplug it and put it in a corner. As it stands, that other half has to go somewhere, cluttering your desk.All that said, I don’t want to candy coat this: if you separate the keyboard halves and tent then more than five degrees, there’s a considerable learning curve. But it’s worth it. I found that tented at five degrees with a couple of inches of separation was the most comfortable typing experience of my life. And gaming with the mouse butted up against the QWERT half – tented at 10 degrees, simultaneously felt natural, comfortable, and somehow like I was Wash piloting Serenity.

Purchasing Guide

The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB has an MSRP of $179.99 and it’s the same price on the company’s website. If you go to an e-tailer it is likely going to be extremely expensive.

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