Review: Glove80 Ergonomic Keyboard

Sep 3, 2023

Tags: keyboard, review

Glove80 black

Update (January 2024): the review is updated to reflect the second revision of the Glove80.

Review tl;dr: get this keyboard if you want ultimate comfort. There is an initial learning curve, but your hands will love you for it.

Background

For over 10 years or so, I primarily used Apple keyboards, switching back and forth to a Microsoft split keyboard in periods when my wrists felt uncomfortable. In a brush with a more severe wrist pain over a year ago, I decided to take my hand and arm health more seriously.

After going through a slew of ergonomic keyboards1, I discovered the Kinesis Advantage2, which was a revelation. Like most ergonomic keyboards, it is split, tented, has thumb keys, and the keys are laid out in columns to avoid lateral finger movements (so-called column stagger). However, what set it apart from other keyboards were the superbly comfortable key wells. The Advantage, like its inspiration, the Maltron 3D keyboard, has its keys arranged in concave bowls, so-called key wells. This puts your fingers in a more natural position, puts keys closer to reduce finger travel, and makes it possible to reach keys by moving fingers along their natural arcs.

Once the honeymoon phase with the Advantage2 was over, I also had to be honest about its shortcomings: the split and tenting degree are fixed – making it impossible to tailor the keyboard to your own physical characteristics such as your shoulder width. Also, even though the thumb cluster has many keys, I could only comfortably reach two thumb keys per hand without moving my hand.

I was looking forward to the Kinesis Advantage360 Pro, since it solves some of the issues with the Advantage2. It supports three different tenting angles and is a truly split keyboard. However, the Advantage360 Pro was quite a disappointment. The keyboard, which is a hefty 650 Euro, was plagued with Bluetooth issues, the Gateron Brown switches were tiring for me, and Kinesis didn’t improve the thumb cluster. I switched back to my Advantage2 after a while and the 360 Pro was collecting dust.

That could easily be the end of my ergonomic keyboard journey, but then I found the Glove80.

What is it?

The Glove80 is an ergonomic keyboard that is developed and manufactured by MoErgo. It has many ergonomic features, including:

Glove80 white

Other feature of the Glove80 are:

I have used the Glove80 for six months when writing this review. I have used other key well keyboards before, so I could skip the initial learning curve. I am not an ergonomics expert, so this review describes my own experiences and is not health advise.

Throughout this review, I will use the Kinesis Advantage2/360 Pro as the main points of comparison, since the Advantage line is the closest competitor to the Glove80. Also see my Kinesis Advantage 360 Pro review. I will go through various aspect of the keyboard, namely purchase and packaging, the key well, thumb cluster, tenting mechanism, palm rests, build quality, switches and keycaps, innards, and the Glove80 ecosystem.

Purchase and packaging

The Glove80 can only be purchased through the MoErgo website. As of writing there are no regional distributors. The price includes shipping, however VAT/import taxes are not prepaid and must be paid by the receiver. There is also an option for some regions to ship through DHL Express at an extra cost. The ordering process itself is streamlined, but I noticed that many people struggle with choosing the right switch (see Switches and keycaps).

The Glove80 arrives in a pretty compact package, which gives a hint of how flat it is for a key well keyboard. The package contains the keyboard travel case with the halves, a USB-C (keyboard) to USB-A (host) cable, additional keycaps, material for customizing the tenting level, tools to remove the keycaps, and a quickstart guide. I would have preferred if the Glove80 came with an USB-C to USB-C cable, since none of my computing devices have a USB-A port.

Glove80 in the travel case

Key wells

I was expecting the key wells to be similar to those of the Kinesis Advantage and Dactyl Manuform. However when I started using the Glove80, the key wells felt quite different. One thing that immediately struck me was that the keys in the pinky column are easier to reach. I inspected the pinky column and noticed a striking difference compared to other key well keyboards. The left photo below shows pinky column of the Kinesis Advantage2. The pinky column is raised compared to the ring finger column to account for the shorter length of the pinky relative to the ring finger. The right photo shows the pinky column of the Glove80. Even though the Glove80’s pinky column is raised compared to the ring finger column in the upper rows, the height converges to to that of the ring finger column in the lower rows.

Kinesis Advantage pinky columnGlove80 pinky column

When you look at your hands opened, you can see that (at least for most people), the pinky is much shorter than your ring finger. However, when you clench your hand into a fist, your pinky is barely shorter than your ring finger. So even though the Kinesis Advantage takes your hand’s anatomy into account better than flat keyboards (which only shift the pinky column downward if you are lucky), the Glove80 takes it a step further, taking into account the relative length of your pinky as it curls up.

Hands relaxed and clenched

Another noticeable difference is the outer index finger column. On the Kinesis Advantage, the curvature of the key well and the height of the keycaps block an easy lateral index finger movement to the outer column (see the upward arrows in the close-up of the Advantage key well below). You have to slightly raise your index finger to land on the keys of the outer column. For me, lateral index finger movements are quite awkward, so having to raise my finger adds some stress. The outer index finger column column of the Glove80 is also on a strong curvature to reduce finger travel, however the keys on the outer column are not raised compared to the home column of the index finger. As a result, you can make a smooth lateral move to the outer column, almost pressing the key by simply moving your finger towards it.

Kinesis Advantage index columnsGlove80 index columns

One thing that I loved about the Advantage when I first got it, are the arrow keys on the bottom row. Since I use vi bindings in many applications and the Colemak-DH layout, I don’t have access to the h/j/k/l motions which are on the home row in QWERTY. The arrow keys on the Advantage can be reached by curling up your fingers. I find this more comfortable than putting the arrow keys on a layer. However, using the bottom row could get a bit tiring after a day’s worth of programming. I did not observe the same issue when using the bottom row on the Glove80. The difference becomes apparent when using the keyboards side-by-side: when curling up to press the keys on the bottom row of the Glove80 you can press the keys in the same motion. On the Advantage, the keys have to be pressed more towards the Z axis. As a result, pressing a key on the bottom row of the Advantage is a movement that consists of two motions: (1) curl up the finger to reach the key; and (2) press the key in a different direction to actuate it.

An aspect of the key well that worried me prior purchasing the Glove80 was that the keycaps use a uniform profile. The Kinesis Advantage uses a strongly sculpted profile, which I liked a lot, since it guides the fingers to the keys and in some cases emphasizes the key well effect. However, this hasn’t been an issue at all. The key well of the Glove80 is clearly designed to work well with uniform keycaps. I have come to prefer this aspect of the Glove80 – the strong profile of the Advantage keycaps make the columns very ragged, whereas the uniform profile of the Glove80 makes it easier to slide along the columns.

Summarized, MoErgo has clearly made many improvement to the Glove80 keywell compared to other key well keyboards. The design seems to be focused on letting your fingers do as little work as possible and allowing it them to follow their natural motions.

Thumb cluster

The Glove80 breaks the tradition of the orthogonal/matrix-style thumb clusters that were initially introduced by the Maltron 3D keyboard and also used by the Kinesis Advantage, ErgoDox, and Moonlander. It is well-known that most people can only reach two two thumb keys on the Kinesis Advantage without moving their hand. In the left picture below, you can see me trying to press the outermost lower thumb key of the Advantage, but I cannot really press it without accidentally pressing the corner of the middle key as well. I cannot reach the upper keys at all.

Kinesis Advantage thumb clusterGlove80 thumb cluster

I am surprised that Kinesis didn’t redesign their 30 year-old thumb cluster with the Advantage 360. I guess that they didn’t want to risk upsetting existing users 🤷.

The Glove80 uses a design that is more similar to modern ergonomic keyboards like the Keyboardio Model 100 or the SplitKB Kyria, where the thumb keys follow the natural arc of the thumb. The thumb cluster on the Glove80 is three 1U keys wide and has two rows. The second row is raised compared to the first row to make it easier to use the second row without pressing keys on the first. In the right picture above, you can see me pressing the outermost thumb key of the Glove80. Since the cluster follows the thumb arc, I have no issue pressing the key without accidentally hitting the middle key. Like the Kinesis Advantage, my thumbs rest on the inner thumb keys without any effort.

I cannot reach all the keys on the Glove80 thumb cluster without moving my hand (I am not sure if I am supposed to with average male hands). But I can fairly comfortably reach four keys (the full first row and the innermost key of the second row), which is double of what I can reach on the Advantage. This opens up new possibilities, such as moving shift away from the pinkies, adding additional layer-taps, or perhaps a capsword key (great for typing constants in many programming languages). Given the arc layout and the different row heights, I expect that the thumb clusters works great for both small and large hands.

Tenting mechanism

The Glove80 uses stilts in the form of M4 studs, nuts, and feet as its tenting mechanism. The feet have rubber bumpons to ensure that the keyboard does not slide. The Glove80 comes with an assortment of extra studs of different lengths, additional nuts, and additional feet. The idea is that you can screw in the stilts as deep as needed and in that way get the exact tenting degree that you prefer. Setting up tenting took me 30-60 minutes the first time. Partly because I had to find the most comfortable tenting angle, but mostly because setting up the stilts is quite finicky. Setting up tenting is much more work than the simple 3-angle mechanism of the Advantage 360, which you can configure in literally seconds.

Glove80 tenting mechanism

The issue that I had with the tenting mechanism of the Advantage360 is that I could never find the right tenting angle, so I would often switch between different settings throughout the day. With the Glove80 I could set the tenting to the angle that feels most comfortable to me. So, the Glove80 trades off the short-term inconvenience of setting up the tenting mechanism for improved long-term comfort. Ideally a keyboard would have a tenting system that is easy to set up like the Advantage360, but allowing arbitrary tenting angles like the Glove80. The Moonlander Platform currently seems to be the only tenting solution to achieve this feat.2

A recurring issue that I have with the Glove80 tenting stilts is that they tend to unscrew over time, making the keyboard less stable. The second revision of the Glove80 comes with additional o-rings that can be put on the bolts to increase the friction of the screws. I have used o-rings on the short (outer) stilts. They markedly improve the sturdiness of the short stilts, but I still have to readjust them from time to time. Another solution, that only works for the long legs due to space constraints, is to get some additional nuts that have a nylon (or other plastic) locking mechanism (DIN985). They can be had for a few cents each in most hardware stores. These nuts lock in the tenting tightly. They also make it much easier to recover the exact tenting degree if you remove the stilts (e.g. for travel).

Nyloc nuts

Palm rests

I do not have much to say about the palm rests. Even though the Glove80 palm rests do not have soft padding, they feel as nice as the palm rests of the Kinesis Advantage. I always use the palm rests, so that I don’t have to hover (which I find tiring). The palm rests can be disconnected from the keyboard, which is handy if you want to reduce the size when traveling or when using very large tenting angles. The palm rests are easy to remove and reattach using their thumbscrews.

Switches and keycaps

The Glove80 uses low-profile Kailh Choc v1 switches. Outside a small number of Dactyl models, this is the first key well keyboard to do so. There are many different types of MX-compatible switches, but the majority of MX switches actuate at 2mm and have a total travel of 4mm. Most Choc v1 switches have a shorter travel of 3mm and usually actuate at 1.5mm. The use of Choc switches and low-profile keycaps allows the Glove80 to be very close to the table at its lowest point. MoErgo states that the low profile of the Glove80 was a design goal to make it possible to maintain neutral tilt with a variety of common office desks. I do not find this argument very convincing, since a good ergonomic setup should have a electronically height-adjustable desk. If you don’t have such a desk, you should arguably buy it before getting an ergonomic keyboard. But it can be a benefit for people whose employers only issue standard desks.

Kailh Choc v1 switches

Besides the lower profile, I have found that the shorter travel and actuation distance makes typing more effortless because your fingers don’t have to travel as much compared to MX switches.

As of writing, MoErgo offers the Glove80 with four different switch types. Choosing a switch is probably one of the most overwhelming aspects of purchasing a Glove80. The Glove80 does not support hotswap,3 since it is hard to make hotswapping reliable with the curved flex PCBs in the key wells. This makes the switch choice a long-term commitment. Switch choice is very personal, so if you have doubts about what switch would work for you, it is best to get a Choc v1 switch tester. This is my take on each of the switch options:

The Glove80 lineup is slanted towards heavier switches. All the switches except the Pro Reds are 50gf or heavier. Since finger fatigue or RSI is quite a common issue among frequent typists, it would be nice if there was at least one more light linear switch option, such as Pink (20gf) or Purple (25gf). These switches fit in well with the ergonomic mission of the Glove80 – they make typing very light. In my experience, the great palm rest of the Glove80 carries most of the hand’s weight, which avoids the accidental actuations that you would have with light switches on most other keyboards. I have personally settled on two custom units with my beloved Choc Pink switches.

Glove80 with pink switches

MoErgo designed a custom keycap profile (MCC, MoErgo Choc Cylindrical) for the Glove80. These keycaps use a cylindrical profile which make it easy for your fingers to slide along the columns. The Glove80 comes with semi-translucent white POM keycaps. Black keycaps can be purchased as an add-on, but the black keycaps are not translucent and block the RGB lighting. The keycaps feel great and they can be rearranged when you use an alternative layout (such as the German QWERTZ or the Colemak-DH layout), since MCC is a uniform profile. Starting with Revision 2, the Glove80 also comes with two additional MBK key caps that can be used as homing keys. Personally, I haven’t found a need for them — the key wells guide me to the right finger positions.

MCC keycap profile

Each switch is accompanied by an RGB LED. The RGB LEDs can be used for effects, though this will drain your batteries very quickly. I always leave them disabled, since I never look down at my keyboard anyway. However, the Glove80 has a nice feature where if you press the MoErgo/Magic key, the RGB LEDs will be used to show the battery status of the halves, the active layer, and information about the Bluetooth profiles.

Status LEDs

One thing to be aware of is that ZMK does not currently support per-key RGB LED control. Though this affects all ZMK keyboards and might be added as a feature in the future.

Build quality

Much has been said about the build quality of the Glove80 in prior reviews, especially in comparison to the Advantage 360. The first thing that becomes immediately apparent when you take the Glove80 out of the box is how extremely light it is. It is said that people associate light with cheap, but the plastic feels very solid/durable. My Advantage360 had scuffs after using the palm pads a few times, whereas my Glove80 still looks completely mint after six months of use. The lighter weight doesn’t cause the keyboard to slide more easily since the 6 stilts with bumpons provide a lot of friction. The lightness of the Glove80 is nice when traveling. I took the Glove80 with me for a two week trip and the added weight to my backpack was barely noticeable.

One point of criticism that can be leveled at the build quality is that some of the seams are not completely flush as can be seen in the photo below. The seams look tight enough for this to be purely an aesthetic issue.

Glove80 seams

The second revision of the Glove80 added a screw to the case that tightens it up some of the seams, but they are still visible.

The key well construction of the Glove80 improves over that of the Kinesis Advantage. The Advantage uses three plastic layers: the bottom case, the key well itself, and the upper case. The key well is screwed to the upper case (and in the Advantage2, a generous amount of glue is added). This feels a bit fragile – when you press the keys hard (for example when replacing keycaps), you can feel the key well and its attachment points flex. I have always been a bit worried that one of the key wells would break under pressure. The Glove80 is different in this respect, since it only consists of two layers. The key well is part of the upper case, which makes the key well feel more solid.

Innards: microcontroller, battery, and firmware

Both Glove80 halves use an nRF52840 as part of a Raytac MDBT50Q module with a PCB antenna. Both halves run the open source ZMK firmware, which is one of the most extensive keyboard firmware options besides QMK. Unlike QMK, ZMK is primarily focused on wireless use through Bluetooth LE. When the left half is connected through USB, the keyboard presents itself to the host computer as a USB keyboard, however the halves will always communicate through Bluetooth LE. People who prefer to use a keyboard fully wired may find this problematic. In most scenarios this shouldn’t be an issue since Bluetooth LE uses encryption and I have found the connection between the halves to be rock solid. In my use over the last six months, the halves have never disconnected and I never had any issues connecting the halves when they were turned back on or when flashing new firmware.

Both halves use a battery with 500 mAh capacity. I have only charged the battery once when I got the Glove80, besides incidental charging when flashing new firmware. The battery drains very quickly though with RGB effects enabled (within a few hours at most). If you like to use RGB effects it is better to power the halves through USB. The batteries are user-accessible, so they can be disconnected when the keyboard is only used wired.

The ZMK firmware used by the Glove80 is a recent ZMK version with some Glove80-specific patches. The keymaps and behaviors can be edited by hand and built as any regular ZMK firmware (or with Nix). However, most people will use the online layout editor. The editor offers some standard keymaps (QWERTY, Colemak-DH, Kinesis-like, etc.), but the real power comes from defining a custom keymap. The online keyboard editor works well for most customizations (changing keys, adding layers, etc.). If you want to change behaviors, there is the possibility to add your own custom behavior snippets. The behaviors can then be used in the keymap using the &custom key type. This is where the limitations of the editor become apparent, the custom behaviors are not parsed, so the &custom keys become stringly-typed from the perspective of the editor. This is not an issue for the vast majority of users who just want to remap some keys, but I hope that the editor will parse custom behaviors in the future for those who like to define custom behaviors for home row mods and their ilk.

Keymap editor

When changing the keymap, a new firmware with the keymap has to be flashed to the keyboard. For layout changes it normally suffices to flash the left halve, but both halves need to be flashed for new firmware versions. Flashing the halves is pretty straightforward. Once you are done with your edits, you can ask the editor to build the firmware and after some time the firmware is automatically downloaded. The firmware can be flashed to a halve by putting the halve in boot loader mode using a shortcut (Magic + Esc for the left halve, Magic + ' for the right halve). The boot loader will expose itself as a USB mass storage device with the FAT filesystem. Dragging the firmware to the drive will flash it.

One nice touch is that the firmware is a single file. The Advantage360 Pro uses a separate firmware file for each halve and it is oh-so-easy to flash the wrong firmware to a half 🤦, which requires a full keyboard reset to fix it. The method that the Glove80 uses for this is clever. The UF2 firmware format consists of blocks and each block has a metadata header. The metadata can contain a board family identifier. The boot loader is supposed to ignore blocks that do not have the board’s family identifier. The Glove80 halves use different identifiers. So the firmware is just a concatenation of the left halve and right halve firmwares, but the left halve ignores the right halve’s UF2 blocks and vice versa.

Hackability & ecosystem

There are a fair number of expansions available. For users of language-specific layouts, MoErgo sells additional keycap sets. There are also sets for macOS and assorted symbols. The Glove80 tripod mounting plate provides alternative mounting/tenting options using camera tripods and clamps. Of these add-ons, I purchased and tried the quick release mounting plates. I will not discuss them in this review for brevity.

The Glove80 has has M2 anchor points for sidecar modules. As far as I am aware not many modules exist yet. Though someone has used it to mount Orbital trackpads to the Glove80. Each halve also exposes 6 GPIO pins on the logic board, which could open up the keyboard to other useful extensions. Using the GPIO pins voids warranty though, so it is not for most people.

Glove80 has an active and helpful community on the MoErgo Discord. The MoErgo Discord is also frequented by MoErgo staff. There are also channels about hardware and ZMK mods.

Traveling with the Glove80

Starting with the second revision, the Glove80 comes with a sturdy travel case. The Glove80 halves fit in the case with their palm rests attached. The tenting legs fit if they are around 12-15mm. If you use higher tenting levels, I’d recommend keeping a set of stilts locked to the right height with Nyloc nuts. The case is closed with a zipper and has a handle, so it can be carried as a small suitcase. The case fits in a typical laptop backpack that can carry a 15” laptop. That said, the case is large, something that is hard to avoid with a key well keyboard. If space is at a premium, you might prefer taking off the wrist rests and find another protective case. I have traveled several times with the travel case in my Ortlieb waterproof cycling backpack and it has been splendid. It is very generous that MoErgo provides the travel case with the Glove80 now without raising prices. The photo below shows the Glove80 case (right) in comparison to the Keyboardio Model100 case (left).

Keyboardio Model 100 and Glove80 cases side-by-side

One issue that often occurs during travel is that there may not be a nice surface to put the keyboard on. I have found that most hotels and apartments do not have desks and chairs with the right height to work comfortably. In such cases the most ergonomic solution is often to put the keyboard on your lap. This works great with ‘monoblock’ keyboards like the fixed-split Kinesis Advantage2. However, putting the two halves of a truly split keyboard on your lap is not very stable.

We recently traveled for two weeks and I wanted to take the Glove80 with me since it is lighter and more compact than the Advantage2. I finally found a great solution in the bean bag recommended by Ben Vallack: put the bean bag between your legs, then put each halve on your legs such that the outer stilts are on your legs and the inner stilts dig into the bean bag. The bean bag gives the keyboard stability and a small amount of tenting. Since the halves are less separated than on a desk, I angle the halves slightly inwards for best comfort.

Portable Glove80 using a bean bag

For this trip I transported the Glove80 in its original box, which fits in my Ortlieb cycle backpack. I hope to try the planned Glove80 case in the future, since it should remove a fair bit of volume compared to the cardboard box.

Verdict

There is no perfect keyboard, but the Glove80 does come awfully close. The Glove80 pulls key well keyboards out of the local optimum that they have been in the last 30 years or so. The key wells feature significant improvements over the competition and the thumb clusters feel much more natural. The continuous tenting mechanism, mounting options, and the generous number of (reprogrammable) keys make it possible to tailor the Glove80 to your own preferences. If you want a keyboard that is extremely comfortable and are willing to go through the learning curve of adapting to a column stagger key well keyboard, you can’t really go wrong.

I hope that MoErgo will offer a lighter switch option than Pro Reds in the future. Switch weight is also a part of keyboard ergonomics and people who have to deal with finger fatigue or RSI will benefit tremendously from a switch that is as light as possible.

tl;dr:

Positive:

Negative:

Rating: 5/5

  1. Ergonomic keyboards that I have experience with are: Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB, Keyboardio Model 100, Ferris Sweep, SplitKB Kyria, Moonlander, Kinesis Advantage2, Kinesis Advantage 360, Kinesis Advantage360 Pro, and Dactyl. 

  2. I do not have any experience with the Moonlander platform. 

  3. Hotswap keyboards put switches in sockets, allowing them to be replaced. The Glove80 switches are soldered to the PCB.