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Dygma Raise: splitting the difference between gaming and ergonomics

Dygma Raise: splitting the difference between gaming and ergonomics

The term ergonomic is often used, applied to everything from chairs and desks to mice and perhaps most specifically keyboards. It is quite easy to find ergonomic splits and ortholinear keyboards available from various manufacturers. However, few equip their keyboards with features likely to appeal to enthusiasts. Alongside ZSA’s Moonlander Mark I, the Dygma Raise bucks this trend, with ergonomic features combined with enthusiast customization.

The Dygma Raise is currently only available through the company’s website, with the base model costing $319.00. The hefty price tag isn’t uncommon in the split-keyboard ecosystem, but the Raise is a cut above in that regard.

Ergonomics in the design of the keyboard is all about reducing the amount of repetitive movements made by your fingers and hands. Ergonomic boards also allow you to position your hands farther apart to relieve strain on your shoulders, or extend the keyboard to relieve your wrists. The Raise is designed to accommodate both aspects.

The Raise is an ergonomic 60% split-layout keyboard with RGB backlighting. Split-layout keyboards are exactly what they say on the tin, splitting the available keys down the middle, usually where the 6 and 7 keys would be. This is meant to allow your arms to rest at 90° angles degrees and provide a more ergonomic experience.

However, it’s not the features that set the keyboard apart; what really makes this keyboard special are the customization options and its receptivity to modding, thanks to its open-source software, hot-swappable PCB, and small but enthusiastic community. Just visit the Reddit Where Discord servers dedicated to this keyboard only to realize that it has something of a following.

The Dygma Raise comes with its own carrying case.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

Dygma founder and CEO Luis Sevilla comes from an esports background, having previously coached Fnatic. League of Legends team in 2016. Working with esports athletes has given Luis a unique perspective on the challenges these players face. Too often, he saw 18-year-old players incapacitated by repetitive stress injuries that are usually reserved for people twice their age. This is what inspired him to develop the Raise.

Right out of the box, it’s clear that no expense has been spared on this keyboard. The Raise comes in its own rugged carry case that contains the keyboard, cables, and a weird USB-C cable splitter. Another nice touch is the “upgrade kit” that comes with the keyboard, which includes samples of the additional switches offered by Dygma in addition to a selection of rubberized O-rings, a combo switch and a key puller , and an aptly named “shit remover”. (that’s a brush y’all).

The tools of the trade.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

The Raise has an extremely lean aesthetic, helped in part by its 60% layout. There is no function line, number pad, directional arrows or text navigation keys. There’s not even visible branding, just a brushed aluminum chassis with a pair of firm leatherette palm rests attached to either side. The palm rests are attached on either side with peel-off adhesive, but they can be removed and reapplied if you need to clean them.

The Raise comes as a single unit but easily separates into two halves by pulling on either side. The two boards are secured together by a series of magnetic pins. This material is very sturdy and has no problem keeping both ends together even when held from one side. Impressive, given the weight of the keyboard itself.

The two halves of the keyboard are held together by a series of pins.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

From a game perspective, the Raise is unique. And while it’s marketed as a gaming keyboard, save for macros and RGB lighting, you won’t find many of the typical gotchas you’d expect from other brands, like dedicated media controls and layouts. extended keys. The split design can be used to make only half of the board work as a playmat and bring your mouse hand closer to the middle.

You can configure the Raise with eight different third-party switches, with options ranging from Cherry MX Reds to the Kailh Speed ​​Silver linear switches found in mine. You can also swap in any three or five pin switch you prefer. It can be configured to support ANSI or ISO layouts and currently comes with PBT keys for six region-specific layouts. All base keys use a standard key layout, allowing you to swap out custom sets. By default, the Raise comes with a black aluminum backplate, but can also be ordered with a silver backplate and white keys at an additional cost.

Another option is the Tent Kit, which costs an additional $89. This allows you to tilt each side of the board upwards in steps ranging from 10 to 45 degrees. It can also be returned to a flat position. The tent kit shares the same build quality as the rest of the keyboard, being made almost entirely of aluminum except for its grippy rubber feet. Like other ergonomic boards, the Raise has no way of being tilted like regular keyboards, even with the tent kit.

The tent kit in all its glory.
Photo by Alice Newcome-Beill/The Verge

The two halves of the Raise connect using a pair of USB-C cables that lead to the packaged USB-C terminal called the “Neuron” which then connects to your PC. None of the cables used with the Raise are permanent, so they can be easily replaced if you prefer custom cables for your setup.

Dygma uses its own proprietary software to remap keys and macros called Bazecor. This software is available for PC, Mac and Linux. The interface is very easy to use and encourages tinkering with your settings to make the Raise your own. Bazecor lets you control RGB lighting via LEDs, but currently doesn’t offer any animation outside of the lighting effects built into the keyboard’s firmware.

The Bazecor interface is clean and precise.
Image: Alice Newcome Beill

Moving to the second layer changes the lighting and reveals alternate functions.
Image: Alice Newcome Beill

All of your macros, layers, and other custom setups made with Bazecor are stored in the Neuron, meaning everything will stay the same whether you switch keyboards between different computers. It also means you don’t need to leave Bazecor running in the background to keep your settings in place.

The brain of the operation, the “Neuron”.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

There are a few features that are essential to the operation of this keyboard. Layers allow the keyboard to store secondary key functions below the existing 60% layout when you press or hold a key. This provides access to commonly used items such as arrow keys and media controls.

The other feature is the Eight Bar, a cluster of eight keys right around where you would normally find the spacebar. Although you can remap them to any function, these keys are used by default to switch between layers. In addition to the unique functions, each layer can be assigned its own RGB lighting, allowing you to visibly highlight the keys you need, a smart and useful touch.

Installing and setting up Raise was a breeze, but getting used to its layout was a lot harder, especially since someone usually uses full-size keyboards. But contrary to what you might expect, it wasn’t the split design that tripped me up – it was the condensed 60% layout. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve caught myself reaching for the arrow keys or my number pad and suddenly realizing there aren’t any. My early days with the Raise were spent tripping over keys and reaching for functions that weren’t there anymore, eliciting more than their fair share of frustration and audible whining. While I eventually got used to its somewhat foreign layout, I still ended up glancing at my keys more often than I would have liked. The Raise is not unique in this regard – many ergonomic split boards have a steep learning curve when you first start using them and can take weeks to get used to depending on your typing style and cases. of use.

In 2022, even keyboardists are social distancing.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

While there is a steep learning curve for this keyboard, especially for anyone used to larger keyboards, the skill ceiling is high. All you need to do is quickly visit the macros page of the Dygma Wiki where Reddit thread to get an idea of ​​what’s possible if you really commit to this keyboard.

Here’s how the Dygma Raise sounds with Cherry Silver switches:

I fully respect that for some users this keyboard is a heavenly marriage, but unfortunately for me it felt more like a shotgun marriage. Even after spending a lot of time with the Dygma Raise, I’m not entirely sure if this keyboard is for me, or even for most keyboard users. You really have to commit to the ergonomic design and quirks of the 60% layout to enjoy using this board.

For anyone intrigued by the design of the Dygma Raise, but understandably put off by the hefty price tag, there are a number of cheaper options you can experiment with. As I mentioned earlier, ZSA’s Moonlander keyboard is by far the closest analogue, but still retains a relatively high price tag of around $270. There are a few slightly cheaper options though, like the Kinesis Freestyle Edge which costs around $200.

Dygma also recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a project that builds on the foundations of the Raise keyboard by adapting and refining it into an ortholinear design. Given the care and attention that went into their initial design, I’m excited to see what they come up with next.

While the cost of this keyboard might be prohibitive for many, the Raise brings a different approach to the world of typically stuffy ergonomic keyboards. If you’re a 60% keyboard enthusiast who can overlook a colossal price tag and are looking for your next obsession, the Dygma Raise is definitely worth considering.