Almost exactly one year ago I sat down and took a look at the original Massdrop ErgoDox kit. A few months after that Massdrop in combination with what would later be called Input Club announced that they had been working on a completely new designed called the Infinity ErgoDox. It’s important to note that the original ErgoDox was originally designed by Dominic Beauchamp aka Dox. Later the Geekhack and Deskthority keyboard community’s worked with Massdrop to provide a full kit. The ErgoDox isn’t exclusive to Massdrop but the specific design that I reviewed last year was. There are actually multiple places where you can put together your own parts or now even buy a pre-built model as well. The Infinity ErgoDox though is a new design based on the original but taking into account what they learned from the 60% Infinity Keyboard that Massdrop worked on with Input Club. The overall shape is the same but the Infinity ErgoDox uses a proper backplate and makes big steps forward with things like USB 3.0, NKRO, an LED screen, backlighting, and stabilizers. So today I’m going to dig into the new kit and see what it is all about, have a little fun building it all, then test out the new design and see how it compares to the original.
Product Name: Input Club Infinity ErgoDox Ergonomic Keyboard Kit
Review Sample Provided by: Massdrop
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
|Compatibility||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|Case Material||Acrylic with aluminum backplate|
Cherry MX Clear
Cherry MX Blue
Cherry MX Black
Cherry MX Red
Cherry MX Brown
Matias Quiet Pro
Zealios 65g Tactile Purple
Zeralios 78g Tactile Purple
|Case color options||Clear only|
Black PBT DSA
Black PBT DCS
No keycaps option also available
2 Infinity ErgoDox PCBs
2 Top Plate #1
2 Top Plate #2
2 Switch Plate
2 Spacer Plate #1
2 Spacer Plate #2
2 Bottom Plate
18 Posts with screws (hardware)
1 3′ USB 3.0 Cable
1 1′ USB 3.0 Cable
1 2mm allen wrench
Unlike the original Massdrop ErgoDox kit, the Infinity didn’t come in its own individual box. Each of the individual pieces are tossed into the Massdrop shipping box along with air packs to keep everything from moving around too much. In other words, there isn’t much to see as far as packaging goes. It’s a bummer because the original had a nice note inside explaining the importance of how the ErgoDox helped Massdrop grow early on.
Beyond the packaging itself, each of the individual components came wrapped up and protected great. The Key switches came in a resealable bag, the acrylic panels came wrapped in cling wrap to keep them from rubbing together, and the PCBs came in a static protective bag with bubble wrap around them on the inside to prevent any damage. All in all, it gets the job done. It would have been nice to get the box like the original ErgoDox, if for no other reason than to put the ErgoDox Infinity into it when it’s not in use, but that’s just an excuse to pick up a custom made bag for them in the future.
Building your ErgoDox Infinity
If you haven’t figured it out by now, just like the original ErgoDox, the Infinity is a build your own keyboard kit. They include everything you need to get going but you will need to provide your own solder and soldering iron. Unlike the original the Infinity does support backlighting as well but you will have to provide the LEDs as well if you want to go that direction. Input Club has put together a nice set of instructions that lay out everything you will need to do to get the ErgoDox Infinity together. Before you consider picking one up you should check it out, HERE is a link. They do a good job of breaking everything down and even include links to information if you are new to Soldering.
To get the Infinity together I busted out the same Soldering Iron that got me through the original ErgoDox as well as two different 60% Infinity builds, and a Planck. That would be my trusty temperature controlled Hakko Digital FX888D, it is the same iron recommended by Input Club but as long as whatever you have is temperature controlled you should be good. I went with Kester 44 Rosin Core Solder 60/40 .031 for my solder as well. To keep my work space from getting fried I also used a simple silicone baking mat, I used THIS one but any will work. For LEDs you can pick any color you would like, the only thing that is important is the size and shape of the LED. You are looking for a 3mm flangeless LED a miniature 1.8mm LED, or a 5 x 1.5mm square LED. 3mm LEDs are the norm but you have to be very careful to only use a flangeless design or it will give you fitment issues with thick keycaps. For this build I used a 3mm flangeless white LED that I picked up off eBay for less than $9 pee 100. With everything ready I set up my workspace and warmed up my soldering iron.
To keep things simple I time lapsed the build. The location of my camera wasn’t ideal so there are a few times where you can’t really see what I’m doing but all in all I thought it might help. I started off by prepping the case by pulling them out of the plastic wrap. I grabbed the first PCB, backplate, and a few switches. Input Club suggests that you start by putting together the two switches with the stabilizers first before soldering them to make sure the stabilizers lined up. From there I put switches in each corner and solder them in to get everything stabilized. Once in and soldered the plate and PCB are locked in place and you can go to town installing all of the switches then flipping it over and soldering them all. Next I wanted to get all of our white backlighting installed. For the first side I did it in the painfully slow way where I basically slide just a few LEDs in, flip it over and solder them. For the second hand I speed things up considerably by installing them all from the top, bending the leads so they wouldn’t fall out and then soldering them all at once.
With switches and lighting installed it was just down to putting together the acrylic case one piece at a time. Taking the paper off took most of this time and destroyed my finger nails. From there it was just bolting everything together, installing keycaps, and testing everything again. I tested everything at every step along the way but its always good to be sure. Then of course you will see me start in on the second half of the keyboard after finishing the first. In the end It took me about an hour and 45 minutes to get them both built. If I had a better way to take the paper off the acrylic and if I had done the LEDs the correct way on the first half I think it would actually take me about an hour. If you are new to this set aside a little over 2 hours and you should get it done.
So was building the Infinity any different than building the original ErgoDox? Well the biggest change is that for the Infinity they preinstall the tiny diodes that almost drove me insane last time. Even beyond that the Infinity was a much simpler build and more refined with having the chipset already installed as well as the USB 3 connections. With the original ErgoDox you have to install the Teensy and the clone for the second hand as well as wire up the USB connection. All in all, the Infinity took me less time than the original to build, even with all of my mistakes and with all of the additional time installing the LEDs adds.
Last but not least I did get a few pictures of the PCBs before the build. The new design looks a lot cleaner due to the PCB not having additional holes for different diode options. Not having a hundred things printed on the PCB hews with that as well but with the old one I did like that they broke everything down with outlines to show you exactly where everything goes. There have been a lot of people who have complained about the trace routing on the new PCBs and I can see where they are coming from as they are kind of all over the place. It’s not as clean of a design but it does make for short traces. Considering the addition of the LED screen and backlighting they were working with a much more complicated design compared to the original ErgoDox.
Photos and Features
If you never saw our review of the original ErgoDox the entire layout might be a little jarring or different. Basically the ErgoDox was originally designed by a user named Dox who was inspired by the Key64. He designed a split keyboard design. The original design and the newer Infinity ErgoDox both have a columnar layout meaning the keys are all in vertical column where a normal keyboard would have staggered columns. The idea behind that is that the only reason keys were ever staggered was because of the original typewriter designs that needed to be staggered to keep the keys from jamming. The thought process is that a curved row design that fits the shape of your hang with straight columns is the most ergonomic design. That of course is debatable and depends on the person, but that is the idea behind the ErgoDox. Each hand is split up with 38 keys each. Most of the keys falls under the fingers but there are 6 on each halve in the thumb cluster. With the keyboard split in half like this you can pick how far apart you want them spaced and at what angles they sit to better fit you. This is vastly different from a lot of the ergonomic keyboards that angle the layout but push the two halves up against each other.
All in all, the ErgoDox Infinity when sitting with a small gap takes up about the same amount of room as a small full sized keyboard enough though you are getting less than a TenKeyLess in keys. Of course the ErgoDox infinity is completely programmable so what keys you actually get are up to you.
The ErgoDox Infinity uses a layered acrylic design for its case. This seems to be one of the cheaper ways to do a custom case short of having an injection molded design made. That said I would love to see them go that direction if it would help lower the costs of the Infinity at all. If not, it would be really cool to keep with the completely customizable design an allow people to pick from different colored acrylics like some manufactures like FalbaTech do with the original ErgoDox. Even Massdrop’s original package gave you a few top panel options. Speaking of the original design, I’m surprised the ErgoDox Infinity didn’t have an option for full hand cases like before. You do still get to pick from a huge selection of keyswitches from multiple manufactures and you can even pick from a few different keycap options. The kit that was sent to us included clear Cherry MX switches, my preferred switch, and black DSA keycaps from Signature Plastics.
So here is the layout of one halve of the ErgoDox Infinity. Like I said before you have 38 keys per half. Most of the keys are a standard 1u. Down in the thumb cluster two of the keys are 2u’s. The original ErgoDox gave me issues here when I typed on it because these keys were unstabilized. The Infinity though fixes that issue and both keys are stabilized so I’m hoping when I get into testing those keys don’t bind up on me like before. There are a few 1.5u keys, four on the left row and two sitting vertical on the right. This these would be your modifier keys as well as the keys that control what layer you are typing on. Because of the number of keys the Infinity can’t fit every single key on the top layer, so much like a normal keyboard with a function layer the Infinity can flip through an infinite number of layers to have every key and every key layout that you might want. It all just depends on how you configure it. This is also why the three keycap options from Massdrop are all without legends on them, they can’t really send you legends on keycaps if everyone’s design will be different. Speaking of the keycaps though, I noticed that our DSA keycaps once again have a few weird issues much like with the 60% Infinity I reviewed. Specifically, a lot of the keys have a curved in shape on the outside edges. I don’t have this problem with any of my doubleshot DSA keycaps, but it seems to be an ongoing issue with the Signature Plastics single shot caps or at least the caps being sent to Massdrop.
The biggest change going to the Infinity was the inclusion of a small RGB backlit LCD screen on each hand. Development of the screen hasn’t gone very far but the main use for the screen is to show you what layer you are on. They do this by showing you the number of course but you can also set colors for each layer and the backlighting changes to that color as well. That seems to be the only use for it right now but I hope they add more functionality in the future. If nothing else, I would love to be able to see the time and maybe my windows volume level on it. Things could be more advanced with things like showing what song you are playing but I think going that far would require running software all of the time.
So while both of the Infinity ErgoDox halves are designed for their specific hand, the cases are actually the same. In fact, they are designed so that the only different part is the PCB, the acrylic case just gets each piece flipped over. It is about an inch thick and made of multiple layers, all but the one are a clear acrylic. Up on the top edge, just like the original, the Infinities have their connections. This time however they are all USB 3.0 and both halves have the same two connections. You have one normal USB port like you would see on your computer than the other is the USB 3 version of a Micro-USB port. In fact, the left half of the connection supports a regular old USB 2 Micro USB plug. I’m sure however that the keyboard won’t work with it hooked up that way though. Both halves of the Infinity have the same two ports meaning you can daisy chain starting from the left or right hand depending on what is best for your layout.
The bottom of the ErgoDox infinity is really the only time you can see the PCB. The design uses clear acrylic panels for the entire casing but with the use of an aluminum backplate now the view from the top is just silver. Here though we can take a peek at my soldering job at any point and check out the nice Input Club logo up in the top right corner. The original ErgoDox kit from Massdrop had the same design, what is different though is the change in hardware to keep it all together. Before they used acorn nuts on the bottom as feet and to hold the casing together. For the Infinity they used an almost flush mounted posts. These keep the Infinity sitting a little lower. That said, just like the original the design is begging for rubber feet to prevent damage to your desk and to keep things from sliding around.
With the move to full USB 3.0 and with the controller built into each hand the Infinity actually runs each hand as its own keyboard. This means you don’t have to run the weird bridge cable made out of an audio cable like on the old design. Massdrop and Input Club include to USB 3.0 cables, one is about a foot long and it can connect the two hands together. The second is slightly longer but still shorter than it should be and it connects the pair to your PC. If you want, you could also get two long cables and hook both hands directly into your PC or run just one half. That last option really caught my attention for gaming and I’m going to spend time trying it out later on.
While the Infinity ErgoDox and the Original ErgoDox share a lot of the same features including the shape, key layout, and they both even have acrylic cases. The big thing visually that stood out to me when I put them next to each other was how the Infinity has a cleaner look with its use of an aluminum backpate. The original used acrylic for its backplate and this gave the keyboard a more hacker look because right from the top we could see the full PCB and the Teensy controller right up top.
As far as the overall shape goes the new Infinity seems large but when you put it over the original ErgoDox design we can see that its actually slightly smaller. The bottom shape is all the same but up at the top edge the Infinity matches the large top bezel of the original with the LED screen but then angles down where the original was straight. They were able to do this because up in this area is where the Teensy was on the original and with moving to USB 3 connections the Infinity takes up a little less space along the top of the PCB.
Speaking of the USB 3.0 connections here we can see how the Infinity has both its USB 3 in and USB 3 out within about a half an inch of each other where the original ErgoDox had the USB 2 over on the left and then the microphone connection that connected the two halves together over on the right. On the original both connections were heavily recessed as well. Where with the new design it is flush mounted.
I mentioned it earlier but with both Dox’s next to each other we can better see how the new design looks much cleaner.
For my testing I have spent a few days with the ErgoDox Infinity along with busting out my old ErgoDox as well. Typically, I aim to spend a week to two weeks with a keyboard before writing about it but in this case I wanted to get the review published quickly because the current group buy is nearly closed. That said I didn’t skimp on the testing in the time that I have had with the Infinity. I’ve been writing this review on it when not on my laptop, browsing the internet, and I’ve spent far too much time gaming in League and Call of Duty Black Ops 3 on my PC. This gave me time to get a feel for the setup in both work and gaming conditions.
First off, even with a lot of experience with the original ErgoDox adjusting to the ErgoDox Infinity is going to take time for almost anyone. The exception would be if you have been using an ErgoDox full time leading up to the transition. To aid in that transition I did bust out a set of DSA profile keycaps with legends on them and even then I’m still far off from my standard typing speed currently. I know from my past experience that it took me about a day of full use to get a grasp and weeks of full time use to completely get used to the ErgoDox layout and even then I programed everything to one layer because I struggled with multiple layers. With the Infinity though I’m already getting the hang of the layers due to the new RGB LCD screen that lets me know when and what layer I’ve switched too. Me having to get out a set of keycaps with legends on them to adjust isn’t really ideal. I hope in the future Massdrop considers make a set of keycaps with at least the basic legends on them an option. Using something like the ever popular granite set could be a possibility, or they could come up with a basic set. I’m sure some past owners would bite at a drop for one and then with some backstock they could keep it on as an option for future ErgoDox Infinity drops.
So one of the big selling points with this and with the other Infinity line of keyboards is their customizability. With that I wanted to toy with the layout a little. Because the ErgoDox Infinity runs without any software you have to jump on the Input Club website and using their web tool you can adjust any key on any layer to do nearly anything. They have even added in media controls and international options as well. Really the only thing missing here is the ability to program macros. Once you get your layout together things can get slightly more complicated. For one you do have to use a small program to upload the file and more importantly you have to gain access to the small push button on the bottom of the PCB. This is where I ran into issues, you can program it fine when building it but once you get the case all together you have to take it all apart to get at that tiny button. I think it’s crazy there isn’t a small hole to gain access to the button, pulling everything apart once is a pain but still not a big deal, but if you are adjusting things often you are going to get tired of taking everything apart really quick.
The ErgoDox layout even once you get used to it, isn’t going to be for everyone. Personally I found the four 1u keys around the two larger thumb keys to not be very useful. The whole idea is to keep your hands in place and have everything within reach but hitting those had me moving my hands every time. They aren’t bad for rarely used functions though. Speaking of the thumb area, I was extremely happy to find out that adding the stabilizers to the 2u keys got rid of the binding and issues I had with the original ErgoDox. It’s amazing how much a small change using a few small parts can improve the overall quality feel of the whole keyboard.
I did still run into a few other issues when typing, one being an issue I complained about with the original as well. The original and the Infinity both desperately need rubber feet as an option on the bottom. Both hands constantly moved around for me on my wood desk as well as on our plastic table. A few cheap rubber feet would help with this and if they gave an optional thicker one for the rear of the ErgoDox it could even help give it a little angle. Feet would also prevent damage from the metal studs on your desk as well as keep you from scuffing up the bottom of your new keyboard. The other issue I ran into was that the acrylic case design is a little sharp along the top edge. This really only became an issue along the bottom edge under my hand when typing. Because of this I would highly recommend using a set of ErgoDox wrist rests from someone like Griffiti or Noko Leather Works. The original ErgoDox kit from Massdrop had an option where you could get a full hand case that would also prevent this but its not an option on the Infinity.
With the integration of the screen into both halves of the Infinity I’m really excited about the possibility of what people might use it for. Currently the base firmware only has the ability to show you what layer number you are on as well as show the backlight color of that layer. There is a lot of room for improvement here from the community or HaaTa. Specifically, I had a few ideas, but I clearly don’t have the coding knowledge to implement them so if you do and are interested hear me out. Windows volume level when you are adjusting the volume, Infinity backlight brightness percentage when you adjust the brightness level or turn it on or off, a diagnostic mode that confirms that it receives a key signal when you press each key for use right after building the keyboard, or even something as basic as the time. Even cooler would be the option to add your own logo depending on the layer, I mean it is a 128x32 pixel screen let’s take advantage of it! Like I said earlier I love the layer functionality.
I did run into an interesting quirk with the build in screen in my testing. When you press and hold the layer button only the screen on the first plugged in device will light up. After looking into things more the leading device also controls the full profile as well. So if you wanted you could put a completely different profile on each and change between them by moving the plug back and forth. This lead me into another portion of my testing. I wanted to see how well using just one half of the ErgoDox Infinity would work for gaming. Specifically, I wanted to use the left half just like you would a gaming pad. Having used multiple gaming pads in the past I found myself right at home gaming using just the one half of the Infinity. In fact, I feel like they could specifically market just the one half for gaming given it would lower the cost of entry down below the cost of the Razer Orbweaver. The new design that now has a controller in both halves opens up this and also gets rid of the lag that the original ErgoDox had in the half without the controller.
The new design with its use of USB 3.0 connections does open up a few new possibilities. For one like I mentioned earlier the connection between the two halves is now USB rather than the TRRS connection of the original. This combined with the controller being in each hand means you can daisy chain as many halves as you want. Of course you only get two with the Infinity kit but Input Club did toy with having 5 hooked up together as a proof of concept.
The new connections mean new cables, so don’t expect to be using the same old mini-USB cable. It uses a USB 3 type A to a Micro B connection. This is an unusual cable, but if you have owned a USB 3.0 hard drive you have seen them. The Samsung S5 used it as well. The cables Massdrop included with the kit are frankly just too short. You have a 1-foot-long cable between the two halves that has been known to cause a little too much strain on the connection and then a 3-foot-long cable to get to your PC. Unless you are like me with a USB 3.0 hub on your desk or if your PC is sitting on your desk you might need to get a new cable to even use the Infinity. After doing a little research I did learn a few things though. For one, the Micro-B connection supports a standard USB 2 micro connection. I tested this and you can actually run your ErgoDox Infinity with your regular micro USB cable. You just need the second half of the Micro-B for the USB pass through to daisy chain the together, so if you have the cables you could hook up both individually. The other thing is, you can actually use the USB plug on your second Infinity to plug in another device or charge something. So if you need a USB port on your desk from time to time this will help.
The other big change with the ErgoDox Infinity that I don’t think gets enough attention was the addition of support for backlighting. Massdrop doesn’t give the option of including LEDs but when doing your built it’s an easy addition. The Infinity has support in the configurator for buttons to turn the lighting on and off as well as raising and lowering the brightness. Input Club in the past has mentioned that with their controller there is also the possibility of actually running the lighting as low DPI LCD screen, this could open up the possibility of lighting designs, effects, or even games like snake. That all depends on someone going out of the way and developing it though.
Overall and Final Verdict
Much like the original, the ErgoDox Infinity isn’t going to be everyone. It is designed for keyboard enthusiasts who are looking for an ergonomic keyboard design with complete customizability. That is a fairly small market compared to your standard Razer or Corsair keyboards. Add to that being a kit there are going to be a lot of people who think it is crazy to pay to build your own keyboard. Funny enough those same people might also enjoy building their own PC. There is a lot to be said for the sense of accomplishment you get from building something yourself and building the ErgoDox Infinity gives you that. The new design is much easier to build than the original as well now that they preinstall the controllers and the tiny diodes that I fought with on the original ErgoDox.
The ErgoDox Infinity takes what the community designed in the original ErgoDox and fixes a few of the issues and limitations of the original design. Adding stabilizers to the 2u keys and using a backplate might seem like small things, but they add a lot to the overall build quality and the typing experience. The new LCD screen made typing in multiple layers possible for me but I am hoping that people step in and add more to its functionality. The move to having a controller on each half got rid of the lag and opened up the possibility of running just half of the ErgoDox Infinity as a gaming controller. In fact in all of my testing this is where I most likely see me using the ErgoDox Infinity the most. I found with the original ErgoDox as well as the Infinity that for me to adjust completely to the unique layout and design I have to use it as my only keyboard and for me I spend too much time moving from computer to computer as well as my laptop to be able to give it 100%.
There were a few downsides that stood out as well. The biggest for me was the lack of rubber feet, when using the Infinity it would slide around on my desk more than I am comfortable with. In addition, without feet I am worried that it will cause damage to my desk in the long term. Massdrop once again skimped out on the cables, the difference between the 3 foot and the 6-foot cable from Monoprice (the company they got the cables from) is $1.27 or $1.66 if we move to a 6 and 3 foot rather than the 1 and 3 provided. I was also disappointed in the quality of the keycaps from Signature Plastics, the single shot keys are a world apart from the DSA kits I have gotten from them in the past.
So is the ErgoDox Infinity the keyboard to go with? Well if you were a fan of the original there isn’t a question at all. This is a huge step forward from the original designs and currently the only place to get one is in a Massdrop group buy so you should grab one up if you can. For someone who has never tried an ErgoDox you do need to be able to commit completely. It is a great layout to type on and being able to have my hands father apart when typing helps my posture a lot. If you type a lot at work you might want to pick up a carrying case and take the Infinity with you though, at least until you get used to it. The downsides are all easy and cheap to fix.
The pricing is a little hard to follow on the kit but let me break that down for you. They list the MSRP as $499.99 but really the only place to get the kit is through Massdrop so really we need to focus on the drop prices. It starts at $299.99 and drops down to $199.99 for the kit. Keycaps will run another $39.99 and if you go with some of the more specialized key switches you can add a little more to the costs. Overall the full kit tested here today would run $239.98 shipped to me. This is basically the same price as the original ErgoDox kit from Massdrop and the quality and features of the Infinity is a big step forward. Pricing out a similar Original ErgoDox kit from FalbaTech is going to run $261.40 shipped as well. So the ErgoDox Infinity seems to be the go to option for anyone considering an ErgoDox.
As far as non-kit options here is the breakdown
Truly Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard $250 + Shipping
Matias Ergo Pro $200 + Shipping
ErgoDox EZ $260 + Shipping
Kinesis Advantage Contoured Keyboard $269 Shipped
The only keyboard that seems to be competing is the newly introduced Matias Ergo Pro. Hopefully soon we can get one in the office to see how it compares to the ErgoDox, ErgoDox Infinity, and the Truly Ergonomic that we have on hand. It might seem a little crazy to put a good value award on a $200 keyboard that you build yourself but in comparison to the previous ErgoDox, what it would cost to build one from other sources (with less features), and what all of the other ergonomic mechanical keybaords cost I think the ErgoDox Infinity is a good deal.