Custom Keyboard Spotlight: The 'Hot Dox' Ergonomic Keyboard

By Ryan Whitwam

The ErgoDox you know and love with a few new features.

Anyone who spends a lot of time typing has to worry about what it does to your wrists in the long run. That's one of the primary selling points for mechanical keyboards, which promote better typing habits. You can also find a switch that perfectly fits your comfort level. Even with the perfect switch, you cannot position most keyboards in a natural way. Well, that's where the ErgoDox comes in.

ErgoDox keyboards are split halves that are shaped like your hands, and the newest Ergodox on the market even lets you swap switches without soldering. This hot-swappable Ergodox is fittingly called the "Hot Dox," and it's available for pre-order now.

The Hot Dox (officially the ErgoDox 76) comes from Alpaca Keyboards, and it's for sale on the Kono Store. The layout will be familiar to anyone who's used other ErgoDox-style keyboards. For others, it's going to take some time to adjust. There are two PCBs, which are mirror images of each other. Most of the keys are in the same order as a standard QWERTY board, but the columns are non-staggered. These "ortho" layouts are easier to learn for people who are home row touch-typists.

After a few hours spent tinkering with the Hot Dox, I managed to hit about 20 words per minute. That's about a quarter of what I can manage with a "normal" keyboard. With enough practice, ErgoDox boards can be more efficient because you don't have to reposition your hands to reach the keys, and you can position the two halves at more natural angles. The right half connects to your computer via a USB Type-C cable, and the two halves have USB-A ports.

The Hot Dox uses Kailh sockets (below) on the PCB. While this is a DIY kit, there's no soldering involved. All you need to assemble the board is a screwdriver and a bit of patience. The acrylic sandwich design looks neat, but it's got a bit more flex than you might expect. The switches simply plug into the plate, and it only takes a few seconds to yank one out. You can get the kit with a few different switches, but getting it with none is also an option if you plan to buy something more exotic.

The board is fully programmable with the open source QMK firmware. You'll probably want to make some tweaks, especially because the kit only comes with blank keycaps. That really ups the learning curve, but you can get labeled ErgoDox sets elsewhere on the internet. Hot Dox kits start at $174.99 without switches. It's $204.99 with switches, but there are only a few options left. Units should begin shipping in March.