The Dygma Raise, a split keyboard designed specifically for competitive gaming, seeks to reconcile two opposing needs for competitive players – the desire for high customization and the need for an ergonomic design that can slow the muscular damage that relentless keyboard use does to your hands, wrists, shoulders, and back after weeks, months, and years of working and playing at your computer every day.In gear design, Esports and ergonomics concerns often clash, forcing designers to choose between “high-performance” and “high-comfort.” In mice, competitive players want the lightest design possible, so manufacturers shave weight by making them smaller and more streamlined, at the expense of a supportive shape. In keyboards, the trend toward smaller layouts allows players to tilt and reposition their gear in more ergo-friendly ways for gaming, though it’s not a complete fix and doesn’t help when you turn your game off and go back to typing.

Dygma isn’t the first company to design a split gaming keyboard, but many of them – certainly great models like the Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB – put ergonomics first, and offer far less in the way of customization. The Raise, by contrast, is very specifically designed as an Esports tool. That comes with some benefits, as well as some drawbacks. It’s incredibly well-constructed, meticulous in its design and, frankly, just a really cool and fancy gizmo. On the other hand, that meticulous design leaves out some crucial ergo features, so it is very much a compromise. It is also, for better and worse, the most complex keyboard I’ve used. There’s a lot to love about the Dygma Raise, but you have to dig deep to find it.

Dygma Raise Review

Dygma Raise – Design & Features

The Dygma Raise looks unique, even among split keyboards. The two pieces of the keyboard combine to make an expanded 68-key version of a compact 60-percent layout. The Raise is wired: Both keyboard halves feature a USB-C port, which feeds into an RGB-laden adapter, which connects to a USB-C-to-A cable. The left piece measures out to 5.91 x 7.91 x 1.31 inches (WDH), including a built-in wrist rest made of thin, firm leatherette. The right side is slightly wider at 6.68 inches x 7.91 x 1.31 inches. Even when pressed together, the keyboard measures 12.5 x 7.91 x 1.31 inches (WDH). Where most ergo keyboards are big and bulky, the Raise is very flat and compact.Its sleek aesthetic is exactly what you’d expect of an ultra-high-end gaming keyboard. Wrapped in a dark anodized aluminum, the base is all sharp lines and curved corners. It’s dripping in RGB: lights shone out between the keys, and an RGB rim around the base of both keyboard panels creates an underglow effect around the edge of the keyboard.

It also feels great to type on. My review unit is equipped with Cherry Brown switches, one of eight Kailh and Cherry switches available. As someone who reviews a lot of keyboards, Cherry Brown is home to me. Their firm press and standard travel make sense for both gaming and typing.

At the same, we should talk about what it’s like to switch from using a standard keyboard to a split. Though the layout of the keyboard doesn’t change all that much, getting comfortable typing on a split keyboard takes time. Separating your hands can mess with your muscle memory, and you should expect that it will take a few weeks to adjust to the change. In those first few weeks, you should expect to type slower and make more mistakes. The process of getting comfortable with a split keyboard is generally worth it for the design’s ergonomic benefits, but it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into.

The Raise has some extremely inventive features, including one that helps make the onboarding phase a little less daunting. The bezel-less sides have interlocking rods on the “inner” edges of the keyboard, which allow you to combine the two-part split keyboard into a single, 68-key compact layout. The ability to revert to a conventional keyboard layout is a powerful, unique tool for helping people ease into using a split keyboard. Whether you’re a new user who wants to switch back and forth for different situations, or a competitive player who really just wants to break off half the keyboard while playing, having both options makes using a split keyboard feel like less of a leap.

I was also quite taken with the idea of splitting the space bar, which straddles both sides of the keyboard into four separate keys – two on each side. For players who like to customize every key, the split gives you more control through customization and give you a lot more breathing room if you only want to tweak things a little bit without removing default functions from your layout. (I really hope all gaming keyboard designers adopt this, especially for compact 60 percent designs). There are also four keys below spacebar keys – Dygma likes to refer to all eight as the “thumb keys” – which provide some very welcome space to add macros and other custom keys.

That said, we should also talk about a crucial feature the Raise lacks. It sits flat on your desk. It doesn’t have any feet in front to set up an ergonomically beneficial “reverse tilt” angle. It also lacks any way to “tent” the keyboard, raising the center of the keyboard to an angle so you don’t have to twist your wrists to lie flat. I’d consider both, especially the tenting, crucial to creating the most ergonomic setup possible. Dygma has a tenting attachment in development that will be compatible with all past and current Raise models, but it will cost extra. (That isn’t unheard of, but I think it should be considered an essential feature). Until it comes out, I would tell people specifically looking for an ergo keyboard, especially those who already experience pain in their wrists while typing, to look at other options. When the tenting kit launches, that may change.

Dygma Raise – Software

Customization is a huge aspect of the Dygma Raise experience. Using Bazecor, the keyboard’s bespoke configuration app, you can remap keys and, more importantly, create secondary maps with extra layers of custom inputs, not unlike a customizable set of function keys.

Many gaming keyboard manufacturers, including Logitech and Razer, put the ability to create custom function inputs in their keyboards. (They call it G-Shift and Hypershift, respectively). Dygma takes it to a whole new level: You can create a mind-boggling 10 layers of inputs, which gives you carte blanche to hotkey just about every action you do on your keyboard with any frequency. You can also customize each layer’s RGB to give you a visual reminder of how “deep” you are in your keyboard map.

It’s an incredible amount of functionality. It’s also overkill for 99.9 percent of players. With only 68 keys, most players will want – nay, need – a second layer for essential functions like arrow keys and, possibly, your go-to macros. Adventurous players might expand out with a third or fourth for more macros or if you want to create some easily accessible game-specific layouts. To go deeper, I imagine, would require a level of DIY ingenuity beyond what I need in my day-to-day life, even as a game/tech critic.

And, remember, that adding layers adds complexity. To access each layer, you need to designate a key to switch to it. If you have two layers, you give up one key. If you have ten layers, you give up nine, or you come up with a convoluted system of working your way down the layers like Inception. (I tried setting this up and stopped before implementing it). Luckily, the Raise has four keys just below the space bar keys that are effectively designated for switching layers – they have other functions by default, but they’re things you can comfortably move down a layer.

You won’t really feel the layers tightening your layout until layer five, but you still need to remember your way around an exponentially expanding keyboard. Every layer you add is another 60+ keys to memorize, then commit to muscle memory. Getting comfortable typing on a split keyboard often takes many weeks on its own. Mastering a multi-stage custom setup requires serious commitment. Using lots of layers and individual keys can be an ergonomic advantage if you lean into it: Complicated key combinations that force your fingers to bend backward or hyperextend can lead to stress injuries over time, but having so many theoretical inputs allows you to avoid those movements.

For what it’s worth, Dygma clearly understands how overwhelming it can be to approach something so open-ended. Shortly after you purchase the Raise, Dygma sends you a questionnaire about your typing expertise and what you use your keyboard for, then sends you a customized two-layer layout. And, though it looks somewhat barebones, Bazecor makes it very easy to set up your own layers and connect them. Ultimately, at a certain point the process of creating a set of interconnected layouts that reflects your personal preferences and quirks is a real challenge, but the software doesn’t make it any harder than it already is.

Dygma Raise – Gaming

Setting aside all the potential that adding layers and layers of custom keybindings brings, the Raise adds a lot of versatility to your game. Having the ability to disconnect the right side of the keyboard when you’re playing a game opens up a lot of desk space, which is useful if you like to tilt your keyboard to an ideal ergonomic angle. Having built in wrist rests on each side ensures that you’re always using wrist support: It can be a hassle to fit a wrist rest into a tilted keyboard setup.

The Raise’s unique capabilities came in handy across all the games I tested, including Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?!; and Airborne Kingdom. In games like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, where you really only need one side of the keyboard, the detachable and compact split design made it easy to optimize my setup on a game-by-game basis. In games where you want the full keyboard, like Cook, Serve, Delicious 3?! and Desperados 3, the benefits are more general to having a split keyboard: It’s more comfortable for your arms, shoulders, and when you adjust the keyboard to fit your body, even if the way your body normally conforms to a keyboard isn’t inherently uncomfortable.

For me, the layers are a useful solution to a problem inherent to compact keyboards. Pressing a key to switch layers requires fewer complicated key combos than using function key shortcuts, which can be helpful in games where you use F1-F12 and the arrow keys often. Like so many things about the Raise, it’s a unique solution to the problem that requires time to prep, master, and appreciate.

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By tracy