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Sonder Keyboard (sonderdesign.com)
25 points by tomkwok on July 1, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments

Since I've got a keyboard with blank keycaps, I've found my typing's improved because I look at the keyboard less (and when I do it doesn't really help). With this, I imagine you'd look at the keyboard more as time goes on. That's a negative to my mind. If I'm going to be looking at the buttons I'm pressing, I may as well use the mouse and an on-screen toolbar.

I suppose it might be useful if you wanted to switch languages and keyboard layouts a lot, but then so would my capless keyboard, if in a somewhat less user-friendly manner.

Likewise... and if these keycaps are ABS, how are they going to deal with the inevitable shine/cloudiness that will effect the keys?

Also...chicklet keys? Really?


I'm one of the engineers; the keys aren't ABS; they're manufactured of SAN so we haved observed issues with cloudiness and distortion one would have with ABS. Also the optical properties of SAN are far better; it acts as tranmissive medium.

Also, it's not chicklet keys lol; I'm a cherry blue user at home usually; the mechanism is based on a modified topre.

Cheers mate for the feedback, if you have any questions just shoot.

Ahh! Interesting choice of plastic there. You'll have to go for inclusion into the Deskthority wiki for plastic types. As a Topre adherent, I'm interested in hearing more about your keycap mecahnics :)

I'll def post there, I'd love to say more but patents! However, needless to say; we're excited to be working on the product and an entirely new mech that hopefully becomes the standard in keyboards / laptops.

Am I alone in absolutely loving coding on chicklet keys?

Looks to me like a much cheaper (albeit smaller version) of the Optimus family: http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/

Not sure how I feel about a 60% Board that isn't mechanical for more than $100. The fact that I can customize shortcuts and mappings is interesting, but how easy is it to set up? How far can you take the customization?

When I compare this to the Poker series, it seems a lot more user friendly on the surface (no dip switches or manual programming layer), but I don't think the cost is justified.

Although that said, the fact that they use the Apple keyboard typeface for the modifiers (and show Mac compatibility) probably signifies that the product is not for the likes of me.

(Also no ISO layout whaaaat)

fn key on the left of the ctrl key, this is definitely a no go

Especially since they could've made the special keys E-ink and mappable m(

G"day Emsy, we're amending the design to address this very issue since so many users pointed it out during or June press. We're speaking to our manufacturer to have all dynamic keys. Cheers mate.

G'day, since getting press on the 4th of June we're amending the design to all dynamic keys; it may delay the release just slightly but the overwhelming response has been in favour. If you'd like to keep posted, please subscribe at sonderdesign.com too.

Why? It works quite nice on my Macbook.

Im a left side f(a)n to, but such a keyboard screams for a user mappable option (glad they consider it! see their answer on my previous comment)


I'm one of the engineers at the Sydney office.

We weren't expecting press quite this early but we are changing the design to adapt to the feedback (ie, all dynamic keys and ISO format).

We will also be shipping a numpad and later a full 104 key keyboard too.

If you have any more questions please just shoot, we try to engage to most people's feedback (even the Swedish etc forums that have posted on us).

Talk soon mate.

How noisy is the sucker? I have an Optimus, and it mostly gathers dust as the oled drivers on it kick out a mindblowingly annoying ~18KHz whine, and I therefore can't bear to use it unless wearing headphones. Also, the refresh rate is dreadful - if you glance past it you get rgb after images of the keys!

Either way, hope you're learning from lebedev's mistakes!

G'day Madaxe, we have a few in the office. We're trying to see what they did well, and what they could have done better and incorporating the best elements into our design and software package. Thanks for the feedback, also be sure to subscribe at sonderdesign.com too!

I love my Pokers (but not as much as my Realforce). You can pry them away from my cold dead hands. :D

I always have one and a cable in my laptop bag, despite the weight of the aluminum case I added.

The Optimus keyboards [1] by Art. Lebedev Studio have been around for a while but they've always been prohibitively expensive. While this keyboard doesn't have color in the displays, it's actually affordable.

Another similar product is the Razer DeathStalker Ultimate [2] keyboard, but only 10 if its buttons have programmable displays.

I wonder why Razer (or anyone else) haven't made a standalone keyboard that followed the approach they took with their Switchblade [3] concept. They put transparent keys over a large lcd panel. It's much cheaper than putting a tiny lcd display inside each key.

[1] http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/

[2] http://www.razerzone.com/ap-en/gaming-keyboards-keypads/raze...

[3] http://www.razerzone.com/switchblade

We had the exact same question ourselves, we decided if they wouldn't then we would.

P.s I'm one of the engineers on site working on the project.

For a product focused on improving a user's experiencing of using a computer, it seems odd that they would deliberately override my browsers scrolling in such a horrible way.

Not only that - but their scrolling override has also broken swipe left to go back a page.

The keyboard looks pretty - but I dread to imagine what the experience is like when setting up keybindings.

G"day Kit,

I'll remove it, you're the second person to say it so I'll work to fix the UI.

P.s The site was built for our Govt Grant App, we've invested most of our time in customer and product development. However I'll invest more time into user testing and website dev to fix these points. I appreciate the feedback!

Sonder cloud.

Every Sonder keyboard is unique, personalise it your way. Perhaps you use your Sonder as a bloomberg terminal, or for audio editing; with Sonder all your settings are saved automatically to the cloud.

How many am I supposed to buy? Some built-in memory or maybe even a card reader in the keyboard would surly get the job done and keep your keyboard off the cloud.

Claims to improve user input. Website has JavaScript-based smooth scrolling.


Static header takes 25% of my screen height.

G'day hmans, great point. We'll work to address it. We built the site for a govt grant application and invested the rest of our time into the product and not the site; unfortunately it shows. We'll work to do some web dev so it reflects our team better. Cheers for the feedback!

I'm a UI designer and built something conceptually similar for my own research/amusement. I embedded a touch display with custom keys in to my desk, the keys reflected the app on screen. After a few months of use I retired the project. Simply put - it's a great concept for learning keymaping but once muscle memory kicks in you rarely* look at your hands.

So, for the applicaitons demoed in the showreel (Adobe creative suite, Halflife) Users typically have a rather aggressive trajectory to proficiency. I.e. they only need a keyboard like this for a short period.

* I guess the business model here would be to be affordable enough to justify the rare usage?

Here's a link to the 'touchdesk' I built for Make Magazine:


I'd love to talk further, shoot me an email at francisco@sonderdesign.com so we can connect. I love your work!

If the command key can't be changed, that makes it useless for me.

G'day, as per the above we're amending the design to make all keys dynamic due to the overwhelming response for just this.

The keyboard looks like it's targeted at an Apple audience, so the design could very well work out for you, but if you want to make it viable for Windows/Linux users, that's a solid choice. Looking forward to seeing updates.

Nice idea. Shame about the form factor.

I fondly remember my 144 key keyboards.

Failing to even bother making a 104 key 'full size keyboard' when your keyboard isn't even using 'fancy keys' for all keys is pretty irritating.

Oh and how about you make the command/meta keys 'fancy' so that the damn keyboard works 'perfectly' on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Oh and in case anyone isn't old enough... This is not original at all.

Optimus Maximus Optimus Popularis ... etc

G'day Tech, you make a good point. We originally went with the 60% because to create a new EPD you have to have a forecast of 500k displays / year. We adapted to the circumstances.

Given the press however we will amend the design to have all dynamic keys.

We have a few Art Lebedevs at the office, they also cost like 10x of our product so it is rather original.

Thanks for the feedback, I hope the design amendments address your points too!

P.s We will also be shipping a numpad + later a full 104 key too.

It sounds like your addressing a few of my points already, which is great.

But I don't think you've got a leg to stand on when you say "rather original". You could definitely say "innovative", or "vastly improved" because you have slashed the costs by 90% which is amazing. But that doesn't change the fact 'this has been done before', done 'poorly' but 'done' none the less. This isn't a bad thing, I had a smart phone before the iPhone, I loved my P900, but I like my iPhone way more.

Web Developers: Please stop fucking around with my browsers scrolling behavior!

This is awful. I loose every intention to look at your product.

G'day Axx, roger that. I'll remove it since you're the 2nd to notice the scroll jacking (we had this exact discussion in the office haha).

As the website is down, here's a site with some basic information and pictures.


Cheers Pete, we just changed servers so post migration it shouldn't happen again!

Das Keyboard [1] makes you value your keyboard shortcuts (and time) much more. Keyboard is an interface for hands, not for eyes.

[1] http://www.daskeyboard.com/daskeyboard-4-ultimate/

Well, nice technology for keys... but why they still arrange keys in staggered columns?

G'day Tricoder, I'm one of the engineers. We would love to do a matrix and perhaps ergonomic build but overwhelming majority of users find it too radical; baby steps; we're planning on addressing this incrementally but it's a good point you raise.

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Beautiful definition, fun fact, it also means special in German!

Finally, a less expensive Optimus Popularis! I really hope the keyboard supporting software is up to the task!

Thanks Kensai, we're investing a lot of work into the API and UI to ensure the user experience is intuitive, very challenging indeed.

What kind of switches does it have?

Can't put any of the mechanical switch designs into that height, so most likely scissored rubberdomes like every $5 keyboard.

As per above, we using our own patented mechanism; it's been a big part of our work to keep the profile low but preserve a good 60g action.

The images makes it looks like scissor switches.

What is the difference to all other keyboards?

Hi Mapcars,

The keys are dynamic; ie they adapt depending on context so you can illustrate shortcuts, languages and personalised macros.

Cheers mate

No natural design, no hand support, lame. ;)

G'day China, we are exploring design elements for further products, including ergonomics and matrix layout. We've found that if we incrementally add further good design elements there will be less observed backlash from community members. I appreciate the feedback though, and it's something we're keen to address.

Using a wrist rest increases the risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.

I suppose he thinks about design similar to MS Natural 4000, not about wrist support. 4000 family is the second best design in ergonomics, after maltron/kinesis.

Indeed, that's what I called wrist support, what would be the proper term?

What I really disklike about the MS Natural 4000 is the small enter key. Fucks me too often still. And it does noething to prevent pinky finger issues in the outer joint.

Pre order $199

Cheers Monk, also subscribe at our site to keep in the loop, www.sonderdesign.com.

How does this work for vim or emacs?

Personally, I want a keyboard with a big ESC key.

Use caps lock.

Yes, but this requires me to rewire my brain whenever I work on a terminal that does not allow me to change my key bindings.

Or Ctrl+C (capslock is my lvl 3 modifier)

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