Ever since I covered the Dygma Raise last year, it’s been my favorite piece of productivity hardware. This programmable, split keyboard has been my constant companion, never straying from my desk and enabling me to pound through thousands of words, day after day.
I’ve reviewed dozens of keyboards since I got the Raise and not one of them has been able to lure me away. I started to suspect that it couldn’t be topped.
But then Dygma went and raised the bar. Well, the keyboard.
Enter Dygma Defy
The Dygma Defy is in its last two days of crowdfunding on Kickstarter and, at time of printing, was looking at nearly $900,000 in funding. It’s a columnar, hot-swappable, split keyboard with available tenting, RGB underglow, and wireless interface.
It shares a lot of the same DNA as the Dygma Raise but, as Dygma CEO Luis Sevilla put it when I spoke to him about the project, “Defy is the evolution of Raise.”
That’s a big claim when the Dygma Raise already offers an incredible ergonomic benefit. Just by being split, you can bring each half of the keyboard to where your hands rest naturally on the desk, rather than hunching forward to bring your hands together. It allows for better posture and less fatigue.
So how, then, is the Defy even better?
Dygma’s Ergonomic Journey
Seville sees the Dygma Defy as the culmination of the company’s “ergonomic journey.”
“Our first keyboard was actually columnar but we decided not to bring it to market because it was considered too niche, too weird. So we focused on making regular keyboards better by splitting them and it was a huge hit. Dygma Defy is the culmination of that journey by combining columnar keys (which we still get lots of requests for) and a split keyboard.”
In addition to columnar keys, the Dygma Defy has an all new underglow system that allows room for bluetooth and tenting right in the base without a bulky add-on. It also sports a new thumb cluster layout that you can fully customize with their Bazecore software, magnetic wrist rests, and all-new keycaps.
Let’s break all that down.
The big draw for the Dygma Defy is the wireless module. A $50 add-on, it allows for direct wireless RF connection or swappable Bluetooth. With the Dygma Defy in Bluetooth mode, you can switch between up to three devices (no more having to type on cramped tablet and phone keyboards!).
Because of the new keycaps, which allow the same amount of light transmission at lower power, the batteries will last longer. And when you go to recharge them via USB-C (thank you, Dygma) you can use the keyboard in wired mode. The batteries are also replaceable so that you don’t have to chuck the whole keyboard if they die eventually.
I’m excited about Dygma going wireless. Especially with a low-latency RF option. While the braided cord of the Dygma Raise is nice, I like my setup to have zero to no visible cords.
Tenting allows you to make your Dygma keyboard even more ergonomic by tilting the keyboard to match the natural tilt of your hands, rather than forcing your hands to be flat on the desktop.
With the Raise, this was accomplished with an add-on tenting kit that clipped onto the bottom of the keyboard. It increased the profile quite a bit and raised the keyboard up to 40°.
The Dygma integrates the tenting arms (a $50 add-on, see a pattern?) in the base and can raise the keyboard up to 60°. You can also reverse tilt the keyboard to make it even more comfortable to use while standing.
This is the one that I’m a little more skeptical about. Sevilla talked about how it’s “common sense” that columnar keys make your fingers travel less, reducing strain. And he might be right. But as a touch-typist of 30+ years, I’ve yet to find a columnar keyboard with which I can achieve the same typing speed as a standard layout. Maybe with practice?
Still, with funding heading towards the million dollar mark, I’m clearly in the minority when it comes to key layout preference.
The other part of the new key layout is the 8-key thumb cluster. Don’t worry, you don’t have use all 8, the expectation is that you use the refreshed Bazecor configuration software (that’ll launch when the Defy ships) to map whichever of the keys that best fit your hand to the functions you need. Then maybe use the extra keys for the occasional macro function.
Underglow and Color Options
Switching from ergonomics to aesthetics, the final $50 add-on for the Dygma Defy is underglow. It’s a shame seeing underglow flip to optional, the standard underglow on the Raise is really nicely implemented. Backlight per-key RGBW lighting is still standard.
You can also choose from several different color options for your Dygma Defy: black, silver, onyx (which has a silver base and black keys/wrist rests), and ying-yang (black base with grey keys and wrist rests).
You’ll also be able to choose from a variety of switches from Cherry, Kailh, and Gateron. Like its predecessor, the Defy’s switches are hot-swappable, so you don’t have to disassemble your keyboard (or buy a whole new one) if you just want new switches. It’s a pretty awesome level of customization normally reserved for keyboard enthusiasts that build their own decks.
I also really appreciate that the wrist rests are now magnetic rather than silicon. While mine have stayed pretty much in place over the past year, the right pad has started to lose its adhesiveness and tends to drift throughout the day. Magnets will hold everything nicely in place.
How Much and When?
Dygma will be using the same supply chain that they’ve honed throughout the pandemic to hopefully hit their ambitious delivery timeline of Q4 of this year.
As far as price goes, it’s a doozy. The Dygma Defy costs around $294 (depending on conversion rates, the campaign currency is Euros). That’s before you add wireless, tenting, or underglow. Each of those will cost you an additional $50 each. That means a fully tricked out Dygma Defy is about $452! That’s a serious amount of money for a keyboard and $100 more than the Dygma Raise that’s available now.
That said, the Dygma Raise is easily the best investment I’ve made in my home office setup in years. It’s truly the most comfortable keyboard I’ve every used. I fully expect the Dygma Defy to be even better than its predecessor (assuming I can get used to columnar typing).
If you’re interested, there’s still time to back the Kickstarter before it ends on 6/30. Just head to the Kickstarter page to get started.