ZSA Moonlander Keyboard: Before-You-Buy Tips

I’m a writer and spend a lot of time typing on my computer, so I don’t have any hesitation when it comes to investing in ergonomic equipment for my comfort and health. But I also have limited funds, so I put a lot of consideration and research into each purchase.

Note: I unexpectedly ended up getting approved to be reimbursed for the cost of the Moonlander from my flexible spending account (FSA) because it is an ergonomic keyboard. I needed to submit the receipt along with a letter of medical necessity from my doctor. Every FSA company is different, so if you’re thinking about doing the same, check with your specific FSA and doctor first.

I tried what seemed like every Mac-compatible ergonomic keyboard that fit my requirements, and none of them were quite what I wanted. When none of those worked out, I had to start searching in a higher price-point.

That’s when I found the ZSA Moonlander. It claims to fit every hand and be the most ergonomic keyboard ever. I read many reviews and watched a few videos on it, but I was nervous since I’ve never had an ortholinear keyboard or a mechanical keyboard.

Here are some steps I took to be more confident when purchasing the Moonlander.

Click a link below to jump to that section:

  1. Review the return policy carefully
  2. Try a split keyboard first
  3. Use the life-size printout
  4. Test the switches
    1. Tips for testing switches
  5. If you’re ready to buy
  6. In closing

If you’re interested in more about my experience with the Moonlander, also check out these posts:

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Review the return policy carefully

I’m always happy to support a small company like ZSA when I make purchases, but the downside is that smaller companies are often not able to offer free returns. I read ZSA’s return policy carefully to understand what I was getting into, and if you’re considering one of their keyboards, I recommend you do the same.

As of this writing, the return policy was such that the buyer is responsible for return shipping to the factory in Taiwan, which they estimate to be about $90 USD. ZSA gives you 60 days to decide if you’re going to keep the keyboard and do not charge restocking fees.

After I took the precautions below, I felt reasonably confident that the Moonlander would work for me, but the return policy is always a consideration when I make a purchase.

Try a split keyboard first

If you’re considering the Moonlander as an upgrade from a regular keyboard layout, you may want to consider testing a less expensive split keyboard first. When some people switch from a regular to split keyboard, they may find that they simply don’t like it. Sometimes they also find they reach their right hand to the left side of the keyboard or vice versa. I did that when I first made the switch, but I was able to adjust fairly quickly.

If you can go to a local electronics store to test the keyboards, that’s the best bet. It’s better to test out a new keyboard for a few hours at minimum, but going to the store will at least give you a feel for what typing on a split keyboard is like.

Be careful, though. Not all split keyboards are created equal, and just because one model doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean none will work for you, so try a few if you can.

Use the life-size printout

After I read 60 Days with the ZSA Moonlander: Review, I knew I had to use the life-size printout offered on the Moonlander page (about 2/3 down, under the heading It fits you).

My hand with the Moonlander printout

Checking these life-size printouts has two benefits: you’ll see how the keyboard will fit your hands and your desk.

ZSA advertises the Moonlander as fitting every hand, but much like one-size-fits-most clothing, it’s worth trying on. Certain hand shapes won’t work with the Moonlander — scroll about 3/4s down the ZSA Moonlander: Review to the Support experience section to see the writer’s hand on the Moonlander and you’ll see what I mean.

Using a 2D printout to simulate a 3D object is not ideal, but it’s a good enough proximation with your imagination. See the photo of my hand and compare to the photo on the Miles McBain review here.

After using the printout, I felt much more confident that the Moonlander would work for me.

The printout also helped me confirm I have enough space on my small desk for the Moonlander. If you have wide shoulders and a small desk like I do, the Moonlander might not fit. I thought the space might be a bit of a squeeze, but after using the printouts, I knew it would work. You can see in the image below that the desk mat is a bit too small for the Moonlander and my mouse, so I had to buy a new mousepad.

My desk with the Moonlander printouts

Test the switches

Though I’m no stranger to split keyboards, I’m totally new to mechanical keyboards. I was super tempted to pick switches based on the descriptions, YouTube videos, and what my keeb friend recommended. But ultimately, I didn’t want to choose switches without trying them and then have to pay more to swap them out, so I tested them before I chose which switches to order on my Moonlander.

Here are a couple options to test switches:

I was going to buy the 72-switch tester, but that included a lot of switches that I didn’t need for this purchase, and I couldn’t find the kailh switches on Amazon, so I bought a custom tester from ColesKeyboards on Etsy with only the cherry and kailh switches offered on the Moonlander.

Although testing the switches added another 2 weeks to the buying process, it was totally worth it to feel and hear the switches for myself.

Side note: I highly recommend ColesKeyboards! Cole was super friendly, responsive, and accommodating to my requests. The switch tester arrived a day earlier than when I told Cole I needed it, and everything was clearly labeled. I could tell a lot of care went into this build, and I appreciate the personal touches.

Tips for testing switches

Switch testers aren’t an exact method of testing for a couple of reasons:

  • You can only test one key per switch versus actually typing.
  • The sound a switch makes is affected by a lot of different factors, so what the switch sounds like in a tester isn’t necessarily how it’ll sound in an actual keyboard.

With all that in mind, I still found the switch sampler was enough to get a good idea of the feel and sound a switch. Here are a few tips to help you with a switch sampler.

  1. Use the tester on the same surface you’ll type on. I first set the switch tester on a pillow while I was on the couch because I didn’t feel like sitting at my desk. When I moved to my desk and tested again, I could feel the difference right away.
  2. Test switches with each finger on both hands. Switches may feel different to your dominant and non-dominant hands, and a switch that’s easy to press with your index finger might be difficult for your pinky.
  3. Try closing your eyes. Our other senses adjust when one sense is not accessible, and I found this to be true while testing my switches. When I closed my eyes and pressed the keys, I heard and felt the keys differently than when my eyes were open. This was also true when I used noise-canceling headphones when testing the keys.
  4. Try a blind test. Once I narrowed down the switches to top 5 or so, I closed my eyes and had my husband change the orientation of the tester so I wouldn’t be able to tell which switch was where. This confirmed that my top choice was my top choice, even when I didn’t know what it was.

If you’re ready to buy

As of this writing, the Moonlander can’t be tented with the thumb clusters up but I heard directly from ZSA that they’re working on their own tenting kit.

If you’re ready to buy it and you want to use the Moonlander with the thumb cluster up and tented, you can wait and see what ZSA releases or consider buying a third-party tenting kit when you order. I wish I had ordered in advance so I didn’t have to use my keyboard propped on my heating pad for a week. On the other hand, choosing a tent kit after I received my Moonlander gave me the opportunity to consider my tenting options with the keyboard in front of me, which had benefits too.

ZSA Moonlander tent kit designed by mrsharpoblunto and printed by CyberPrintsUS

ZSA’s Printables section for the Moonlander has a few options for tenting. I went with the ZSA Moonlander tent kit by mrsharpoblunto. Since I don’t have a 3D printer, I used CyberPrintsUS (plus a pack of 10 M2.6×8 screws). I highly recommend this Etsy shop; the seller was super friendly and responsive. I ordered on a Wednesday afternoon and received the kit on Monday, so shipping was fast!

In closing

If you do end up not liking the switches you pick, you can make modifications to the keyboard if you want to change the way it sounds or swap out the switches entirely. If you’re looking at the Moonlander specifically or another hot-swappable keyboard, I’m told changing out the switches isn’t too difficult or expensive.

Although I’m a generally impatient person and don’t choose to wait if I don’t have to, the switch tester was definitely worth it. I’m quite pleased with the feel and sound of my key switches, and while that doesn’t mean I’ll use these switches forever, I feel confident that I made the right choice for now.

Read A Fortnight With the Moonlander Ergonomic Keyboard for more about my Moonlander experience.

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