Official Review: Dygma Raise (Hardware)

By Prans Dunn, Feb 22, 2021 at 9:22 PM (updated Feb 21, 2021 at 12:21 PM) 7 7

You’ve seen regular keyboards and split keyboards, but what about a hybrid one that transforms into either modes within seconds? The Dygma Raise is one such keyboard and is being touted as “the world’s best ergonomic mechanical keyboard”. Does it live up to the claim?
Prans Dunn

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Out of its dedicated hard carry case comes the Dygma Raise, easily the most unique-looking keyboard that I’ve ever seen. At a glance, it looks like a sleek, near-bezel-less 68-key peripheral with a 60-percent layout. The Raise is surely that, but pulling it on each side reveals that it is more, as it in fact doubles as an ergonomic split keyboard. 

The idea for this hybrid keyboard comes from Luis “Deilor” Sevilla, former coach of League of Legends team Fnatic. In 2016, Luis quit his LoL coach position to found the startup Dygma with the goal to create an ergonomic keyboard for professional gamers. This is because when it comes to keyboards, even gaming ones, most follow the classic, 30-year old rectangular design. There are some variations in size, form factor and the mandatory RGB backlights for gaming keyboards, but they feel mostly the same.

But these weren’t designed to be the most comfortable nor the most ergonomic computer peripherals. This is particularly evident when you spend long hours on a keyboard, as when gaming, where you can feel discomfort or even pain on the wrist and back due to slouching. I have even experienced such physical discomfort myself and would very much welcome a comfort upgrade.

With Luis’ insights from the eSports community, Dygma embarked on a quest to create a keyboard that better attends to gamers’ needs. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, the Raise started to ship to customers and I have to say that being the first product of this Spanish startup, the quality is quite impressive.

For the top case of the Raise, Dygma used anodized aluminum and layered it with a sandblasted finish, followed by a brushed finish. This gives the keyboard a classy look while also fortifying it with a durable build. As for the base, the company used two materials (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and Polycarbonate (PC)) which resulted in a sturdy body. Not only is the product of a tough build, but it also boasts a classy look.

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With these materials, the Raise has following weight and dimensions:

Weight:

  • Left half: 320 grams (11.3 ounces)
  • Right half: 365 grams (12.9 ounces)

Dimensions:

  • Left half: 200.9 mm x 153.7 mm x 122.1 mm (7.9" x 6.05" x 4.81")
  • Right half: 200.9 mm x 177.2 mm x 122.1 mm  (7.9" x 6.97" x 4.81")
  • Attached: 200.9 mm x 330.9 mm (7.9" x 13.02")

Regarding the hardware, I was mostly concerned about the middle portion where the halves join. I was glad to see that Dygma did a decent job to hold the parts together by using a system made up of magnets and stainless steel pins that securely hold the halves together. They aren’t going to separate while on a desk, unless the user intentionally pulls them apart (the system is strong enough that they don’t separate even if I dangle the Raise from one end vertically). However, I do notice some slight wobbling on the middle portion if I intentionally bend the attached keyboard on either side while holding it up. But you probably aren’t going to use the keyboard like that and, on a flat surface, this issue is not noticeable.

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The aforementioned carry case comes included in the package for easy storage and it also offers protection if you are carrying the Raise around as it is a sturdy, hard case. Of note, it is moulded to specifically accommodate the Raise and its accessories. The latter includes cables, keycaps, switches and a keycap and switch puller. When placing your order, you have the option to choose between 7 languages layout and 6 mechanical switches (variants of Kailh Speed, Kailh Silent and Cherry MX). All switches are hot-swappable, allowing you to easily pull them out and replace them with others whenever you want to suit your needs.

As for the keycaps, the Raise uses 60 standard keycaps and 8 special keycaps (for the “thumb keys” under the 4 spacebar keys). The startup offers the choice between PBT double-injected keycaps or ABS laser-etched keycaps on its online store, with ABS single injection keycaps being available in more European languages.

On the hardware side, the Raise feels like a well-designed, premium product and I was positively surprised to see this considering that it is Dygma’s first device. But as the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover, so let’s see how it performs in action.

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Before the Raise, I did not have any experience using a split keyboard. So I was quite wary about the learning curve and adapting my muscle memory all over again. But to my surprise - and I can’t emphasize this enough - I was touch typing seamlessly within seconds of plugging it into my PC. I sometimes needed a double take when the keys are positioned around the split middle but a few days later, this was not a problem.

However, this might not be the case for others who might need more time to get adjusted with the Raise. But even then, Dygma took into consideration the onboarding phase as you can start with using the halves joined. This will help you acclimatize to the layout and you can slowly use the halves separated, and separate them further as you get more and more used to it. This unique hybrid feature is a strong characteristic of the Raise that makes it less daunting to jump into using a split keyboard. 

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When it comes to gaming, the great thing about the Raise is that each half functions independently and you can unplug one half to use the other as a keypad. Pairing the left half with a versatile mouse like the Lexip Pu94 really helps declutter my desk while gaming without compromising on functionality. FPS games like  Ghostrunner and Cyberpunk 2077 are a blast to play with the mechanical switches and all keys are within reach thanks to the Raise’s compact design. Additionally, since each key is remappable through the dedicated Bazecor software, the Raise is leftie-friendly when used in this setup as well. Being remappable also helps use both halves while reassigning high-frequency keys to others that would otherwise remain unused.

About key mapping, Bazecor is a must-have program for the Raise. This is because while its 60% layout lacks a numpad, arrow keys and a few others, there are 8 thumb keys (4 separate keys instead of a long spacebar and 4 keys under these) that can substitute for some of these or you can just go wild and reassign any other keys to those you don’t really use. The Neuron, which acts as a connection between each half’s cable to the main USB cable, also contains the microprocessor and the on-board memory. This allows you to configure and store different configurations into layers and switch/move between them at will by tapping on a designated key .

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Switching between layers also switches the RGB underglow color (along the edges of each half), providing you with visual feedback regarding which layer you are on. The Bazecor app allows you to further configure colors to specific layers as well and, of course, customize the keycap backlight from an RGB palette. I must note that I’m a fan of the underglow that gives the Raise a striking look. The distinctive effect is thanks to the light pipes integrated in the base which carry light from the LEDs on the PCB to the edges where a combination of reflectors and diffuser intensifies the light and evens out the effect. Moreover, the perimeter of the underglow is segmented into parts which can further be assigned a color of its own. So really RGB customization is really top-notch with the Raise but if that’s not your thing, you can switch off the lights altogether.

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However, only when customizing keys and reassigning them new functions did I feel a learning curve with this keyboard. And it can be quite a steep one if you have several layers (you can store a whopping 10!) with different mappings for different software. In this way, I eventually needed an adjustment period with the Raise, but that’s by virtue of its versatility and it’s a rather small price to pay.

The Bazecor software offers the option to assign a key to moving or temporarily shifting to a layer. The latter option is handy if you just need to control the volume or hit any of the F1-F12 keys in a jiffy, so you can just assign these keys to a layer. But it will need some additional muscle memory if you are using several layers. A hiccup is that moving (where you stay on a layer) or shifting to a layer needs a dedicated key, so it’s essentially one key per layer that you’ll need to sacrifice. You could add a macro (the Bazecor app provides this feature) but that would complicate things further.

The Raise is not just about such versatility but also about comfort. Being a hybrid keyboard, its aim is to eventually help you position each half in such a way that they align with your hands and forearms without you doing much effort or tilting your joints in an unnatural plane. For me, this means slightly tilting each of the Raise’s half inwards so that my fingers rest on the keys in a natural position and my forearms are at a 90-degree to my elbows, rather than bent inwards. I am even able to place each half on either side of my laptop which leads to a more comfortable posture when using it. Dygma says that this neutral angle can avoid possible injuries. Comfort is also enhanced while the Raise is in use thanks to the well-cushioned palm rests on each half of the keyboard which also accommodate my wrists.

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Additionally, the Raise is built with a low-height design, with an 18-millimeter height with a 3-degree angle of tilting from the back to front. Dygma says that this prevents wrist extension that happens when you raise your wrist above the plane of its neutral position. But despite the minor titled angle in the base mould, the Raise is still rather flat on the desk. I would rather see it include some stands to enable users to adjust the tilting angle or even have it inclined forward, which is arguably more ergonomic.

Another ergonomic feature that would really help the Raise hold onto the crown of the “best ergonomic mechanical keyboard” are legs/tents in the middle portion. These would lift the keyboard to an angle so that your wrists are at an even more natural and ergonomic position. Granted that these aren’t common features and are DIY-able with 3D-printed parts but if the Raise is shooting to be THE BEST then it might as well leave no room for missing features; especially since you are paying top-dollar for this $319 product. Dygma announced that it’s working on such an add-on but it’s not yet available; and ideally, this should have been integrated in the keyboard rather than be purchasable as an add-on.

One final option that I feel lacking is a wireless one. Sure, the Raise are mostly targeted at a professional esports audience, so a rock-solid wired connection is the go-to option. But even having the option to switch between wired and wireless, just like the Raise is a hybridized traditional and split keyboard, would be personally welcome and that’s me being nit-picky. But it would also open the use of the Raise to more than just gaming or PC use and it could allow the keyboard to be paired with more devices such as tablets where an ergonomic keyboard would be very welcome.

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Overall, the Raise is an impressive keyboard that attests to a well-designed product from the hardware to the software. Even if it is geared mostly towards professional gamers, using it for other software or simply to type is a much better experience than using a traditional keyboard. By default the Raise is the best split keyboard that I have used (since it is my first) but even compared to other keyboards that I have used (gaming or otherwise), it is easily the best one that I have used thanks to the versatility and comfort that it offers. I don't know if it's really “the world’s best ergonomic mechanical keyboard” since I haven't tried all of the world's ergonomic mechanical keyboards but the Raise is as close as it gets from what I've tested.

It is now my go-to keyboard whether I'm typing a review (like this one) or gaming because it really offers a superior experience to what I was used to before and I'm already seeing my posture improve after several weeks with the device. I don't see myself going back to other keyboards unless I'm on-the-go with my laptop or a better version comes out. Yes, the Raise doesn’t come cheap and there are some features that could make it an even more compelling product but if you can afford it, even if you are not a professional gamer, it will be a net upgrade to your setup.

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Verdict
What We Liked . . . Ergonomic and very comfortable to use Original hybrid design Doubles as a keypad Build quality What We Didn't Like . . . Pricey Lack of tilts/tents Learning curve when using multiple layers and extensive remapping
9.5
out of 10
Overall
As Dygma’s first product, the Raise stuns with its comfort, versatility, build quality and unique hybrid feature.
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