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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Large wrist rest
Cherry MX brown switches
100 percent anti-ghosting
10 programmable macro buttons
Customizable keybinds and RGB effects
Very large build
Inflexible tenting angle
Not suited for smaller hands
The Cloud Nine C989M Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard is a feature-rich computer peripheral aimed at gamers and office workers alike, but the promised comfort and functionality comes at a steep cost and isn’t necessarily one-size-fits-all.
If you spend hours on a computer each day, fatigue from subpar computer peripherals can aggravate issues such as wrist pain and carpal tunnel. The Cloud Nine C989M Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard offers a large, split-keyboard, somewhat modular design to ease those pain points. This keyboard combines mechanical switches—a favorite of gamers and coders—and gaming-specific features like RGB and macro programming with ergonomic hallmarks like a generous wrist pad and zero sloping from the front to the back of the device. This feature list casts a wide net of potential fans—if you don’t mind some of the design and software drawbacks.
The Cloud Nine C989M is big and brash, and you’ll need a lot of dedicated desk space to accommodate it—even if you don’t take advantage of the 9 inches of giving on the connecting USB-C cord. This 115-key computer keyboard is over 22 inches long, 10 inches tall, and weighs 4 pounds, which means it’s not a device you can tote around with ease. The rubber feet offer enough flexibility to keep the keyboard from sliding around and facilitates sliding when you want to make slight adjustments. I found that to be the better alternative to trying to lift the keyboard, which was awkward even though there are only two moving parts.
Like most ergonomic keyboards, the halves split with the B key on the left and N key on the right, and there’s a substantial wrist pad that’s quite thick, though unpadded. The height of the keyboard gradually increases in height to 14 inches in the middle where the multipurpose dial is located to create a tented feel. This sloping shape is supposed to promote natural wrist positioning. I didn’t find this to be the case, but I suspect that inexperience with ergonomic keyboards and small hands proved this to be less effective for me than for users with larger hands.
The Cloud Nine C989M is big and brash, and you’ll need a lot of desk space to accommodate it.
All keys—including the dial and sidelight—can be customized with independent lighting effects. With the lights on, I couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed. But with the lights off, I couldn’t read the keycap characters. It was best to choose a solid color and reduce the brightness just so that the keys were visible.
Several of the design elements, while useful, also proved challenging. The USB passthrough located on the top edge of the left half of the keyboard is wedged between the connecting cord and power port, which made it difficult to extract a connected device like a small nano USB for a wireless mouse.
The main USB power cord is also something of a nuisance unless your set-up requires a 6-foot reach. On a desk, connected to a laptop, it will require some finagling to manage or hide the cord and make room for the keyboard. Another feature I didn’t use much at all is the multipurpose dial. While it controls volume and adjusts display backlighting, I found it more of a design flourish than a practical button.
The C989M is built with Cherry MX Brown switches that are supposed to deliver a rapid 2-millisecond response time between key click and result. Cherry MX Brown switches are rated at a 45-gram actuation force, which is the amount of force required to register the key. By contrast, Cherry MX Blue switches, which are loud and clicky, typically require more force to engage: 60 grams. For gaming, Cherry MX Brown switches are sometimes seen as more favorable since there’s not as much work to do to engage keys and even double-clicking is faster.
As a casual gamer at best, the keyboard performed consistently speedy and without any lags or other issues during simple puzzle games focused on basic two to three key WASD combinations. Serious FPS and MOBA gamers will get the most out of the full customization for catering keybinds to gaming styles. It’s also a 100 percent anti-ghosting keyboard, which means you shouldn’t face issues with losing any number of keystroke combinations mid-game.
For general use, the keys were easy to engage and responsive without much effort. Long stints of typing were sometimes a challenge-based exclusively on comfort and not on performance.
The C989M offers a bundle of other features on top of ergonomics. But based on ergonomic qualities alone, some users will find this keyboard lacking or require a lot of time and adjustment to find the right stride. I’m new to ergonomic keyboards and had a difficult time finding comfortable positioning for my wrists and the distance and angle of both keyboard components. If you’re like me and rely on the bumps on the F and J keys, you’ll find them to be a bit too subtle and not three-dimensional enough.
Based on ergonomic qualities alone, some users will find this keyboard lacking.
Beyond the learning curve, certain design aspects also drove down the ease of use. The keys themselves, while somewhat tactile and quite responsive, sometimes seemed too slippery or small because of the angle at which they’re placed. My fingertips often slipped off and in between keys. People who like an airy feel of floating off the keyboard might like that. For me, it led to a sort of disconnected feel and hand cramping. The smaller key size also felt at odds with the large scale of the product as a whole.
When I did find a decent angle with the split design, it was never perfect. The modular flexibility allowed me to use just the left half of the keyboard and a mouse for a closer and more comfortable gaming experience. But while my left hand and wrist felt well positioned, the hand operating the mouse felt less so. This imbalance in comfort dominated my experience with this keyboard.
The C989M does come with accompanying software, but at this time, it’s suitable only for Windows machines. The keyboard is plug-and-play enough to use without it, even for macro recording. Even though recording macros on the device itself is supposed to work universally, it only worked on a MacBook for me. On a Windows machine, I had to use the software. Actual recording, through either approach, was easy and instantaneous.
The C989M does come with accompanying software, but at this time, it’s suitable only for Windows machines.
Apart from lack of Mac compatibility right now (although Cloud Nine says they’re working on that), the software doesn’t stay automatically up to date. All software and firmware updates require manual downloads from the website. Updates do appear to be frequent, but this ad hoc, slightly clumsy approach shows in the software.
There are three onboard memory profiles, but the only way to get to them is to open the software and select the one you want. It’s simple enough to cycle through the dial color options and the side lighting without the software, but for macro recording and RGB backlighting customization of the seemingly endless lighting combinations (16.8 million), you’ll need it.
The Cloud Nine C989M retails for around $200, though it’s possible to get it on sale for about $20 less. Still, even with a discount, this is not a cheap keyboard by any means. Once you get over sticker shock, breaking down the components does help justify the premium price point. Solid mechanical keyboards usually cost well over $100, high-end gaming keyboards run anywhere from $100-$200 and above, and ergonomic keyboards can be priced similarly. Some tenkeypads on their own can also cost $100. If you think of the three-in-one nature of this keyboard, it’s not necessarily drastically overpriced.
Of course, the software is not gaming-oriented in the way that Logitech, Razer, or Corsair offer support with in-app or automatic updates and integration with other gaming peripherals, but the essentials are there in the software. Then again, if you’re looking for an ergonomic mechanical keyboard first and gaming peripheral second or not at all, these extras are superfluous.
Serious gamers that want a lower-profile option should also consider the KINESIS Freestyle RGB (see on Kinesis). While it’s slightly more expensive at $219, the tenkeyless, 95-key build comes with your pick of Cherry MX Brown, Blue, or Red switches. It’s built with a full-split design, which you can spread even further than the C989M, thanks to the 20-inch connecting cable. That leaves room for other devices and accessories between the two halves and the smaller size saves more desk space in general.
While it offers padded wrist cushions, there’s no fixed tenting. Instead, you have the option of purchasing an adjustable key tenting accessory, with three different height adjustments. This could be better if you find the 14-inch slope too much or would prefer to experiment with height adjustments. Of course, that means an extra investment on top of the base price.
Both keyboards offer 16.8 million RGB lighting combinations, but controlling those settings and quick keymapping is faster and easier with the KINESIS, which features a quick remapping button, profile switch button to cycle through 9 different profiles, as well as an app that’s downloadable on both Windows and macOS operating systems.
Attractive ergonomics and customization if you have the desk space, budget, and can find a compatible fit.
The Cloud Nine C989M Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard strives to do a lot: provide an ergonomic, strain-free typing experience, support customizable keybinds, and anti-ghosting for hiccup-free gaming, and the perks of an RGB light show and one-touch macro commands. While it has a lot to offer, the price is a hurdle for those who don’t find the software supportive enough for their gaming preferences or the design ergonomic enough for 9-to-5 comfort.