ZSA Moonlander Keyboard Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Reviewed Apr 12, 2021 at 10:32 am
ZSA Moonlander Picture
8.9
Gaming
4.3
Mobile/Tablet
9.0
Office
8.4
Programming
5.0
Entertainment / HTPC
Connectivity Wired
Size
TenKeyLess (80%)
Mechanical
Yes

The ZSA Moonlander is a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard with a fully split ergonomic design. You can place the two halves at a distance and angle that feels most comfortable to you, or you can just plug in the left side for FPS games. It's a highly customizable board, letting you set macros to any key you want; however, there's a limit of five key sequences allowed per command. The board is available with a variety of Cherry MX and Kailh switches, and since it's hot-swappable, you can easily change them for whichever ones you want. Note that at the time of writing, you can only buy this keyboard directly from the ZSA website.

Our Verdict

8.9 Gaming

The ZSA Moonlander is excellent for gaming. This well-built keyboard is fully customizable, from macros and backlighting to easily swapping out the switches. It's very comfortable to use thanks to its wrist rest, multiple incline possibilities, and fully split design. You can even plug in only the left half to use while gaming, giving you more space to move your mouse. However, there's a learning curve if you're used to typical keyboard layouts. Also, the secondary functions aren't labeled, so it can take some time to memorize where certain functions are. Unfortunately, macros are limited to five key sequences, which may be annoying to you if you need more than that. Also, the latency may be a bit too high for fast-paced games.

Pros
  • Exceptional ergonomic design.
  • All keys are macro-programmable.
  • RGB backlighting.
  • Feels very well-built.
  • Can use just one half of the board.
Cons
  • Five character limit on macros.
  • Fairly high latency.
  • Split, columnar staggered design may take time to get used to.
4.3 Mobile/Tablet

The ZSA Moonlander is a wired keyboard and isn't designed for mobile devices or tablets.

9.0 Office

The ZSA Moonlander is fantastic for office use. Its split design allows you to align each half with your shoulders, and it forces you to use the touch typing method, which should cause less fatigue, although we don't test this. It has rotating incline feet, so you can adjust the halves to a positive or negative angle. Many other aspects are also customizable; you can adjust the backlighting, set macros, and easily swap out the switches. It feels very well-built, and it's also fully compatible with Windows and macOS. However, there's a learning curve due to the board's unconventional layout and unlabeled keys.

Pros
  • Exceptional ergonomic design.
  • RGB backlighting.
  • Fully compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.
  • Feels very well-built.
Cons
  • Split, columnar staggered design may take time to get used to.
8.4 Programming

The ZSA Moonlander is great for programming, as it feels very well-built and it's extremely customizable. You can set macros, adjust backlighting, and, because it's hot-swappable, even change the switches. It's also fully compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux. However, there is a learning curve due to the board's split, columnar-staggered layout and unlabeled keys, but typing should still feel very comfortable. It comes with a detachable wrist rest and multiple incline angles. Unfortunately, macros are limited to five key sequences, which may be annoying to you if you need more than that.

Pros
  • Exceptional ergonomic design.
  • All keys are macro-programmable.
  • RGB backlighting.
  • Fully compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.
  • Feels very well-built.
Cons
  • Five character limit on macros.
  • Wired-only design.
  • Split, columnar staggered design may take time to get used to.
5.0 Entertainment / HTPC

The ZSA Moonlander is inadequate for a home theater PC setup. It's a wired keyboard, and it lacks a trackpad, meaning you need a mouse on the side to navigate the menu. Also, since the board is split, it may be hard to use on your lap unless you have a lapboard. On the plus side, it does have RGB backlighting and media keys.

Pros
  • RGB backlighting.
  • Feels very well-built.
Cons
  • Wired-only design.
  • No trackpad.
  • Split design may be cumbersome.
  • 8.9 Gaming
  • 4.3 Mobile/Tablet
  • 9.0 Office
  • 8.4 Programming
  • 5.0 Entertainment / HTPC
  1. Updated Apr 14, 2021: Corrected error about the key layout name.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Dimensions
Height
1.1" (2.9 cm)
Width 13.3" (33.9 cm)
Depth
6.5" (16.6 cm)
Depth With Wrist Rest
9.7" (24.6 cm)
Weight
1.76 lbs (0.800 kg)

The ZSA Moonlander is a split keyboard. We measured the width with the two halves placed close together, but this may not be representative of the space it actually takes on your desk, especially if you place them far apart.

8.5
Design
Build Quality
Keycap Material PBT

The ZSA Moonlander has a plastic chassis that feels solid and hardly exhibits flex. It has doubleshot PBT keycaps which feel great and very stable, and the only keys that wobble a little are the large orange keys on the thumb clusters. There are several rubber feet on the board that feel fairly grippy, and the aluminum incline legs also have rubber feet. While there have been some reports that the board slides due to the lack of feet on the thumb clusters, we didn't notice an issue.

9.5
Design
Ergonomics
Board Design
Ergonomical
Minimum Incline
-15 °
Medium Incline
0 °
Maximum Incline
17 °
Wrist Rest Detachable

The ZSA Moonlander has outstanding ergonomics. Like the ErgoDox EZ, it's split into two halves that you can place wherever feels most comfortable to you. The board's design allows for many different incline configurations thanks to the multiple incline feet that can tilt at any angle. You can choose to have a negative inline or a positive incline, and you can also angle the board in a way where your hands are more vertical. The board has a columnar-staggered key layout, which aims to reduce finger travel and fatigue, although we don't test for this. It comes with a detachable wrist rest that can also be folded under the board.

10
Design
Backlighting
Backlighting Yes
Color
RGB
Individually Backlit Keys
Yes
Color Mixing
Great
Effects
Yes
Programmable
Yes

The ZSA Moonlander has full RGB backlighting with individually lit keys. You can customize effects and colors using the ORYX Configurator software, or cycle through the RGB presets.

Design
Cable & Connector
Detachable
Yes (Wired Only Keyboard)
Length 7.5 ft (2.3 m)
Connector (Keyboard side)
USB type-C

The cable connects via USB-C on both the PC side and the keyboard side; however, there's a USB-C to USB-A adapter included in the box. There's also a cable that connects the two halves, which is 80 cm long.

0
Design
Wireless Versatility
Bluetooth
No
Bluetooth Multi-Device Pairing
No
Proprietary Receiver
No
Battery Type
No Batteries
Design
Extra Features
Media Keys
Hot Keys
Macro Programmable Keys
All (Limited)
Trackpad / Trackball No
Wheel No
USB Passthrough
No
Numpad No
Windows Key Lock
No
Lock Indicator No Indicator

Like the ErgoDox EZ, the ZSA Moonlander has many unmarked keys, which are designed so that you can customize the keys to perform any task you want. While you can set macros to any key, there's a limit of five key sequences (plus an optional Enter keystroke at the end). However, you can program 32 layers of customization onto the board. There are media keys, lighting controls, and mouse control buttons on the default layers of the board, but since there are no legends, it may take some time to learn where they are.

Design
In The Box

  • ZSA Moonlander keyboard with wrist rests attached
  • USB-C to USB-C cable with USB-C to USB-A adapter
  • 3.5 mm TRRS cable
  • Keycap and switch puller
  • Extra keycaps (Blank keycap, F and J without bump)
  • Hex key
  • Carrying case

Typing Experience
Typing Experience
Keystrokes
Key Switches
Cherry MX Brown
Feel
Tactile
Operating Force
53 gf
Actuation Force
41 gf
Pre-Travel
1.9 mm
Total Travel
4.1 mm

The Cherry MX Brown switches on our unit have a short pre-travel distance and a light operating force, which results in a light and responsive feel. The switches provide a nice tactile bump before the key is actuated. If you prefer a different feel, the ZSA Moonlander is available with a variety of Cherry MX and Kailh switches. If you're unsure which feel you like, the board is hot-swappable, so you can easily change the switches later.

8.5
Typing Experience
Typing Quality

Update 04/14/2021: We incorrectly identified the key layout as ortholinear. We've updated the review to say columnar-staggered key layout.

The ZSA Moonlander has an unconventional layout which may take some time to get used to if you're used to traditional keyboard layouts. Not only does it have a split design, but the keys have a columnar-staggered layout, which means the keys are aligned straight vertically but are staggered horizontally. Also, since none of the secondary functions are labeled, you might need to often refer to the layout diagrams to remember where the functions are.

The steep learning curve aside, the board is very comfortable to type on. The PBT keycaps feel great and very stable, especially since most of the keys are the same size and don't need more than one stabilizer. The Cherry MX Brown switches on our unit provide great tactile feedback and felt light to type on, though this will be different depending on which switches you get.

Typing Experience
Typing Noise
Noise
Quiet

The Cherry MX Brown switches on our ZSA Moonlander unit are quiet and shouldn't bother those around you. However, the sound may differ depending on the switch you get.

6.9
Typing Experience
Latency
Latency Wired
16.2 ms
Latency Receiver
N/A
Latency Bluetooth
N/A

The ZSA Moonlander's latency is somewhat high, and you might notice a delay while playing fast-paced games.

Software and Operating System
7.6
Software and Operating System
Software & Programming
Software Name ORYX Configurator
Account Required
Yes
Profiles
6+
Onboard Memory
Yes
Cloud Sync
Yes
Macro Programming
Software
Ease Of Use
Okay
Software Windows Compatible
Yes
Software macOS Compatible
Yes

Like the ZSA Moonlander, the ORYX Configuration software has a bit of a learning curve, but the ZSA website provides many tutorials about how to use the software and configure your board. First, you need to use their online configurator to reprogram keys, then export the .bin file and drag-and-drop it into the Wally EZ Flash Tool to make customizations. After that, you need to use a paperclip to click the reset button of the keyboard to install the new programmed layouts. While the board can only have one profile stored on its onboard memory, you can have as many as you like saved to their website or on your computer. Also, you can have 32 layers of different key bindings on each key. You can even program them to perform different commands depending on whether you click or hold the key. There are also 'Hyper' and 'Meh' keys, which are pre-set key bindings for Ctrl+Shift+Alt+Win/Cmd and Ctrl+Shift+Alt, respectively.

While the ZSA website says that you don't need to create an account to configure your board, we were unable to use the macro editor without creating one, so we considered this as requiring an account.

8.2
Software and Operating System
Keyboard Compatibility
Windows Full
macOS Full
Linux Full
Android No
iOS No
iPadOS No

The ZSA Moonlander is fully compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can use the Wally EZ Flash Tool or the ORYX Configurator software to set specific keys and functionalities for each operating system, so you can program it for any platform you're using.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

We tested the ZSA Moonlander in white, but it's also available in black. The unit we tested had Cherry MX Brown switches, but it's also available with Cherry MX Blue and a variety of Kailh switches, including Bronze, Gold, Silver, Copper, Box Brown, Box Red, Box White, and Box Black. We expect our review to apply to all variants; however, the typing experience and typing noise will differ depending on the switch you choose. You can see the label of our unit here.

Compared To Other Keyboards

The ZSA Moonlander is a hot-swappable fully split keyboard with a columnar-staggered key layout. It's exceptionally customizable and lets you change the backlighting, adjust incline settings, and set macros. It's also hot-swappable, so you can even change the switches. While it may take significantly some time to get used to the design and the customization software compared to other keyboards, it should very comfortable to use once you get the hang of it. Its incredible range of ergonomic features should help reduce wrist and finger strain, although we don't test this. It's very similar to the ErgoDox EZ, but it has fewer keys, and its thumb clusters are adjustable.

For other options, see our recommendations for the best ergonomic keyboards, the best keyboards for writers, and the best mechanical keyboards.

Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB

The Kinesis Freestyle Edge RGB and the ZSA Moonlander are both fully split mechanical keyboards, but the ZSA has better ergonomics since it has incline feet that let you angle the board in whichever way you feel most comfortable. The Kinesis is available with Cherry MX Brown, Blue, and Red switches, and the ZSA is available with Cherry MX Brown, Blue, and a variety of Kailh switches. Also, the ZSA is hot-swappable, so you can use any switch you like. However, while all of the keys on both boards are macro-programmable, there's a limit of five key sequences on the ZSA, which may be annoying if you need longer strings. The ZSA has a much higher latency, so the Kinesis might be a better choice for gaming.

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard

The ZSA Moonlander and the Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard are both keyboards with ergonomic designs, but the ZSA is better overall. The ZSA has multiple rotating incline feet, so you can adjust the keyboard's angle to be negative or positive, and you can even tent the board so that your hands are more vertical. On the other hand, the Microsoft has just one incline, and it's negative only. The Microsoft is available with tactile scissor switches, whereas the ZSA is hot-swappable and also available in a variety of Cherry MX and Kailh switches. However, if having a wireless keyboard matters a lot to you, the Microsoft may be a better choice.

Logitech ERGO K860 Wireless Split Keyboard

The ZSA Moonlander and the Logitech ERGO K860 Wireless Split Keyboard are both boards with ergonomic designs, but the ZSA is better overall. The ZSA has multiple rotating incline feet, so you can create both a negative or positive incline, and you can even tent the board so that your hands are more vertical. The ZSA is available in several Cherry MX and Kailh switches, but it's also hot-swappable, so you can get the switches you prefer. It has RGB backlighting with great color mixing, whereas the Logitech has none. If having a wireless keyboard matters a lot to you, the Logitech may be a better choice. While not as ergonomic as the ZSA, the Logitech has a curved board with two incline settings that create a negative angle. The Logitech is available with scissor switches which provide tactile feedback and should feel light.

ErgoDox EZ

The ErgoDox EZ and the ZSA Moonlander are both fully split mechanical keyboards. Built by the same maker, both boards are designed with ergonomics in mind. You can place each half in a position that feels most comfortable for you. There are also many different incline configurations thanks to the rotating incline feet. Also, both boards are hot-swappable, extremely customizable through their configurator software, and you can set macros to any key; however, the ZSA has a five-character limit, which may be annoying if you need longer strings. While our ErgoDox unit doesn't have RGB backlighting like the ZSA, there are variants that do. The biggest differences are that the ZSA's thumb clusters are moveable, which provides more incline options, and it has fewer keys. Also, the ZSA's latency is much higher, so it isn't as good of a choice for gaming.

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