Surface Ergonomic Keyboard
Microsoft’s latest ergonomic keyboard is mostly a downgrade, yet costs far more than before
WHILE WE HAD some issues with Microsoft’s Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop (Shopper 349), none of them would have been solved by making it wider, less adjustable and nearly twice as expensive. Nonetheless, that’s precisely what Microsoft has done with its successor, the Surface Ergonomic Keyboard.
First, some words in its defence. It’s better than most keyboards for anyone suffering from, or at risk of, afflictions such as RSI or tendonitis; as with the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop, keys are split across two sides of a large bump, which in practice means that we could leave our wrists laying on the spot while still being able to reach all the letter keys.
This bizarre-looking layout can take some getting used to, but even before we reached our usual levels of speed and accuracy, we were enjoying the laid-back feel. The wrist rest is soft and comfortable, and is made out of the same high-end hydrophobic fabric as the Surface Pro’s premium Signature Type Cover.
Also, while we’d have preferred true mechanical switches, the scissor-switches in this keyboard are among the best we’ve used; each stroke feels nimble, sharp and refined, with just the lightest touch of an audible click.
Regrettably, neither of these qualities explains the several steps backward Microsoft has otherwise taken, starting with the removal of the attachable riser. This clipped to the underside of the Sculpt’s wrist rest, pushing both it and the user’s wrists into an even more ergonomically friendly position. This is absent on the Surface Ergonomic Keyboard, which has no height adjustments at all – a baffling omission for an ergonomic peripheral.
We’re not convinced that integrating the number pad was a good idea, either. With the Sculpt, this came in the form of a separate wireless pad, so we can see how there may have been a desire to reduce desk clutter, but the result is that the whole thing measures a sprawling 460mm across. This meant we had to reach even further for our mouse, which isn’t ideal, ergonomic-wise.
The dodgy design doesn’t stop there. Key markings and colours should be high contrast, as a rule, but Microsoft has opted for white on grey, reducing readability while not even including backlighting to help make up for it. The Enter key is now two rows tall, which sounds good, but it’s laughably narrow, making it easier to create a hash by accident than a line break on purpose. Even the quoted battery life has somehow dropped from three years to just one, even though both keyboards use a pair of AAA batteries.
Most galling of all is that even with all these adverse changes, Microsoft is asking £120 for it; the Sculpt was £61 when we reviewed it last year, and while it’s currently sitting at about £79, the choice is clear. Regardless of whether you want the latest in ergonomic accessories, save your money and go with the older model instead.