Sur­face Er­gonomic Key­board

Computer Shopper - - OFFICE KEYBOARDS - £120 From www.mi­crosoft.com


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.

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