Experiments undesirable: Special requirements have to be considered for ergonomic keyboards. This has been achieved with the Surface Ergonomic Keyboard – one of the best that Microsoft has ever built.
After nearly four years, Microsoft has launched a new ergonomic keyboard, while taking the criticism of its predecessor to heart. The keyboard with the bulky title “Surface Ergonomic Keyboard” has again chiclet buttons with a low stroke, but is in some points but better. Even more pleasing is, however, that Microsoft has changed some changes.
The surface model has the typical basic construction of an ergonomic keyboard: the letter field is divided in the middle. On the one half are all the keys, which are typed with the left hand and on the other hand the right hand. The keypad is increased towards the center. This is to ensure that the wrists do not have to be angled as much as possible, and should rest on the keyboard as straight as possible, which saves the joints.
The keys are back where they belong
This keyboard type is mainly for people who write in the ten finger system. If you do not master it, you will not be able to make friends with an ergonomic keyboard. For the ten finger system it is important that the keys are in the usual place – but this is not necessarily a matter of course.
Microsoft has a lot of criticism in the almost four years ago Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard . Everything apart from the normal character field was differently occupied than with conventional keyboards; Blind operation is no longer possible. This error was not repeated with the new model. The cursor keys and the adjacent function block adhere to the standard assignment; Both are essential when the cursor is navigated in text. The function block can also be useful for controlling applications.
Sensible deviations from the standard layout
While there is minimal deviations from the standard layout in the surface model, they do not interfere – some of them are even a help in practice. The keys above the function block are arranged somewhat differently than usual. However, we had no problems with this since none of these three keys are necessary for cursor navigation in texts.
A further deviation from the standard is the additional Delete key which is located above the backspace key and the Delete key in the function block above the cursor keys. It is quite handy.
For an optimal blind operation of the keyboard, Microsoft has considered a small but fine innovation.
Well solved switching option
All important key segments have well-felt markings, of which we are very impressed. These are located not only on the f and j keys, but also on the down arrow and the end key. Thus, orientation points are available which make the blind writing easier. Without having to look, the fingers find the corresponding area.
We welcome the decision of Microsoft to reintroduce chiclet keys for the new Surface keyboard, which only a few manufacturers of ergonomic keyboards use. They relieve pressure when typing, because the fingers have to move less strongly than with conventional keys because of the lower stroke. The clearly defined pressure point supports the pleasant feeling of writing on the keyboard. In direct comparison with the predecessor model we find the pressure point with the novice more gripping and pleasant.
The hands rest on writing on the palm rest, which consists of a slightly rough material and prevents slipping of the hands.
Function buttons can be easily switched
The function keys on the Surface keyboard are easier to switch than the Sculpt keyboard. On both keyboards there is a further level with special keys on the function keys. A Fn key has become a key from the hard-to-reach sliding switch, which has made the temporary switching between key levels difficult.
This allows us to activate the other key level once. If, for example, you have activated the function keys by default, you can, for example, change the volume between them. When the Fn key is released, the default level is activated again. Fortunately, the Fn key has a latching function so that one of the two levels can be defined as the default. This worked smoothly with a Windows 10 notebook from Lenovo and a Windows 8.1 notebook from HP.
If the Fn key and the Caps Lock, Num Lock and Scroll keys are active, a white LED will appear on the key. This allows the status of the keys to be checked with a brief look at the keyboard. However, it must not be too light in the room: the status of the LED is already no longer recognizable even when the sky is over, which is less beautifully solved.
Practical auxiliary buttons
Above the number block, Microsoft has used the free space and installed practical special keys. These are primarily intended for use with Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. One button can call the pocket calculator, another locks the computer, and all running tasks can be minimized or recovered. There is also a key for calling the info center, but this did not work for us: Even if notifications are in the info center, nothing happens when the key is pressed. We used Windows 10 with CreatorsUpdate installed.
Further Windows special keys are implemented as the level of the function keys. In addition, the volume can be controlled and the playback of media controlled. There are also buttons for the display brightness, and the task overview, the connection settings, the search function and the Windows settings can be opened directly. For most of the functions, there are also matching shortcuts, but such direct keys are a little more convenient. A small practical detail: the surface model also has back on the right button space for a Windows button; The previous model is missing this.
The keyboard operates wirelessly with Bluetooth, but buyers need not worry about the battery life.
Bluetooth instead of dongle
The surface keyboard can also be used on Apple devices like the previous model. However, another wireless technology is used: instead of a dongle solution as a USB version, the new model relies on Bluetooth 4.0LE. The connected device must only master Bluetooth 4.0. This allows the keyboard to be used with smartphones and tablets.
Typical Android problems
The setup on an iPhone 7 Plus ran smoothly as on three different notebooks. In the pairing process, a given six-digit number must be entered with the keyboard, and you can start. Smaller problems may occur when using Android devices: Often, Android does not activate the English-language keyboard layout when a physical keyboard is paired with the device. Then the appropriate option must be searched for in the language settings of the operating system and the German button layout should be activated. These problems were also noticed in our test with a Pixel XL, which is equipped with the latest Android version.
In general, the surface keyboard supports only one pairing device. So if you have the keyboard connected to your notebook and use it with a smartphone, then you have to pair the keyboard with the keyboard again. If the keyboard is used more often with different devices, this is not particularly comfortable.
Long battery life
Switching from the dongle solution to Bluetooth does not negatively affect the battery life. We could easily use the previous model for many months without having to replace the batteries. This should be similar to the new model. Microsoft promises a battery life of up to one year and wants to achieve this by the keyboard goes into the energy saving mode, as soon as it is not used. As soon as typing again, she switches on – that works very well in practice.
The surface model uses two AAA batteries, and we have been able to work with it for several weeks without a battery change. We assume that a period of several months will also be possible here. There is no dedicated off switch on the keyboard.
No increase available
The new Microsoft keyboard is much better than the predecessor model in almost all aspects. But in one point there is also a deterioration: it can not be tilted backwards. With the Sculpt model, we have just loved this opportunity. This was accompanied by a very stable increase which was magnetically attached to the lower side of the keyboard and allowed a more stable stand than folding feet. Even after several years of use, the magnetic increase did not unintentionally dissolve unintentionally, and the entire construction was extremely stable. Buyers of the new surface keyboard, on the other hand, have to help themselves with a stable foam wedge placed under the keyboard.
In addition to the high-setting option, we still miss something that is not necessarily part of any keyboard, but would be very handy, especially with models with ergonomic design with firmly mounted handlebars: a touchpad and a trackpoint. There would be enough space beneath the empty buttons for a touchpad, and a track point could be installed in the area between the two key halves. This allows you to execute commands with the mouse, without having to take your hands off the keyboard.
Availability and conclusion
Microsoft sells the Surface Ergonomic Keyboard at a price of 150 euros. In the trade it is already for around 120 euro to get. For comparison, the four-year-old Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard is available separately with a mouse for 80 euros.
Microsoft has improved a lot with its new ergonomic keyboard, without giving up unloved experiments. The manufacturer has responded to most criticism on the nearly four-year-old Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and developed an almost perfect product with the new Surface Ergonomic Keyboard. A standard layout paired with chiclet keys with low stroke and a pleasantly tight pressure point support efficient, trouble-free working. The marking of all important key segments is an enrichment – the blind operation is thus even easier.