Review: Surface Keyboard

My main (read: only) computer is a Surface Pro 3, which means a lot of my experience with keyboards over the last few years has been using the blue type-cover I purchased when I initially got the tablet. After years of fairly heavy use, it’s not unfair to say that it isn’t entirely blue anymore.

Honestly, I love my Surface Pro, and I would gladly buy another one if Microsoft added a thunderbolt connection — allowing me to add an external GPU into the mix.

However, over time, the type-cover has shown it’s flaws.

The keys are sticky (not literally, I’m not that messy), aren’t spaced well and have a unsatisfying plastic feel to them. For a keyboard that doubles as a cover, it’s pretty good, and Microsoft have apparently made strides in the newer type-covers released for the Surface Pro 4 and the new Surface Pro (2017). These improved versions are compatible with my Surface Pro 3, and I’m sure would extend the life of my device even further, but since I’m finished with my study and no longer have to travel to University every other day — nor spend hours writing up notes or assignments away from home — I’ve decided to invest in a Bluetooth keyboard for my home office.

Enter: The Microsoft Surface Keyboard.

Before anyone mentions it: No, I didn’t purchase this keyboard simply because it has the Surface name — I know that any Bluetooth keyboard would theoretically work, but after looking up reviews and comparing the performance and aesthetics of the various keyboards I was interested in, the Surface Keyboard earned my money.

Set Up

The first thing I’ll note is how easy the keyboard is to set up.

After opening the box you simply have to pull the protective tab off of the batteries, close up the magnetic battery cover, and press the Bluetooth pairing button found on the end of the keyboard stand.

My desk — sans the usual clutter

After a few moments the keyboard showed up on my tablet’s available devices, which, once clicked, spat out a numerical code to confirm which computer the keyboard is pairing with.

Type the code in and within a few seconds it was completely paired and ready to go. I didn’t necessarily expect it to be a laborious process, but I was surprised at how quickly and easily it was done.

I should note that there is no way to connect the keyboard via a wire — Bluetooth is the only way you’ll be using this — so if your computer doesn’t have Bluetooth i’m afraid you are out of luck.

Also, since the keyboard communicates over Bluetooth, it is able to connect to most Bluetooth enabled phones. I was able to connect it to my Android phone and, although it was interesting and somewhat novel, controlling a phone using a keyboard isn’t a fantastic experience.

This configuration may be useful when working remotely if your laptop runs out of battery, I guess, but I don’t see much use further than that.

Looks

Honestly, the keyboard looks like it was made by Apple.

That isn’t a complaint, and I don’t think it was a mistake on Microsoft's part, but rather a play at the consumer who likes the minimalist, clean look of most Apple accessories but who doesn’t want to be shoehorned into their ecosystem.

Basically, it was made for me.

The fact that it is also made with the same quality and care as Apple accessories doesn’t hurt either.

I’ve always preferred a minimalist style to my devices, and considering most of the other keyboards I was researching were gaming keyboards — which are anything but minimalist — it makes sense that this keyboard would appeal to me.

Performance

At first the keys felt shiny — almost slippery — but, as time went on, and as I got used to the feel, I didn’t have any issues typing for extended periods of time on it.

In terms of gaming performance, the keyboard works okay. The switches aren’t mechanical, and therefore don’t have the precision as a proper, shiny, neon gaming keyboard, but depending on your uses it may just be all you need.

For example, I like playing a bit of StarCraft II with a few of my friends every now and again.

Am I a 400 APM pro? No, and thankfully neither are my friends, which means this keyboard will absolutely suffice.

Perhaps it is merciful that my Surface Pro 3 can’t run any high-end titles anyway, so I’m mostly playing slower, more methodical titles such as Portal or 2D titles such as Hyper Light Drifter — which I would play with a controller connected anyway.

Obviously, your mileage may vary in this department, but I play most of my more demanding titles on my console— which leaves my Surface Pro free to explore the smaller-scale, independent side of the industry.

It’s worth noting that the keyboard doesn’t light up in any way, making typing at night a slightly difficult endeavour. However, since the keyboard is at my desk, I can easily switch on a lamp to solve this issue. If you mainly work in a bedroom where someone is trying to sleep this may be an issue, but for most people I think it’s not an overly disastrous omission.

Price

The keyboard costs AU $159.95 / US $99, which is quite steep compared to most other Bluetooth keyboards which don’t have the gaming label slapped onto them, but the build quality alone makes up for this.

Honestly, if price is your sole motivator for purchasing a keyboard, you already know if you’ll get this one or not. If you’re willing to pay a bit more for a higher quality item, this keyboard will not disappoint.

Verdict — 4/5

Overall, I am very, very pleased with the Surface Keyboard. It is both stylish and functional, and easily suits the kind of usage I regularly demand of my PC accessories.

Is it cheap? No, not really.

Will it perform well in extended gaming sessions? Unlikely.

However, if neither of those detractors affect you personally, you’ll likely enjoy this keyboard as much as I do.