Microsoft Surface Ergonomic Keyboard
- I am not a super awesome typist.
- I can do most of my typing and coding with out looking, but I can’t reliably hit numbers, or whatever symbol goes with said number (4/$) with out looking down.
- I don’t care what color your cherry mx switches are, or if you have a stockpile of IBM Model M keyboards in your basement.
First off, lets talk about the keyboard I had. I am upgrading from the current Microsoft Sculpt. I like this keyboard very much. There are a few things completely retarded, but overall it does a nice job.
- Bad — The fn key row on the sculpt keyboard has been replaced with some shitty buttons, instead of keyboard keys. It’s noticeably different when you strike them, and they feel terrible.
- Bad — There is a stupid switch in the upper right hand corner of the keyboard to switch between ‘fn’ keys and ‘app keys’ (change volume, play/pause, etc…).
- Tolerable — The default item for buying a ‘Sculpt’ is a package deal that comes with a mouse and keyboard, and the mouse is not comfortable at all (to me), so it’s a useless accessory. If you try hard and believe in yourself you can find places selling the ‘Sculpt for Business’ which is just the keyboard.
- Indifferent — The Sculpt has a detached 10 key, which is nice because use that approximately 0.0% of the time. (So much so, that the one on my desk at work still has the little piece of plastic between the battery contacts).
Now lets talk about the new Surface keyboard. I use these keyboards on OSX, and so, by default you need to do some key remapping. OSX and windows keyboard place the ‘command’ (or windows) key in different positions. This isn’t usually a problem, OSX ships with a nice little system preference to remap the modifier keys.
For some idiotic reason the Surface keyboard doesn’t register with OSX as a keyboard. It only registers as a ‘Miscellaneous’ Bluetooth low energy device. That means it doesn’t show up in the list of keyboards for OSX to allow you to remap. That also means if you connect to a computer that doesn’t have a built in keyboard (Mac Mini, iMac, Mac Pro) the computer still doesn’t think a keyboard is plugged in. Thankfully I was already aware of Karabiner (or Karabiner-Elements for those of you already on macOS) which let you remap modifier keys.
Bluetooth. Is. Retarded. I absolutely could not get the device to pair with my Mac out of the box. We tried multiple computers, and restarting computers. The only way I was finally able to get the keyboard to start working was to pair it with a Windows 10 computer first. What the actual fuck?
The pairing step also requires you to type numbers on the screen into the keyboard. On the Windows 10 keyboard, I was able to type the 6 numbers, and hit ‘return’ for it to sync. On OSX it would never recognize that the ‘return’ button was hit (I suspect this is because the device doesn’t identify as a keyboard), and there is no visual indicator on the screen that you are typing in the numbers. So everything has a “hope this shit works” feel to it.
Bluetooth is slow to wake up. The Sculpt (and before that, the Natty 7k) both use RF with little dongles. They always work, they are lightning fast, and there is no pairing bullshit to deal with.
Apparently I had gotten used to moving the keyboard around from the little gap between the keys on the Sculpt. Muscle memory is weird. I definitely just jammed my finger into the blank space (not gap) between the keys on the surface a few times to try and movie it. Pro tip, that doesn’t work.
The Sculpt also has a front riser, which I actually use, and like very much.
The keys themselves feel great. A little softer than the Sculpt, and it seems like a slightly longer throw distance. Overall pleasurable to type on.
The Surface moved the function key back down to the bottom of the keyboard, but made it a toggle, instead of a hold. More wat?
Related question: I only ever press spacebar with my right hand. Does anyone know if there is any software that will let me remap the other half of the space bar? I Suspect that the keyboard itself just emits that the same button was pressed, bit it’s worth a shot to ask!
There is no extra spacing around the Backspace key, it doesn’t feel any different than the other keys, so it’s a little hard to find in the jumble. Usually there is a bit of extra space to the right. (The Sculpt has the problem too). I put a little drop of superglue on the backspace key so I can find it easier.
There are little ‘home row indicators’ on the ‘down arrow’, ‘end key’, and ‘5’ so you can easily find the center of the other areas of the keyboard.
I can’t really comment about the battery life, but the keyboard itself runs off 2 AAA batteries (included) and the Microsoft pages says they should last about a year. FWIW I have had a Sculpt at home for a little under a year, and I have not changed the batteries. I don’t expect this to be an issue.
Another big feature that was touted for the Surface keyboard was that it had Alcantara on the palm rest. It feels different than the palm rest on the Sculpt, but I cant say that its any better. Seems like another way to just jack up the price.
Overall I’m happy with the purchase. I’ll probably get another one for the house (so I can have one at work, and one at home). I would love to see Microsoft fix the ‘registers as generic bluetooth device instead of keyboard’ problem. I don’t know if they can just write some drivers for OSX or what, but that is my biggest gripe so far. If any of my Microsoft friends are reading this, forward the feeback to the right place :)