The Microsoft Surface Keyboard: Initial Impressions

So, it’s not much of a secret that I dislike Microsoft. Their Anniversary Update of Windows 10 completely screwed over my Linux boot partition on my laptop. However, several months ago I saw a picture of their Surface Keyboard. Not the one that goes with the Surface and serves as its cover, but the one for use with the Surface desktop. This beauty right here

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The Microsoft Surface Keyboard. Please ignore the tissue box in the background.

I spend a large amount of time typing everyday so a good keyboard is very important to me. When I first saw this keyboard, I thought it looked great. It was simple. It was clean. It had a number pad which is something I use all the time while programming, putting together parameter files, doing quick calculations in a spreadsheet, or even when writing papers. As much as I liked the looks of it, the $99.99 US was a bit steep for a keyboard when the one I had worked just fine.

The problem I was running into was that I frequently have both my laptop and desktop up and running at work. I’ll get something running on my desktop and then use my laptop to work on other things so that I don’t steal away resources from some compute intensive task. Working on a laptop is not the most ergonomic situation, so I have a laptop stand to bring the screen up to eye-level, but then of course you can’t use the built in keyboard comfortably, so I had been using an old tablet keyboard I had around. This was a miniature keyboard where a lot of the functions were only accessible through holding multiple keys at once and it lacked a number pad, so not ideal.

Then, I happened to notice the other day that the Microsoft Surface keyboard was on sale on Amazon for $79.99 US.  So, I decided that I would purchase one and move my older wireless keyboard over to use with my laptop. I ordered it on Friday, it arrived yesterday afternoon and I set it up first thing this morning.

The setup was very simple on my Fedora 25 KDE Spin GNU/Linux desktop. I already had a Bluetooth adapter, so I simply pulled the plastic tab that was preventing the included batteries (Duracell, no less) from making a complete circuit. A small light above the arrow keys was flashing. I clicked on the Bluetooth icon in my system tray, clicked the plus sign to add a device. It showed right up. I selected it, typed in a code displayed on my screen and hit enter. That was it. It even shows up as “Surface Keyboard” in the Bluetooth device list.

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KDE Plasma 5 system tray Bluetooth device manager with the Surface Keyboard connected.

So far, this is the first thing that I’ve typed on the keyboard. It’s very responsive, the travel distance seems okay. It is a bit wider than my previous keyboard and the layout is a bit different, but is definitely more of the old-school standard layout. This is nice because the arrow keys are off on their own and not made smaller and tucked under things like the right shift key. This was frequently a problem on my old keyboard. I would go to press the up arrow in a terminal window to scroll through commands, and just end up hitting shift.

The keys press down fairly easy, and have a good bounce to them. The top of the keyboard seems to be made of aluminum, though the keys themselves are still plastic. The keyboard is pretty quiet while typing, about as loud as a typical laptop keyboard. My fingers are getting a bit tired, particularly on my left hand, but that tends to happen to me while I get used to a new keyboard.

All in all, I’d say this is one of the best keyboards I’ve ever owned. If you’re in the market for a new one, and have $79.99 US laying around that you are willing to spend, give it a go. Of course, if you’re a fan of mechanical keyboards then you will probably hate it.

I’ll update this post at the end of the week with a more long term review after I’ve used it for work for several days. In the meantime, what do you think of the Microsoft Surface Keyboard? What’s your favorite keyboard style and why? Let me know in the comments!

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