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Microsoft Arc Keyboard - Microsoft Arc Keyboard

By Riyad Emeran

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Microsoft Arc Keyboard

Summary

Our Score:

9

Given its diminutive size, there’s not much in the way of extra keyboard functionality on the Arc. That said, you do at least get dedicated buttons for volume and mute. Here the Apple wireless keyboard has an advantage, with lots of Mac OS functionality, like Exposé, mapped to specific keys. Of course the difference being that the Arc is designed to work with any computer, running any operating system, including Macs, so some compromises have had to be made.

Of course since the Arc is designed to be universally usable, it needs to ship with a USB dongle, rather than just relying on Bluetooth like Apple’s keyboard. That said, Microsoft has made a concerted effort to ensure that employing a dongle hasn’t made using the Arc cumbersome. First up, the dongle is tiny – it’s the same size as the dongles that ship with the latest Microsoft mobile mice. Second, as with the mice, the dongle is stored inside the keyboard when not in use. Actually, the dongle is stored in a magnetic recess in the base of the keyboard, which makes transporting the Arc between PCs simple.

The downside of the new, tiny Microsoft dongles is that you can’t control multiple devices from one. That means that if you want to use a Microsoft mouse and the Arc keyboard, you’re going to need to have two dongles plugged into your PC, and carry both with you when you’re on the move. The Arc also comes with a fabric slip case to keep your keyboard clean and scratch free when you do throw it in a bag and take it with you.

The Arc keyboard is powered by two AAA batteries, and although I’m not generally a fan of anything using AAAs, you should get a decent amount of life out of a pair. The battery life can be enhanced if you remember to power the keyboard off when you’re not using it – pressing the Fn and Esc keys together will power on/off the keyboard.

The recommended retail price for the Arc keyboard is £49.99, which makes it almost exactly the same price as the Apple wireless keyboard. However, whereas you’re unlikely to find Apple’s offering for much leas than £50, the Arc can already be had online for around £31, which makes it something of a bargain.

Verdict

The Microsoft Arc keyboard is an ideal solution for anyone who wants a small but stylish input device that doesn’t compromise on usability. The travel and feel of each key is staggering considering the Arc’s slim dimensions, and unlike many other reduced size keyboards, I’m happy to use the Arc as my main keyboard every day.

The ability to store the tiny dongle in the back of the keyboard itself just adds to its appeal, making it far more likely to be a travelling companion. Even the price (if you look around a bit) is impressive. The only downside is that you can’t share a dongle with another Microsoft peripheral, but even that can’t spoil the party.

Overall Score

9

morsch

February 27, 2010, 5:26 am

It'd be nice to have a bigger product shot to see the layout in more detail. I guess it's easy enough to find online, though.





I'd have to test it in person but I think the odd cursor keys would be a dealbreaker for me. So far all the tiny keyboards have had some fatal flaw -- for instance, the Apple Wireless Keyboard has Fn as the left-most key instead of ctrl, unlikey their full size brethren. The Happy Hacking Keyboard looks nice, but it's expensive.

jopey

February 27, 2010, 5:32 am

I've wanted this since it was announced a couple of weeks ago. For £30 it seems a steal. A question though, the review doesn't cover the range you can get with that little nubin of a wireless receiver. That's most important because an extension cable would defeat the point and this looks to be aimed at media centre's, on lap, just as much as it is for desk use.

jingyeow

February 27, 2010, 6:15 am

i love microsoft hardware, but they need to start unifying receivers. They are unified for the bundles including keyboard and mouse, so why not for every combination of keyboard/mouse? As far as I'm aware, they are all using 2.4 ghz tech.

Lyon Lim

February 27, 2010, 10:32 am

I've been wanting to get the Arc Keyboard ever since it was announced in January. I got it a couple of days ago, when it first arrived in the stores. I must say it's an absolute piece of joy. I do lots of programming work on it and the keys are awesome. It was very easy to get used to it. What required getting used to was the arrow keys and the Fn key being on the right side - but those to me are more habitual. I wld also have preferred the top row of buttons to be easier to press. They require a little more force to press on the top buttons :).





It'll be great if Microsoft released a single unified dongle that allows both the Arc Mouse and the Arc Keyboard to function together :). It helps that my monitor has extra usb ports now.





Highly recommended keyboard!

Ricky Archer

February 27, 2010, 2:02 pm

Nice looking bit of kit. Would it work with my PS3? I've got the Sony clip on keyboard on my controller and while it's very funky, the keys can be a bit fiddly and don't always register a press first time. This would be small enough that I wouldn't mind it on my lap, but big enough to be user friendly.

morsch

February 27, 2010, 4:25 pm

On a sidenotes, wireless hardware like this is pretty terrible from an environmental point of view. I'd hope most people use them with rechargables, but I'm sure many don't. Keyboards like this should continue to use AA/AAAs, but they should come with a set of rechargables and enable recharging over USB.





It's odd that devices like this don't use Bluetooth. I guess that tells you something about the state of BT. But what do they use instead? BT has known characteristics. What is known about the transmitters used for the Arc hardware? Specifically, what kind of encryption do they use?

Andy P

February 27, 2010, 8:25 pm

Hi, I've written this comment using the new Arc keyboard, got it yesterday from Play.com... I quite like the cursor rocker button as my finger does not have to move much, say when navigating round Excel. As for range I've just tested it 7 metres away from the laptop, cause could no longer read the monitor. It is more comfortable than using the keyboard on my laptop as I don't have the laptop case below it, using it with the Arc mouse.

CV

February 28, 2010, 2:49 am

Riyad,


How does the feel of the keys, i.e. they travel of each keystroke, compare to the Logitech diNovo Edge Mac Edition Cordless Keyboard?


Also, how quiet is it to type on?

jingyeow

February 28, 2010, 3:23 am

@Morsch - My main reason for getting a wireless keyboard/mouse was purely because I had spare AA rechargeables that were going un-used. USB charging is a great idea, and so simple. It's advances like this being ignored that makes me think businesses are really sinister. Same for the book industry. eBooks could literally save the environment and eco-systems through the amount of trees saved and habitats protected. However the printing industry will have none of it.





I believe in a future where everything that can possibly be delivered through digital delivery replaces retail stores. And then the experience industry will be the only shops on the high street. Sorry...went slightly off topic there..

Malderon

February 28, 2010, 3:06 pm

@Morsch The Microsoft X8 Mouse that I use as my current main mouse works exactly like you have suggested. It comes with recharchable AAAs and the receiver has a retractable cable that not only charges the mouse when needed, but allows you to use it as a wired mouse if you are doing something very response time sensitive.





So these type of products do exist. I think its much more important for mice, in my experience keyboard batterys tend to last for absolutely ages, wheras mouse batteries run down very quickly.

ffrankmccaffery

March 1, 2010, 12:00 am

If anyone can remember the 6000 series keyboard by Microsoft reviewed here recently will have noted that it carried no wireless receiver with it. It instead relied on the bluetooth receiver built within the computer it was paired with. That was a thoughtful and practical decision that I'd hoped Microsoft would continue further.

Keithe6e

March 1, 2010, 4:46 pm

Wow, if I was @ffrankmccaffery and this was an Apple keyboard, I'd be trolling this for no reason, but in this case I have to agree with with him, just been standard bluetooth would have been much nicer. Also have to say M$ do make some nice peripherals, I actually bought an M$ keyboard for work after using one for home use.

Technology changes, and so sho

March 1, 2010, 8:34 pm

Well, they can't use BT for a dedicated keyboard until hardware suppliers put down BT chips on the motherboard with the HCI profile embedded, or put the BTstack in the BIOS like they do with USB.


I have a Bluetooth keyboard at home, but it means I can't get in to the BIOS settings. Fortunately, this is rarely necessary but it does mean that I have to keep a wired keyboard for emergencies.


I hate having custom dongles for such kit, but the hardware vendors are obviously in such a cut-throat business that it's not worth the extra cost of a BT chip ith enough memory and processing power to put the profile in.





What annoys me more is why someone doesn't do a Bluetooth gaming controller for the PC.

ffrankmccaffery

March 2, 2010, 9:03 am

@Keith: I guess your still smarting about earlier but still theres no need to be bitter about it. And referring to Microsoft as 'M$' not only makes you sound immature but also highly unoriginal.

Keithe6e

March 2, 2010, 3:14 pm

@ffrankmccaffery: M$, you make me laugh. I think your really struggling if that is the best you can do!!, especially as your the superstar in this area, aka "Machead" (how original is that one)?.

Geoff Richards

March 2, 2010, 3:52 pm

OK guys. Let's call it even and move on, shall we?

JDunn

May 3, 2011, 1:02 am

The reviewer forgot to mention one design no no - the left caps lock key is larger than the shift key. Why do designers design keyboards to make a rarely useful key larger and easier to hit than one that is used many times in a minute?

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