Input Devices Guide
First Looks: Microsoft Arc Keyboard
Combining Form & Function
Slightly more than a year ago, Microsoft wowed us with its uber-funky Arc mouse. Admittedly, while it's not the most ergonomic mouse to use, its design was really unique. Microsoft and funky? Come on, it's practically an oxymoron and that's what made the Arc mouse so special. The Arc mouse's perfect companion - the Arc keyboard - is finally here, and we spent some time with it to see how it works.
The Style Meister
Keyboards have traditionally been dull-looking things; they all look more or less the same. So the Arc keyboard is like a breath of fresh air, with its its smoothly curved outlines and gently arched back. It's certainly stylish and looks like the kind of thing that would get "creative people" (graphic designers, photographers, artists etc.) nodding their heads in approval.
And because it is not a full-sized standard 104-key keyboard, it is compact as well, measuring in at slightly more than 30cm long and 14cm wide. This makes it suitable for portable use. To accommodate its smaller size, the keypad is missing, and instead of the standard 12 function-keys, you'll get only six. You can however, activate the remaining six function keys by hitting "Fn" that is located beside the right Alt key, like you do on notebooks.
The Arc keyboard has some clever touches. For example, the cursor keys have also been compacted into a single directional pad-like button, which is an intelligent way to save space, but takes some getting used to. As it's a wireless keyboard, the Arc needs a USB transceiver to work and this can be conveniently stowed into the back of the keyboard.
As good as the Arc keyboard looks, all of that would have gone to waste if it wasn't pleasant to type on. Chiclet-style keyboards are all the rage these days and Microsoft has adopted that same design on the Arc keyboard.
The keys are well spaced and are extremely tactile. The keys felt solid and had sufficient springiness and feedback. This feeling of solidity is further reinforced by a satisfying thud sound whenever you hit a key. Due to the slightly arched design of this keyboard, it feels more natural to type on when compared to a traditional keyboard.
Understandably, given its compact nature, the Arc keyboard lacks the additional features that you usually find on gaming keyboards, but it does have nifty volume adjustment keys as well as a key to instantly mute your speakers, which are nice and useful touches.
The Arc keyboard isn't a revolutionary piece of hardware, but it is a decent keyboard from Microsoft's hardware division. It has got the looks and the performance, and with a price tag of S$89, we think that it is one of the better wireless and compact keyboards in the market today.
What's more, the Arc keyboard works fine on Macs, right down to the volume adjustment keys. Considering the lack of stylish black keyboards for Macs, such users can therefore also consider the Arc keyboard, provided they don't mind the glaring Windows button.