One of the new hardware products that was shown off by Microsoft at CES 2010 was the Microsoft Arc Keyboard that was designed to be used around the home and living room. Microsoft also made the Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000 which is more aimed at mobile laptop user who wants a move ergonomic and/or compact keyboard while they are out an about. Well this keyboard is now out in Australia and as I am most certainly an mobile work I decided to buy this keyboard for myself to use.
The keyboard is in fact actually two devices with one being a compact keyboard with the all the standard keys as well as dedicated function, volume and arrows buttons. The other part is a separate keypad that can be used independently of the keyboard. This means that it can also operate as a standalone keypad for a laptop if you just want the added convenience of a dedicated number input device. A nice surprise is that the number pad comes with its own material pocket which protects it from damage if you are storing this in your bag along with all your other junk… errr… equipment.
Externally the packaging looks like the standard Microsoft red packaging they have used for many years.
When you open the packaging I am reminded greatly of the form fit packaging that came with my Apple iPhone 3GS. Microsoft have really gone all out to make this a very easy experience to remove the product from the packaging which I like greatly when compared to something like the previous Microsoft hardware devices like the Microsoft Remote Keyboard for Windows XP Media Center Edition.
Pull the keyboard out and you get a glimpse of the keypad…
After you remove the cardboard insert you see the keypad, instructions and the keypad pouch.
The material that the pouch is made of is not very soft and pretty however this is a good thing as it need to protect the keypad from damage not make it look pretty.
This is by far the thinnest keyboard I have ever used.
In fact I have found it to be so compact and small that you can easily place it on top of your laptop keyboard to get the advantage of the bigger keys and more ergonomic shape. This also means I can use the keyboard and not have to push back the laptop from the edge of the desk making the laptop screen to far away to see effectively. Nice!
Notice the PrtScn, Home and End keys are implemented using the Fn “function” button not surprisingly it does not also work as the laptop keyboard function button. The placement of the “function” button is a bit strange as you cannot easily press it and the other alternative button without place you whole hand over the area to obscure the view of the keyboard you are trying to use. This is probably something that can be picker up with muscle memory after a period of time but I would have thought it would been much better to have pushed the Fn button over to the left hand side where most Fn buttons are located on laptops.
The keypads and keyboard have a dedicated physical hardware on off button as well as a pen push Bluetooth connect button.
Adding the device to your computer is straight forward. Just bind the device using the Add Bluetooth option from control panel and let windows create a pairing pin.
Initially I was confused as to how to enter the pin number for the device but then I realised you just type the number in on the keyboard and then press enter.
You follow the same binding process for the number pad and then you will see the photo images of your devices in Device and Printer platform (along with any other hardware you have installed).
Overall the hardware build quality seems to be excellent. The feel of the soft press low profile keys is very nice to use for someone who is used to laptop keyboards and the compact design means that it will easily fit it into my bag when I am on the road. The price at them moment at Officeworks in Australia is $148 au however which is a little more expensive than other keyboards but this is a very thin light weight wireless keyboard/keypad package that is unique to the market right now.
I am also think this is going to be a very good companion device when the HP Slate (and other devices like it) is released in the coming months as this will be able to be used with out taking up any of the precious USB slots on the device as it can use the built in Bluetooth receiver. I also wounder if this will work with the iPad…. hmm…
If you are a person who types a lot on your laptop and you want something that makes pounding out all those reports just a little bit easier then this is once toy….err… gadget… errr… productivity tool that you must get.
9 out of 10.
For more detail and product specification see http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/ProductDetails.aspx?pid=016