First Impressions: Microsoft Surface Accessories (Late 2016)

Posted on December 22, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Microsoft Surface with 30 Comments

First Impressions: Microsoft Surface Accessories (Late 2016)

Well, after a lot of complaining and an interminable delay, I finally got my hands on the new Surface accessories that Microsoft started selling last month. I’ll be reviewing each, of course, but here’s a quick peek at my first impressions.

And I mean first impressions: I’ve not even used them yet, though that is about to change.

Broad strokes, I like where Microsoft has gone with Surface from a design perspective, and that extends to the packaging, which looks professional and works similarly for each of these accessories. None of these devices requires a color swatch of any kind, so the industrial gray that Microsoft uses instead—designed, I’m sure, to emulate the natural color of the magnesium in its computers—is nicely consistent, and of high quality. This color also matches some other Surface accessories, like the Signature Edition and NFL Type Covers. Suddenly, we have a nice family of products here.

Also, one nice touch that is common to all of these accessories: Each is battery powered, and each not only includes the needed batteries, but they’re already inserted. So all you have to do in each case is pull a plastic tab, connect via Bluetooth, and off you go. Nicely done.

Surface Dial

Surface Dial—which I previously described as the most innovative Surface product yet—is smaller in real life than I’d thought, maybe about 75 percent of the size. But I’m still excited by the possibilities, and I’ll place this one to the left of my keyboard and see if it finds a place in my workflow.

dial

Of course, the best usage for Surface Dial is on a screen, and here I’ll have to scrounge a bit, since I don’t have a Surface Studio on which to test it properly. So I’ll do so instead on my Surface Book.

Surface Mouse

Surface Mouse is not exactly ergonomic, but it’s not as small and flat as many modern mice, and I like that it uses Bluetooth—no nubbins!—for connectivity.

mouse

Unlike with Surface Dial, Surface Mouse has a plastic feel, but it feel solid enough and the scroll wheel has a metal look to it. I’m so used to the bulbous Sculpt Ergonomic Mouse that I’m not sure I can adapt for day-to-day use, but this would make an ideal travel mouse.

Surface Ergonomic Keyboard

I’ve been very interested to try the new Surface Ergonomic Keyboard because I use its spiritual predecessor, the Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard, every day and love doing so.

They’re similar, but there are important differences.

ergo-angled

First, the Surface version includes the numeric keyboard, whereas this is a separate and optional piece with the Sculpt version. I prefer the latter: This area makes the keyboard a bit too wide, I think, and requires more desktop space.

ergo-back

Second, and perhaps more important, while both keyboards appear to have similar swooping and ergonomic keyboard layouts, only the Sculpt version includes an optional riser, which you put under the bottom of the keyboard, to lift the front. This is the correct angle, and results in a truly ergonomic typing experience. On the Surface version, the back area is raised instead, and there’s no riser. I’ll need to experiment with this, but hopefully the fix is as simple as just raising the desk height. I suspect that won’t work, however.

ergo-01

Third, the Surface Ergonomic Keyboard comes with a pleasant feel and attractive two-tone gray mélange Alcantara-covered wrist rest, which Microsoft says is “a proprietary material with unique aesthetic, sensory, and technical qualities.” It’s nice, but the soft wrist rest on the Sculpt version is nice too.

Surface Keyboard

This is the keyboard that comes with Surface Studio, and it’s a flat, long rectangle with a built-in numeric keyboard you can’t remove. The back is raised, thanks to a barrel that contains the batteries. It’s in no way ergonomic, but it looks and feels quite solid. I’m surprised they don’t sell a version without a numeric keyboard, to be honest.

kb

More soon.

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Comments (31)

31 responses to “First Impressions: Microsoft Surface Accessories (Late 2016)”

  1. Avatar

    313

    I just do not understand the trend in mice to get away from having side buttons.  No back button on a mouse drives me insane.

  2. Avatar

    2706

    I was a sculpt user as well and I love the new Ergo Keyboard. I think you'll find it doesn't angle up as much towards your screen. Because of that, I don't miss the riser at all, but you might.

  3. Avatar

    4799

    I have both keyboards. I prefer the new Surface Ergonomic Keyboard. I have to do a lot of number entries at work. And it helps me to have the number keys in a consistent place. So I can bang out my number entry with confidence.

  4. Avatar

    1753

    Any news of when they will appear in the Microsoft Store (non-US)? I've been looking every week since "launch" and they are still not appearing, here in Germany.

    I have the Sculpt at the moment, but it isn't very reliable (keeps missing keypresses), the numeric keypad runs out of battery every couple of weeks and I prefer the built in numeric keypad. I also have the Designer Desktop Set, but the editing keys are squished and in the wrong places. I would buy either of these keyboards in a heartbeat.

    As to the block to raise the front of the keyboard, I can't use it that way, so I'd guess the Ergonomic would work well for me... If only Microsoft would sell me then darned thing!

    What does Microsoft have against me? I wanted the Band, then the Band 2, they killed it off, before they even started selling it here! Now the keyboards, I need 2 new BT keyboards, but MS won't sell them!

    • Avatar

      1753

      In reply to wright_is:

      An update, the standard version of the keyboard turned up in the Microsoft store in Germany this week and I immediately sprang for one.

      Excellent quality typing action, the best experience on this type of keyboard I've ever experienced. It isn't as good as a proper mechanical keyboard, but still the best, by far, of the chicklet type keyboards. I've had many different notebooks with these types of keyboard, I have 2 Mac keyboards (cabled) in this style and the Microsoft Designer Bluetooth. This blows them all out of the water.

  5. Avatar

    2233

    If we could just get that Surface Studio monitor as an accessory, I'll be a happy camper.  I have some hope after listening to WW this week.

  6. Avatar

    5486

    Strange how all these accessories (and indeed Surface devices themselves) look like they've all rolled right out of the Apple design book. You could stick an Apple logo on them and be none the wiser. I'm still deciding if this is actually a compliment or not!

  7. Avatar

    459

    I can't fathom a keyboard without a number pad.

  8. Avatar

    5511

    I'm not a big fan of the move to Bluetooth only. I use a KVM switch at my desk, and Logitech's solution of offering both, Bluetooth and a dongle is IMHO the right choice.

    For the keyboard I actually prefer wired, so that I don't have to worry about batteries, and that would also allow MS to put backlighting in it. I keep looking for it, but have not been able to find a backlit ergonomic keyboard.

  9. Avatar

    5553

    Surface really Dial-ed in MSFT stock price ?

  10. Avatar

    426

    I tried the Surface keyboard at the MS store a few days back, love the feel of typing. I may be able to switch out the Apple keyboards I've been using the past few years.

  11. Avatar

    4964

    They look nice, change from black plastic, but I'd prefer Ergo to be the Sculpt form factor with a separate number pad. I use Sculpt with CAD and find the separate number pad awesome as can input dimensions and enter with left hand while the other stays on the mouse.

  12. Avatar

    214

    I'd prefer a Surface Keyboard without the Numeric keypad. I understand the use cases - just not in my use cases. And while they're at it, how about "wasting" an eighth of an inch and separate the arrow and insert key groups from the main keys by that little smidgen.

  13. Avatar

    6888

    I'd prefer a keyboard that doesn't include the number pad to the right.  It's not very ergonomic to be forced to extend your mouse hand (right hand) more to the right of the keyboard just to use the mouse when your hands are in the typing position at the F and J keys.  In my experience, this kind of keyboard arrangement causes your rib cage to twist, and puts more load on your scalenes.  Who else besides accountants needs a keyboard with a built in number pad?  A Surface keyboard without a number pad should be an option.

    • Avatar

      1753

      In reply to coolpatent:

      It depends, I spend most of my time typing and entering numbers, so a decent numeric keypad is important. I find the movable one with the Sculpt okay, but it is annoying, that it keeps moving around, it doesn't help muscle memory. The mouse doesn't get used as much as the keyboard, generally. I use keyboard shortcuts where possible. If I am just using the mouse, the keyboard gets moved to the side.

      • Avatar

        4828

        In reply to wright_is:I have the sculpt keyboard as well and I found that if you place the keypad along either the left or right edge of the keyboard, it holds it in place nicely. You can slide it up or down to tweak it's position too. Seems to me this is by design, and that its not necessarily meant to be a distance from the keyboard. I like having it separate, since I primarily use it on the left side of the keyboard.

         

      • Avatar

        903

        In reply to wright_is:

        Agree about Numeric keypad.  I ended up velcro-ing mine to the side of the sculpt keyboard because of muscle memory.  It would have been nice if they used magnets so the end-user could choose to have it attached or not.

  14. Avatar

    5516

    I've been playing with the dial for about a week now. It still hasn't found it's way into my workflow yet, my biggest use is as a large volume dial. No regrets buying one though, like you said it's very innovative and I'm excited to see where developers take it.

  15. Avatar

    5767

    Accessories coming out of my ears.

  16. Avatar

    5538

    I still prefer the looks of the Sculpt Ergonimic vs the Surface. I love that split in the middle that just makes the thing look like it's floating and so futuristic looking, but I just wish it had a BT version of it. These new accessories imo look really cheap and knock offish to Mac keyboards which are aluminium vs what I believe is plastic in these things.

  17. Avatar

    427

    The dial seems like a very cool option, I just think they need one that doesn't require surface to function.  I could imagine this would be really nice for video/audio editing forward/rewind type scenarios. I understand the UI stuff popping around the dial when its on the screen and that maybe why its not supported on other devices, but this seems like a very cool way to interface with your computer and I'd love to find cool ways to use this with a non-surface machine.

    • Avatar

      364

      In reply to awright18:

      The on screen functionality only works on the studio, and I would be surprised if it didn't work with non surface pc running windows 10  as it just connects via Bluetooth and the settings for it in windows are for a wheel not specifically the surface dial, but I have yet to try mine on non surface pcs so can't be sure.

  18. Avatar

    131

    I need a "back" button on my meeces.

  19. Avatar

    1775

    >I’m surprised they don’t sell a version without a numeric keyboard...

    Possibly 'cause MS knows programs like PS make use of the extra keys.

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