First Impressions: Microsoft Surface Accessories (Late 2016)

Posted on December 22, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Microsoft Surface with 31 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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