It’s rare that I write specifically about some generic product, but in this instance I thought I would. Given that I type quite a lot, a keyboard that allows me type effectively and comfortably is rather important. So I thought I’d give my views on my new keyboard, as I recently had to replace my current one and found it quite difficult to find something suitable. Over many years, ever since personal computers were first introduced into the workplace and I had to learn to type all of my own documents, a keyboard has been a large part of my working life. I’ve seen many keyboards come and go over those years, both in the workplace and at home, and while the keyboard layout has remained much the same, the style of keyboards have certainly had their variations. The early keyboards were all mechanical, with a solid clickety clack sound and feel with each keystroke, to the near silent chiclet keyboards found most notably on laptops. The name chiclet comes from an American chewing gum, which the keys on such keyboards resemble.
As I noted, I’ve gone through many variations of keyboards over these years and the changes have always had to do with either the keyboard wearing out or the connection becoming obsolete or obsolescent as new PCs were acquired. The earliest keyboard connectors were called PS/2 ports and I think I may still have one of those keyboards stored somewhere and I certainly have a few adapters lying around that allowed you to use these keyboards with newer systems using USB ports. As these keyboards wore out, I naturally moved to USB keyboards and tried a number of variations over the years. The variations came about as keyboards became a standard accessory with any new desktop PC and while some were good, others were not so good. Quality of materials and keyboard feel generally had a lot to do with the functionality of the keyboard and it’s surprising how much variation there came be with what is a relatively standard and ubiquitous device.
Following USB keyboards, there evolved the wireless keyboard, using either Bluetooth or WiFi to connect to the PC. These were OK in a way and connecting to a PC wasn’t a big deal, with the operating systems now well attuned to wireless devices. The downside of many of these devices was twofold. Firstly, in the earlier or cheaper models, you needed to attach a wireless dongle to the USB port of your PC to act as a small wireless transmitter, some of which could be kind of flaky and needed to be attached to the front of the PC for them to work reliably. The second downfall was the requirement to install batteries in the keyboard which always tended to be used up in quick order. For this reason, I’ve always preferred wired keyboards, as they didn’t need batteries and the cable could be attached to the rear of the PC and be out of the way. But as time progressed, it’s become far more difficult to get good keyboards that are wired, as everything nowadays has to be wireless. You often don’t even have the option of attaching a USB charging cable if you so wanted. I’m sure that the battery manufacturers must love this.
Now on several occasions I’ve done away with a desktop PC and chosen to use a laptop as my main PC. The first time was when Acer introduced a laptop with a 17″ screen (or it may have been 19″) that rivalled the monitors that came with PCs of the day. The Acer was a behemoth of a laptop, weighing in around 7kg or so from memory, but was a very nice PC to use nonetheless. My latest ‘desktop’ is now an MSI gaming laptop and has a 17″ screen and is quite a powerhouse of a computer, which I use for photo and video editing without issue. But because of the way that I work, I prefer to have a separate keyboard and not use the one on the laptop and so I’ve been using a Microsoft wired keyboard for some years. But that keyboard has seen better days and in my desktop setup was taking up a lot of space. So I decided that it was time to look for a replacement.
One major frustration of mine has been keyboards that use maybe 1/4 of the keyboard surface area for their letters and numbers and often placed off to one corner rather than in the centre. My MSI laptop actually has the most legible keys that I’ve ever seen on a keyboard and Microsoft keyboards have generally gotten this right as well. Now I’m no touch typist but I can still type reasonably fast; however, even after many years of typing, I still have to often look at the keyboard while typing as I just feel more comfortable doing it that way. So when my Microsoft keyboard started to show its age, I went looking at reviews on keyboards to see what was available in the latest designs. What became increasingly obvious was that the keyboard industry was significantly focussed on gamers. At a guess, 99.9% of all the reviews that I came across were about gaming keyboards, with lots of LED backlighting options (why?).
It was actually pretty difficult to find any keyboard reviews dedicated to typing. Even those purporting to be about typing keyboards, all tended to default to gaming reviews at some point. It was by chance then that I came across a review of the Microsoft Designer Keyboard and Mouse. The Microsoft Designer Keyboard and Mouse is a Bluetooth and battery only driven system and that was initially a downer for me. But the more that I searched on this particular keyboard, the more it sounded as if it might be ideal, notwithstanding that it wasn’t a wired keyboard. A big plus on the Bluetooth side was that it didn’t require a separate transmitter to work (same for the mouse), as both could connect to a Windows PC directly. With some reservation, I ended up ordering one and hoped it wasn’t a mistake. When it finally arrived, I was most surprised at how small the keyboard was, it could easily have been lifted off a laptop and when sitting on top of my laptop you could be mistaken for thinking it’s part of the laptop. This is a benefit actually, as the old Microsoft keyboard took up more space on my desk that I liked and the Designer keyboard sits very nicely in front of my laptop. But what’s really surprising is that the feel of the keys when typing is extremely tactile and quite nice to use.
There are no coloured lights on this keyboard, no fancy dials or controls, just a well laid out set of keys for those who just want to type. The only thing that would have perhaps been nice is for the number pad to have a slight separation from the main keys, somewhat like the number pad on my laptop. This could have been achieved by making the number keys just a little narrower and yet not lose any of their functionality. I have to say that after several weeks of use, I’ve come to like this keyboard very much and can certainly recommend it to anyone who just wants a good typing keyboard. How long the batteries will last is anyone’s guess, but one video review indicated that they should last a year. If so, I won’t complain. The mouse that comes with the keyboard is also very good and while I’ll still be using my Kensington Trackball Mouse, the Microsoft mouse will come in handy with DaVinci Resolve where the scroll wheel can be used for some functions.
Are there any issues? Just a couple. The first one is the fact that the keyboard will go to sleep to conserve battery power and it can sometimes take some seconds for it to wake up. This can be annoying when you start typing and nothing happens, then suddenly it does. The other issue, which has arisen once in a while is that the keyboard becomes completely unresponsive and I have to run a troubleshoot to fix a Bluetooth connection failure. This is really a Windows 10 issue, but highlights the issues with wireless devices. But, all in all, I’m very happy with the Microsoft Designer Keyboard and Mouse and certainly can recommend it to those who don’t play games.