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Microsoft Arc Keyboard (Review)
April 20, 2010 12:40 PM

Microsoft has never had a problem turning out innovative, functional products. However, they haven’t always been notoriously artistic with their hardware. Apple’s products have a level of aesthetics that give them an upper hand in the market unparalleled by their competitors. Companies have been coming to terms in the past few years with the fact that there’s a new generation of consumers who are addicted to sleek and flashy technology. It has became apparent to them that a product’s visual appeal that could give them advantage in sales. The Arc Keyboard is one of Microsoft’s latest devices that focuses on portability and convenience while maintaining the sleekest look that a keyboard could possibly have.

Microsoft Arc Keyboard Specs:

  • Dimensions: 12.2’’ x 6.06’’
  • Transceiver: Nano USB Device
  • Connectivity: 2.4 GHz Wireless
  • Compatibility: Windows 7, Vista, and XP | Mac OS X
  • MSRP: $59.99

Body & Design
Microsoft created the Arc Keyboard with one thing in mind: to make this keyboard as sexy as possible. Its innovative shape and overly glossy coat gives this product a shine that seduces users almost immediately. The Arc’s total size is no wider than a typical laptop keyboard and just about the length of a netbook. Its arc-like shape gives the device its nickname as well as provides the user with a natural feel as they type. The keyboard contains all the usual laptop commands, with the top row reserved for function and media keys. Unfortunately it does not feature a number pad. These keys are surprisingly large, and are close to the same size as those on a regular keyboard. This feature, although not proportional, is a tremendous plus for users who are otherwise frustrated with the minuscule size of typical netbook keys. There is no denying that the Arc Keyboard is impressive, managing to be one of the smallest and lightest devices of its kind while still looking amazing. However, there is no way to overlook the one near-fatal flaw in its design—the direction pad.

The Direction Pad
I’m dedicating an entire section to this frustration just because of how much it truly hinders this product from achieving greatness. Microsoft decided that it would be a great idea to just go ahead and throw out the direction keys. Apparently in the early stages of designing the Arc Keyboard it was just too much to keep the four, helpless keys during the scaling-down process. They have instead been replaced by a direction pad, as you can see in the images. This pad is awfully reminiscent of a cross between those on older cell phones and the D-pad of a Sega Genesis controller. If you don’t see this as a “big deal” now, you will immediately realize just how dependent you are on the arrow keys after using this product. You will also notice the overextended right-shift and alt keys which fill in the space vacated by the removal of the direction pad. There is no reason, therefore, why the arrow keys were removed for a smaller device, further user convenience, or otherwise. A consumer usually likes to use his or her keyboard for typing, not texting. I will admit, ranting aside, this does not ruin the device overall, but it does limit it greatly in terms of use and purpose.

Function & Use
The Arc Keyboard is not meant for a desktop in any way. As expected, its small size and direction key situation limits just how much can be done with it. It should not be used for writing any great American novels, indulging in video games, or strenuous, long-term use of any kind. It does have uses where it becomes extremely convenient and entertaining to own the affordable Arc Keyboard, however.  I use the word “entertaining” because it can actually be fun to use. The stature and build invite the user to rest this product on their lap while they type away. This characteristic means that it couldn’t be easier to sit across from your tech-savvy home theater and have complete media control. This does leave question, though, as to why such a limited amount of media keys were provided—a whopping three. It’s definitely meant more for searching and browsing on your media center. This product is also best put to use when frequently traveling due to its portability and comfort. The Arc Keyboard is one of the nicest and most affordable replacements for a consumer who is tired of hunching over his or her laptop or netbook to type. Just remember that it is not meant to be a full-time replacement.

Portability & Comfort
The Microsoft Arc Keyboard is extremely comfortable and even more portable. It comes with, ironically, quite the ugly carrying case that can be taken everywhere and anywhere. The USB nano-transceiver that latches magnetically unto the underbelly of the device is fantastic, and similar to that used by Microsoft’s Arc Mouse . The common expectation is that the transceiver stays out of the way and out of site, which this one definitely does. The users’ hands feel comfortable when typing on a desk, your lap, or virtually anywhere else accessible to them. There is also the fact that you will be showing anyone you can just how “cool” your shiny new keyboard is, both because of how great it looks and because how fun it is figuring out how many different ways you can use the Arc Keyboard. With that said, get ready to see your $60 lose its shine. It’s glossy to the point that it becomes a virtual magnet for fingerprints and other mysterious markings. In the end, the keyboard is as portable and comfortable as it gets for the price and then some, but prospective buyers should be aware that it will need a lot of attention to keep clean and beautiful.

White & Lime Model
Were you one of the many who thought that the Black Microsoft Arc Keyboard was as gorgeous as it got? You may be forced to think again when you hear Microsoft’s announcement for the new White Arc Keyboard model with lime accents. Utilizing the popularity of the original device, Microsoft has decided to re-release it in a brand new model. Mimicking Apple’s go-to strategy with successful products, Microsoft opes that this new color scheme will attract new consumers who weren’t already won over by the original Black model. This entire ordeal does leave question as to what is more important in today’s market—quality or looks. In today’s market, looks seem to have the lead over quality with an unfortunately large number of gadgets. The Arc Keyboard overall is a great example of the current generation of technology as the prime focus of making this device was to enhance the style and feel while holding back in functionality.

Bottom Line
The Arc Keyboard is widely popular and well-appreciated by those who have already purchased it, which is understandable. It is so light and portable that people on the go will get the most use out of this. The size of the keys are better than average and it ends up feeling better than one would expect from a mini keyboard. The Arc keyboard can even be put to good use if you’re just sick of needing more legroom when using your laptop, netbook, or wireless devices. With all that said, there is no way it will replace the role of a full-time desktop keyboard: there are just too many problems with the way it’s put together. Limited media keys are just the beginning and the misery-inducing direction pad is where it ends. You become anxious at times maneuvering your way around a document with the D-pad, as it can be difficult to move in one direction at a time. You aren’t going to be getting a top quality keyboard from this device by any means. Instead you will be getting for $60 a good miniature keyboard intended for casual and traveling use that’s attractive enough to keep you coming back for more.

Buy: Black Arc Keyboard | White & Lime Model
Links: Arc Keyboard

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