First Look: Microsoft Arc keyboard is stylish, user-friendly

Following the success of the Microsoft Arc Mouse that we positively reviewed, the company rolls out the equally attractive wireless Arc Keyboard. It's touted as having "style that works," and we couldn't resist getting our hands on this shiny black object to see if it delivers on that promise.

The 12" x 6" wireless keyboard is remarkably small. We were slightly disappointed to discover that its arched design is just for looks, because the bottom is still flat. It doesn't partially wrap itself around your knee like you'd think, but its gently arched keys make for easy typing. Their spacing is close to that of a full-sized keyboard, and its key travel is slightly shallower, but still feels great. We also like its soft and quiet typing; if you like clickety-clackety-style keyboards, this one's not for you.

Saving space is a four-way directional arrow on the bottom right instead of the traditional four keys for directional control. Unfortunately, its shiny piano black surface is too easily smudged with fingerprints. And, if this is supposed to be a design-centric product, why isn't it available in colors to match the Microsoft Arc mice? Unless you have the black Arc Mouse, color matching is not going to happen, at least not yet.

Like its Arc Mouse sister, the Arc Keyboard runs on a pair of AAA batteries, and has a USB transceiver (let's just call it a dongle) that attaches to a small magnetic recessed area underneath when it's not in use. But this dongle is improved. It's a whole lot smaller — the tiniest one we've ever seen. Because it uses the 2.4GHz wireless band instead of Bluetooth, there's no "pairing" nonsense to deal with — as soon as we plugged it into our Windows 7 laptop, the keyboard was working and ready to go, and the typing was instantly responsive. We wish all wireless products worked this way.

Too bad the diminutive yet powerful USB dongle doesn't also accommodate our Arc Mouse — you'll still have to plug in its dongle, too. Despite its puny size, the dongle has surprisingly long range, working well beyond the 30-foot spec claimed by Microsoft. It even transmitted through a couple of walls. This would be an appropriate keyboard for a home theater PC.

The Microsoft Arc keyboard is pricey but you get your money's worth. It's just as easy to use as a full-sized keyboard, and its stylish good looks work well at home or on the road. Kudos to the team responsible for designing this unusual object, accomplishing their goal of making it fit in with any décor. It's available next month for $59.95.

Via Microsoft