Category: Keyboards

Give Your Fingers a Break

If everyday typing or keyboarding were a professional sport, we would be more inclined to pay attention to the keyboard at our finger tips. Does the quality of our keyboard affect or influence our efficiency and performance?

Gamers will spend hundreds of dollars on a keyboard to get the slightest edge over their competitors. Look and feel, layout, spacing, travel, shape, switch timing, macro keys, and key combinations can be the difference between winning and losing.

Many of us don’t view activities like programming, writing emails or reports, blogging, and working with spreadsheets, with the same degree of vigour and ambition. I doubt few of us would even begin to appreciate the technology behind one switching mechanism and the advantage it may have over another.

In the beginning …

We used manual typewriters in my grade nine high school typing class. A black ribbon fed between two spools with every long and forceful keystroke. I recall doing numerous exercises to give our “pinky” fingers an extra strength-building workout.

My grade 10 typing class was much more enjoyable as we moved on to electric machines. No more finger workouts, just focus on the task at hand – typing. My fingers could fly effortlessly across the keyboard.

The differences between manual and electric typewriters are many and quite obvious, even to the untrained eye. My typing speed increased dramatically using the electric machine. Achieving 140 words per minute is one of my more memorable achievements.

Just as notable are the physical and ergonomic benefits of the electric typewriter. By the time I finished high school and went on to college, computers began to appear and became an integral part of how we work. Any frustrations or efficiency issues I had with keyboards at the time seemed to all but disappear.

All was good until the IBM PC, and Compaq computers, among others, entered the workplace. Time to choose between the tactile feel of the PC and the soft mushy feel of the Compaq keyboard. Today’s computers and devices have brought a whole new realm of keyboard technologies along with them.

What Keyboards do I Use?

Logitech CRAFT

I use Logitech’s CRAFT keyboard on my home desktop. This is my favourite “third party” keyboard by far, and the flow technology coupled with my MAX Master 2S mouse allows me to switch between three devices on the fly.

Logitech K750

When I’m on the road, I use Logitech’s K750 Solar keyboard. I like the look and feel of this keyboard, USB or Bluetooth connectivity, and I never have to worry about batteries. Yes, I could use the keyboard on my client’s machines, but I prefer to work with my own keyboard and mouse, especially as the cold and flu season approaches.

Logitech K760

Logitech’s K760 solar keyboard is also a frequent traveller, especially when I’m working with multiple Bluetooth devices. While this keyboard lacks the convenience of the extended layout, the smaller footprint makes it easier to take with me where space is a concern. I have been using this keyboard and the K750 pictured above for quite a few years without issue.

Brydge 12. Pro 128

The Brydge 12.3 Pro 128 is the perfect match for my SurfacePro and is almost a twin to my MacBook Pro keyboard. The integrated SSD drive is a welcome added convenience. This keyboard looks great and carries well, although its much thicker than Microsoft’s SurfacePro keyboard offering.

As much as I like the minimalistic design of Microsoft’s SurfacePro keyboard, it is flimsy and tends to bounce if I get too aggressive with my keystrokes. While it’s great for traveling, I prefer something with a more substantial base when I’m working at a desk.

You may be wondering if I’ve ever been pleased with a keyboard that came with the computer. When it comes to laptops, the keyboard is one of the criteria I use in my selection. My 15″ MacBook Pro keyboard is the standard by which all others are measured.

The Republic of Gamers ROG Claymore is my keyboard of choice for gaming though I have very little time to play them. For an added touch of ingenuity, ROG SYNC also has synchronized lighting effects, fan speed control, and CPU temperature monitoring when connected to my ROG laptop.

Does your keyboard matter to you?

We each have our favourites and personal tastes. Some may not even think twice about their keyboard. As for me, I appreciate the experience a quiet, highly responsive, quality keyboard can bring. Of course we must always be mindful of the price we pay for the value we receive.

Whether a performance advantage or efficiency gain exists is subject to opinion. When I consider how many hours my fingers spend typing away at a keyboard, I give them a break and reward them with the best experience I can.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Versalytics
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Review – Microsoft Surface Keyboard

Microsoft Surface Keyboard - Unopened Box

Background

Everyone has a preference when it comes to keyboards. I know I do.  I’m a long time user of Logitech’s Solar K750 (USB) and K760 (Bluetooth) keyboards and I’m very happy with them. While the materials used in their construction are primarily plastic, they are sleek, well-crafted keyboards and I don’t have to worry about changing the batteries in the short term.

Logitech K760 KeyboardAlthough it doesn’t have a fully extended keyboard layout, the Logitech K760 is one of my personal favourites. I can connect it with any one of 3 devices and switch between them with the simple press of a function key. One keyboard for my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro.

The profiles of all the Logitech Solar keyboards are minimal and rival those of any competitor. Lightweight, thin, and battery-free. With all this praise for Logitech’s keyboards, you may be wondering why I decided to take a look at the Microsoft Surface keyboard.

Why Change?

As I’ve said many times before, there’s always a better way and more than one solution. I watched and read a number of compelling reviews of Microsoft’s Surface Keyboard.  One reviewer claims he was typing at 105 words per minute and can now type up to 130 words per minute consistently. The reviewer also states the keys are quieter.

Aside from the minimalistic design of the keyboard, faster and quieter were two key (no pun intended) points that sparked my interest to find out just how good this keyboard is. I’m not a fan of battery powered keyboards but the benefit of having a quieter and more efficient typing experience may be worth the compromise. I decided to take a closer look at the Microsoft Surface keyboard.MicrosoftSurfaceKeyboardOpenBox

The footprint of the Microsoft Surface keyboard is minimal (420.90 mm x 112.60 mm x 19.30 mm high), requiring only enough space to accommodate the extended keyboard layout. The keyboard’s Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology has a range of 7 to 15 meters, depending on your location, and makes connecting to your computer quick and easy.

Setting up the keyboard

Remove the keyboard from the box and remove the plastic ribbon that extends from under the magnetic battery cap on the rear of the keyboard. The battery cover is easily removed by pulling it away from the keyboard.

To pair the keyboard with your computer, simply press the “Bluetooth” button on the left end of the rear support bar for at least 3 seconds. A flashing light will appear above the “up arrow” key indicating the keyboard is ready to pair with your computer.

Microsoft Surface Keyboard ConnectedOn your computer, go to Windows Settings and select “Devices – Bluetooth, printers, mouse”. Click on the Bluetooth option and, when the “Manage Bluetooth devices” screen appears, click on the “Microsoft Surface Keyboard” icon. Using the Microsoft Surface keyboard, enter the password that appears on the screen.  Once paired, the keyboard’s device driver software installs automatically and the keyboard is ready to use.

First impressions

The angle of the keyboard, key spacing, and key travel make this keyboard quite comfortable to use. The key tops are relatively flat compared to my Logitech K750, but the fingers settle quite nicely as they should. Of course, your typing speed depends on your typing skills and ultimately how fast you can move your fingers.

Did my typing performance improve? I tested my typing speed using an online speed test and there was no measurable difference when using the Microsoft Surface keyboard or the Logitech K750 or K760 keyboards.

Finger movement across the keyboard is fluid though slightly more effort is required to strike the keys as compared to my Logitech keyboards. The difference is slight and may be less noticeable as I become accustomed to using this new keyboard.

Is the keyboard quieter? The tone of the key presses on the Microsoft Surface keyboard is lower pitched and the keys don’t “clack” as much when compared to my Logitech keyboards.  This may also be a factor of the keyboard’s inherent resonance by design and the materials used in its construction.

The keyboard feels solid thanks to the aluminum top and full-length contact between the base of the keyboard and my desk. A full-length rubber grip strip under the front of the keyboard and two shorter length grip strips along the rear support bar prevent the keyboard from slipping and also serve to prevent scratching your desktop.

The keyboard is not backlit but shift indicator lights appear on the Fn, Caps, ScrLk, and NumLk keys. My fingers know their way around a keyboard so backlighting isn’t an issue and the “F” and “J” keys have small raised bars making the “home row” easy to find.

The “Fn” key makes it easy to toggle or set which function key features are active. When the light is on, the function keys behave normally as F1 … F12. When the light is off, the “icon” features become the active function key behaviour.

The insert key does not have a shift state indicator light and there are times I wish it did. Most software applications will change the shape or size of the cursor to indicate whether you are inserting or overwriting text, however, this is not always the case.  I really can’t complain because other keyboards lack this feature as well.

The only concerns I have with the Microsoft Surface keyboard – at this time anyway – have to do with the power source. I don’t like batteries due to their potential impact on the environment. The Microsoft Surface keyboard is powered by two ‘AAA’ batteries that, according to the box, will last at least 12 months.

If the power source is limited by design, the least Microsoft could do is follow the footsteps of others like Apple or Logitech and provide a power status indicator. Always having to carry spare batteries is another of my pet peeves with portable with keyboards.

There is no disclaimer as to the type of batteries that can be used, so rechargeable batteries may be an option. A USB charging port to an internal battery may even prove to be a better option in the long run.

I knew the keyboard didn’t have the best of power options when I bought it so I really can’t spend a lot of time festering over it. However, considering the price of this keyboard, I was expecting more.

At $129.99 CAD the Microsoft keyboard carries a hefty price tag and is considerably more expensive than Logitech’s keyboards selling in the $75-$80.00 CAD range.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with the construction of the Microsoft Surface keyboard and intend to keep using it – at least until the batteries run out. As for the price, I find it relatively steep when compared to my Logitech keyboards and the performance is not necessarily worth the extra money.

The Microsoft Surface keyboard does not deliver the value for the money when other “as capable” keyboards are available at much lower prices.

Related Articles and Resources

Typing Trainer – 100% Free Online Typing Tutor for Everyone

Microsoft Surface Keyboard Review – My New Favourite – The Tech Chap (Video)

Microsoft Surface Keyboard – A Modern Looking Office Keyboard – Saleh Tech.

Hands-On with Microsoft Surface Keyboard and Surface Ergonomic Keyboard – The Mac Observer (Video)

Simply the best – Logitech’s Craft Keyboard

Craft Keyboard BoxI pre-ordered Logitech’s Craft Keyboard several weeks ago and it just arrived – a week earlier than expected!  The Craft Keyboard is compatible with Logitech’s FLOW technology and is a perfect companion to my MX Master 2S mouse.

I use computers extensively in my line of work and I’m always looking for the ultimate keyboard experience.  I was also looking for a single solution that would allow me to work on more than one machine using the same keyboard and mouse.

Logitech’s Craft keyboard coupled with the MX Master 2S mouse and Logitech’s FLOW software technology is the answer to that quest.  I can now work seamlessly between my SurfaceBook Pro and MacBook Pro machines all while using the same keyboard and mouse.  The keys on the Craft keyboard are labeled for both PC and MAC machines.

IMG_4564The top left dial, referred to as the CROWN, is one of the unique features of the Craft keyboard.  The CROWN presents either a smooth or ratchet style feel when turned depending on the current context of the application.

The touch sensitive CROWN integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office, Adobe, and other applications.  Even browsing the web is a slightly enhanced experience.  You can perform context specific tasks from within an application by simply tapping, pressing and / or turning the CROWN.

As a premium keyboard, my expectations were high and for the most part, Logitech has delivered .  The Craft keyboard provides the best typing experience of any keyboard I have literally had the opportunity to lay my hands on.  The backlit keys are very quiet, highly responsive, and require minimal travel and effort to actuate.  The tops of the keys are slightly concave and your fingers naturally settle into them.

F6-F7 Backlight BrightnessThe backlit keys turn on immediately as your hands approach the keyboard and turn off approximately 5 seconds after you move them away.  You can use the F6 and F7 function keys to decrease or increase the brightness level of the backlit keys respectively.  There are 15 levels.  This is worth noting as the backlit keys work regardless of the ambient light levels in the room.

Simultaneously pressing the “fn” and “esc” keys toggles the shift state of the function keys between standard and assigned features.  The assigned function key features can be repurposed to perform a variety of tasks using Logitech’s Options software.

Visit Logitech’s web page for a complete review of the Craft Keyboard’s many features and capabilities.  I ordered my keyboard directly from the site and I’m extremely pleased with my purchase.

Craft Advanced Keyboard.jpg

Although the Craft keyboard carries a steep price tag, when I consider the many hours that I spend working on my computers, the quality of the keyboard itself, and the new found real estate on my desk top, it’s worth every penny.

 

Increased productivity and creativity are just two of many reasons that make Logitech’s Craft Keyboard my new keyboard of choice.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

VersalyticsRelated Resources

Logitech’s Craft keyboard offers premium typing with big bonuses, Darrel Etherington, TechCrunch.com

Logitech Craft Keyboard – Review, Curt Blanchard, mymac.com

This Dial Controls Everything! – Logitech Craft keyboard, Hardware Canucks

MX Master 2S Mouse (Versalytics.org)