Tag: Computers

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)

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Logitech MX Master 2S for Power Users

Logitech Master MX 2S - FeatureWorking with multiple computers at the same time can be cumbersome at the best of times – especially where peripheral devices are concerned.  My K760 keyboard allows me to use the same keyboard on multiple machines as does my MX Master mouse.  However, neither of these devices make it possible to work seamlessly with two computers at the same time.

“There’s always a better way and more than one solution!”

~ Versalytics.org

Logitech Master MX 2S - Front Of BoxI am typically working between my SurfaceBook Pro and MacBook Pro at the same time, especially when developing applications that need to run on both.  Even the simple task of copying files or text between them takes time that I’d rather spend doing other more productive tasks.

If you’re a power user working with more than one computer, wanting to work more efficiently and effectively, and looking to free up some precious desk space, then the Logitech MX Master 2S mouse is the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Multi-Computer Control With Logitech Flow

The new Logitech MX Master 2S mouse coupled with the Logitech Flow feature is the solution that makes working seamlessly between two or three computers connected to the same WiFi network possible.  Sharing files or data between machines is as simple as moving the mouse from one screen to the other as you would when working with two monitors connected to the same machine as shown in the video below:

Logitech Master MX 2S - Back Of BoxAside from Logitech’s flow feature, there are a number of other features and improvements that the Logitech MX Master 2S brings to the table:

  • Pair with up to 3 computers and easily switch between them using the “connect” button on the bottom of the mouse.
  • Dual connectivity makes it easy to connect to your machines using either BlueTooth or Logitech’s unifying USB receiver (included).  The unifying receiver makes it possible to connect up to 6 devices using only a single USB port.
  • Completely customizable with Logitech’s “Options” software.
  • Full button and key customization.  The mouse has 7 buttons.
  • Application specific settings.
  • Gesture Button.
  • Scroll Wheel with auto-shift for speed-adaptive scrolling.
  • Battery notification and status indicator.  Note that you can use the mouse while charging it with the included USB cable that connects to a micro-USB port on the front of the mouse.
  • 70 days of battery life on a single charge compared to 40 days with the previous generation mouse.
  • Darkfield high precision (4000 DPi) sensor that allows you to work on virtually any surface – including glass.  The nominal value is set at 1000 DPi and ranges from 200 to 4000 DPi that can be adjusted in 50 DPi increments.

Logitech Master MX 2S - Inside the BoxI like the look and feel of the Logitech MX Master 2S mouse.  The mouse fits comfortably under the palm of your hand and the finger extension over the sculpted shape feels natural and relaxed.

I’m using the Logitech MX Master 2S mouse exclusively in my home office.  All facets of our business are subject to continual improvement leading to more effective and efficient use of our most valued resource – TIME.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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5S Your Software (Computer)

We recently discussed how software skills of people in your company can impact their effectiveness and efficiency.  One of our suggestions was to provide additional training and resources to allow staff to upgrade their skill levels.

We should also mention that upgrading to the latest software release may also improve their performance.  Microsoft recently announced upgrades to their Office product line so now may be the time to “5S” your computer and install the latest software.

The Learning Curve

When the Office 2007 upgrade was introduced, many of the software interfaces that we were accustomed to were changed.  The intention of changing this interface was to make some of the more “advanced” features available to the average user.

While these intentions are admirable, we have found that many companies didn’t upgrade.  Compatibility concerns will soon become an issue as software developers desire to take advantage of the newly introduced functionality and capabilities of the latest release.

When we made the switch to 2007, admittedly there was a bit of learning curve.  The new functionality introduced by the new user interface seemed a little awkward at first, however, the effort was more than worth our time.

Although we did lose some perceived functionality in Excel, specifically with our custom menus, the newly added features have been well worth the effort to transition to the next generation of software.  This added functionality is evident by the many Function Specific books that have been written on topic such as Charting, Pivot Tables, and VBA.

Microsoft is Upgrading Again

We recently heard that Microsoft has announced yet another upgrade of the Office products to be released in the near future (if not already).  It can be increasingly difficult for software developers to support multiple versions of previous software releases.

Visual Basic for Application (VBA) programmers are more than aware that even Microsoft’s Macro Recorder does not capture all the functionality to support the features available in the 2007 Office software.

Although Excel has evolved considerably over a relatively short time, we are still surprised to find Excel 1997, 2000, 2002, and 2003 being used like they were released yesterday.

5S Your Software

Recognizing clutter in our physical environment is easy.  We don’t do a very good job when it comes to our “Digital” work space.  The Digital Dump doesn’t exist.  Even deleted files are sent to the Recycle Bin.  Increased storage capacities also make it easy to add new software without having to remove prior versions.

Retro-Compatibility sacrifices can usually be resolved in some form of work around that results in someone losing more of their valuable time.  We also carry multiple versions of Microsoft’s Office software to assure continued compatibility with prior releases and at times sacrifice features and functionality accordingly.

Sooner or later, compatibility will be compromised.  Few have ever performed a Software 5S, this may have just been one of our first times discussing it as well.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!