Microsoft Modern Keyboard: Australian Review

Image: Microsoft

The way we interact with the internet has advanced rapidly in the past decade. For some, plucking out a smartphone and asking a virtual assistant for advice has become the norm, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to consign the humble keyboard to the depths of history any time soon.

Microsoft’s Modern Keyboard shows how far you can take a simple desktop keyboard, if you’re willing to pay for it.

The Modern Keyboard is a wireless aluminium keyboard specifically designed for Windows 10 systems that comes with a range of dedicated keys built around the Windows 10 experience. It certainly fits the clean, grey look of recent Microsoft Surface products and doesn’t seem out of place in front of a Surface Pro or Surface Laptop with its low profile and soft curved edges. It does have a very similar design and profile to Apple's Magic Keyboard - and that's not a knock.

The dedicated keys across the top of the keyboard include built-in shortcuts to the usual: playback controls, brightness etc but also things like Windows Settings, the Action Centre and the Calculator. Sadly, they cannot be programmed to do as you please, but they provide all the shortcuts that you’re likely to use on a day-to-day basis, so this isn’t a huge concern. The chiclet keys themselves feel good under hand, and seem to have slightly more travel time and a slightly better click on them than my Surface Laptop keys do. I liked that.

Just off to the right of the right-hand Alt key is the Modern Keyboard’s Big Money Feature: The Fingerprint Scanner. By registering your fingerprint with Windows Hello, you can sign into your PC without bashing the keys. You’ll need to give the scanner a fair few presses during set up and allow it to take all different angles from your chosen finger first, though. I found that using a forefinger was awkward (it worked, it just didn’t feel right), but using my thumb was ideal.

There were only a few instances where signing in with the print just wouldn’t work and when starting up my PC in the morning, there’s always a noticeable couple of seconds between the keyboard silently waking and registering what I am trying to do.

Image: Microsoft

Upon plucking the keyboard from its box, you need to plug it into your Windows 10 machine with the supplied micro-USB cable. This will connect it to your Bluetooth and then you’re good to go. In the month or so that I’ve been fiddling with the unit, the Bluetooth connection has been completely stable. I haven’t had to go through the rigmarole of reconnecting, which is a great thing, considering some of the issues I’ve had with Bluetooth keyboards in the past - but

Battery life is rated for four months off a single charge, which is admirable without being mind-blowing. I haven't had the time to run it dry, so I can’t comment on any specifics there – only to say that it certainly has lasted more than a month of eight hour usage, five days a week.

It’ll only be when you come to open your wallet that a real question bursts forth like it’s emerging from an Alien egg and latches onto your brain.

What exactly am I paying for that I can’t get with other keyboards?

That's a good question and one that should definitely factor into your thinking when plonking $209.95 down to take the keyboard home. The price point really positions it as a be-all, end-all type of keyboard, but there's little separating this from, say, Logitech's K800 which retails for around $50 cheaper. Sure, it doesn't quite demand the attention that the striking, low profile Modern Keyboard does, but for devices that you use everyday without too much thought... how much will that matter? Perhaps the more pertinent comparison is between the Modern Keyboard and something like the Logitech Craft, which is around $30 more expensive.

It's all about the framing then and how the Modern Keyboard and its Fingerprint Scanner can best fit into your work or home setup. For anyone not using Windows 10, it's not worth giving the Modern Keyboard a second look. For others, who already uses Windows 10 at home and at work and have a suite of Microsoft products that the Keyboard can complement, it's a great addition to those desks.

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