A Review of the Microsoft Arc Wireless Keyboard

January 22, 2011

Reviews

I literally burn through computer keyboards and mouses. I work online all day, and really give my computer peripherals a workout. I generally burn through three mouses and two keyboards a year. The best keyboard I’ve ever used is the wired Apple Aluminum– it’s performed marvelously and is very comfortable. Unfortunately, I have a Windows PC, so some of the nice functions on the Apple keyboard do not work for the PC, such as the media keys. And the number pad on the right sometimes works, sometimes does not. While I love my Apple keyboard (especially the USB ports on each side), I like to switch keyboards from time to time, as my hands need a change. So I generally rotate two keyboards at a time. It’s weird, I know, but I am on the computer for hours on end. I may not care what kind of funky personalized pencil fills my pencil cup, but don’t mess with me on the mouses and keyboards. I don’t skimp on the those babies.

I’m very fussy about the speed and comfort of my keyboards. They must have a low profile with scrabble-like keys, be FAST (my HP Wireless Elite is very nice, but it cannot keep up with my fast typing), and, if possible, be wireless. Basically, I’ve been looking for an Apple keyboard for a PC! I decided to try the Microsoft Arc Wireless keyboard.

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It is tiny, measuring slightly over 12 inches (311mm) and 6 inches (154mm). There’s no number pad to the left. I didn’t think I’d miss the number pad, as I don’t use it that much. Wrong. Before I jump into that, let me describe the MS Arc.

Besides being tiny, it’s battery-operated– wireless. The keyboard comes with a small wireless dongle and two small batteries. It’s very easy to pop everything in and get going.

The keys are nice– not too spongy and not too tough. The keys make muted clicks as I type, not very noticeable and not unpleasant. The keyboard is shaped in an “arc”: it rises in the center slightly.

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Four small pads support the keyboard and raise it slightly off the surface of the desk. I suppose it would be a nice feature if my desk were flat, but it’s not. The keyboard wobbles as I type, and it’s REALLY really annoying.

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I’ve tried pressing in the little black pads, and partially pulling them out, to adjust the wobble. No go. So I finally laid a rubber mat on my desk and placed the keyboard on top of that. That has removed the wobble, but now my desk looks goofy with the rubbery placemat on it.

After the initial shock of how really tiny the thing is, I’ve weighed the pros and cons. Here are the most noticeable features that I found:

Wireless with small footprint
The wireless connection is a real plus, and seems very strong. The keyboard is small. I like that it’s small– I can move it anywhere on the desk and it fits and it stays connected. I have a cat that loves to sit on my desk, right in front of my monitor on top of my keyboard. With the MS Arc, I can at least move the thing to another part of my desk before kitty deletes my work.

Attention2

Tiny Keys
The keys are tiny, and crammed together a little too close for comfort. I have small hands, sure, but this is pretty tiny. If you are a man with monster palms, pass over this keyboard. You’re fingers will be in knots. Ladies, if you want a small keyboard, this is it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a tiny one (except on a netbook). The key layout is different, too– the “Home” and “End” buttons are at the top, in the same row as the Function keys. Also, Microsoft says you can turn the keyboard on and off by pressing the “escape” and “Functon” key. That isn’t working for me. I can’t figure out how to turn the dang thing off. There’s supposed to be a little green light that tells you when it’s on or off.. but the light isn’t showing at all for me.

The Arrow Key sucks
Is it just me? I use the arrow keys a lot. I thought I could do without a right-hand number pad… boy, was I wrong. I use the arrow keys ALL the time. This is the MS Arc arrow key.

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Pretty lame. I wouldn’t have minded a keyboard a little larger to accommodate full keys for each arrow.

Dust and Fingerprint Magnet
The keyboard is a glossy black. Dust collects on it easily, and if you’re looking to fool Sherlock Holmes, look for another keyboard. The thing is a fingerprint magnet. If you noticed the cat in the picture above, she’s got white hair. So after a day of activity, the keyboard looks like a Chia Pet.

Fast and Responsive
So far, the keyboard has been able to keep up with my high-speed bursts of typing. I’m a hunter-and-pecker, but I can move pretty quickly at 70-80 wpm or more, at times. The keyboard experiences no delay, and the keys are strong and very responsive to touch.

Expensive
The Microsoft Arc sells retail $50. I think that’s much too expensive for this keyboard. It’s HALF the size of some of the big whoppers, and you can get a far superior wireless Apple Aluminum for only $20, $30 more.

The Bottom Line
The Microsoft Arc is OK. The keys are just as I like them– low-profile and easy to press. But the crammed key spacing, the funky arrow key, the annoying wobble, and inability to turn the power on and off is a real detriment. The cost at $50 is to much to pay for a keyboard that is simply “OK.” Unless you are looking for the ultimate in tiny desktop wireless keyboards, you may be better off saving some money and going with another product.

Now, I do tend to like Microsoft products, even though they are expensive (when they are made well, of course). Of all the different mouses I have tried, I like the MS wireless 4000 best (I just ordered two more for my collection, haha!). And my husband uses a Microsoft keyboard for his computer, and likes it enough. I probably wouldn’t go so far as to sell MS promotional pens or be a geek with touting Windows GOPromos promotional items… but Microsoft does make some good stuff. I know, I know, they are the company everyone is supposed to hate, right? Well, I do dislike many things about the company but I think they make good mouses and a few good keyboards. I wish they’d drop their prices, though. The stuff ain’t THAT good.

Note: This is not a paid review.

Update: I did finally figure out how to turn the keyboard on and off. Press the “Esc” and “Function” keys for a few seconds. Unfortunately, this is not clear on the Microsoft website, as all they say is “Press function + escape to easily turn the keyboard on and off.” You have to press AND hold the keys.

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4 Responses to “A Review of the Microsoft Arc Wireless Keyboard”

  1. Penny Raine Says:

    other than the apple one, which keyboard would you say is the best? mine is not working right!!! it does not have to be wireless

  2. Rebecca Says:

    Hi Penny. The Apple one is best. You can find used ones on eBay, just make sure they are sold in excellent condition.

    I like the HP Wireless Elite. It cost me about $40. It’s wireless. It’s very comfortable to use.

    If you have small hands and want a small keyboard, this Microsoft Arc may be OK for you.

    Before getting a new keyboard, I go to my local Best Buy and try a few out. Then, I order online. 😀

  3. lin Says:

    Do you really go through that many keyboards and mice???! Yikes! You are an expensive woman! 😉

  4. Rebecca Says:

    *hands over face* I do! I do go through them so fast! I am addicted to mice, I am! I admit it! I have about two dozen stashed in boxes throughout the house because I just can’t bear to throw them away! Sometimes I take them apart and see how they are built. 😀 Yeah, they are expensive. I’m trying to cut back, honest I am!