Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard review: Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard

Microsoft's rationale for the large, bisected spacebar comes from its own research. It explains as follows:

This design choice is the result of internal research that showed 90 percent of typists use only their right thumb to press the spacebar, leaving a lot of unused real estate on the left side of the bar. Research also showed the backspace key is the third most pressed key on the keyboard -- behind the spacebar itself and the letter "e" -- but constantly striking backspace breaks a person's typing stride because of its location on the top right-hand corner of the keyboard.

Simply hold down both the left and right spacebar keys to toggle the left-side assignment between "space" and Backspace. And while I can't necessarily disagree with Microsoft's research findings, as a lifelong touch typist I also can't say "the Backspace problem" has ever really bothered me. Microsoft wisely allows you to adjust the function of the left-side spacebar on the fly. I had it set to Backspace mode throughout the writing of this review, and as much as I tried to remember to use it, I never felt the need. It might pay off in a few extra words per minute if you thoroughly retrain yourself -- stenographers, take note -- but overall the reimagined spacebar is more experimental novelty than compelling innovation.

This switch lets you lock the top row of keys into function or hot-key mode.
This switch lets you lock the top row of keys into function or hot-key mode. Sarah Tew/CNET

Along with the tweaked design, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard comes with some useful features for Windows 8 users. As we saw on the Wedge Mobile Keyboard , Microsoft has superimposed four Windows 8-specific hot keys -- Search, Share, Devices, and Settings -- over a set of the top-row function keys. If you'd rather just have traditional "F" keys, a useful switch lets you lock the top buttons into either hot-key or function-key mode. The new Windows key, bearing Microsoft's redesigned Windows logo, lets Windows 8 users swap between the new Windows 8 tile interface and the current active window. In older versions of Windows, the new Windows key opens the Start menu.

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