The compact, wireless Microsoft Arc Keyboard is aimed squarely at home users. With its sleek curves and understated aesthetic, it's built to blend in. This keyboard also aims to deliver a comfortable and portable typing experience, and will set you back around £40.
The Arc communicates with your computer via a 2.4GHz wireless transceiver that plugs into a USB socket. The transceiver itself is powered by two AAA batteries, housed in the Arc's underside. It snaps magnetically into a slot next to the battery housing for storage and transport purposes.
Plugging the transceiver into your computer will install the necessary drivers on your machine. No awkward software is required, and there's no driver disc to clutter up your desk's drawers. Installation takes only a few seconds, and then the Arc is ready to go. We were impressed with the speedy set-up, which takes the hassle out of using the Arc on multiple machines. If you prefer to tinker with the keyboard's functionality, the IntelliType Pro software, available from Microsoft's Web site, will let you reassign certain keys, and alter features such as the speed at which a character is repeated when you hold down a key.
Curves in all the right places
The Arc's distinctive, curved shape is designed to make typing comfortable on a small keypad. The design means you're unlikely to find your fingers competing for space, and, mercifully, no keys have been shifted into bizarre positions in an attempt to build a more ergonomic keyboard.
The keys themselves are extremely comfortable, with a pleasant spring to them that means you can type speedily and accurately. There's very little rattle, so you're unlikely to drive co-workers or family members wild with noisy, clattering keys. We particularly appreciate the extra-wide spacebar -- normally the first thing to go on compact typing devices.
One compromise Microsoft has made is condensing the arrow keys into a single multi-directional button, tucked under the right shift key. It's responsive enough, but, once they've been taken away, you'll quickly realise how often you used to use those four faithful buttons in everyday tasks, such as editing text or navigating DVD menus.
Along the top of the keyboard, you'll find volume-control keys, as well as the 'home', 'end', 'page up' and 'page down' keys, which have been shifted up to conserve keypad real estate. We'd have preferred a few more media keys (perhaps play/pause and skip-track buttons), seeing as one popular application for the Arc will undoubtedly be controlling home media.