Recently I've been a bit of a microsoft convert, Office 2016 is an amazing piece of software, surface tablets are coming along nicely and now hell must have frozen over with the release of the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard. Thanks to the small, portable keyboard yours truly is blogging whilst enjoying a sunny day, overlooking a beach and being able to type frustration free on my iPad.
I have to admit that I've become a bit of a Microsoft fan in recent months. Their offerings of office for both iPhone and iPad are simply way ahead on Apple devices than any other platform and their hardware offerings are a far cry from the cheap "made in China" from what was only a few years ago. If I was going to change platforms Windows phone tempts me bargain above the android ecosystem.
That being said nobody was more surprised than me when one of Microsoft's marketing team offered to send out a couple of things for review and fingers crossed I might get to finally reviewed the Microsoft band.
The Microsoft universal mobile keyboard is a small unit coming in at 9.53 inches across by 4.29 inches wide now this might sound like incredibly cramped typing experience and that is, until you take the time to get used to it and then realise that you're rattling off words just as quick as you might do on your full-sized keyboard.
More on the typing experience in a moment.
Universal Mobile Keyboard Build Quality
If you've been around technology for a number of years you probably remember the Microsoft from peripherals of old. These were normally constructed from a special type of plastic which would only be found on the dashboard interior of cars normally reserved for sales reps on a budget. Thankfully this is no longer the case.
It used to be the case that most Microsoft products were produced with that horribly scratchy plastic which you could only find in the cheapest cars given to sales reps. Thankfully that's futher than the truth with here.
Gone is the scratchy plastic of old, instead we have a nice plastic constructed case which has certainly proved to be sturdy. When not in use the front flap acts as a nice protector to keep all the dust and grime from getting between the keys. The front flap feels like a material not too dissimilar of that used on Apple's own smart cover and like I say it's done a grand job of keeping dust and other gunk from clogging up the keys.
In my time spent with the Microsoft universal mobile keyboard it's been subjected to quite a few journeys in my less than protective backpack. It's been on beach had been hauled different coffee shops and has pretty much been a constant travelling companion with me. It's small and lightweight enough to be picked up and carried around with me and while some might argue that any extra weight at all is unnecessary this is completely outweighed by how productive I can be with a small mobile Bluetooth keyboard.
There are absolutely no qualms about the quality of construction and has taken all of life bumps and knocks that you would expect from Being carried around with no problems, no cracks appearing, nothing coming loose at all.
If I had to find a very small fault with construction is that in bright light you can see that all of the letters, numbers and other icons are small stickers on the buttons. This could raise a question of will they start to peel with long-term usage.
Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard Functions.
For the longest time I believed that the company who will win the "mobile war" will be the first one to go platform agnostic, letting them run apps run on any device that will run them and provide a suitable experience. Microsoft have clearly embrace this not only with software but with hardware as well choosing not to shy away from other platforms but instead promoting the fact you can use as keyboard with Windows phone, android and iOS devices quite clearly on the selector switch.
--battery charger pic--
The observant amongst you will have noticed that there is no on and off switch this function is provided by the cover in itself and with one charge supplied via the micro USB port you going to get best part of battery life of up to 6 months. When the battery is running low a stealthily hidden LED bulb bowling red to let you know that you are running a bit low on juice.
Toggling the selection syncs up the topmost keys to function with your device so for things like locking, volume/audio playing duties and searching device dependent on your target platform.
I've tested this with my Google Nexus tablets and my iPad and switching between them was seamless and quick. Everything works just how you would imagine.
As you might expect double tapping on the home button does exactly what it would do on your iOS device and I would have liked the ability to choose applications using the arrow keys but instead you're left reaching for the screen. This I would imagine is a limitation based on Apple's implementation rather than an misstep of the universal keyboard.
Typing On Microsoft Universal Keyboard
So man's construction covered but what is actually like to type and use the Microsoft universal mobile keyboard on a daily basis?
I didn't find that I had to adjust my typing style too much to be able to get the best from the keyboard. The keys do require a slightly firmer press than my Apple keyboard but as I have been using my main keyboard for a couple of years now this is to be expected.
As it smaller it does take a little bit of time for your hands to become orientated with the different dimensions but I find myself going up to a very reasonable pace quite quickly within 10 minutes. I never found myself mis-hitting a key or having to retype harder than normal and there were never any letters missed out from a light touch.
Now I've started using a keyboard with my iPad is brought me a whole new level of appreciation for being able to use copy and paste efficiently.
As I said earlier it's become a constant travelling companion because the benefits of being able to bash out an email, post a blog from pretty much anywhere is brilliant.
The original Microsoft surface got a bit of a kicking for it stand. Only supporting two angles people criticised the Microsoft surface stand for being too limiting. Whilst the Microsoft universal keyboard only has two angles for positioning your device I've found them both to be not too bad. If you're ever struggling to change the angle you can prop up the flap to a certain degree.
There is no mechanical wizardry here to help you with the position of your device you just simply rest your device in one of the two grooves that securely holds everything in place. Although made from plastic it seems to have a rubber right feel to it and will grip your device until it's almost in a portrait orientation. Even when I've been less than gentle yanking the device out from its grip it's never left a mark on the screen but to be on the safe side I still probably would recommend a screen protector.
Only having two angles is never going to please everyone but they do seem to be the most considered angles available. One is obviously aimed for normal desk usage and I would say the other is aimed towards slouching on the sofa-based usage.
Perhaps it's because I know that I only had two angles to choose from but I never found myself constantly tinkering with the screen position as I would do with my MacBook Pro. Just prepare yourself some rather strange looks if you whip out the keyboard and use it with just your mobile phone device in the middle of a coffee shop.
Microsoft have come a long way since leadership changed to Satya Nadella in terms of obvious software quality and now hardware offerings. Thankfully gone are the days of Microsoft branded products, cheaply assembled in China, certainly not feeling like the premium product you would expect for the price.
if the Microsoft universal keyboard were still retailing for £75 then it would be incredibly hard to justify that price tag but as you can pick one of these up now for £35 is pretty much a no-brainer. What you're getting is a quality constructed keyboard that works with a multitude of devices and makes typing a comfortable experience no matter what device you have.
Microsofts Universal Mobile Keyboard