Tech Review: Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop


I love my MS 4000 keyboard. it's one of the best pieces of hardware developed by Redmond. It has some drawbacks, sure, no USB ports, weird function keys, no backlight - but the real problem with it is its heft. It's a chunky-monkey that's really only suitable for leaving in a fixed location. It's far to big and bulky for a laptop bag - and life's too short to type on a non-ergonomic keyboard.

So, time to try the inelegantly named "Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop" - a wireless keyboard with separate number-pad and mouse.

mk_SEDT_productdetails

Typing

Let's start with how the keyboard is to type on. It's close to perfect! I'm comparing this to my venerable Microsoft 4000 keyboard.

The split and rise of the unit is a delight. Feels really easy on the wrists. They keys don't have a lot of travel - it's more like a laptop that a traditional keyboard - but it's responsive and light.

It's relatively slim - about the width of a MacBook Pro.

Keyboard width

The rise is quite gentle. While I would have preferred it to have been a bit steeper - it keeps the heft of the unit down, so it's slim enough to fit in a normal laptop bag.

Keyboard rise

The riser is removable - it clips on with magnets - if you prefer a regular incline.

The layout is fairly traditional for the main part and should be easy enough to get used to. The numberpad had moved to its own, separate unit - so there's a weird cluster of positioning keys - home, end, arrows, etc.

MS cluster

As you can see above, the calculator key is present - which is useful. Of less use is the function switch. On most keyboards, the function keys do double-duty as media keys. By using a dedicated function key, you can switch their use. So F5 refreshes the screen, and Function+F5 launches a search window. With this keyboard, you have to flick a switch, hit the key, and then remember to flick it back. It's a little annoying.

Wireless

Microsoft has never liked standards. Rather than going with Bluetooth - which would have been available on all modern computers - they've bundled their own proprietary wireless dongle. DO NOT LOSE THIS DONGLE! If the dongle is lost or damaged, you cannot get a replacement - your only option is to buy an entire new set! I spoke to MS about this and they say that's for "security". They will, however, send a replacement set if you're still within the warranty period of your purchase.

This would have been so much easier with Bluetooth, you'd be able to swap between machines without worrying about a tiny, fragile adapter.

The dongle itself is a bit on the large side - far larger and wider than most cheap BlueTooth, WiFi, or other wireless keyboard plugins.

Dongles

It does jut somewhat alarmingly out of the side of a laptop.
Dongles in Laptop

And, sadly, proprietary dongles like this are often prone to sniffing.

Microsoft - please use BlueTooth next time!

Power

If it were my choice, this device would have a rechargable battery - with a standard USB connector for power. Microsoft have chosen to use 2 AAA batteries in the keyboard. The mouse takes 2 AA batteries. Both keyboard and mouse have nifty magnetic doors hiding the batteries. The numberpad has a battery compartment which can only be accessed by a screwdriver. The battery? A CR2430 coin cell!

It would have been great to have everything at least powered by the same type of battery - but that doesn't fit in with Microsoft's design philosophy, apparently.

There is also no power switch on the keyboard or numberpad. They go to sleep automatically when they can't detect the wireless signal. There is a power switch on the mouse. Because why not.

According to The Verge, the battery life is "3 years for the keyboard, 6 years for the number pad, and 1 year for the mouse."

So, hopefully you won't get caught short and have to remember exactly which style of battery you're supposed to be replacing!

Mouse

The mouse is fairly weighty. There are two thumb buttons available - one is a "back" button, which can easily be remapped to something more useful. The other is a "Windows" key - to open your start menu.

Although it has a bit of a tilt to it, I've gone back to my vertical mouse.

Linux Compatibility

Plug and play - no drivers needed. Keyboard and mouse both worked flawlessly.

Downsides

It's not all sunshine and roses, however. The aforementioned Function Keys have a tendency to stick in their downwards position. Mine came with a stuck F2 key - which meant I couldn't type a capital C. I quickly jiggled the key loose and I could type normally again.

There are no "Favourites" keys - other than the calculator. I usually have a row of keys dedicated to launching frequently used apps or websites. Unlike the MS 4000, there are no dedicated zoom or back/forward shortcut keys.

There's this weird plastic... flap? Tag? Thing? Just by the Escape key.

Esc Flap 1
At first I thought it was a guard to prevent accidental clicking - but it might be a manufacturing defect.

Esc Flap 2

Speaking of the Escape key -it's really loose and rattles around when pressed.

There's no LED to tell you if Caps Lock is on - to save on battery life, one presumes. I guess it's unrealistic to expect a backlight under the keys either!

Cost

Overall, this is a great keyboard - marred only by some regrettable hardware choices. It's slim, light, easy to type on, and simple to set up.

The full keyboard, mouse, munberpad set costs around £65 from Amazon.

If you can do without the mouse - the keyboard and numberpad alone costs around £50.

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4 thoughts on “Tech Review: Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop

  1. Man I am big fan of Sculpt myself. I have 2 of them, one for home and one for office. Funnily enough I was struck by the "function keys problem" (especially F6 and F7 near the curvature), but usually keeping an eye on those keys and pressing them carefully does the trick (luckily those are not keys i use too frequently). It has another small manufacturing issue, when you use it for longer time, the nice "rubbery fabric" which the wrist is resting starts coming out from couture (point the suture?). But that's very minor thing. Also this keyboard is for people with big hands mostly.

    But apart from downsides I think this is still the best keyboard ever made. 🙂

  2. Just thought you would like to know that your keyboard "flap" thing is a broken part of the keyboard case. It is the reason for the loose escape key. You should get it replaced (or glue it back where it belongs).

  3. I notice that the key configuration on the sides is different from the proprietary picture to the pictures you took. Is this because the one you bought is UK style vs US International? Or is this something that’s changed since you bought it?

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