Could you do "real work" on a Microsoft Surface keyboard?

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Could you do "real work" on a Microsoft Surface keyboard?

It's so thin, but how easy is it to type on the new keyboard for Microsoft's new Surface tablet?

One of our biggest questions about Microsoft's new Surface tablet computer is whether you can really rely on it to get serious work done, instead of a laptop.

After all, the Surface is around half the weight of many other laptops, and because it is a tablet and a laptop in one you get to swipe around with your fingers when that suits, or switch to a keyboard for typing documents. Unlike the iPad, you can plug USB keys straight in.

But that all depends if they keyboard is actually a toy, or something that's comfortable enough to use as you would a "regular" laptop keyboard.

Today we had some brief hands-on time with the Surface. What do we think?

We're reasonably impressed, though the Surface keyboard might not be enough to replace a laptop for everyone.

Why? First off, the good points. If you've read-up on this, or looked at the Microsoft Store, you'll know there are two types of keyboard for the Surface - both are optional extras that you  pay extra for.

The Touch Cover

The Touch Cover: click to enlarge

The orange keyboard you see here in the photos is called the "Touch Cover" (it also comes in white, red, cyan,magenta). It costs $139.99.

Microsoft calls it a "pressure response" keyboard - it is 3mm thin and while it looks rubbery, it doesn't feel like a cheap rubber keyboard. It feels smooth and our fingers and palm didn't "stick" or grip it accidentally.

Unlike a "normal" keyboard, there are no actual buttons that move up and down when you press them. The keys look drawn on, though there are slightly raised edges around each key.

The result is that typing feels a little weird at first, because there's no "give" when you press down on a key. It's not a big deal though, and we found ourselves typing away in Word reasonably well, with probably a few more errors than we usually make. With a bit of practise we'd imagine we'd get used to it.

Perhaps the main thing to be aware of is the slight size difference between this and a full-size laptop keyboard. Not everyone minds - people have been using tiny laptops for years, like the MacBook Air 11-inch, but something to be aware of.

The Type Cover

The Type Cover: click to enlarge

You can also step up to the "Type Cover" which weighs a tiny, tiny bit more, but has keys that actually press down when you type.

We had a bit of trouble with this keyboard, but we expect we would get used to it in time. As you can see in the photo, the keys don't have much space between them, and we found ourselves making a lot of errors when we tried typing at our normal speed.

There have been some laptops on the market with keyboards that look like this, but it's quite a bit different to the style of MacBooks which have gaps between the keys.

We're reserving our verdict till we've had more time to use the Surface, but our initial impressions are that the keyboards are up to the job of typing up documents and lengthy emails, though a: it might take a bit of time till you're fast on these keyboards, and b: you'll need to be comfortable typing fast on keyboards of this size.

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