Let’s start off from square one: why would you want to choose a compact keyboard in the first place? View this post. For right handed mousers who do not rely on the keyboard’s number pad for daily use, a compact keyboard is highly recommended. There are many types of compact keyboards on the market today, which can make choosing just the right type of keyboard confusing. We here at ergonomicsHelp aim to pass along really valuable ergonomics information to all of our readers. So, today we are going to give an in-depth ergonomic review of one of the most popular types of compact keyboards, the Microsoft Arc.
Are you interested in some of our past ergonomic product reviews? You can check them out here:
- Evoluent Mouse
- Evoluent Keyboard
- Humanscale Switch Mouse
- Handshoe Mouse
- Penguin Mouse
- Logitech Marble Trackman Mouse
To sum it up, a regular (or conventional) keyboard can result in awkward postures for right handed mousers. Specifically, this type of keyboard results in right arm prolonged and extended reaching that can lead to shoulder and upper back/neck discomfort overtime. You can see in the picture below that the design of a conventional keyboard can essentially push the user’s arm into the yellow area instead of the optimal green zone.
Compare this with a compact keyboard. A compact keyboard simply removes the number pad from its design. By doing so, it optimizes the user’s reach to the mouse. Take a look at the picture below. You can see that by eliminating the number pad, the user’s mousing arm is able to work within the green area, which is also called the more neutral working zone. Not only is this a more comfortable position for the shoulder, the user is also exposed to less ergonomic risk.
More Neutral Design. As opposed to a conventional keyboard’s flat design that results in pronated (ergonomically awkward) arm postures, this keyboard is slightly contoured. The picture below illustrates that the middle of the keyboard is curved upwards for a more neutral arm posture. Keep in mind that a neutral arm position is a lot closer to a typical handshake position than with a traditional type of keyboard that exclusively requires fully pronated (palm down) postures. This is considered to be an awkward ergonomic posture as this can result in some discomfort for some users. By using a contoured design, the Microsoft Arc emulates more of a neutral arm position that many users find comfortable to work with.Intuitive Design. The Microsoft Arc’s keys are located in familiar locations. Meaning, when switching from a traditional type of keyboard to the Microsoft Arc, there is very minimal training that is required. This means that there are fewer errors and therefore a whole lot less frustration!
Low Force. The lettered keys require a very low amount of force to type with, similar to the force required to type with a laptop. All of my clients who have worked with this keyboard in the past have really enjoyed this design feature. This is especially useful for those users who have a chronic or degenerative hand condition as there is not a lot force to activate the keys combined with each key’s low height profile. However, the space bar does require a little extra force to ensure that it is actually depressed. However, after a few minutes with the keyboard, I hardly noticed it.
Not For Large Hands. The keys are spaced very close together. For large handed users, there may not be adequate space for finger placement on keys which may lead to increased error. In fact, some of my past clients had commented that the size of their fingers had made it so they could not accurately and efficiently use it.
Arrow Keys. Instead of 4 separate arrow keys, the Arc merges these all together into one button, called a ‘4-way rocker switch’. To navigate, you have to press on the corresponding side of the key. Past clients that I have worked with have found that this is frustrating due to errors and a reduction in their efficiency. Other clients didn’t rely on the arrow keys as much and didn’t find that this set-up was a problem.
Small USB Dongle. The USB dongle (plugs into the computer to connect the keyboard wirelessly) is quite small. It is so small that care must be taken with it as to not loose it, which may pose a problem for those users who do a lot of travelling – either within the office space or outside of it!
The Microsoft Arc is my personal favourite keyboard to use and recommend (pending an appropriate root cause analysis for the the user). The low force to operate, intuitive design, and contoured profile are design positives for the most sized hand user (excluding larger hands).