Microsoft's Best Buy-exclusive Arc Keyboard still won't be hitting stores for another couple of weeks (February 21st, to be specific), but we were lucky enough to get our hands on one a little early, and figured we'd share a few impressions with you, the keyboard-using masses. The first thing you'll notice when seeing the keyboard in person is that it's smaller than even the press photos suggested -- basically the same size as your average 15-inch laptop keyboard, with a glossy bezel just big enough to let you pick it up without pressing a key. It's also undeniably eye-catching, with an "arc" that actually more closely resembles Apple's Magic Mouse than Microsoft's own Arc mouse.
Of course, most folks will choose function over form when it comes to a keyboard, and in that respect the Arc Keyboard is a bit of a mixed bag.
Described by Microsoft as "style that works," the Arc Keyboard isn't intended to just stay on your desk. It's wireless, of course, and its form factor lends itself perfectly to being slipped in a drawer or under a monitor, or discreetly tucked away if paired with, say, an all-in-one PC in a kitchen or living room. And in those instances, the Arc Keyboard is a pretty attractive, if somewhat pricey ($60), solution. For anyone hoping to simply clean up the clutter on their desk, however, there may just be one too many trade-offs. For starters, the key travel isn't much better than your average laptop keyboard and, while the keys thankfully aren't as glossy as their surroundings, they are still a bit too slick for our tastes (gaming is practically out of the question).
There's also a few minor annoyances, like the lack of an indicator light for the caps lock key, and a somewhat cumbersome rocker key that replaces the four arrow keys (although it's actually not bad if you pick up the keyboard and use it with your thumb). As you can probably guess, all that glossy plastic also picks up fingerprints and dust with the best of them, making us wish Microsoft also made a version that extends the matte white finish of the bottom to the rest of the keyboard.
That said, there is still quite a bit to like about the Arc Keyboard, especially if you're pairing it with an equally streamlined PC in a non-PC-minded workspace -- just keep in mind that it's better suited to Tweets and Facebook postings than your next novel.