Regardless of what type of user you may be, comfort is a concern we all share. It can help productivity, responsiveness, and even play a major role in the longevity and health of our body. Microsoft is no stranger to pioneering innovative designs for peripherals that are better suited for comfort and ergonomics. One such example is the curve design featured in the keyboard we will be looking at today.
Product Name: Comfort Curve 3000
Review Sample Provided by: Microsoft
Review by: Adam
Pictures by: Adam
Though I'm used to associating Microsoft with a quad-color logo, their hardware line features a more monochromatic red theme for marketing purposes. The Comfort Curve 3000 is featured off-set from the middle of the package with a nice action shot that catches the unique design of the board, with a smaller cutout that better shows the actual arch. Microsoft has also included the signature of their apparently resident Design Ergonomist to stress the comfort-friendly design of the Curve 3000. The reverse side uses a similar photo to point out a few more key features such as the media access keys, as well as a graphical table explaining features to the retail shopper.
Inside, the Comfort Curve board is wrapped nicely in a plastic bag and coated with a plastic film to protect the bitter-sweet gloss finish from dust and debris during packaging/shipping. Underneath the peripheral you will find a little paperwork including a product guide and reference manual.
Microsoft has kept very basic with the layout of the Comfort Curve 3000, both to keep costs down and to not alienate a potential consumer base. Though we more enthusiast users have grown accustomed to a plethora of hotkeys, quick access keys, and media controls, the mainstream user has little need and is likely intimidated by a complex key face. The Curve 3000 is still a full-sized keyboard despite the shape alteration, featuring the full alpha-numeric key bank, directional arrow and 'Home' key bank, as well as the numeric pad. Functions keys line the top completed with the addition of a few basic media commands: Play/Pause, Stop, Volume Up and Volume Down.
The arch in the board does cause a few notable alignment differences, such as the entire bottom row of keys flowing together from the Left Ctrl key to the num pad Enter key. As you move up the board, you will notice that spacing begins to appear due to the nature of the curve shape. This really doesn't affect the actual use of the board, as we will discuss in the Performance section, but allows Microsoft to maintain that 'familiar' feeling by keeping all the keys the same size.
Five anti-slip grips can be found on the bottom of the keyboard to help keep it in place. Interestingly, the Comfort Curve 3000 features no sort of elevation feet, a common feature we see in even boards that aren't focusing on ergonomics. The remainder of the base of the keyboard is a solid plastic shell with no sort of hub or I/O. Again, Microsoft is marketing this board to be both simple and cost efficient, one of the Comfort Curve's major perks.
Again, Microsoft is marketing this keyboard as an easy-to-use piece of hardware, which would clash with a complex software suite. There is a little customization available through use of the keyboard properties manager in the Windows Operating System, but this available for just about any other keyboard as well.
I literally cringed when I saw that Microsoft had not only used a glossy finish on the keyboard, but was marketing it as a feature. I will admit, it looks great; at least until you touch it. The keys (thankfully) do not feature the gloss finish, but the base of the board, including where you'll be resting you wrists, does. Needless to say, you will be touching this finish a lot, and it holds on to fingerprints, dust, oil, and grime. Not only does this do a 180 to the appearance of the board, but the build-up can also create discomfort quickly.
The style of the keys lay low to the board and use a membrane dome-switch switch for each key, a method that has proven its longevity over the years in countless other boards. This sort of mechanism also requires less effort from the finger to strike a key, which further helps Microsoft reach its comfort goal. As mentioned above, the keys do not feature the glossy finish but rather an unpolished feel that helps the user feel a more tactile response when typing.
I replaced my typical keyboard with the Comfort Curve 3000 for about a month and a half, which was an long enough visit to see several activities, including writing multiple articles, gaming, photo editing, and video editing. Moving to the Comfort Curve 3000 was no harder than doing so to any other standard QWERTY keyboard, so Microsoft did an excellent job keeping the board familiar while engineering a relatively large physical change.
I did find it easier to sit for extended typing sessions with the Comfort Curve 3000 than a standard keyboard. The 'Curve' in the 3000 is literally and arch in the base that forces the hands to be propped into a natural rise, or curve, while situated on the home row and the keys surrounding. Though I did find it more comfortable than a standard keyset, I found it odd that there was no sort of feet to customize the elevation of the keyboard. With such a small strip of plastic to rest the wrists on, I found myself constantly either uncomfortably half-on half-off or using the desk entirely as a wrist rest.
Microsoft has engineered the Comfort Curve 3000 to compete with the standard, flat keyboard, and in that aspect is passes with flying colors. They have also done very well keeping costs down to maintain a price point that appeals to the mainstream user. Though other 'Curve' options are available, many sport features that raise the price-point to well over the $50 mark. Though I was immediately turned off by the glossy finish, I will still be keeping the 3000 around and tossing out my old, flat standard boards. I'd like to see either a wrist rest or adjustable heights, but at $24.95 the Comfort Curve 3000 is still the ideal choice for users that are looking a comfortable, contouring board.