Just like Apple’s venerable Magic Keyboard for its iMac desktops, Microsoft touts its own premium wireless board. The Microsoft Modern Keyboard With Fingerprint ID ($129.99) is a deluxe-design desktop keyboard that keeps it minimalist, but with one marquee twist: a dedicated fingerprint scanner, which can be used with Windows Hello to make your sign-ins secure and easy. As with Windows Hello face sign-in, you’ll never want to type a password again once this is up and running. The aluminum build, meanwhile, is high-quality, while the keys are comfortable enough. That said, the price is steep for what you’re getting, especially compared to some mechanical keyboards. If money is no object and you want a keyboard that looks clean and tasteful for a home office or a professional setting, the Microsoft Modern Keyboard With Fingerprint ID is a solid choice.
The design and layout of the Modern Keyboard sit firmly in the iMac-accessory camp: slim, long, mostly metal keyboards that provide just what you need and nothing you don’t. There is barely any frame to the keyboard beyond the profile of the space needed for the key layout. A slightly raised stand on the bottom tilts the body for a more comfortable typing angle. Like some minimal-styled keyboards, it has no adjustable legs—the board is fixed at the angle of the bottom stand.
If you’re one to break out the ruler, this keyboard measures 0.76 by 16.6 by 4.4 inches (HWD). Its frame and deck are silver aluminum, so the overall build feels high-quality. The bottom of the keyboard, meanwhile, is grey plastic that’s somewhat soft to the touch, and the keycaps are the same. The durable metal makes the keyboard feel hefty, and combined with the rubber feet on the stand, it doesn’t slide around during use.
The back of the stand is home to a micro-USB port for wired connectivity to your PC, as well as a wireless on/off switch. A sticker next to each of these indicates how to set up the keyboard with your computer the first time. The port is labeled as step one, meaning you should connect it with a wire (a micro-USB-to-USB cable is included), and step two is flipping the switch to the green “on” position. This should connect it to your PC—pretty painless.
When the keyboard isn’t wired to your PC (which should be most of the time, or else you wouldn’t have paid a bundle for a wireless keyboard), it connects wirelessly via Bluetooth. You can view or remove it from the Windows 10 Bluetooth device list as you would any connected Bluetooth device. (Bluetooth obviously needs to be kept on at the system side to maintain a connection.)
Logging In With Fingerprint ID
As you can see in the photos, neither the keys nor the key layout is anything out of the ordinary. You get a full number pad, as well as a row of function keys that are shared with media-playback commands. The unique inclusion on this keyboard, as the product name suggests, is the fingerprint scanner.
Many recent laptops include this function in the form of a sensor off to the side of the touchpad or built into the power button, but it’s much less common on desktop keyboards. On this one, you’ll spot a dedicated key to the right of the right-side Alt key. (It’s marked with a fingerprint icon.) To be clear, you do have to use it as a normal keyboard key—that is, press it all the way to register your fingerprint. That’s unlike the way laptop or smartphone fingerprint sensors work, in which you merely place your fingertip over the flat sensor.
Why do you want a fingerprint sensor? Microsoft’s Windows Hello feature lets you log in via multiple methods beyond typing in a cumbersome password, one of these being a fingerprint scan. Similar to smartphone technology, you can use your finger to get past your lock screen after stepping away from your desk for a moment. Realistically, it’s a relatively small time savings versus typing your password, but it definitely makes logging in feel more seamless.
I also expected the fingerprint login to work when signing in from a powered-off state, which was the case on two of my test machines, but not a third. On two test laptops, I was able to sign in with a fingerprint (or via typing in my password) after booting the computer for the first time that day. It took a second for Bluetooth to connect, but the fingerprint login worked.
This was not the case on my test desktop. From a cold boot, the keyboard’s Bluetooth wouldn’t connect until I signed in for the first time using my other, usual wired keyboard. After that, if I locked the screen, I could use the Modern Keyboard to log in. Since it wasn’t just the fingerprint sensor that wasn’t working, I’ll chalk it up to my desktop’s motherboard and the infamously finicky nature of Bluetooth connectivity. If you run into a similar roadblock, you may need to buy a USB Bluetooth dongle, or plug in the keyboard via the USB cable until you can get the PC started up. Obviously, not ideal.
Registering your fingerprint with Windows is easy. You can find the sign-in options under the Accounts tab of your Windows settings. Here, you can choose to set up Windows Hello Fingerprint, or Windows Hello Face (another useful feature for logging in that I personally love, but naturally not a feature of a keyboard).
Selecting the former will lead you through some steps for registering your fingerprint with the PC. This includes pressing the fingerprint key several times so it can catch enough different angles of your unique fingerprint to identify you properly. Once that’s done, you just press the finger you scanned onto the dedicated key each time you want to unlock your computer.
Though it’s a modest creature comfort, I enjoy this feature. It makes me never want to type in a password again.
The Typing Experience
Of course, the fancy login feature aside, the core of this product is still the typing experience. And it’s overall a pleasant keyboard to type on, if a bit basic.
The keys have a decent amount of bounce to keep you moving, and they are plenty responsive. Some non-mechanical desktop keyboards have slightly more travel and a more reactive feel than these keys do, since these are flatter. But it comes down to personal preference (those used to typing on slim laptops might prefer this feel), and this board delivers a more stable typing feel than the average desktop keyboard. There isn’t a whole lot of feedback, but these keys are not entirely flat, and they don’t work against you, by any means.
You also have to remember the cost, though. At this price point or less, you could buy a well-endowed mechanical keyboard with superior key switches and customization options. If you’re coming from a mechanical keyboard, and like it, chances are you’ll find this experience far less satisfying. If you’re used to the springy movement of those keys, as well as the noise and feedback, this will feel plain and underwhelming.
That said, if you work in an office where others will hear you type, mechanical keyboards may not even be an option unless you want to drive your colleagues crazy. The metal build is also nicer than the plastic chassis of many mechanical keyboards.
A Well-Made Keyboard That Will Cost You
The Microsoft Modern Keyboard With Fingerprint ID is a solid premium keyboard with one useful marquee feature: The fingerprint sign-in is legitimately useful. I prefer the Windows Hello options to traditional login methods, and once you try them, I suspect you will too. Other than the login convenience, though, this keyboard may feel a bit expensive for what you get. The aluminum build is solid, but the key action is average at best, and there isn’t much else to write home about.
For $129.99, that may be a hard sell for many shoppers. If money isn’t much of an object, or this model is being paired with an executive’s office setup, it makes sense as an option, and we don’t have many complaints beyond the price tag. But bear in mind what the same money can get you in a full-featured mechanical board.
Microsoft Modern Keyboard With Fingerprint ID Specs
|Number of Keys||110|
|Key Switch Type||Scissor-Switch|
|Media Controls||Shared With Other Keys|
|Dedicated Shortcut Keys||No|
|Onboard Profile Storage||No|
|N-Key Rollover Support||No|