Surface 2 – Touch vs Type keyboards

Six weeks on…

So I kinda caved in and picked up a Type 2 keyboard cover today. The Touch 2 cover has been working OK but I still felt when I was using it that I was spending a bit too much effort thinking about the typing action itself, rather than the content.

I did a few more speed tests. The Type keyboard is definitely easier to use, but I’m finding I’m getting better at the Touch keyboard. Bear in mind we’re now about six weeks into my use of the Surface 2 with the touch keyboard and I’ve only owned the Type keyboard for a few hours. Originally my typing speed was around the mid 40’s WPM on the touch keyboard. I use again, and for the first two tests I ran with Aesop’s fables text, as I had for all the previous tests. The third test I did the rules of Baseball text just for some variety and also took note of the order in which I did the tests (noted in table 1) to note the effect of familiarity with the text on the results. Here are today’s results:

Test # Speed (WPM) Type 2 cover Speed (WPM) Touch 2 cover
Aesop’s Fables
1 79-12 errors = 67WPM (85% accuracy) 78-15 errors = 63WPM (81% accuracy)
2 81-6 errors = 75WPM (93% accuracy) 75-11 error = 64WM (85% accuracy)
Rules of Baseball
3 2nd: 69-3 errors = 66WPM (95% accuracy) 1st: 65-5 errors = 60WM (92% accuracy)
4 3rd: 73-1 errors = 72WPM (98% accuracy) 4th: 80-0 errors = 80WM (100% accuracy)

(Table 1)

Given the increase in speed and accuracy with familiarity with the text, regardless of which keyboard I used, I then ran a similar test using their ‘Space Cowboys’ text.

Test # Keyboard: Speed (WPM)
1 Touch: 52-7 errors = 45WPM (86% accuracy)
2 Type: 66-0 errors = 66WPM (100% accuracy)
3 Touch: 69-6 errors = 63WPM (91% accuracy)
4 Type (no use of delete): 77-7 errors = 70WPM (90% accuracy)
5 Touch (no use of delete): 72-18 errors = 54WPM (75% accuracy)
6 Logitech K330 (2 hours later): 81-4 errors = 77WPM (95% accuracy)

(Table 2)

A few things are evident from this:

  1. With practice, it’s possible to type accurately and quickly with the Touch cover (Table 1), but on average accuracy and base WPM are both higher on the Type cover.
  2. Accuracy improves with familiarity with the text, regardless of which keyboard you use (Table 2). While this is no surprise, it needs consideration when reviewers are analysing the results of different keyboards as the first keyboard has a clear disadvantage.
  3. Misstrokes on the Touch keyboard are a much bigger problem than on a keyboard with real keys (Table 2 tests 4 and 5)
  4. The more you use any keyboard the faster and more accurate you become. I started with the Touch keyboard around 45WPM and am now averaging above 60WPM

The bottom line in terms of accuracy and ease of use: Real keyboard > Type > Touch (Table 2 test 6 vs 2 and 3)

Could I put up with the Touch keyobard for the sake of having something thin and light when I move? Depends why I’m moving. I don’t really want now to take the full keyboard around with me to a meeting etc, feels a bit clunky. If I’m going to be doing lots of typing I’d really prefer a full keyboard, but in the absence of this the Type keyboard is definitely easier. The rest of the time I can probably manage with the Touch. if you can adopt a correct typing posture the Touch is quite workable.

One negative with the Type cover is that while it’s a bit more rigid than the Touch cover, because the keys have travel in them, when you’re typing with it on your lap it makes the whole device bounce up and down a bit. The Touch cover, because there’s no physical movement, you don’t get that. The Touch cover is also quieter (it’s magic typing in a quiet meeting!), and is actually quite nice on your fingers.

The backing on the covers is different. The Touch 2 has a very fine-grained soft-touch plastic almost identical to that on its front surface, while the Type 2 cover has a fine grey felt on the back. I think I prefer the felt.

I think what’s clear is what has always been beyond dispute – the Type 2 cover is easier to type reliably on that the Touch 2 cover; however the Touch 2 cover continues to surprise me, and sometimes frustrate me. And of course it continues to have the benefits of a sleeker form.

Coming from the Touch cover, I do feel the extra thickness of the Type cover. This was one of the reasons I chose the Touch 2 with the Surface 2 already being so slim. I’m sure I’d get used to it but this so far feels a negative.

With the Touch cover, it feels as though the amount of pressure to activate some keys does vary, particularly around the edges. Gestures like Ctrl+Shift+arrow for highlighting I know I have to push firmly to make sure all those keys get registered. With the Type cover you have the physical feedback to know when a keypress is registered.

So what will I be doing? Not sure yet; I would probably be the first person in the history of modern civilisation to return a Type 2 cover in preference to a Touch 2 cover, but that may yet be on the cards!

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