Microsoft Modern Keyboard review: The sleek design and fingerprint scanner will cost you

We love its snappy keys and biometric features, but the lack of programmable keys is a bummer.

Credit: Ben Patterson / IDG

Microsoft’s sleek, elegant Modern Keyboard looks as good as its feels, with pleasingly clickable keys, a bevy of dedicated Windows keys and an ace up its sleeve: a built-in fingerprint reader. Our only gripes about this rechargeable, Bluetooth-enabled keypad are its lack of programmable keys and its lofty price tag.

Basic features

  • Windows 10 compatible
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Built-in fingerprint scanner
  • Rechargeable, with an advertised four months between charges

The Microsoft Modern Keyboard makes a striking first impression with its super-slim profile (just a shade over 19 millimeters) and its small footprint (about 16.6 x 4.4 inches). The steel-gray chassis represents quite a departure from those chunky black Microsoft keyboards of old, instead, bearing a striking resemblance to Apple’s Magic Keyboard, right down to its hefty $130 sticker price.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard profile Ben Patterson / IDG

The sleek design of the Microsoft Modern Keyboard makes for quite a departure from Microsoft's prior, chunkier keyboards. 

Connecting the Modern Keyboard to a Windows 10 machine is a breeze (sorry, Apple users; neither MacOS nor iOS are supported, nor is Android or any earlier Windows versions). Just connect the keyboard with the included USB cable, and Windows will automatically pair the keyboard via Bluetooth. The Modern Keyboard’s Bluetooth connection remained solid throughout my testing, and the keyboard never took more than a second to reconnect after going to sleep following periods of inactivity.

The chiclet-style keys on the rechargeable Modern Keyboard (Microsoft promises four months of use between charges) are a pleasure to use, boasting solid travel and a nice, satisfying click when struck. Despite the keyboard’s relatively small size, the keys themselves are comfortably spaced apart, and I rarely hit the wrong key while touch-typing.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard dedicated keys Ben Patterson / IDG

The Microsoft Modern Keyboard boasts a series of dedicated Windows keys (such as for search, settings and virtual desktops), but no programmable keys.

The keyboard comes with a series of handy Windows hotkeys for the Windows 10 Settings screen, Search, the Windows 10 Calculator app, the Action Center, and a key that activates Windows 10’s Virtual Desktops feature. One dedicated key that could potentially trip up some numeric keypad users is the too-easy-to-tap Screen Lock key, which sits just above the minus key on the top-right corner of the keyboard. And while we’re pleased by the impressive selection of dedicated Windows keys, the lack of programmable keys comes as a disappointment.

The headline feature of the Microsoft Modern Keyboard is its fingerprint scanner, which sits just next to the right-side Alt key and looks like any other key, save for the fingerprint icon. The Modern Keyboard’s inconspicuous scanner works seamlessly with Windows Hello, Microsoft’s biometric sign-in feature that lets you log into your PC using facial recognition or, in this case, a fingerprint scanner. After you've connected the keyboard to your PC, just visit the Sign-in Options screen in Windows 10, then start adding fingerprints by repeatedly holding your finger on the scanner key. Once that’s done, you can sign in to Windows 10 by pressing your finger on the key.

Microsoft Modern Keyboard fingerprint scanner Ben Patterson / IDG

The Microsoft Modern Keyboard's fingerprint scanner lets you log into Windows 10 at the touch of a key.

I logged into Windows exclusively using the Modern Keyboard’s fingerprint scanner during my testing, and it missed only a couple of times in dozens of tries. That said, I generally had to wait a second and a half or so before my fingerprint granted me access to my PC.

Overall, I'm a big fan of the Microsoft Modern Keyboard, what with its striking design, responsive keys and integrated fingerprint scanner. That said, prepare to pay up for the convenience of signing in to Windows with a tap of the keyboard, and you'd have to settle for the lack of programmable keys, too.


Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoft

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ben Patterson

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?