Review: BIO-key fingerprint readers enable Windows Hello on Windows 10 PCs

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Fingerprint readers enable biometric authentication on your Windows PCs. This is not new really, however, with Windows Hello on Windows 10, the setup and experience is seamless and straightforward.

Few months ago, BIO-key announced Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint readers that are extremely compact in size and plug into your PC via USB. The SideTouch and EcoID are designed to make biometric security an easier deployment for not just businesses, but also individual users. Both also support BIO-key’s universal Windows Biometric Framework (WBF) fingerprint engine (and hence work with older version of Windows as well).

These fingerprint readers allow you to sign in to your devices by a simple swipe or touch, giving you access to your PC in less than 2 seconds – faster than typing in the password or PIN. You can also use Windows Hello to log in to supported apps like Enpass, OneDrive, et al.

Once there is an integration update of the Web Authentication specification of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), new APIs will enable biometric authentication on the web for Windows Hello-enabled websites, like banking portals for example.

BIO-key, the biometric software and hardware solutions provider, has closely worked with Microsoft for the Windows Hello integration. These fingerprint readers are also available at the Microsoft Stores in the US. Both devices also integrate with BIO-key Enterprise Software for an enterprise deployment.

BIO-key SideTouch

The BIO-key SideTouch fingerprint reader is designed for laptops and tablets – it plugs directly into the USB port. It fits nicely in the USB slot, and is solidly built. BIO-key has been thoughtful and include a neck ring to plug the SideTouch into a Surface which has a tapered edge. With the ring, the SideTouch goes in plush with the Surface’s edge. Neat touch, that.

Unlike other swipe-based fingerprint readers, SideTouch only requires you to touch for quick access to the device. Often though, I encounter a message telling me that the fingerprint reader was dirty and needed to be cleaned. Sometimes when it wasn’t. Maybe the sensor sensitivity is iffy or it’s a driver-related issue. It’s not a showstopper, but a driver update fixing this would be nice.

BIO-key EcoID

The EcoID is designed for desktops or docked laptops/tablets. It plugs into the USB port via a long cable that can go around the back of the desk or something.

The EcoID is fast, and accurate. With my few weeks of usage, I observed that the touch sensor on the EcoID is a tad faster than SideTouch. That’s not to say that the latter is bad, but the former is better. The sensor is also broader in size which minimizes false negatives.

Final Thoughts

The SideTouch and EcoID fingerprint readers are great for individual use – I use one with my Surface and the other on my desktop – as well as enabling businesses to deploy biometric security. The Windows Hello integration makes setup and enrollment a snap, and the authentication is smooth and reliable.

At $39.99, BIO-key SideTouch and EcoID are affordable fingerprint readers. They’re nicely built, and are compact in size. If you’re looking to experience Windows Hello on your Windows 10 devices, these two fingerprint readers offer seamless authentication on everyday basis.