|Min OS X: 10.2.8 Requires: USB Port|
So, you bought your shiny new Mac Pro (complete with Radeon X1900XT), loaded it with Windows Vista Ultimate, and scavenged a small mountain of games. Your 30" Apple Cinema Display is blazing away in all of its pixely glory, your 7.1 surround-sound system can make the windows flex, and you unceremoniously microwaved your Mighty Mouse in order to make room for that Habu or DeathAdder. Despite the fact that NASA could use your setup as a backup launch center, you can't help but feel that something is missing. Then you see it: the spartan, clear and white Apple Keyboard. While it's a well-known fact that Apple has taken more shots about its mice than Kobe Bryant, Apple's other input device gets very little attention. True, there's nothing blatantly wrong with it, and to be honest, a lot of PC users would be thankful to have Apple's keyboard instead of the spongy OEM chiclet that shipped standard with their machines. However, for a company that professes to "Think Different," the Apple Keyboard is about as dreary and conventional as a college thesis on Hemingway. Fortunately, there are a lot of options out there, and today, we'll be looking at the Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000, which compensates for its hilariously verbose name by showing up the standard Apple Keyboard in a few fundamental ways.
The "Extra" MouseWhile we've referred to the Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 up to this point as keyboard, it must be noted that Microsoft prefers to sell complete packages consisting of a mouse and a keyboard rather than packaging the keyboard separately. While this is a great one-stop option for the luddite that just ruined everything on his or her desk when a gigantic mug of Mocha spontaneously combusted nearby, users looking for the very best keyboard and mouse that money can buy may be annoyed by being forced to purchase the included Wireless Laser Mouse 6000. Ergonomically speaking, the Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 is nearly the perfect glide mouse, with a slick design that even manages to include a comfortable niche for your thumb to rest so that your hand never brushes the desk again. It also includes a standard complement of five buttons and a tilting scroll wheel that comes in handy when navigating through extra-wide documents. However, two significant caveats prevent this mouse from being an acceptable option for demanding user: weight, and the built-in radio-frequency (RF) wireless transmitter.
This dastardly duo has a lot more in common than you might expect—the radio frequency that both the mouse and keyboard rely on is 27 MHz, which also happens to be utilized by nearly every cheap wireless toy, phone, and garage door opener on the planet. All of those devices on the same frequency means that it takes a lot of power to cut through interference. In order to keep battery life high, Microsoft opted to fit the mouse with a pair of alkaline AA batteries. When you add those batteries to an already large mouse, the result is one of the heftiest rodents on the planet. If you'll recall from physics, the Law of Inertia (Issac Newton's First Law) essentially states that heavy things aren't very easy to whip around. It's not all bad, though—the upside is that battery life for the Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 is measured in months rather than days or hours. Sadly, despite all of this effort (and a great laser sensor), the mouse's 27 MHz RF transmitter is still a bit too unreliable for gaming purposes. Even with fresh batteries, the ~50 ms of latency and the occasional missed click or momentary drop in reception makes this mouse unsuitable for action shooters. When you sum it all up, the mouse is just about average—great for performing simple tasks, but nowhere near the quality of a dedicated gaming offering like the Microsoft Habu.
108 Keys and CountingThe true strength of every Microsoft desktop collection is the keyboard. After years of experimentation, Microsoft has finally settled on a gently curved form factor that is being applied to nearly every keyboard that they manufacture. At the core of this refined design are slightly oversized keys in the center of the keyboard that allow for an ergonomic layout while staying far away from split keyboard hell. While there is a slight learning curve (on the order of a half-hour or less) required to type as comfortably as you would on a standard "straight" keyboard, the advantage becomes clear the moment you try to return to your old Apple Keyboard and your hands rise up in revolt. In addition to the great layout, this effective design shortens the amount of travel that each individual key requires to activate by about a quarter, which translates to extremely fast and quiet action. As a final touch, the keyboard sports a sleek, integrated hand rest that makes the idea of returning to a conventional keyboard seem positively absurd.
One thing that Apple's current keyboard has going for it is its clean, minimalistic design. That concept is lost on this keyboard, which sports a large array of programmable keys (via the Microsoft Mouse preference pane) that probably should have been omitted, since their only purpose is to duplicate functions implemented elsewhere. Nowhere can this be seen as clearly as on the buttons running down the left side of the keyboard. At the top, there are pair of back and forward buttons intended to be used in a web browser that duplicate the faster and more convenient functionality provided by the thumb buttons on a typical mouse. Beneath that are a half dozen buttons that appear to be a short-lived attempt by Microsoft to replicate Apple's Dock in hardware, and beneath that, you have a magnification rocker switch and a "Gadgets" (ie, Widgets) button. Fortunately, nearly every extra button on the Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 can be reprogrammed to provide a wide assortment of additional functionality, such as launching an application, ejecting a disc, or rapidly entering a set of keystrokes.