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Manufacturer: Microsoft
Min OS X: 10.2    Requires: USB Port

Wireless Optical Desktop 2.0
December 24, 2003 | Mike Apps

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Wireless! Wireless!
Wireless is everywhere these days. Wireless internet access, wireless cell phones that connect to our computers, even wireless controllers. So it seems only natural for wireless mice and keyboards to be the next wireless innovation. Along comes Microsoft with the Wireless Optical Desktop 2.0. It's got a spiffy name, but how does it stack up against other keyboards and mice? We shall soon find out.

Just Plug in the Cord
I know what you’re thinking: "I have to install stuff to use these damn things?" Sadly, yes. The vast majority of computers these days do not have a wireless receiver built-in, so an external one must be installed. Sadly, Microsoft’s choice of receiver somewhat takes the wireless out of the deal. The receiver is a somewhat small oval-shaped device, with a USB cord that is several feet long. On the device are the caps-lock, number-lock, and scroll-lock indicators. Here we see the first major problem with Microsoft’s design. It would have been fine had these indicators been placed on the keyboard as well, but in their infinite wisdom they did not. Therefore, depending on where your computer is located, and where you can plug in the receiver, the indicators may end up completely out of view.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there. Since the keyboard and mouse are not standard, they require their own drivers to function. Both Windows and Mac OS X drivers come in the package on the CD, though there is sparse documentation for the Mac drivers in case you should run into trouble. Of course, I did in fact run into trouble. Getting the mouse and keyboard to “work” is no problem, after installing the software, simply press the button located on the receiver, then the button located on the bottom of the keyboard/mouse, and the device should then be all set to go.

On my tests on two different machines — an iBook and an iMac — the function keys on the keyboard (more on those later) just did not seem to want to work, even after several attempts at installing the software and multiple restarts. Eventually the keys would function properly, seemingly at random. After they did start working, they did keep working. Now the question is, was it worth the trouble?

Where’s the 'Any' Key?
The keyboard itself is rather slick looking, with semi-translucent black keys and white lettering on most of the keys, and grey with white text for the function keys. The lower portion of the keyboard is black, while the upper portion containing the special function keys is silvery-gray. The text describing each special function key for some reason was made a shade of silvery-gray as well, making it unreadable depending on the angle of light on it. This shouldn’t be an issue as each of these keys has a self-descriptive icon on it. Overall the keyboard has a very sleek look, and all the standard keys are placed where they should be, thus there should be no trouble switching to this keyboard from any other standard keyboard.

The special function keys also have a good placement to them, with the keys for opening specific folder in the upper left, media control keys for changing tracks and ejecting CDs. in the top middle, keys for opening applications on the top right, and calculator, log off, and power keys are the far right.


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