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Manufacturer: Microsoft
Min OS X: Any Version    Requires: USB Port

Wireless Optical Desktop Comfort Edition
March 15, 2005 | Scott Turner

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Keyboard Shot
The Wireless Optical Desktop from Microsoft has dispelled a number of myths for me about using wireless keyboards. One of them is that a wireless keyboard is useless—-after typing in every imaginable position, I found this is far from the truth. The other belief I held was that keyboards riddled with extraneous function keys would be space wasters. This also proved to be the opposite of my experience, with programmable functions adding greatly to my gaming and computing experience. Microsoft has made another hit with the Wireless Optical Desktop Comfort Edition, and only those with outrageous personal experiences would have any reason to dislike this sleek set. Barring a few installation woes, this desktop combo performed without a hitch, and it is my favorite keyboard and mouse combo I've used to date.

Out of the Box Troubles
As usual, the Mac gets the short end of the stick when it comes to out of the box support for peripherals. My desktop computer refused to read the software CD that came in the box, and according to the manual's instructions the accompanying software was absolutely essential to proper function. For some reason my laptop Mac could read the CD fine, and many minutes of my CD drive whirring later, I was finally able to get the disc to load.

The actual installation went off without a hitch, and a reboot later I was plugging in the oval-shaped wireless base-station receiver. The receiver comes with support for PS/2 and USB built-in, so Mac users shouldn't have to go out and buy an adaptor for this set. As soon as the 4 AA batteries included in the box were inserted in the keyboard and mouse, they both sprang to life. It was merely a matter of hitting a button on both the receiver and the bottom of the mouse and keyboard, and before I knew it I had my setup running smooth as silk.

I had a couple technical difficulties which, although minor, need to be addressed. The wireless function doesn't seem to work through metal, so I had to work without my mousepad. Also, large desks may stretch the receiver's reception, especially if your computer is under your desk and not in a straight line of sight to the unit. The receiver is fairly unobtrusive, though, and is tethered by a long cable, requiring little effort to readjust.

The actual software included with the set is very user friendly. Simply load up the corresponding program "Microsoft Keyboard" or "Microsoft Mouse," and everything else is self-explanatory. Hitting any key on the keyboard brings up an option to reprogram or adjust as you see fit, and every speed setting for the mouse's tracking or scroll wheel is available to be edited independently of the Mac's system tracking speeds with the touch of a button. Battery and signal monitors are also present, and daily reminders can be activated for those who are quick to forget to change the set's batteries.

Feel and Performance
Ergonomically, I was very pleased with the keyboard. The letters are spread out in a slight arc, giving your hands a comfortable inward tilt, and the included handrest is not squishy but firm and supportive. The keys are firm and responsive, with a very similar feel to the Apple Pro Keyboard. The mouse conforms to both left and right handers, with gentle supportive slopes and a snuggibly soft and squishy scroll-wheel I'm very fond of. The mouse also has a right and left button as well as a scroll wheel capable of horizontal as well as vertical scrolling. The default scroll speeds for the mouse were far too slow for my taste, but a quick trip to its respective application, and I was speeding around in no time. All the buttons and keys were very responsive, and I never had any dropout or latency due to the wireless function. This proved crucial playing games online or in fast-twitch games, where your mouse skipping or lagging behind you can mean instant death. I was very comfortable after a few days with the set, although the keyboard's footprint is admittedly a little large due to the handrest. Sliding it around is no problem without wires, though, and it can even sit comfortably in your lap for those long typing sessions or MMORPG grinds. The keyboard does comes with small feet if you want to prop it up, and the feel should fit almost anyone's taste.


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