Microsoft Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
Microsoft continue to develop and deliver keyboard and mice products optimised to support their operating systems. In this case I'm reviewing a wireless combination - mouse and keyboard.
Keyboard : Wireless Multimedia Keyboard 1.1
First of all the keyboard. This has a standard QWERTY layout and numeric keypad. Along the top of the keyboard are a row of 'media' buttons allowing one-touch navigation/launch to documents, pictures, music, email, web browser and messenger.
My first point of criticism comes with the 'standard' cursor navigation keys. I say standard, because Microsoft in their infinite wisdom have decided to adopt a non-standard and infuriating layout.
The usual block of four arrow keys are present, but above those where one would expect to find a set of six navigation keys (insert, delete, home, end, page up and page down), one instead finds only five. These five are organised in a two column by three key block, with the delete key being double size.
The insert key has been relegated to the function key block on the 'PrtScn/SysRq' key. As a frequent typist I find it infuriating to have standard keys moved around - especially when there is no need. It creates both problems migrating to this keyboard and problems next time you're at a different machine and are faced with the traditional layout. It's like renting a car and finding that the accelerator and clutch have been swapped and an extra peddle added between them to work the gears.
I've been using this keyboard for several months now and still hit the wrong key and have to visually look to get the right one.
Microsoft are unfortunately not alone in thinking these keys can be shuffled around with each new keyboard - this seems to be a growing trend.
The message I'd send is add any fancy media buttons you want around the standard keys but do not change either the qwerty or navigation keys. If you want to play with anything make it the numeric keypad.
OK - second gripe. This is more of an integration with Vista (and probably XP) issue. In the top-right of the keyboard are a set of three small buttons : 'calculator', 'log off' and 'sleep'. If you accidentally brush the sleep button, as I've done on several occasions, it does just as it says. Puts your machine to sleep. You can be mid sentence and your machine goes to sleep requiring first of all a wait for it to complete going to sleep, then the hassle of making it wake up again. Would a confirmation box in Vista have been so much trouble?
These gripes are a real pity, because the action of the keys are pretty good - certainly one of the better keyboards I've used, although of course no match for my now defunct IBM version from around 15 years ago!
Last problem then I'll shut-up! Despite having the wireless transceiver only around five centimetres from the keyboard on a fairly frequent basis I'm told that the quality of the wireless signal between keyboard and receiver is poor and that performance may therefore suffer. I've tried replacing batteries but to no avail. I've used plenty of other wireless mice in the same position and never had a problem.
Mouse : Standard wireless optical mouse
The mouse forms the second part of this set. This is another disappointment. The mouse itself has a good feel to it, although it's a little light in handling. It's a fairly standard configuration with two main buttons and a tracker wheel in the middle that doubles as a third button.
Unfortunately the wheel itself appears to be pretty ineffective. Sometimes it will scroll, but often it won't. I've now given up on the mouse and returned to my trusty Kensington Wireless Mini mouse - consigning this one to the bottom of my 'spares' draw.
Would I buy this product? In short No. The combination of poor mouse performance and bad keyboard layout decisions have made the whole experience of using this product frustrating. It's probably fine if you don't do a lot of typing, or want a keyboard to go with your media-centre PC, but even then the warnings about wireless signal strength when both transmitter and receiver are so close would worry me about using this on the other side of a room!
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