Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth
In dark translucent navy blue and steel gray, Microsoft's Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth makes a handsome desk addition. Like other Bluetooth keyboard and mouse sets, Microsoft's package provides an increased wireless range over existing RF and infrared technology--more than 30 feet. And you can share up to seven Bluetooth-compatible peripherals with the single USB transceiver--ideal for laptops. Overall, this package does a great job of showing the merits of Bluetooth.
Is the wireless convenience of this combo worth it? Well, figure $160 for a package of keyboard, mouse, and USB Bluetooth transceiver--$90 less than Logitech's DiNovo Media Desktop for Bluetooth. (You must have Windows XP with Service Pack 1 to install the Microsoft package.) However, plan on an approximately one-hour installation if you do not have Service Pack 1 on your system--or 20 minutes if you do.
I liked the keyboard's design: It came with five programmable My Favorites keys. Programming them works kind of like setting the buttons on your car radio: You open a Web page or document, hold down the button you want to change, and your new settings are in place. I found that the keyboard was comfortable to type on. The keys had a pleasingly springy feeling and a positive response as I typed. In fact, this keyboard is not much different in layout and feel from previous Microsoft keyboards.
The right-handed mouse design is also like the company's previous wireless optical pointing devices. It provides two extra, customizable thumb-side buttons. Its contoured shape will fit comfortably with most people's hands.
The mouse and keyboard need two AA batteries each--one set for each device is included in the package. Microsoft claims that the batteries will last about two months before you need to replace them.
The true convenience of this Bluetooth set is the wireless freedom and the ability to control a clutch of Bluetooth-enabled devices seamlessly from your desktop. Microsoft made the pairing process with Bluetooth devices very easy. Ostensibly with a 30-foot range (I actually went 50 feet and had a steady connection), this desktop bundle would be great for controlling presentations without encumbering cables. At the very least, Microsoft's entrant into the Bluetooth arena can only give the floundering technology a chance to finally take off. Note: Microsoft's keyboard and mouse set was released in 2003, and the company is planning on releasing a new version later in 2004.
Microsoft's reasonably priced wireless combo makes great use of Bluetooth technology, but be prepared for a lengthy installation.
Michael S. Lasky