capsule review

Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop Elite

At a Glance
  • Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop Elite Mac/Win PS2/USB

Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop Elite.
Photograph: Rick Rizner

Setting up the $160 keyboard and mouse set was easy: First you install the Microsoft IntelliPoint 5 software. Then you turn off your PC, plug the receiver into a PS/2 or USB port (Microsoft provides both types of connectors), insert batteries into the mouse and keyboard, and press the Connect buttons on the receiver and the underside of the input devices. Then you start up your PC, and you're ready to go.

You'll find 20 buttons on the keyboard for things like controlling volume and going to favorite Web pages, and all of these are programmable. Using Microsoft's friendly software, you can easily assign the Messenger button to kick off any IM program, for instance. The keyboard's nifty Alt-Tab button presents you with a scrolling list of open windows, and you let go when you reach your desired window.

Both the keyboard and the mouse include what Microsoft calls a Tilt Wheel; in the case of the keyboard, the wheel is located on the left side of the device. In addition to the usual up-and-down scrolling, the wheel can be used for side-to-side scrolling, by sliding the wheel to the left or to the right. You can also move between windows by pressing the wheel down and tilting it, although there is no visual clue as to which program you are jumping to. The Tilt Wheel is a useful feature, but sideways scrolling isn't supported by very many programs. While it works fine in Microsoft programs such as Internet Explorer and Office XP--and is very useful for scrolling around large Excel spreadsheets, say--it isn't supported in other applications, such as Adobe Photoshop.

Overall, the keyboard had a firm, positive feel, plus the keys have full travel. I found that there was a noticeable (but not loud) clicking noise from the keys. Microsoft's nonremovable leather-esque palm rest in front of the keyboard also felt comfortable--although some ergonomics experts will tell you that resting your palms while typing is not a good idea. For a more comfortable typing angle (for my typing style), I unfolded the two legs recessed into the back underside of the keyboard.

The Wireless IntelliMouse 2.0's curved body fit nicely into the palm, and the buttons fell just under my fingertips. In addition to the usual right-click and left-click buttons and the scroll wheel, it has two thumb buttons, which provide an easy way to navigate forward and back in a Web browser. All of the mouse's buttons can be reprogrammed to carry out a range of tasks. For example, you could set one of the thumb buttons to copy and the other to paste, or you can program them to do nothing if you find yourself bumping them by accident. The cursor tracking of the optical sensor was smooth with no apparent lag time.

The range of the wireless keyboard and mouse left something to be desired, however. The manual claims that they should work with up to six feet of separation between the wireless devices and the receiver, but the effective range in my informal tests was closer to two or three feet. To me, it seems somewhat pointless to have a wireless keyboard and mouse if you can't take it very far away from the wired receiver.

The keyboard runs on three AA batteries, while the mouse runs on two (the five required batteries are included). Microsoft says that both the mouse and keyboard power should last for six months or more.

The Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop Elite gives you a comfortable keyboard and mouse, but in our tests, its wireless range is a little short.

Richard Baguley

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop Elite Mac/Win PS2/USB

Shop Tech Products at Amazon