Microsoft has introduced a “kitchen sink” keyboard and mouse combo that is one of the most feature-rich and high tech keyboard-mouse combos we’ve ever tested. It’s fully wireless, rechargeable, has backlighting, remote control tools for lap use and much, much more. If it wasn’t for the sky-high price, we’d recommend it in a heartbeat.
Features and Design
Microsoft has gone all out with its latest wireless keyboard and mouse combo, dubbed the Entertainment Desktop 8000. It is designed to function as a desktop keyboard, or a lapboard for couch surfing, and it’s comprised of three distinct components: The wireless keyboard, wireless laser mouse, and a USB hub with built-in Bluetooth. Let’s take a look at each of these components.
The keyboard is a very attractive piece of hardware, made of silver plastic with metallic-looking keys arranged in a slight V configuration for comfort. It houses four rechargeable AA batteries. The left-side of the keyboard features media control buttons including volume control, play/pause, channel up and down and so forth. The edge of the keyboard sports a button to activate the Vista Sidebar, a magnifier button and mouse controls for lap use.
The keyboard is small and thin, and is surprisingly comfortable
The right edge of the keyboard is lacking a number pad, and in its place there are buttons for Windows Media Center, a “back” button for web surfing, and a switchable touchpad that can be toggled to be touch sensitive or jus follow click commands for up, down, left and right.
The top of the keyboard features the usually Function keys, but there are interestingly, just little touch-sensitive areas of the keyboard rather than actual buttons. Just brush your finger on the key area to activate the function. The F1-F4 keys have shortcuts that are activated via the Fn key to open My Pictures, My Music, Internet Explorer and Live Messenger.
The backlighting is a soft silver color and looks incredibly elegant. It can be adjusted manually via Fn keys to either turn it off, turn it down, or turn it all the way up.
It’s also important to note that Microsoft has moved the Windows key from its usual position to the bottom, center of the keyboard. This is a decision that makes absolutely no sense to us at all unless you are someone who never uses the Windows key and its associated shortcuts.
The Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 is an ambidextrous mouse that is wireless, rechargeable and communicates to the base station via Bluetooth. It’s a five-button mouse that includes the standard left, right and mouse buttons as well as a button on each side of the mouse. The default config has the button on the left side perform “back” while web surfing, while the button on the right defaults to a magnify window that opens when you press it. The Wireless Laser Mouse 8000 uses laser technology and features a sensitivity level of 1000dpi.
The ambidextrous 8000 Laser mouse is accurate enough, but it is not a gaming mouse
The USB Hub and Charging Station
Easily the most unique feature of this product is the small USB hub and charging station. It’s a small little brick that plugs into a USB port and is powered via an AC adapter. It features four USB ports and slides over the upper edge of the keyboard to recharge it. You can also rest the mouse on top of it to recharge the mouse. Underneath it are four powered USB ports, though one is occupied at all times by the Bluetooth receiver that the mouse uses. Here’s how it looks with everything attached.
The charger rests on top of the keyboard, contains four USB ports, and charges the mouse too
Use and Testing
When we pulled the keyboard and mouse out of the box we had to go through a somewhat lengthy setup procedure due to the number of parts involved. First we had to put four AA batteries into the keyboard. Then we put a single AA battery into the mouse. Then we plugged in the AC adapter and connected it to the USB hub. Then we had to turn both the keyboard and the mouse to the “on” position. We then put the Bluetooth receiver into the hub and were able to control the mouse and install the Intellipoint software. Wow – what a lot of work for a keyboard!
We opened up the software and found that both the moue and keyboard utilities were very easy to use and full of features. The keyboard software lets you customize every setting and every special button. Some buttons can’t be customized per se, such as the Gadget button, but you can opt to disable it if you don’t want to use it. There are also five customizable hotkeys at the top of the keyboard (F5-F10).
The keyboard utility lets you easily customize all the hotkeys and extra buttons
The mouse software is also excellent. You can customize every button, and can even program specific buttons for different programs. The only button we changed was the right-side button, which is set to “magnify” by default, which is odd. You press it and a large box opens up that magnifies everything in the window.
The software lets you tweak all five buttons, adjust sensitivity, and more
Once we had everything set up, we typed, and moused away. The keyboard is great and is very comfortable to use. We normally like to flip the little tabs on the back of a keyboard to prop it up a bit, but this is not an option on this keyboard since it has to lay flat to allow the USB hub to slide over the top of it. However, we didn’t mind this at all; it’s very comfortable and the action on the keys feels very good. The ancillary buttons are easy to use and the controls that are used instead of a mouse had a positive feel and were accurate at all times.
The mouse is okay, but felt a big too large for our tastes. And at just 1000dpi it felt kind of ‘floaty” to us, but that’s most likely because we just got done sampling the amazing Logitech G9 Laser. Of course, the mouse is fine for general tasks, but is not the most accurate mouse available. Its comfort is decent, and the non-ratcheting mouse wheel made us pine for a ratcheting feel when scrolling through folders looking for files.
The powered USB hub works fine, but there is one problem: there’s no indication on the unit where the hidden USB ports are located so finding them is a matter of hunting around until you find the port.
We’d also like to point out that the coolest feature is the backlighting. If you don’t use the keyboard for a few minutes the backlighting dims. Then, as soon as you put your hands over the keyboard it turns back on, which is very cool in our opinion. We also like its silvery glow and how it automatically adjusts the brightness according to available light.
We like this keyboard and mouse a lot, but we simply cannot stomach this model’s whopping $300 USD price tag, especially since it doesn’t have a number pad. Yes it has a lot of features and is very elegant and easy to use, but we can buy a new video card that can play Crysis for that kind of money. Aside from the high price, the only real quibbles are that the mouse feels “floaty” and the USB ports are hard to locate. Despite these issues it’s a great all-around keyboard/mouse combo that is highly useful and would adapt just fine to use on your desktop or lap.
• Great keyboard
• Backlighting is nifty
• Useful control buttons
• Super expensive
• No number pad
• USB ports are hard to find
• Mouse feels “floaty”