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Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth
High end keyboard and optical mouse set with Bluetooth wireless.

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Wednesday November 10, 2004; 5:15pm EST


Wireless input devices have certainly become must have items over the past couple of year. The plummeting prices, improved reliability and better power efficiency have made wireless keyboards, mice and joysticks hot sellers. An emerging trend within this new wireless market are combo packages that include a wireless keyboard and mouse that operate off a single wireless receiver. Up until now, a bulk of these devices utilized 'radio frequencies' to talk with your computer. Although popular and inexpensive, these devices have a tendency to be unreliable at times, offer a limited signal range and still consume too many batteries. Recently however, new alternatives have begun to emerge and they bring with them relief for some of these technical issues.

Introducing the Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth. Utilizing all the latest technologies on offer, this desktop keyboard and mouse combo hold a treasure trove of new technologies and innovations to make your computing more comfortable and easy.

The desktop kit includes a standard configuration keyboard with extended configurable control keys and integrated scroll wheel; mouse utilizing high resolution optical tracking technology, scroll wheel and configurable buttons; a USB Bluetooth receiver; software, batteries and manual. The keyboard and mouse are attractively finished in quality materials and a black / deep blue color scheme that would easily work well in almost any environment.

The installation process, while relatively easy and non-eventful for experienced computer users, may pose a problem for novice users. The process for installation must be followed exactly, and at a point during the process the user must follow detailed instructions on initiating the wireless connectivity between the devices and the Bluetooth receiver. We would have liked to see this part of the installation be more automated or give greater assistance to novice users. An existing keyboard and mouse are also required in order to do the installation.  However, if carefully followed, the likelihood of problems is very low.

Once installed you are treated to the benefits of the wireless technology the devices are based on. Bluetooth allows multiple devices (up to 6) to talk wirelessly with your computer, reliable connectivity, with a range of up to 30 feet and can be 128-bit encrypted for secure transmission of data. So not only can the keyboard and mouse use this transmitter, but thousands of other products that use the popular standardized Bluetooth technology such as cell phones, notebooks, digital cameras, PDA's, printers and other such devices. All seamlessly connecting with the Bluetooth transmitter along with your keyboard and mouse.

The keyboard is designed with a relatively conventional keyboard layout, a split ergonomic configuration would have been highly preferred. The keyboard features a wide range of additional control buttons in addition to the standard keyboard set for quick launching applications such as your email, instant messenger and media applications; launching favorite web sites; and controlling the volume and play controls of your media; forward and back browser keys and a built in scroll wheel. The front wrist pad of the keyboard is covered with a simulated soft leather material that generally does add comfort to your use of the keyboard. The individual key mechanisms have a quality feel and provide excellent feedback. The keys have a perfectly light yet decisive feel to their keystroke action, making them very comfortable for prolonged usage. The additional control buttons offer access to heavily used applications, and the volume / mute controls are a definite convenience. Gone are the old days when manufacturers of such keyboards laced them with control buttons to useless applications, 'shopping' buttons, manufacturer's web site buttons, and other non-productive buttons. The control buttons on this keyboard all serve a valuable purpose. The integrated scroll wheel features vertical and horizontal scrolling, with truly superb smooth gliding operation that scrolls in time with the speed you move the scroll wheel.

The mouse picks up where the keyboard left off - visually appealing with its high arched back, prominent deep blue cover and highly supportive rubberized side supports for your hand. Towards the front of the mouse features an identical scroll wheel to the keyboard - that operates smoothly and highly effectively. After using the smoother gliding scroll wheels on these devices you can never go back to the notched jerky motion of older generation devices. The mouse offers incredible support for your hand and seems to almost 'mold' into the exact shape your hand makes when holding the mouse. Its heavy and solid feel gives it a substantial feel that helps to provide more accurate handling. The two mouse buttons are well placed and angled, while offering excellent click action for easy single and double click usage.

The keyboard operates on 3 AA batteries, the mouse on 2 AA batteries. Using the keyboard for a continual stretch of time, it performs flawlessly - transmitting all keystrokes reliably. However, after leaving it idol for a number of minutes, it goes into a hibernation mode to save battery life, causing it to delay responding momentarily when coming back out of hibernation when you start typing again. Although this is not by any means a highly intrusive characteristic of the keyboard, it is certainly worth noting.

The mouse is a similar story, tracking mouse movements well and responding accurately to mouse button clicks during typical usage. Even doing finely detailed graphics work was easily accomplished with the high resolution optical sensor in the mouse. But once the mouse goes into its battery saving hibernation mode, the cursor typically 'jumps' when resuming back into its regular use mode. The mouse was more of a nuisance when this occurred because, unlike the keyboard that would store your keystrokes then dump them in a burst onto the screen, the mouse would suddenly jump and you would end up looking for your cursor on the screen. During regular usage, the mouse only rarely would slightly miss-track the cursor, but not enough to hinder your operation of the computer. Another interesting phenomenon with this mouse is that it is quite particular about its mouse pads. Using a mouse pad that other optical mice had high accuracy on, this mouse performed poorly on, with very inaccurate mouse movement tracking. Select your mouse pad wisely with this one.

The Bluetooth transmitter is a truly ingenious little device that looks similar to a mini-sized USB memory stick, that plugs into your USB port and protrudes only an estimated 2" from your computer. Which is infinitely better than the typical wired receiver box that you used to take up valuable desk space with. The accompanying software allows easy configuration of a multitude of settings such as configuring control buttons, character type speeds, mouse cursor tracking speed and other settings.

Overall I was quite pleased with the quality and performance of the Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth. The shortcomings of the hibernation mode; possibly confusing installation process are easy to live with in light of the many positive aspects of this great combo. People contemplating whether to purchase this desktop or a wired version would most likely enjoy the wireless freedom this option offers, at only a slight price premium.

The Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth requires Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and a minimum system specification of a Pentium 233MHz processor, 128MB memory, 60GB of drive space and an available USB port; includes a generous 3 year warranty; retails for approximately $159USD and is available immediately for purchase at most major electronics retailers.

PROS - Attractive keyboard and mouse design; quality mouse and keyboard button feedback; useful extended keyboard keys; comfortable ergonomic mouse design; smooth gliding scroll wheels are a welcome innovation; accurate mouse optical sensor; lengthy warranty period; easy battery replacement; Bluetooth dongle size and ability to be used as a hub for other compatible devices.

CONS - Lag time when resuming from hibernation mode; installation process may be confusing to novice users; mouse cursor occasionally jumps; mouse cursor accuracy highly sensitive to mouse pad design.

About The Author
Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.
info@viscaconsulting.com
http://www.viscaconsulting.com/

 

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