Historically, Microsoft’s dominance in the market used to create an almost continual rumble of disquiet but over the past few years that righteous indignation seems to have tailed off. When it comes to Microsoft’s Media Center Edition 2005 you’ll get no complaints from me about that as it’s easily the finest ten-foot media interface around. Much to the amusement of my less geeky friends I’ve had a PC under my TV in the lounge for several years in one form or another, but it’s never been more pleasurable to use since I built an MCE 2005 system.
In fact the chief benefit is not the interface, great as it is, but the MCE remote control. The works so well, and ties in so nicely with the interface that it makes having a PC for viewing videos and pictures that bit more practical. The thing is that it’s still a PC you’ve got under your TV and sometimes you need a keyboard and mouse to access it especially if you want to do PC-like activities such as sending email and browsing web pages.
While there are plenty of wireless keyboards and mice out there I’ve been using wired devices, which to be honest looked pretty lame with wires trailing. So when I heard that Microsoft was releasing a wireless keyboard, custom designed for MCE I was very eager to get hold on one. The only thing that surprised me was that it took Microsoft so long to actually bring one out.
When you remove the keyboard from its rather funky looking packaging you’ll notice that unlike most wireless keyboards it doesn’t come with any dongles to connect to your PC. This is because to use the keyboard with your PC you need to already have the USB MCE dongle. If you have a pre-built MCE machine you’ll already have this but if you’ve built your own MCE machine and for some reason don’t already have the dongle you can buy it separately in a bundle with the MCE remote control. Scan are selling this right here for £23.49.
My system was already set-up with the remote and dongle and all the latest patches, so as soon as I inserted the supplied four AA batteries the keyboard worked straight away without me having to install any drivers at all. Sweet.
The battery compartment cover was bit fiddly to remove but inside there’s a very secure housing for the batteries, which is good. The keyboard has rubberised rest pads on the underside which makes it comfortable to grip when you hold it.