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Keyboard Kings

Of course, mice aren't getting all the glory; keyboards have been evolving extra features too. Microsoft's Wireless Entertainment Desktop keyboards, for example, include media controls for handling music or video playback, plus a Windows Live Call Button to instantly access and call contacts on MSN Messenger, as well as buttons to access desktop gadgets and favourite folders or Web pages. If you're not so invested in Vista or Microsoft's own services, Logitech's Media Keyboard 600 (under £15) features media controls, one-touch-access buttons for the search engine, email, VoIP and calculator apps of your choice, plus a range of programmable function keys. Again, none of these features let you do anything that you can't already do with a regular keyboard and mouse, but they mean you can do them without as many keystrokes or mouse clicks. Again, we'll talk about why this is useful in a minute.


Microsofts Wireless Entertainment Keyboards are perfect for accessing Windows' media features.


Other features are perhaps a little more gimicky, but that doesn't mean they're not cool. If you're running a pimped-out PC rig then you won't need telling why the backlight in the Logitech G11 and G15 gaming keyboards (approx. £35 to £55) is cool, and hardcore gamers won't need any more details on why responsive, short-travel keys and a large selection of programmable function keys is a good thing. The G15 also incorporates a special LCD 'GamePanel', which - on supporting games - provides a handy data read out on health, ammunition, server status or other in-game stats. The list of supported games is relatively small, but growing steadily, taking in titles such as World of Warcraft, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Lord of the Rings Online. Arguably, however, the panel only duplicates information you can easily see on the screen. It's also worth noting that backlit keys also make sense if you're using a wireless keyboard with a Media Center system, where you may be using the keyboard in dimly lit conditions. Microsoft's Entertainment Desktop 8000 keyboard also features backlit keys.


The Logitech G15 has backlit keys and a built-in LCD display.


Wireless mice and keyboards are often associated with media PCs, and keyboards like Logitech's diNovo Edge keyboard are a perfect match for a stylish home entertainment system. However, wireless systems also make sense in the more confined space of a desktop setup, for the simple reason that fewer wires means less clutter, resulting in a more comfortable and usable working space. Most wireless setups don't consume too many batteries, but if you find changing and charging a hassle, look at rechargable models like Microsoft's Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 (£150) or Logitech's Cordless Desktop MX 5800 Revolution (£125).

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