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Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth

Where else can we start but with the contentious step-father of the PC industry, Microsoft. The offering from Bill Gates' boys is the second most expensive model we have here (behind only Logitech) and straight off the bat I must stress that the Microsoft Bluetooth driver will run only on Windows XP with Service Pack One installed. So anyone currently not running this system, or not prepared to migrate should skip to the next review now.

I suspect this still leaves us with the majority of readers and your loyalty to the Redmond based giant will be rewarded straight out of the box with what must be the most stylish keyboard and mouse in the group. Simply laying out this package on your desktop will make you feel that your money has been well spent.

Finished entirely in translucent and opaque blues with the occasional flash of silver, Microsoft has created a visually stunning keyboard, a curvy five button mouse and a small but eye catching Bluetooth receiver capable of connecting up to five other devices.

Then the first of what turned out to be many quirks turned up. On first detection, a none too apparent warning gives you 30 seconds to input a security code it supplies on screen or the whole thing goes to hell. In fact, after deliberately letting the timer elapse, I found the only way I could get anything to work again was a complete reinstall of all software from scratch. Conspiracy theories aside, by the end of the setup process I discovered Microsoft hadn’t installed the mouse either so I had to do that manually.

Once through this rigmarole, the joy of the new Microsoft keyboard began to win me over. Its keys feel reassuringly well crafted and sound similar to the noise of shutting a door on a BMW. The typing position is simply perfect and I found myself able to use it for hours on end. If this particular review is the longest, that is because I typed it on the Microsoft keyboard.

The layout of the keyboard is also excellent. The secondary functions of the F Keys have been highlighted so handy shortcuts such as Undo, Redo, New, Save, Send and Open become more apparent. The Delete key has also been oversized which is more practical, and the Insert key, which is rarely used but often accidentally toggled, moved up to share the Print Screen key. There is also the usual multimedia array of volume controls, My Document shortcuts and a handy calculator button.

I was less impressed with the mouse. Once in use, its ergonomic curves and arcs felt over exaggerated for any normal hand and my thumb felt as if it had fallen down a crevasse. There was also an irritating lag after any slight pause in use. During a game this would not be a problem, but for any activity when mouse use is more stop/start it becomes incredibly irritating.

But the final nail in the coffin for this supermodel turned up nearly four days later, when the batteries ran flat. Flat in the mouse and low in the keyboard. To my great surprise, they were not even rechargeable. I hadn’t noticed this initially because it seemed incomprehensible to me that Microsoft would supply anything less than rechargeable batteries with a £100 product. Of course, Microsoft provided no method of charging the batteries even if they had been rechargeable, so I stumped up for four more batteries and they lasted a week. All in all, I find it somewhat ironic, coming from Microsoft, that however visually pleasing this product may be, it is simply too power hungry.

So despite the pleasing visuals, we kick off with a combo that is a perfect example of style over substance.

Verdict

Microsoft has created a great looking package with a keyboard that’s a joy to use. Unfortunately, the horrendous battery life and lack of rechargeable feature makes it hard to recommend.

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