Microsoft Gadget Showcase

From Xbox 360 controllers and mouse torture to the return of the split keyboard, see what Microsoft has in for its peripherals over the next few months.

Yesterday I entered the Lion’s Den… and perfectly fine it turned out to be too. You see, I enter Microsoft events with a certain degree of anticipation. Will there be hounds of hell on the door? Where are the blood penned contracts? What does Satan’s playground look like? As it turned out, it looks a lot like The Bridge nightclub in London’s SE1, which was good for me, not so good for my camera…

Thankfully, our Evil Lord from Redmond supplied some CD shots so I’ll be running purple nightclub blurovision alongside the marketing pics to provide that nice dancehall/airbrushed studio contrast.

So, what did I come across in the gadget fest? First port of call was the bar… I mean Entertainment section. In here I managed to get my first hands on with the new Xbox 360 controller (but sadly there was no console itself). Being PC compatible, the pad was hooked up to a desktop running Need For Speed: Underground 2. Now despite its chunky looks, I must say it is great in use. The build quality is excellent and the buttons feel responsive, in fact there is more than a hint of the Playstation controller about it with is no bad thing considering they are still – for my money – the best pads on the market.

Prising myself away from that (and a running version of Age of Empires 3), I discovered a whole host of keyboards. These were rather curiously divided into “Comfort” and “Entertainment” sections, which made me question if one set was designed to be boring yet nice on the old fingertips, while the other was a laugh riot that could lead to amputations. Anyhow, what it boiled down to was media centre orientated stuff on one side and, low and behold, the return of the split keyboard on the other.

On the media side of things, the most striking product was the Remote Keyboard for MCE – Media Centre Edition – (Microsoft has this big “literal branding” thing going on at the minute). This streamlined shape is so it can be easily stowed around when not in use and it features all the features you’d expect on such a device – volume controls, trackpoint, shortcut keys to media folders, etc – but in a more attractive package. Why it was converted into a skateboard, however, no one quite seemed to know… Buy it now for £99.99 including VAT.

Alongside the Remote Keyboard for MCE was another pretender, the Wireless Optical Desktop 5000 (below – £79.99), but that was far more standard fair so we’ll skip it.

Next, “Comfort” and pain… oooh!

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