Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth
Kristan's quest for a wireless living room begins in earnest.
As any committed gamer will tell you, cables are the bane of our lives - forever getting snagged or tripped over by the unwary traveller. At the very least they're a messy nuisance, and at worst result in heartbreaking damage to persons, property or pets (yelp!). Just as well there's such a thing as wireless technology then, eh?
A few years ago the wireless bandwagon started rolling in earnest, but far from being some kind of revolution, the actual range you got from the receiver was a rather pathetic six feet. If you, like me, indulge in a spot of living-room-based-big-screen-PC gaming now and then, six feet is patently not enough and defeats the object of having wireless gizmos at all.
So when Microsoft introduced its Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth (keyboard/mouse) package with promise of a nine-metre range, I was keen to check it out and find out whether it's the answer to the armchair PC gamers' needs.
Regardless of whether you understand the principle of Bluetooth technology (we don't), or have a PC set up more twisted than Spaghetti Junction, you'll note it's a pricey little bugger, costing an eye popping £149.99. But as all PC owners will ruefully note, you have to pay top dollar to be at the cutting edge - it just depends on how much being able to run your PC from up to 9.1 metres away matters to you.
A plethora of features
Within the package itself you get a feature-laden keyboard, a high end, multi button Optical Wheel Mouse along with a USB Transceiver which works with both desktop and notebook PCs. Both the keyboard and mouse take two AA batteries, which are also supplied, and are presented in a tasteful shade of dark blue. How nice.
Set up is relatively simple, as long as you have a keyboard and mouse hooked up already. Once you plug in the transceiver, and insert the supplied driver disk the whole operation takes less than 10 minutes, requiring no more technical know-how than locating and pressing a button on the underside of both the keyboard and mouse. Once you've connected both devices you can safely disconnect your old desktop devices and liberate yourself from the evils of the cable - but keep them handy.
The keyboard itself is more of a multimedia remote control/command centre than a boring old QWERTY device. As well as functioning as a full 105 key keyboard, it features some very useful windows shortcut buttons across the top of it, including My Documents, My Pictures, My Music, Internet Explorer, Messenger, Mail, Media Player, as well as a volume control/mute and accompanying Media Player controls. Not only that, the dual Funtion keys give the keyboard a bewildering array of almost every one touch shortcut commands you could ask for. In short, this is the Rolls Royce of keyboards.
The optical mouse is of a similarly high quality, sporting a sturdy ergonomic design that after hours of use still feels comfortable. Unlike many modern mice, this one keeps things simple, sticking to the tried and trusted two-button plus wheel design, along with discreet forward/back buttons near the thumb rest. Whether used in desktop applications or frantic FPSs it performed brilliantly, almost never stuttering or tripping up.
Although both devices are undoubtedly the best keyboard/mouse combo we've ever used, and perform excellently in whatever scenario required, there are a few points you should be aware of before you consider taking the plunge. Possibly the most important point of all is that they simply don't work unless the machine has successfully booted Windows. If you fancy tweaking your BIOS settings, then you'll have to plug in your old PS/2 keyboard, which is somewhat annoying, but in truth rarely an issue for day-to-day use.
Another slightly irritating issue is that upon login you have to move the mouse around for a couple of seconds before the cursor kicks in, and likewise there is a slight initial delay when you type in your desktop login password. On a few instances, albeit very rarely, the keyboard flew into a fit, repeating a single keystroke for no apparent reason. Strange indeed.
Battery wise, the system cleverly reports how much juice you've got left and automatically lets you know when the power is getting low, as well as further warnings when things get critical. The supplied Energizer batteries lasted just three weeks of fairly intensive use on the mouse, although the keyboard is still going strong, so you might find you'll be using a fair few batteries over the course of a year, unless you're one of those organised people that has a supply of rechargeables.
Pure PC opulence
Whether you can justify the exceptional cost is down to your funds and how important cordless PC use really is. For me, it was excellent being able to indulge in some big screen gaming in the living room without suffering any performance loss or cable clutter - especially as the PC was in another room. It saves a lot of hassle, has a ton of features and is exceptionally well designed. If you fancy pure PC opulence and an end to the death trap array of cables, look no further - alternatively, wait for the inevitable price drop...