Functional improvements but hampered by mice and OS requirements. (August 31st, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Microsoft
Price: Media Desktop, $50; Laser Desktop, $100
- More compact designs.
- Quiet, comfortable keys and palm rests.
- Useful key presets, particularly in Windows.
- Laser Desktop 6000's mouse is comfortable; Media Desktop 1000 has a good wheel. - Good price for the Media Desktop 1000.
- Mouse wheel on the Laser Desktop 6000 is imprecise and unpleasant.
- Many features are dependent on Windows, sometimes Vista alone; some are trivial.
- Laser Desktop 6000 is expensive for the features difference versus the 1000.
- Media Desktop 1000 has a large USB receiver for no apparent reason.
- Battery life is potentially much shorter than for some competitors, if still reasonable.
It's in the mice where Microsoft struggles the most, in part because of design choices it has insisted on for many of its recent mice that are curiously inconsistent. The Laser Desktop 6000's mouse is very comfortable for right-hand mouse users and has all five normal mouse buttons within easy reach. However, it also has a completely detent-free mouse wheel that quickly becomes frustrating when trying to move line-by-line or in games, where changing weapons or zooming into a target with the wheel often requires very precise movements. The tilt function for horizontal scrolling is appreciated but still somewhat limited compared to some implementations.
In return, the Media Desktop 1000 ironically seems like the better mouse in comparison. It's less comfortable and less precise than the laser-based mouse of the 6000 set, but it also has a much more accurate (if vertical-only) scroll wheel and is truly ambidextrous. Logitech is able to create mice with wheels that both scroll quickly and move with clear detents for very small movements; it seems odd that Microsoft doesn't follow suit.
Laser Desktop 6000's mouse
Media Desktop 1000's mouse
Cost-cutting also appears to reappear in the way these mice and their keyboards connect to the host computer. Although both have very quick response times and seem interference-free, neither has a toggle to power off the mouse in the event that users have to replace it with another. This can be particularly annoying given that the underside LEDs on the mice flash repeatedly until they're paired up with the keyboard once more; at least the 6000 has a slot to fit the adapter and eliminate the problem while traveling.
The USB adapter is also arbitrarily different. Although the 6000 has a small, subtle stick to attach to the computer, the 1000 has a large, desk-mounted receiver base in its place. There's not much incentive to go wireless when a cabled receiver reintroduces tangles and takes up valuable desk space.
Mac versus Windows features
Understandably, Microsoft is heavily biased towards providing the most functionality for its own hardware in Windows, and it's there that the keyboards fare best. Assuming one makes full use of the bundled software and the built-in features, either set feels at home in the environment. There are shortcuts for virtually every task, and it's entirely likely that long-term users may find themselves rarely touching the mouse.
The same can't quite be said for Mac OS X, however. Both the 6000 and 1000 include IntelliMouse software for Macs and even support basic media key functions out of the box in either environment, but lose a fair amount of their functionality even with drivers installed. Much of this stems from the obvious loss of OS-specific features, but a few keys that do work also lose some of their intended features. The Zoom keys, as an example, are suddenly forced to zoom the entire screen view rather than on a particular document.
Combined with keys that lack Mac-specific labels and it's clear that these desktop combos lose much of their appeal if you're not running Microsoft's own platform; they may be useful on the Mac for those frequently switching back and forth between OS X and Windows, but are no substitutes for even Apple's stock keyboard.
Official estimates peg either controller set at six months or more of real-world battery life. While it's impossible to verify these claims in a review, this is long enough to be reasonable but may face trouble in the long term. Competitors such as the Logitech Cordless Desktop Wave Pro are now touting about three years of battery life and may be more compelling for owners not keen on replacing batteries twice a year.