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.
Microsoft is almost constantly revising its keyboard and desktop combos to improve their designs and feature sets, even for minor tweaks, and its newest entries -- the Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 and Wireless Media Desktop 1000 -- certainly reflect their positions as revisions rather than completely new inventions. They do bring in important new features, but are their changes what customers have necessarily been asking for?
keyboard design and extra keys
The most conspicuous single change to the lineup over earlier models, from a cursory glance, is the footprint; the version 3 Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 cuts out about an inch of space on the left-hand side compared to version 2, while the Wireless Media Desktop 1000 loses the huge amount of extra (and largely unused) space surrounding the media keys that was present in the Wireless Optical Desktop 1000 it replaces. Either change is appreciated almost by itself and comes without shrinking the keys or making them any less comfortable. The designs themselves are also much more elegant, even if the 6000 clearly shares its roots in the translucent-framed Laser Desktop 7000.
Wireless Laser Desktop 6000
Wireless Media Desktop 1000
What's less than obvious is a change to the main keyboards themselves. Both have thinner and quieter keys that make much less noise than previous keyboards. For some, this may complete the deal. While it's still possible to hear key action in a silent room at the keyboard itself, the new keys are quiet enough that any moderate amount of music masks the noise. Those nearby also report hearing nothing.
The travel has been improved along with the noise, though these still aren't perfect keys. There's still a relatively high level of resistance, which isn't necessarily a fault but may throw off those used to the very short travel of some keyboards, particularly those familiar with the scissor motion of notebook keyboards. The 6000 has a slight edge in long-term comfort with its curved keyboard, though in practice there wasn't much discomfort in using the straight-lined keyboard of the 1000.
Built-in palm rests on both are the same as for earlier desktops and are comfortable, though not so spectacularly that most will notice. Both keyboards have feet to lift the keyboard to a more comfortable angle, although the 1000 is unfortunately a clear cost-cutting measure that uses less stable flip-out stands instead of the textured feet that keep the 6000's keyboard in place.
Media keys on the two keyboards have changed, but primarily for the sake of five My Favorites keys; these let Windows users call up specific websites, folders, or even specific files. These have been convenient in testing and are likely to be used somewhat regularly given a relatively easy programming method: owners just hold the button down when looking at the content they want the keyboard to memorize. The feature is still most likely to be used by power users, but it's a useful touch.
Laser Desktop 6000's side keys
Media Desktop 1000's key design
Other keys are Microsoft's typical array of media and Windows keys, which remain a mixed bag in terms of their actual usefulness. While everyone may want to use shortcuts for pausing music or opening e-mail, some of the keys feel tacked on as marketing vehicles for Windows Vista; the likelihood that a user will specifically want to cue up the somewhat awkward Flip 3D instead of using the standard task switcher is questionable, as is the shortcut for a Windows Live voice chat.