We’re continuing our high-end keyboard roundup with Microsoft’s new hardware one-two punch, the Wireless Laser Desktop 7000. It combines their new wireless keyboard with touch-sensitive favorites buttons with the Laser Mouse 7000, which looks like an extra from Minority Report. Moving from a wired Logitech setup, how does our brave reviewer fare?
First, let me just remind you: I’ve been using the same keyboard for probably seven years now. The Logitech Elite Media keyboard has been an absolute rock, and it hasn’t actually conked out or anything, though it is extremely dirty. So moving to something that’s pretty much completely different is a little weird. Wireless? And what are those extra buttons? And as for the mouse, it’s kind of got a lot to live up to as well; my stable of gaming mice grows larger by the week.
Many features for you, my friend
The keyboard is a beautiful piece of hardware. You may disagree with the aesthetic (Vista-ish) but it’s good for what it is, and it feels pretty solidly constructed. Key depression is extremely quiet, but while the action is smooth, it takes more force than my clickier old keyboard. The layout is ergonomic to a degree; I’ve never liked the “natural” keyboards split down the middle and at weird angles, but this one is a more subtle design. The keys follow a shallow curve and are all on the same plane. Trouble, though: the Z key is a bit smaller than the others, which is a bit disconcerting but didn’t affect things too much. The Ctrl key is miniscule, though, which is problematic. I use that key a lot, why did they make it smaller?
As expected, the designers have made the F-keys into useful/useless function keys. I’m used to hitting Alt-F4 to close a window, F5 to refresh, that sort of thing. Now each key is printed permanently with an icon representing an action. Some of them are useful, but do I really need three buttons to control email when most everybody uses the mouse anyway, and besides that I use webmail in the first place? I would have liked some of the function keys to be without printed actions, though I don’t really blame Microsoft for what they’ve done here. They work well in the programs I tested them: “close document” closed tabs in firefox, “save” worked fine all over, and so on. You’ll need the undo and redo buttons, because you’ll have a lot of trouble hitting Ctrl-Z.
Now we run into kind of a serious problem: the F-keys are not separated into groups. How exactly are you to tell without looking which is which? When quicksave and quickload are F8 and F9, you better be sure which one you’re hitting or you may just end up having to fight a boss twice (or with 10 health – the dreaded accidental-save-instead-of-load). The grouping of keys is not just done like that out of a sense of tradition. It has very good reasoning behind it.
To make up for these missteps, you have the excellent “Favorites” buttons, which I really wish there were more of. You can tie each button very easily to any location, file, web page, or whatever by simply putting your finger on it for a second or so. It then works just like any other shortcut. It’s straightforward, easy, useful, and I wish there were more of them.
The media keys are out of the way and work with no configuration, apparently – I really expected the thing to launch Windows Media Player when i hit play, but they went straight to Winamp and worked without any problems at all. And can I just say, thank you Microsoft for letting me disable the Windows key. I know it must have been hard, but the only thing that key does is bounce me out of full-screen apps and games and crash my computer. That was its only function – and now, thank god, it has none at all. Unfortunately, you can’t reassign it. It’s okay, Microsoft. It’s hard to let go.
Bring your own mouse
And what of the mouse? Sadly, it does not fare as well. In fact, it sucks. I’m sorry to say that in every function aside from looking interesting, it is no good. First, configuration is limited and the Microsoft Mouse software is not particularly great. The shape of the mouse feels pretty good in the hand, actually, but that feel does not extend to the actual movement of the cursor, which felt laggy and inexact.
The feeling that this mouse was meant to be seen and not used is confirmed by the thumb button. Looks innocent, right? In fact, its placement under the ornamental silver rim means that you actually have to press upwards somewhat to push it. And as there is nowhere to impart a counterforce without clicking, you’ll usually end up lifting the mouse clean off your desk – moving the cursor one way or the other. Brilliant. It’s clear that the visual design team had final cut on this one. It actually makes me pretty mad that such a glaring ergonomic problem made it into this product.
This is a strong keyboard, but not a strong combo. If you need wireless, you could do a lot worse than this keyboard, but for gaming and power user work it’s not a good idea. It puts a lot at your fingertips but there’s also a lot of wasted potential. The F-keys are a dealbreaker for me, which is sad because I really did find the touch-sensitive favorites buttons useful. I think that the problem here was they didn’t know what worked and what didn’t. The fact that no one noticed the problems with the mouse, and that no one took issue with the tiny Ctrl key suggests that this keyboard is solving an image problem for Microsoft: they needed a sexy keyboard and they kinda got one, but they also forgot what makes a keyboard good. Unfortunately I can’t recommend this unless you can get the keyboard separately for a decent price.