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Shift left illogical

First INQpressions Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 5000
Wed May 16 2007, 17:07
IT'S PROGRESS, I SUPPOSE. For years, my favourite keyboard has been the Microsoft Office Keyboard - you know, the one with the scroll wheel, copy and paste buttons at the left-hand end. I liked it so much I even had two of them. But with the advent of Vista, the keyboard - which in fairness to MS has been discontinued for years - is no longer supported and much of the extended buttonry no longer works.

When I contacted the firm, Microsoft was apologetic but confirmed that there would never, ever be support for it under Vista, but would I like to try a new Wireless Laser Desktop 5000 instead?

The 'laser' bit refers to the mouse, which no longer emits the cheery red glow of previous Microsoft LED wireless mice, but which probably helps battery consumption, MS claiming it should run for around six months before the batteries die. The rodent is slightly asymmetrical, being more suited to right handers than southpaws. It's pretty accurate and the main buttons are nicely weighted, although the two auxiliary buttons are mounted on opposite sides, unlike two under the thumb on my previous Wireless Intellimouse Explorer (the Goth one with the fake leather finish). These laser mouse auxilliary buttons are a bit stiff and not as easy to use as the Intellimouse ones as they're mounted too high and you tend to lose your grip on the mouse when trying to use them.

The wireless keyboard has one of the nicest actions of any I've ever used and comes with a wide range of tilt adjustments and a nice, squidgy rubber wrist rest. The key layout is one of those that curves away from you at the ends and has the added weirdness of the middle keys being considerably wider than the ones on the ends, The N key, for example, is twice as wide as the M alongside it.

This isn't as weird to use as it is to explain, but where the keyboard falls down badly is with the left hand shift key - the one used most frequently by most people. This is the smallest key on the keyboard and is wedge-shaped. I have small, artistic hands, but even my little finger also hits the key alongside it rather than the shift key on its own. This means most of my sentences now begin with | rather than a capital letter. I hereby call into question the ergonomic research that resulted in this aberration. A call to Microsoft confirmed that this tiny key is definitely the one that will appear on the final retail version.

But apart from this rather significant glitch, the overall keyboard is elegant, slim, comfy and features a useful zoom in/out key, media player controls and five programmable favourites keys. My only other complaint is that the logout key doesn't appear to be programmable to put the machine to sleep rather than simply logging out. If it is, I haven't yet found out how to do it.

My ergonomically-unsound typing style - sitting in an armchair with the keyboard on my lap - doesn't allow me to comment on the efficacy of the numerous front/back tilt adjustments, although the absence of a cable does mean I knock my coffee over far less frequently. There's also a battery low warning LED that lights up to tell you its time for some more Duracells.

But if you have an exceedingly-small left pinky or can put up with the midget shift key, at less than £50, The Wireless Laser Desktop is well worth a look. ?

Tech spec


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