Logitech Cordless Desktop MX3100
The Logitech Cordless Desktop MX3100 is an overachiever in the world of desktop sets. The keyboard features more than 20 function and media-control keys, while the incredibly accurate and comfortable mouse has eight programmable buttons. The set is available for around $125 (as of March 2005), so you'll pay for the convenience of all these buttons, but for media mavens and IM addicts, it's worth it.
The mouse, the keyboard, and the RF receiver (which also serves as a recharging base station for the mouse), require minimal setup: simply plug in the receiver to your computer's USB port--1.0 or 2.0 will work--and sync the devices by pressing the connect buttons. The set works as a plug-and-play device, and the default settings on the shortcut and media keys are useful when using media players and other common programs, such as Microsoft Word and Excel. To customize the buttons and change the settings on the keyboard or mouse, however, you do need to install Logitech's SetPoint software--a software CD is included. The software takes only about five minutes to install and onscreen instructions guide you through setup. Once installed, the SetPoint software lets you program the keys to access your preferred media players and messaging clients. You can also choose to install MusicMatch Jukebox 9.0, a media player, and Logitech's MediaLife software, which helps you manage and view pictures, music, and video.
The standout piece in this set is, which also won CNET's Editors' Choice award. It features a four-way scrollwheel, with buttons for cruising up or down, as well as three buttons above the thumb. All of the buttons are programmable. In tests, the rechargeable battery lasted four days of solid use, and it never lost its signal or jumped, even on a slightly shiny metal surface.
The keyboard is packed with function keys and media controls. A four-way scrollwheel and cruise up and down buttons, which let you move up and down in a window faster than scrolling, sit on the left side of the keyboard. Above that is a zoom in/out rocker button accompanied by a "%" button, which returns the screen to 100 percent size. Below are three unrelated buttons: one to close a window, an Enter button, and a programmable button that defaults to a task button, which shows all open applications. The raised top-center section is devoted to media: a large volume-control wheel, standard playback control buttons, and buttons for burning and recording. Unfortunately, the burn button works with only MusicMatch Jukebox 8.2 and Windows Media Player 9.0. To the left, you'll find programmable buttons that default to open video, music, picture and document folders. The keys in the upper-right part of the keyboard are also programmable but default to open e-mail and instant-messaging clients, set your status on instant messenger, and start a Webcam. Although very useful, most of the function keys are very small.
And, if that's not enough programmable functionality, the F-keys are also programmable. F1 through F8 default to the tasks of opening help, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Power Point, undo, redo, print, and save. Keys F9 through F12 are unassigned. All of the F-keys are about half the size of regular key--we'd like them a bit larger.