In place of a mouse, a pointer nub is positioned in the upper-right corner of the keyboard, while the corresponding right- and left-click buttons are on the keyboard's upper-left corner for convenient two-handed navigation. We liked the keyboard's feel and found it easy to use the keys to browse through photos and playlists within MCE. However, mousing around with the nub is an exercise in frustration and requires just the right amount of pressure. Apply too much pressure, and the pointer will zoom across the screen; apply too little, and it won't move at all. This mouse is just as difficult to use with the oversize menu buttons in MCE as it is in the regular Windows interface where more precision is necessary.
In addition to controlling your PC, you can program the keyboard to learn commands from other remote controls, such as your TV or audio receiver. To use the learning feature, you must place the remote control head-to-head with the keyboard's infrared port and press a series of keystrokes. After fiddling about with the commands, we were able to successfully assign an unused key on our keyboard to power on and off our television.
Four AA batteries, which are included, power the Remote Keyboard, and Microsoft claims that will keep your unit operating for three months, depending on the amount of use, of course. To conserve battery power, you can opt to turn off the backlighting. There's also a security switch on the front of the keyboard that locks down the keys to prevent accidental strokes when not in use.
The keyboard will work with any PC running MCE 2005, but you'll need to download an updated driver from Microsoft's Web site (the driver is not included with the keyboard) to enable communication between the keyboard and your Media Center's built-in receiver.
Microsoft offers a three-year limited warranty on the hardware and free phone and e-mail support for the first 90 days; after that, support will cost you $35 per request. Online self-support, downloads, and updates are also available via Microsoft's support Web site.