Microsoft's new $150 Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 mouse and keyboard set comes chock-full of the features we expect from a media-oriented input device package. From the long-range Bluetooth connectivity to the touch-sensitive keyboard cursor control to the smartly placed media control buttons, it's clear that Microsoft gave a lot of thought to how it expects people will want to interact with a PC that doubles as a digital entertainment hub. It's too bad, then, that the company didn't put more thought into the keyboard as a typing device. That issue and strong competition from Logitech prevent us from giving this keyboard a higher recommendation.
Your reviewer will confess right away to a long-standing dislike of Microsoft's old split-tray "natural" keyboard design. Perhaps it is, as Microsoft claims, more ergonomically correct, but the traditional keyboard layout has always felt more efficient. The keyboard in the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 set has contiguous rows of keys, but they're still laid out in a curve along a 6 degree arc. The result is that several keys are wider than they would be otherwise, which means that typing will involve a lot of mistaken key presses until you get used to it. Microsoft itself told us that 10 percent of its customers are "loyal split-keyboard users but the other 90 percent find the ergo/split design too daunting." This keyboard's new ComfortCurve design is supposed to preserve the ergonomics of the split models without all the awkwardness, but we found it just as irritating.
On the other hand, if you connect the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 to a living-room PC, you might not worry so much about typing as you will about its ability to navigate Windows Media Center or other media player software from across the room. In that respect, the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 fairs better. You'll probably ditch the mouse (a functional-if-boring laser-based model), instead relying on the keyboard's hot keys and good-enough touch-sensitive cursor control pad. The touch pad is better than that of Logitech's diNovo Edge, because of a toggle switch that changes the cursor from a free-floating mouse arrow to a more linear, directional-pad-style selector for navigating menu options. We also like the large, easy-to-reach volume, channel, and media play buttons, which the diNovo Edge hides inaccessibly as alternative commands to the function keys on its top edge.
We point to Logitech's diNovo Edge above because it's the only other keyboard on the market that's in the same league as the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000. Logitech's keyboard is more expensive, coming in at $200 without a mouse, but we like it better than Microsoft's new desktop set for a few reasons. For one, the Logitech's keyboard is a pleasure to type on. If you're not prejudiced against curved keyboards, you might disagree, but we found the diNovo Edge worked better at its primary function. Another reason we like Logitech's high-end keyboard over Microsoft's is that Logitech's keyboard is rechargeable. The Wireless Desktop Entertainment 7000 offers nine months of battery life on four AA batteries, according to Microsoft, but obviously, it's preferable not to have to worry about purchasing more batteries.
We also like the diNovo Edge better because it has the look and feel of a more expensive product. Looks don't matter to everyone, but in the case of a keyboard that might make its way into a more public area, such as your living room, we'd pick the diNovo Edge for its cleaner lines and more polished appearance. Beyond its aesthetics, the diNovo Edge (2 pounds, 1 ounce) is also heavier than the Wireless Entertainment Desktop's keyboard (1 pound, 12 ounces). It's a difference of only 5 ounces, but the diNovo Edge's added heft gives it a superior surface grip. The lighter Microsoft keyboard feels more ready to slide around on your desk.
Finally, Logitech beat Microsoft at its own game as far as operating system compatibility and ease of setup. We found setting up the Microsoft Bluetooth receiver and the desktop set's driver software easy enough, but it involved a multistep process of rebooting and holding down the connect button on the mouse and keyboard. The Vista install process went smoother, in that the receiver automatically found the hardware after we installed the drivers. Indeed, the Gadgets hot key on the keyboard makes it seem as if Microsoft developed it with Vista in mind. The Logitech diNovo Edge, on the other hand, simply required us to connect the USB key and install the software. At no time were we prompted to configure anything, in either XP or Vista. It simply worked. That's a one-time hassle, so we won't make a big deal about it, but if you're not that comfortable installing driver software and you don't plan to switch to Vista, it's easy to imagine that you might find the initial setup daunting.