Creative's Desktop Wireless 8000 is an attractive duo, but it's not all about looks--this keyboard-and-mouse combo works beautifully, and it's comfortable to boot. This set, available for around $50 (as of February 2005), operates smoothly through and through. Sure, there are fancier sets out there, but this is one of the best values we've seen.
The setup is simple: it includes putting two AA batteries each in the mouse and the keyboard (four batteries are included), plugging in the receiver to a USB port, syncing the units, and installing the software. Although the printed user guide is a bit sparse, the online user manual is detailed, with instructions on how to set up the hardware and how to use the software to customize the mouse's scrollwheels and the keyboard's function buttons. However, if you don't want to take the time to fiddle with all the specifics, the set does work as a plug-and-play unit with default settings for all the system-control and Internet function buttons.
This black-and-silver set features six media-control keys, six system-control hot keys, and six Internet function keys. And for more functionality, the keyboard has a left-side scrollwheel that can also serve as a volume control or--if you press it--a task-switch tool that displays the programs currently running. The 800dpi mouse is comfortable, works smoothly on most surfaces, and fits both left- and right-handed users, but we wouldn't mind more than the three buttons. An extra button might, for example, function as a Back button on the Internet.
Installing the software does have its benefits, however, including an onscreen window that notifies you when you've hit the lock keys and lets you know that the keyboard and the mouse are connected. It also installs a keyboard quick-launch button to the taskbar, which lets you customize the feature keys. All of the feature keys work well, and in our tests, the media keys worked with Winamp, iTunes, and Windows Media Player.
The keyboard itself is sculpted for comfort, with the keys at the bottom sloping down, providing a smooth transition to the wrist rest. We wish, however, that the keyboard offered more than two incline levels. The responsive keys produce very little clicking noise, and we like that, but some people may prefer an aural response. While the keys are quiet, the scrollwheels on both the mouse and the keyboard are unusually loud and make a loud, plasticky clicking noise. Another minor annoyance: the LED light on the receiver flashes every time you hit a key or move the mouse. We solved this problem by putting the receiver out of eyeshot.