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Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth review: Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth

A wireless command center for your PC, this Bluetooth combo might be too much keyboard for the average user.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
2 min read
Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth
Bluetooth keyboards and mice have long taken a backseat to their radio frequency-based (RF) cord-free brethren. Microsoft's $149 Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth, however, makes a solid case for ditching that big RF receiver on your desk once and for all. Connected to your computer wirelessly via an inch-long USB dongle, this keyboard and mouse combo is loaded with programmable features, tilt-wheel scrolling on both components, and consistent reception. All of this functionality may be too much for someone who's just looking to go wireless, though, and the keyboard's size doesn't lend itself to cramped work areas.

Installation can be a bit tricky, so following the included Getting Started booklet is a must. Adding Bluetooth to your PC is as simple as inserting the bundled USB transceiver dongle into a vacant port, but unlike with RF wireless devices, pairing the keyboard and mouse with your system calls for a little more effort. You'll need to navigate the multistep setup software and maintain your calm if it takes a couple of tries to recognize all of the devices. And before you get started, you'll need to download Windows XP with Service Pack 2 if you haven't already; SP2 is required for this keyboard and mouse set.


Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite for Bluetooth

The Good

Impressive wireless reception; lots of easy-to-program key commands; can use Bluetooth transceiver with other devices; padded wrist rest.

The Bad

Requires Windows XP Service Pack 2; somewhat tricky to install; keyboard takes up a lot of desk space.

The Bottom Line

The keyboard requires a good portion of your desk, but with its size comes an army of useful shortcut keys, a responsive mouse, and the ease and range of wireless Bluetooth technology.

The keyboard is quite massive, measuring about 20 by 10.5 by 1.5 inches (HWD). Powered by three AA batteries, the keyboard also has an extensive set of quick-launch keys that you can easily customize through the software. Reassign them at will to open programs, files, Web pages, or shortcuts. The translucent-blue keys are well spaced with a nice spring to them--and little clacking. On the left edge, a tilt scrollwheel helps you navigate pages both horizontally and vertically, though its spongy feel might turn you off. Above the wheel, there are useful Back and Forward buttons. A comfortable, padded wrist rest is built into the keyboard, providing a much better cushion than the plastic ones you'll find on other keyboards.

The optical IntelliMouse Explorer is perfectly shaped for right-handed users and features the same tilt wheel as the keyboard. Back and Forward buttons are located by the thumb, but with no space between them, accidentally hitting the wrong one isn't hard. We found the mouse to be precise and responsive during testing. Microsoft claims six months of battery life on two AA batteries or three months on one.

Going with Bluetooth over a standard RF desktop set also gives you the benefit of the former's improved range. While RF devices lose their connection within a few feet of the receiver, Bluetooth stays connected up to 30 feet away. Also, the transceiver allows you to connect up to five more Bluetooth-enabled devices--a Pocket PC, a cell phone, a printer, or other PCs--wirelessly to your computer.