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New wireless keyboard a winner

January 03, 2009|By JAMES DERK / Scripps Howard News Service

Frequent readers of this space know I am a stickler for keyboards. Years ago when I had my first 386, I fell in love with a certain brand of IBM-compatible keyboard. When I was a newspaper reporter I used to carry one around with me on assignments and plug it in to any computer I was using at the time.

Since then I have experimented with lots of keyboards, and the pile of used models in the garage is a testament to that. I like many of the recent models from Microsoft, which also makes my favorite mice. What I have not liked is the constant changing of batteries in both the mice and keyboards at the most inopportune times.

Wireless keyboards and mice are lovely and allow lots of flexibility, but they can sometimes drive one nuts with loss of connectivity. However, I think I have found a great (if pricey) keyboard and mouse combo that really is excellent.

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The Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 is the first backlit rechargeable keyboard and mouse out there, and I really like the fit and feel of the product. It seems highly constructed and best of all it is rechargeable, so there are no battery issues. It comes with a simple recharging "hub" for both de vices that brings them both back to life when needed. Both the keyboard and mouse have battery life indicators that tell you when a recharge is needed.

Best of all, this unit operates on 2.4 gig Bluetooth, so it works up to 30 feet away from the desktop or laptop to which it is connected.

Included in the charging station are 4 USB ports that connect to your PC. That extends the number of ports available in your computer and also extends the reach to your desk. The mouse sits right above your keyboard when not in use.

The mouse is a tad small for me, but I like giant mice for my large hands. It is a lovely work of engineering however, made of brushed aluminum with the feel of something special. The keyboard too, has a different shape (called "Comfort Curve" by Microsoft) that fits easily on a desk and looks pretty elegant in any setting. It would be perfect in a high-end home theater, considering it is backlit and relatively small.

The product lists for a whopping $299.99 but I have seen it on the street for as low as $239. That's still a lot for a keyboard and mouse, especially when that approaches the cost of an entire CPU these days. But in selected applications and for high-end systems, the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 makes perfect sense and is the absolute right implementation.

I wish the mouse were a tad larger and the price was about $50 less, but the product can command a premium based on the feature set. I got used to the key design in about an hour and I found the typing feedback to be good. It's compatible with Vista and XP Service Pack 2 and above.

For information, head to www.microsoft.com/hardware/

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