Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth
Try saying that after a few 'lemonades'.
Everyone seems to have gone crazy over the latest of IT buzzwords – wireless. Wireless networks are springing up and being used on street corners and coffee bars giving anyone with a laptop or handheld device pretty much constant internet access. Back at a desk however, where most people use a computer, there is a much different situation. Short wires annoyingly restrict where I can use my keyboard, mouse, speakers, and modem and create a cable jungle at the back of the desk. The solution is a protocol called ‘Bluetooth’. A collaboration of the large tech companies, this organisation has created a system for small devices (such as keyboard, headsets, digital cameras, mobile phones, etc.) to ‘talk’ to each other when they are close. So, for example, I could dial a phone number from my PDA’s contact list via my phone and talk on a headset… all without any wires. So where does the desktop come in? Well, Microsoft have put this protocol to good use creating a package of Bluetooth products called the “Wireless Optical Desktop”. Consisting of a Bluetooth base station, keyboard and mouse it contains everything you need to eradicate annoying in-game cable snags. No longer are you tied to typing on the table or using the mouse on the pad. The range of the Bluetooth transmitters is more than sufficient – I had to walk out of my living room, down the hall, out of my flat and down the corridor (looking a bit of a wally – it has to be said) to get it to stop responding. This is obviously completely impractical – you couldn't see the monitor (unless you have your PC hooked up in a cinema). In fact, I had to get my girlfriend to yell "Its stopped!". The point is that this system offers some serious flexibility. The hardware itself is in a tasty dark blue colour, with semi-transparent keys and silver highlights. A black rubber feel on the side of the mouse holds the hand well and a bright blue light on the base station indicates it has power. The build quality on the keyboard is slightly suspect, although it feels quite heavy (no doubt partly due to the two AAs crammed in the underside) the plastic appears quite thin making it slightly creaky and flexible. That said the keys do have a nice touch to them and the travel distance is similar to the MS Natural Keyboard I previously enjoyed. Proprietary buttons litter the top of the keyboard, pointlessly taking up the space by urging you to use Microsoft software like MSN Messenger and Media Player. No doubt these were included for the desktops use with Windows XP Media Centre Edition. The mouse is completely the opposite and is as solid as they come. Again with a couple of AAs up the rearend, its cumbersomely heavy and looks like its eaten the contents of a pie shop – not good for an FPS game. However it does feel excellent around the desktop for non-gaming purposes. The optical sensor is as reliable as the previous incarnations Microsoft have produced and gamers have come to love – it very rarely falters. The wheel is, again, solid; perhaps a little too solid for my liking, making it hard to spin on those longer webpages, but the rubbery textured third and fourth buttons (usually used in a web browser for back and forward) are just perfect. The killer for this mouse is, of course, its lack of tail. No more running out of cable when trying to turn in an FPS – it just glides on and on. The base station comes in three parts. The main section is the transmitter and this can be plugged into either the base station or the laptop adapter depending on your preference. These then connect to the PC via USB. The base station works a treat and looks great atop a monitor, but the laptop adapter is annoyingly big sticking out about 10cm making it vulnerable to knocks as well as not looking very aesthetically pleasing. Overall it’s a great system, the quality of peripheral we have come to expect from Microsoft’s hardware division. A sure purchase for gadget freaks with a score of… 75%