The latest version of Microsoft’s Wireless Entertainment Desktop – the 8000 – is certainly classy looking hardware with its silver-brushed aluminium finish and blue backlighting, but it should be considering the hefty $499 estimated price tag.
The keyboard’s thin, slightly angled form factor, Windows and Live Call start buttons, gadget button and media controls are all continuations of the earlier 7000 model, but the keys have changed from black to silver and the backlighting and four-port USB hub/recharging station are new additions.
The set-up is packed with features and given that it’s aimed partly at people who want to control their home theatre PCs from the lounge sofa, the price indicates the target audience is a niche, willing and able to pay the price asked.
Thanks to a sensor in the palm rest, the keyboard’s back light switches on when in use (or off when not in use); perfect for sending an email or playing a game in the middle of the night and not having to switch your room light on…and for conserving battery power. Another sensor near the escape key detects the level of light in the room, while function keys can be used to adjust backlighting manually.
Microsoft says average users need to recharge the mouse once a week. Though battery status indicators on the mouse and keyboard flash red to let you know when recharging is needed.
The recharging station is designed so the mouse sits on top and the keyboard slots underneath the front edge, so both devices can be charged at the same time. One of the station’s built-in USB ports is in a slot underneath and neatly accommodates the Bluetooth receiver, while the extra three ports let you connect and recharge other peripherals.
Although the recharging station’s features are useful in these ways, it doesn’t free up the space it is being used in, as is generally the aim of wireless devices.
I was replacing a wired keyboard and wireless mouse with USB dongle – plugging the station in and placing it on my desktop decreased available space.
The mouse and keyboard are both comfortable to use, with quiet keys and buttons, while the mouse is responsive on a range of surfaces.
For those who use the keyboard in their lounge, the mouse mode and navigation pad are handy.
However, the thin function keys, which only need to be touched rather than pressed, take some getting used to and there is no numeric keypad.
The Instant Viewer tool on the mouse lets you see all open windows; as well the 8000 retains the magnifier and tilt wheel tools.
Its stylish looks and multitude of features will certainly attract high-end users to the WED 8000, but the estimated retail is expensive against comparable products such as Logitech’s DiNovo Media Desktop Laser (another flat, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with detachable media keypad) at $399.90 and the slim, partially backlit, rechargeable DiNovo Edge (keyboard only) at the same price.