Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


A New Keyboard and Mouse
by Chris Taylor

Even though I already had a Logitech Internet keyboard and a Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer, I decided to throw $5 into the raffle at the June OPCUG meeting and take a chance on the Microsoft MultiMedia Keyboard and Wireless Intellimouse Explorer.

And I won!

I was a little leery about switching to a wireless mouse. First, I am really cheap and therefore did not look forward to buying batteries for a mouse. My past experiences with battery life in mice was…shall we say, less than stellar. And secondly, I was worried that I would lose it all the time under the heaps of junk I keep on my computer table.

My first concern may or may not be warranted. Microsoft touts this mouse as having “3x longer battery life”. But longer than what? The web site has a line “Many users experience a half year of battery life!” Hmmm…does not sound so great to this cheapskate. At least it takes 2 double-A batteries, which are not too expensive. After three months, it is still going strong.

The operation of the mouse is exceptional. Very smooth and responsive. I have always liked Microsoft mice and when they moved to optical technologies I loved that I could get rid of my mousepads. Unfortunately, I discovered in my new computer room set-up that optical mice do not work on glass table-tops. Oh well, I am back to a mousepad.

There were a couple of things new to me for this mouse. The wheel rolls smoothly, rather than with clicks. It took a couple of days to get used to it, but I really like it. Also, the wheel is one of the new “tilt” models. You can scroll sideways by tilting the wheel from side to side. Personally, I have never really gotten used to using this feature. But it has never accidentally interfered with anything either.

The keyboard has some very nice features. Across the top is an array of buttons. There are buttons to open the My Documents, My Pictures, and My Music folders. There are buttons to launch your web browser, email program, instant messenger and media player. Finally, there are multi-media control buttons for play, pause, fast forward/reverse, volume up/down, and a mute button. Those I really like.

But then there is a weird dual nature for the function keys. All the function keys can either be used normally or for additional functions; Help, Undo, Redo, New, Open, Close, Reply, Fwd, Send, Spell, Save, and Print. You can toggle between the two sets of keyboard definitions with the F Lock key visible at the top right in image Microsoft.

If you normally don’t use function keys, I suppose these can be really handy. But most keyboard jockeys use function keys a lot. So I find I always leave the function keys in their normal mode. What I really hate is that fact that when I boot the computer it always comes up with the function keys in the enhanced mode with the different definitions. I have not been able to find any way to get the computer to boot with the function keys in normal mode. I am glad I don’t boot my computer very often.

But now I come to what I really, really hate about this keyboard. It would seem that Microsoft decided in their infinite wisdom that the keyboard needed to be a little bit narrower. So they decided to mess with the layout of the cursor movement keys above the arrow keys (PgUp, PgDn, Home, End, etc.). I happen to use the End key a lot. If I am making a correction to something, the next thing I am likely to do is return to where I was by using the arrow keys to get to the right line and then hitting the End key to move to the end of the line and continue typing. Take a look at the 2 images of keyboards. Keytronic is the layout of every sensible keyboard since the 1980s. Microsoft shows the layout of the Microsoft MultiMedia Keyboard.

Keytronic Microsoft

Do you see the problem? Every time I go to hit the End key, I end up hitting the Delete key instead! And don’t get me started on trying to get to the Insert key, which I use all the time to select files in the wonderful file management program Total Commander.

I tried to find someone at Microsoft willing to talk about why they saw fit to mess around with a perfectly good keyboard layout, but nobody ever got back to me.

I could get used to the new layout, but I work with computers all day. There are 4 computers I use every day and I am frequently logging on at other machines as well.

I am still using the keyboard and still deleting all kinds of stuff accidentally. At some point, I will probably throw the keyboard through a window or something. If anyone at Microsoft is reading this, if you will trade this keyboard for one with the keys laid out the way God intended, let me know.


Bottom Line:

Wireless Intellimouse Explorer
$79.99 CAN
from Microsoft
Web site: http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/productdetails.aspx?pid=002

MultiMedia Keyboard
$49.99 CAN
from Microsoft
Web site: http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/productdetails.aspx?pid=020


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.