Scott Hanselman

Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000

January 9, '06 Comments [17] Posted in Reviews | Z | Gaming | Tools
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96laserkeyboard550x285I was over at Office Depot today with a $15 off coupon in hand checking out printers. What I found, instead, was a deal on the usually overpriced Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000. Apparently it's being discounted deeply right now because it was on sale with a $40 off "instant rebate" (at the register, until 1/14/06) along with a $10 mail-in rebate (and I ALWAYS mail them in, as they always assume you won't) which brings it to a reasonable $49.99 which was made even more palletable with my $15 off coupon.

UPDATED: For the record, I completely agree with both Jeff and Diego that that greatest keyboard ever was, and still is, the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro. The fact that the lamer "Elite" version is still being sold is one of life's great mysteries along with Fox cancelling Family Guy the first time and Arrested Development this year. You can still buy the older keyboard, but you'll pay. One of the coolest features of that keyboard, other than the correctly oriented PageUp/Down keys, was the USB hub. It makes NO sense why you'd make a USB keyboard and not add a hub. Hell, why not add a USB port on the top so I can plug my USB disk into the thing straight up and down?

This new set has now replaced my Wireless Natural Multimedia desktop set which I'll likely give to my dad (He'll learn this tidbit when he reads my blog.)

Pros

  • The new "comfort curve" keyboard shape is NICE. I can type at least (ball park) 10-20% faster on this keyboard because there's no space or split. Instead the fourth and fifth column of keys is wider, filling the gap. Sounds weird, but in practice, it's very comfortable. This would be a great "natural" keyboard for folks who ordinarily freak out with the split keyboards. That, along with comfort, is presumably why this keyboard was made.
  • The throw of the keys is very comfortable. They travel well and require just the right amount of pressure. I'll be interested to compare them with DasKeyboard that apparently has weighted key regions that match the strength of each finger. Since this keyboard is probably 55 grams of force then I can see why my pinky hurts from all the backspacing.
  • The keyboard has 5 "favorites" keys where my Multimedia one had Media Control keys. These are just programmable hotkeys that I didn't think I needed. However, after setting them up to point to BlogJet, Password Minder, and a few other choice daily tools, I'm sold. The multimedia controls are still there, just pushed to the side.
  • It has the inverted-"T" arrow keys rather than the astonishingly lame "diamond" configuration of some of the other Microsoft keyboards.
  • CoolmagnifierThe implementation of the "magnifier" is VERY cool. As someone who has advocated magnifier tools in the past, I have to say that I really like this particularly implementation. It's clean, simple and powerful. I may write a .NET implementation of the same thing that would work with any mouse. Shouldn't be that hard considering that there's a bunch of open source magnifiers out there that are 85% of the way there.

Iffy

  • There's a "Zoom Slider" to the left of the keyboard that is of dubious value when you consider the mouse's scroller does the same thing with a Ctrl-Scroll, but I could see where it'd be useful to folks who don't use the mouse and the keyboard simultaneously.

Aside

  • I was able to (mostly) use the whole set without swapping out my existing set's wireless receiver, but the new features like the magnifier didn't work until I put in the new receiver. This was presumably because the unified driver doesn't know to support the advanced features without a newer receiver. They appear to almost identical although the new one says 3.0a and the old one says 2.0a. Interestingly, when you press the "connect" button on the receiver, the old one cycles the CapsLock, ScrollLock and NumLock LEDs by turning them on and off as they cycle. The new one does the same thing but it smoothly fades the LEDs in and out. This is subtle, but leads one to wonder - what was the design meeting like that thought that was an important feature change? That said, it's cool.
  • There's no more cool red optical glow from the mouse. The "laser" is infrared. Note sure if that's a laser, per se, but it's invisible either way. I haven't turned out the lights and put dust particles in the sight line to see if there's something to be seen. It does make it hard to know if the mouse is on, but the software does tell you the status of the batteries.
  • At some point, I'd like to get the Remote Keyboard and see how it works with MCPC and the Xbox 360.

Cons

  • There's something indefinably light and cheap about this keyboard. I know that a keyboard is rarely lifted up and carried around, but I'd really like it to be heavier and more substantial. The mouse, on the other hand feels very substantial. I'd bet the mouse is actually heavier than the keyboard.
  • The amount of force required to right-click with the mouse has increased enough that I notice it in my middle finger. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but I'm currently thinking ugh each time I right-click. The left-click force required appears to be the same as the previous set.

If you can get this set for <$50, then I think it's a great deal and worth the upgrade. Overall I'm happy with it, and while I know that Logitech is coming up in the Desktop Set vertical market, I'm not ready to switch away from Microsoft.

P.S. Again realizing that you read this blog for the technical content, I am forced to bury pictures of my son in this post script to the post. Here's a shocking off-the-cuff bathtime photo of now-6-week-old Z. Also, for your enjoyment, I give you a complete list of Z's current nicknames. It's said, I know, but I'm told that most kids have at least a dozen good nicks going when they are this age. The current ones are, Zam-zam, Zamunda, Zamfransisco, Zee, Z-Money, Zippy (from Patrick Cauldwell's kids), Khulu (Zulu for Grandfather) and Poopmaster Flex. 

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Monday, 09 January 2006 07:10:09 UTC
I've been rockin' the Wireless Laser set for the last 3 weeks and it's pretty nice, I think. We've got 2 of them, actually. One for me and one of the wife and kids computer. My wife, at first, said, "you spent $70 on a keyboard and mouse?!" but said "oh ok, I see why this cost that much...it's REALLY nice" after using it for a few minutes. The mouse has improved just slightly since the original "wide base" design that emerged around late 2000-early 2001. I switched to it from the Logitech MX-700 mouse so you know I'm a spoiled mouse user.

There are only 2 things that annoy me with this keyboard/mouse set so far, and maybe you'll encounter them, too.

1. The "wireless signal is low/poor quality" dialog comes up on screen sometimes, even when there is nothing wrong w/ the signal at all and I haven't noticed any lapse in cursor movement/keystroke quality. Not sure why it does it.

2. Sometimes the "key up" signal from the keyboard doesn't make it to the receiver, so holding down the shift key to put one letter in caps ends up making the next 5-10 chars (depending on how fast you type) in caps also. Minor annoyance, it doesn't happen very often (maybe once or twice a day for me) but it's still something I noticed.

I agree about the right-click thing...almost makes u want to slam your finger on the right mouse button. I'll check back with you - I'm curious to see if you encouner the 2 things I mentioned.
Monday, 09 January 2006 07:36:03 UTC
Love it,

Dad
David Hanselman
Monday, 09 January 2006 07:43:08 UTC
I'm not a big fan of wireless keyboards/mice, but the look of that keyboard is nice. The only thing it's missing for me is the standard 3x2 pgup/pgdn cluster.

I recently got the Microsoft Natural Ergo 4000 that Jeff Atwood recommended here:
http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000400.html
Monday, 09 January 2006 08:22:11 UTC
Jason - funny...I've been typing on this thing for about 4 hours now, and yes, I've seen BOTH of those things. I'm not sure I'm ready to check the box on the the "low signal" dialog to "never bother me again" but it's happened twice. The caps lock thing happened once. I was typing really fast and I suddenly was in CAPS lock mode. I figured it was me, so I hit CAPS lock, but that turned it on, so that means it was off earlier and the system thought that shift was held down.

How would we (two guys who have this happen) even start to compose bug reports back to Microsoft? I wonder if the keyboard folks (perhaps someone knows the Intellitype software/hardware guys and wants to forward a link?) read this blog or google for reviews of their stuff?
Scott Hanselman
Monday, 09 January 2006 11:00:05 UTC
> It makes NO sense why you'd make a USB keyboard and not add a hub. Hell, why not add a USB port on the top so I can plug my USB disk into the thing straight up and down?

The only keyboard with USB hub these days is the Logitech gamer-oriented one, the G15. At least that I know of..

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000362.html

I have the Logitech G5 mouse pictured in that post, but I don't have the keyboard (no need, since the MS 4000 is pretty much the BEST. KEYBOARD. EVER.) The G5 mouse, however, is inferior to the older MX518 IMO.
Monday, 09 January 2006 12:05:12 UTC
Ironically the link to the Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro results in a 404 ;)

Link to the good old Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro: http://shrinkster.com/an6
Monday, 09 January 2006 16:44:23 UTC
I have the Microsoft Wireless Desktop Elite.
http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/ProductDetails.aspx?pid=016&active_tab=overview

I love it, especially the scroll wheel built into the keyboard. I get a TON of use out of the media keys too. Since I use the calculator app about 70 times a day, that key comes in super handy, too. I can get a lot done with the keyboard without my fingers ever leaving to go the mouse, which is way cool.
Coleman Brumley
Monday, 09 January 2006 17:53:43 UTC
I actually hate this keyboard. For one, the breakdown of function keys in sets of 3 instead of sets of 4 (like on every freaking keyboard ever made) is mind-numbing to ridiculous. You'll be pressing F4 accidentally all day long, when you meant to press F5.
rizzo
Monday, 09 January 2006 18:38:20 UTC
I'm one of those that freak out with split keyboards :) I really liked the curvy layout of this keyboard when I experimented a similar model. There are a few things in MS keyboards that prevent me from using them at work (I have one at home)
- The stupid F key
- As rizzo said, the 3x3 grouping of F-buttons
- The weird (subjective) layout of the Delete/PgUp/PgDn group. I miss the extra gap between the ArrowUp and the End keys to find my way on that part of the keyboard.
- Also... Does anyone use that "Context menu" key? Take it out.
Sergio Pereira
Monday, 09 January 2006 18:39:43 UTC
+3 over here on the "Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro" comment
Monday, 09 January 2006 19:35:08 UTC
Scott - That's a good question - I'm not really sure how we would compose bug reports on the product back to Microsoft. I wonder if maybe there is a feedback e-mail address for the intellitype software..?
Monday, 09 January 2006 21:11:13 UTC
How might one use a wireless keyboard / mouse with a KVM switch? Can it be done at all?
Jean-Philippe Daigle
Monday, 09 January 2006 21:40:02 UTC
Jean-Philippe - it works just the same with a KVM because it still plugs the keyboard/usb plug directly into the KVM, so no worries there.
Tuesday, 10 January 2006 04:57:22 UTC
I really can't remember the USB hub on either of my two original Natural Keyboard Pros (one white, one black, the whte was destroyed by children and Coke [although I had done the same thing myself and washed it out just fine when I did -- I couldn't do the same after they did it], and the black was fine up until the Escape key stopped working, and I needed that to get into the BIOS to change a nagging parameter). I don't even think I had USB anything to connect with the first white one.

The Natural Internet Keyboard (which was the previous keyboard I used) worked great as a replacement. I remember it having a hub that I used for my memory sticks. Some of the special keys though stopped working for me (and it had quite a bit of age as well), so I found somebody selling the wired 4000 for only $55, and I used a $20 off coupon on that.

The 4000 feels just as good to type on, the arrow keys and the keys above the arrow keys are in their correct place (shocking after all the other keyboards I've seen come out of MS), although I really don't understand the point of the F-keys being special keys by default. At least it keeps the state of the function lock even between power ups.

I wish that I could use the zoom for scrolling, and I find the back and forward thumb keys to be... useless. If I could assign them to track forward and track backward in WinAmp, I'd be happy. :-S

And yes, a USB hub would be nice as well. I'd take a 1.1 hub!
Tuesday, 10 January 2006 20:34:06 UTC
>>The "laser" is infrared. Note sure if that's a laser

Technically, that's an IRASER.
Infra Red Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation

Wednesday, 11 January 2006 14:28:21 UTC
Does anybody have experience using these keyboards along side IR headphones? There is interference and it seems related to mouse more than the keyboard. It's not so bad if I have the transmitter on the other end of the desk from the mouse, but I was just wondering if anyone has run into anything similar?
Coleman Brumley
Friday, 17 March 2006 10:05:10 UTC
I get the same thing with the low signal quality window popping up when theres actually nothing wrong. Has anyone else had issues with the software stopping their screensaver/monitor power saving working? Before I bought this set, my s/s would kick in at 10 mins, and the monitor would turn off after 20. Since installing this set, it does neither.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.