It’s not often that a Mac user buys a new keyboard and mouse. But the sad fact is that, like all equipment with moving parts, these heavily used input devices do eventually wear out and have to be replaced. Moreover, Apple’s standard keyboard ( ) and Mighty Mouse ( ), despite their legions of fans, are not universally loved. So the field is wide open for competitors.
Microsoft’s Wireless Media Desktop 1000, like the same company’s Wireless Laser Desktop 7000 ( ), features a utilitarian design in basic black. Both desktop sets were made with the Windows operating system in mind, but both are easily converted for Macs (despite the annoying Windows logo on what operates as the option key). The Media Desktop 1000 uses the relatively short distance 27MHz frequency with a USB receiver, not Bluetooth, giving it a wireless range of about six feet. The keyboard and mouse each use two AA batteries. Overall, it’s a mid-level, reasonably priced set that will please most people wanting a comfy keyboard, but its companion mouse leaves much to be desired.
There’s a full-size keyboard with adjustable feet. It’s not advertised as ergonomic and it has no specifically ergonomic features, but for a typist who isn’t looking for any special board shape or key configuration, the keyboard works well. The matching black and gray mouse will not offend the eyes, either. However, the set is accompanied by a huge receiver (it’s roughly the same size as the mouse), which you need to plug into a USB port no further than six feet from the devices. While they connect fairly well, occasionally there are error messages indicating low power between the receiver and devices, forcing you to reconnect via the button on the receiver. This happens every so often for no apparent reason, even if the batteries are fully charged and the devices have not moved. It’s not a big problem.
The set comes packed with the latest software drivers on a CD and includes the necessary batteries. You could also download Microsoft’s latest IntelliType and IntelliPoint software directly from the company’s Web site, where there are more details about the product and how to use the software.
The Media Desktop 1000 has a comfortable keyboard with what Microsoft calls Thin Profile keys. They have a decent travel rate, and each keypress makes a sound that is reassuring and audible, but not noisy. I found the keyboard almost—but not quite—as comfortable as the one that ships with the Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 7000 model, though it lacks the soft matte plastic wrist rest and some of the extremely elegant stylistic details of the latter. This model has a smaller wrist rest made of a harder plastic material that is not nearly as comfortable. This set is half the price of the 7000, however, so it’s not surprising that it lacks certain amenities.
The Media Desktop 1000 is a media set because of its iTunes and other customizable controls. Most of the specialty keys—the Hot Keys, Favorites, and Media Center—work as advertised. You can use Microsoft’s IntelliType Pro keyboard software (accessed via the system preferences) to reassign keys to launch programs you actually use—for example, there’s a key that launches Microsoft Messenger by default, but you can set it to launch iChat instead. In fact, although there are icons printed on the keys, you can use them for any purpose you want, and can assign functions to specific keystroke combinations. I am particularly fond of the hot keys: there are five of them, and they facilitate all sorts of convenient one-touch actions that can take several keystrokes to accomplish. The Star key reminds you of what settings you’ve assigned to each key.
I had some problems with the iTunes previous and next selectors. The keys worked sometimes, but not always. Microsoft suggested that I uninstall and reinstall the software and try again. That seemed to get those important media keys working. The Applications key was useless as a default, but I was able to reprogram it into a startup and shut down key.
The keyboard has some interesting Windows features that translate fairly well to appropriate Mac functions. For instance, the Windows Flip 3D key gives you an Exposé view of all the open windows on your desktop and lets you cycle through them.
One thing I did not test: the spill resistance of the keys, as advertised by Microsoft. I will give the company a pass on this. If they say keys are spill-resistant, then I believe them. If any readers have experience with spilling liquids on this keyboard, please let us know in the comments section.
Compared with the keyboard, the mouse in this set (the Microsoft Wireless Mouse 2000) is somewhat inferior, not because it’s merely a two-button optical mouse with a scroll wheel button and no fancy features, but rather because your hand does a lot of work to make this mouse navigate through documents, something I do a lot. The mouse is ambidextrous, which is good. It’s also a decent size—not too big or small or wide at 4.8 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. But there’s no horizontal scroll function, which is almost a necessity these days. Its basic design and hard plastic finish are OK—no great shakes, but no specific cause for complaint. Given the choice, though, I’d pick a different mouse to use with this keyboard.
While the mouse tracks accurately and responds well, I had problems with the ratchet-style scroll wheel. The first mouse I used (the original one that came in the box with the keyboard) had a dysfunctional scroll wheel that did not respond to either Microsoft’s or Apple’s system software controls. The scroll wheel on the replacement mouse that Microsoft sent was better, but I still found its incremental scroll wheel movement frustrating. Despite my tweaking numerous settings both in the Apple software and the Microsoft software, this mouse just does not move quickly through long documents.
Unlike the USB flash drive–sized RF receivers that come with most keyboard and mouse sets (including Microsoft’s own 7000 and the ArcMouse [ ]), the Microsoft Wireless Desktop Receiver 3.1 that accompanies the Wireless Media Desktop 1000 set is large. It has three flashing lights (A, 1, and F) and a single connect button to sync with the devices. The literature has no information on what these lights are for. However, Microsoft explains that the light indicators on the receiver take the place of keyboard lights for caps lock, num lock, and F lock, to let the user know whether these controls are active.
Macworld’s buying advice
If you’re on a budget and you want to replace your Apple-issue keyboard and mouse, the Microsoft Wireless Media Desktop 1000 might fill the bill if you’re not too picky. While the keyboard has a lot going for it, the mouse and the large receiver detract from the value of the package. If you can afford to spend more, opt for the 7000—at least for the better keyboard and the longer wireless range.
[Jackie Dove is Macworld’s senior reviews editor.]