There are two main reasons to buy a new mouse-and-keyboard set: Either you’re dissatisfied with the Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse ( ) that shipped with your iMac or Mac Pro, or you want to pop your laptop up onto an ergonomically efficient stand and type instead on a full-sized external keyboard. If you fit either of those scenarios, Kensington’s Ci70 Wireless Desktop Set is a good choice.
Unfortunately, before you can get your hands on the Ci70’s low-profile keyboard and ambidextrous mouse, you have to deal with Kensington’s ludicrously wasteful and sharp-edged packaging. Once you free the products from their plastic prison, you’ll discover that the keyboard and mouse are accompanied by four brand-name AA batteries, along with a five-foot USB extension cable that you can plug into the back of your Mac Pro, route up and onto your desk, and then insert into its female end the single USB RF dongle through which the keyboard and mouse communicate with your Mac.
When you insert two of the AAs into the keyboard, you’ll find a sticker on the battery door that instructs you to go to Kensington.com and download the latest version of the Ci70 Wireless Keyboard Driver, for Mac OS 10.4 or later. If you don’t, the keyboard and mouse will work, but not the keyboard’s 10 hotkeys.
Five of those hotkeys—soft rubber and tiny, but conveniently recessed—sit above the numeric keypad and control the standard media functions: play/pause, next and previous track, and volume up and down. The remaining five—larger and plastic, and with a satisfyingly solid click and key-travel distance—are arrayed above the left half of the keyboard. These icon-festooned keys eject optical media and launch Spotlight, iTunes, and your default Web browser and e-mail app. Nothing spectacular, just clean, functional convenience.
The keyboard’s keys have a comfortable two millimeters of key-travel distance and a healthy dose of resistance, the edge of the keyboard case doesn’t intrude on the travel of the space bar, the function keys are of a decent size, and two foldout feet allow you to adjust the keyboard’s angle. In short, the Ci70 feels great to my lumbering digits—a welcome improvement over the squishy Apple Keyboard. Unfortunately, there’s an annoying Windows key between the Control and Option keys, but since the keyboard is cross-platform, that can’t be helped. It’s also worth noting that the Kensington keyboard mushes the function keys into a non-standard single line of keys, rather than the standard groups of four. Although this allows for a more-compact keyboard, it makes it more difficult for touch typists to locate particular function keys.
The two-button mouse with scroll wheel is … well … a two-button mouse with a scroll wheel. Its buttons provide good feedback, but unfortunately its scroll wheel is of the ratchety type. It’s a matter of taste, to be sure, but I’d prefer a smoother mover.
There are two ways to turn off the mouse: insert its USB dongle into its belly—useful when traveling—or place the mouse hind-end down into a docking recession in the top center of the keyboard. Well, the latter method works in theory, at least—I had to jiggle the mouse to one side to get the dock’s tiny plastic finger to push on the mouse’s equally tiny off switch.
A sliding panel covers the dock in normal use; when you move this panel out of the way to reveal the dock, it slides across the top of the keyboard to cover the hotkeys. If that seems a bit silly, an even sillier feature adorns the underside of the keyboard: a clear-plastic pocket designed to accept a 4-by-6-inch photo. The idea is that you’re supposed to prop the keyboard up on its backside when you’re not using it, and admire the photo. Unlikely.
Ergonomically, the Ci70 is nothing special. The keyboard’s responsive keys and ability to tilt are welcome, as is the soft rubber bumper encircling the mouse, but ergonomics aren’t this desktop set’s raison d’être.
Macworld’s buying advice
Ignore the Kensington Ci70 Wireless Desktop Set’s superfluous sliding panel and photo pocket, and focus instead on its fine feel and convenient function keys. It’s a worthy replacement for the Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse, and a solid desktop companion for your laptop—and if style matters to you, you can get the Ci70 in black to match your high-end MacBook or titanium to match your MacBook Pro.
[Rik Myslewski has been writing about the Mac since 1989. He has been editor in chief of MacAddict (now Mac|Life), executive editor of MacUser and director of MacUser Labs, and executive producer of Macworld Live. His blog can be found at Myslewski.com.]