Exactly two weeks ago, we brought you our first impressions and unboxing pictures of the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 800 - a budget keyboard+mouse combo. Having used the combo for these past two weeks, we decided to bring to you this full review of our thoughts on the set. The Wireless Desktop 800 is Microsoft’s budget-conscious competitor for the Logitech MK260. Both of these sets cost somewhere in the Rs. 1150 – Rs. 1300 price range, and are simple sets, aimed to woo budget-conscious PC assemblers, who would like to upgrade their wired keyboard+mouse combo to a simple, cheap, and efficient wireless combo set. So how does the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 800 stack up? Click the “Read more” link to find out.
Look and feel
The picture above from our unboxing displays all the contents of the box. This is what you get in the package for the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 800.
The bigger AA batteries are for the keyboard, while the smaller AAA batteries are for the mouse Note : We were mistaken. The bigger AA batteries actually power the mouse, while the smaller AAA batteries power the keyboard – both pairs of batteries are included with the combo set. That tiny device between the mouse and the batteries is the USB transceiver.
As is quite evident from the above image, the keyboard has a very gently slanted profile. Each row of keys are “set in” at varying depths, making for a “steps” design. As the image below indicates in one portion, all corners of the keyboard are curved.
The underside of the keyboard is sloping inward from all sides – all in all, a very graciously curved design. One thing that looks really nice is the glossy finish for the entire keyboard bezel. You’re just begged to gaze upon it – until your mind tells you that it’s going to be a really undesirable magnet for fingerprints; and dust. If you notice very closely, from our unboxing images, the bezel picks up dust really quickly. We unboxed the combo set, and started clicking pictures – and there was dust on the bezel. This could be a problem if – you’re a dust-free fanatic, or if you plan to use the combo set on the floor (for floor-level bed-based computing) or if you live in particularly dusty areas. Thankfully, the keys are all matte-finish, which makes them feel really nice underneath our fingers. Check out the image below.
Much like the Galaxy Tab (and several other devices out there currently) the keyboard is black on the front, and white at the back. We could find no proper explanation for this, but it does catch you off-guard the first time, when you turn the keyboard over to insert the batteries. If you like things to be different, then yes, this would interest you. Otherwise, there is not much that is to be gained or lost by the white rear – apart from the fact that the white back could get really dirty, depending on where you plan to use the keyboard. Check out the image below to see how it looks.
The mouse follows the same design sense as the keyboard – there’s an extra-glossy bezel strip around the entire body, with a matte-finish portion at the top and below the bezel. The matte-finish portions really feel good to touch, while the glossy finish may give it just the touch of style that many of us Indians seem to love. The buttons are not separate from the rest of the body; there is simply a line (which also holds the scroll-wheel) separating the two.
The bottom of the mouse has the optical sensor, a power switch (something which is not present on the keyboard) and a slot to “fit” the USB transceiver. This slot is on the battery compartment cover.
As you can see in the image above, there is a label-tag in the battery compartment for the mouse. This has to be placed beneath the batteries that you insert – there is no other way you’ll be able to pull out the batteries. This label-tag has a slight “tab” jutting out when the two batteries have been inserted – and that needs to be pulled to eject the batteries from the compartment. Nice touch – but what if this label-tag is accidentally (or intentionally – by a toddler or a pet) torn or damaged? Inserted batteries would need to be pried out with some basic engineering skills, we guess.
That’s the USB transceiver. There’s not much to it – half of it is the USB plug, and the other half is a black matte-finish affair with the Microsoft logo and the USB logo. It’s really tiny and cute – so if you have children or pets who love to meddle with tiny, cute things, you’ll want to try and hide it away on a rear USB port for the Desktop PC. We like the fact that there is a notch for this transceiver underneath the mouse – the USB transceiver almost kind of fits flush with the mouse. Check the picture below. However, we haven’t yet found proper use for this “slot”. Guess it would come in use only if you wish to pack up the Desktop 800 combo – either for storage or transportation.
Setup, installation and configuration
As we noted in our first impressions, setting up and installing the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 800 was dead easy – we just had to plug it in. No drivers, no software installation – no nothing. Simple plug ‘n play. With so many accessories that tout “Plug ‘n play” but require some form of driver installation, this was a welcome relief. The PC we tested it on was running Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, which means it should work on all versions of Windows 7 flawlessly. Sadly, we do not have any PCs running Windows XP or Windows Vista for testing. A friend of ours was able to get it working without any issues in Linux Mint – so we don’t think any system out there would have issues in working with the Wireless Desktop 800.
In everyday usage, the Wireless Desktop 800 blended in with our daily use – we rarely noticed that we were using a different keyboard or mouse. For the first few days, there were times when we were even bewildered by the lack of a cable attached to the mouse or the keyboard, as we sought to “put them away” after a few hours in front of the PC. The Wireless Desktop 800 uses a proprietary wireless connection – it’s not Infrared (which is good) or Bluetooth (which may not be such a good thing). The proprietary nature of the wireless connection ensures that the link is (relatively) secure, and you don’t have to be too wary of possible hacking or electronic snooping from your neighbours, if you use the keyboard to enter the password of your online bank account. There are a few details about this Desktop combo that we’d like to share.
The mouse is akin to any standard mouse, and the curved design makes it comfortable to hold and use. The keyboard, on the other hand, could turn out to be a little tricky. The keyboard is comparatively smaller, that it turns out to be a little cramped for typing for long hours – we found it a little worrying. Also, if you’re planning to use the keyboard on your lap – don’t. We had to keep it quite far away from our bodies to make it comfortable enough to type. The top row of function keys has been miniaturised, which makes them really difficult to use. This may not be a major issue – we rarely use function keys; but for the odd Alt+F4 (Quit) or F5 (Refresh) usage, this just wasn’t easy to use.
Attempting to use the mouse on the floor made us think that the movement was extremely jerky – we were seriously worried that Microsoft had either messed up really bad, or that we had a non-working unit (the floor was mosaic, if you must know). Shifting the location of the mouse to either a thigh, or a flat, hard surface made a huge difference – and it worked just fine. It’s good enough for casual gaming, as well.
We haven’t yet run out of the batteries provided with the set – so we really can’t judge battery life; but if the provided alkaline (Duracell) batteries can last for two weeks and more, that’s good. The mouse has an on/off switch, but we rarely switch it off. The keyboard, on the other hand, has no power switch. This could be a let-down for some; we would like to extract every bit of juice from the batteries that we purchase with our hard-earned money, wouldn’t we?
We’d also like to mention a curious fact – the keyboard has an LED indicator on the bezel (in the image above, look to the right of the Microsoft logo), with a battery symbol next to it. We have no clue what this is for. We figured it might indicate that the batteries have been inserted – but no, there has been no sign from this LED from the time we got it. We guess that this LED would either be lit, or blinking when the batteries run down; there’s not much else that this LED could notify us of, in our opinion.
The quick access keys at the top-right of the keyboard are quite useful (see the image above). There are buttons for – Play/Pause, Mute, Volume up and Volume down. It is always easy to quickly tap a key to either mute or pause, when you’re watching a film in a dark room, and the phone or the doorbell rings. The volume increase/decrease buttons are also equally useful. Of course, we use Windows Media Player to playback most of our media. The Play/Pause button will not work for any other software. The Volume control buttons are system-wide, so they can be used anywhere in the Operating System, in any software to mute, increase and decrease volume.
There’s also a nifty little Calculator button, to the right of the diminutive function (F1 – F12) keys. This works as expected – one tap to open the Windows Calculator app. However, we did not feel the need to use this very often – you guys know that we use Google for calculations, mostly. Since we’re almost always in web browser (Chrome) window, we find it easier and quicker to access Google for calculations right from the Chrome web address input field (Omnibox).
There is one glaring fact that we didn’t notice during our unboxing, but were forced to realise after we started using the Wireless Desktop 800. There are no LED indicator lights for CAP/NUM/Scroll locks. Seriously. This can be a huge pain if you’re trying to enter a password, and it keeps erroring out – and you (like us) are tearing your hair out because you don’t know why the PC won’t accept the seemingly correct password that you are entering. Some people don’t find this a necessity – but it’s a little unsettling.
Well, the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 800 is a pretty basic set, with not too many bells and whistles. We would stick a “works as advertised” label on this, recommend it for budget-conscious buyers looking to get a Wireless Desktop set, and be done with it, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Namely, the lack of LED indicators, the glossy bezels, the slightly cramped keyboard. On the plus side, the set is actually pleasant for it’s price. So if you have the money – please do spring for the latest and the greatest Wireless Desktop options that Microsoft and Logitech have in store. If you don’t, and would like a bite of the Wireless Desktop pie, and wouldn’t mind the few niggles that we have noted in our review – then by all means, head out to your friendly neighbourhood tech outlet and plop down the cash on this set. It is after all, value for money that counts.