Microsoft Entertainment Desktop 7000

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Microsoft Entertainment Desktop 7000

The problem with having a PC in your living room is simple. It’s the mouse. Mousing on the couch is a royal pain in the ass.

Resting your mouse hand on your leg, on a couch arm, or on one of your couch buddies just doesn’t work. That’s why we were excited to see that Microsoft’s new living-room keyboards ship with an integrated mousing surface. We just didn’t understand why the company also included a wireless mouse.

The answer became clear after a few moments with this keyboard. The mousing area just doesn’t work particularly well. Set it at a slow enough speed to be accurate and reliable, and it takes forever to navigate the screen. Set it fast enough to zip from side to side, and it’s very twitchy. We couldn’t find a happy medium.

The pad does include a few nifty tricks, though. Flip a switch above it, and it changes to D-pad mode, which is good (although slightly twitchy) for navigating through the Media Center interface. We also really dig the fact that in mouse mode the mouse buttons are located on the far side of the keyboard, so you move the cursor with one thumb but click with the other. Were the mouse surface slightly better tuned, it would have been a perfect design.

The keyboard’s layout is a little goofy; the home keys are off center, and the entire keyboard is slightly warped. It’s not a major problem, since we figure you’ll use this keyboard more for typing URLs and instant messages than for banging out your first novel.

The placement of the media keys is excellent, and eminently useful, whether you’re using Media Center or just iTunes, and we especially like the inclusion of dedicated buttons that open Media Center and the Windows menu. We’re still annoyed by the presence of proprietary keys—like the Windows Messenger Live call button on this board—but they’re easily reprogrammed to serve other functions. The mouse is a decent rechargeable.

If Microsoft improves the performance of the mouse surface and ditches the then-unnecessary mouse, this could be a killer living-room keyboard.

Almost perfect

This keyboard system allows you to comfortably lounge on the couch while instant messaging and browsing the web--or whatever else you need to do.

But not quite

The keyboard is an unusual shape, but mainly to ensure its convenience on your lap. And the off-centered keys are likely something we can adjust to after some practice.

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