Microsoft Ultimate Wireless 7000 Keyboard Hands-On

Despite losing its graphite grey look and thus, much of its panache, the keyboard manages to still look great while performing great.

The first question is, of course, how the keys feel. If you like soft, laptop-like keys like the Kensington Slimtype keyboard then you’re going to be in heaven. The keys don’t make a whole lot of noise, don’t go down too much, and have just the right amount of spring-back so you can type fast. However, if you’re a huge nerd and love the IBM M-type keyboards, then you’re out of luck.

There are a few things off the mark in the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000, though.

  • Touch sensitive F1-12, Escape, Home, End, Printscreen, Scroll Lock keys. Instead of regular keys, these things are just a raised line on the keyboard that you tap to activate. Not bad if you’re in the habit of looking at your keyboard when you want to find a key, but horrible if you’re a touch-typist. You can’t feel around for the Escape key because just the fact you’re touching the key registers it as a key-press. This means you’ll have to interrupt what you’re doing, look down, then hit the key you’re looking for. Neat idea, but lousy execution.
  • The Windows key’s moved. After 10+ years of getting used to the Windows key being next to the CTRL and ALT keys, they’ve gone and moved them to a big fan circle down in the middle of the keyboard, below the space bar.
  • The arrow keys are too small. About half the size of a regular key (1/3 of the size of some of the larger keys), these arrow keys are a pain in the ass to use. If you’re editing text or doing any kind of keyboard work, you’ll need the arrow keys often.
  • No numpad. Just like a laptop keyboard, if you want a numpad you’ve come to the wrong place.

But all is not lost. There are some neat features Microsoft added that don’t suck. There’s a touch-sensitive pointer deal on the right side of the keyboard you can use in place of a mouse. Kind of like a touchpad, but smaller. There’s a dedicated Media Center key, playback keys, record key, mute key, and volume and channel keys. Great if you’re using this on a Media Center machine.

Then there are the Vista specific functions such as the Microsoft Live Messenger dialer, the Vista key, and the gadgets key.

As for the mouse, well, it’s a standard Microsoft mouse. Suffice it to say we usually buy Microsoft’s keyboard/mice combos for the keyboard, then buy a separate Logitech mouse to use instead. Like all Microsoft mice, the scroll wheel has no grip and is way too smushy, the side keys are misplaced, and there aren’t enough special keys. If you’re somehow a fan of MS mice, you’ll be happy that the mouse charger works great. Instead of docking vertically like Logitech mice do, it’s just a flat tray that hooks into grooves in the mouse. No slip and guaranteed contact every time. Plus it’s symmetric, so lefties can use it too.