Microsoft's Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth certainly lives up to its Elite name -- at least as far as pricing is concerned. If you want to call one of these dark blue numbers your own, you'll be out of pocket some AU$299. That's a lot to pay for a wireless keyboard and mouse -- although admittedly the Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth is quite a bit more than just a standard keyboard or mouse.
The first thing to note about the Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth is that if you're running an older Windows OS, or using a Mac, then the Desktop Elite for Bluetooth isn't for you -- it's strictly a Windows XP device.
When you first unpack the Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth, the first thing that will strike you is how much physical equipment is actually within the box. The Optical Desktop Elite itself is a mammoth, surfboard-sized keyboard, although all that sacrificed desk space does bring a certain quantity of bells and whistles with it. Likewise, the Intellimouse Explorer for Bluetooth couldn't be described as a petite mouse. Lastly, in hardware terms, is the tiny USB Bluetooth transciever that allows all this equipment to talk to each other, and the batteries required to keep it all chugging along -- the mouse needs two AA batteries, while the keyboard takes three.
The transciever itself is a tiny dark blue device that could all too easily be mistaken for a USB flash drive; it'll take up any handy USB port on your desktop or notebook system of choice. It's nice and slim, however, so if you do have other chunky devices like USB flash drives, the transciever is unlikely to present any spacing difficulties.
Installation requires installing Intellitype Pro and Intellipoint 5.2, after which you may need to reboot your PC -- for what it's worth, on our test PC, running Windows Service Pack 2, we didn't have to. It's worth mentioning Service Pack 2, however, as it's a mandatory install for the Bluetooth setup, and it's not included software in the box -- so not only will you have to download it, but you may also have to run the gamut of Windows XP Service Pack 2 nightmares.
Once you've gotten all the relevant software installed, it's then a matter of getting the Mouse and Keyboard recognised by the Bluetooth devices control panel applet -- if you're lucky that's just a matter of pressing the connect button on the base of each device, although in our testing we had to fiddle about a bit with the mouse to get it recognised. Aside from offering an alternative to IR or RF frequency wireless keyboards -- both of which, technologically speaking, are rather long in the tooth in technology terms -- the big attraction for the Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth has to be that it allows you to pair up other suitable bluetooth devices, and Microsoft has specifically updated the way that the Bluetooth keyboard to works to encompass a whole host of Bluetooth compatible devices, including mobile phones and suitable PDAs.
There is a catch to all this bluetooth goodness, however, and that's found in the fine print. If you're already running some kind of Bluetooth hardware on your PC, you'll have to uninstall it prior to installing the Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth, and hope that Microsoft's own inbuilt Bluetooth applet can handle what you used to use your existing hardware for. It's not an entirely surprising restriction, but we could have sworn that the point of a Bluetooth standard was that everything would play well together...
The Intellimouse Explorer for Bluetooth is a large mouse that's comfortable to use, and surprisingly quiet in operation -- we went from a Microsoft Trackball Explorer over to the Intellimouse Explorer for Bluetooth and were stunned by how smooth and quiet the scroll wheel was. Like Microsoft's most recent offerings, the Intellimouse Explorer for Bluetooth offers a Tilt wheel that can be used to scroll horizontally through documents and applications that support it.
The Optical Desktop Elite keyboard itself is large, but that allows Microsoft to stick just about every bell and whistle possible on it, from a leather-feel (but not actual leather) wrist rest to a tilting scroll wheel, favourites keys for launching user-defined applications, multimedia control and common Windows XP functions all controlled from the top of the keyboard. Like the Intellimouse Explorer For Bluetooth, it's a nicely quiet keyboard in operation -- so if you're constantly frustrated by the noisy clacking of somebody else's typing, it'd make quite a good Christmas gift, for what that's worth.
As far as the keyboard and mouse are concerned, we've pretty much covered it above -- they're both comfortable items to use and nicely quiet to boot. The other major hook for the Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth, however, is its connectivity with other Bluetooth devices.
We tested the device with a Bluetooth capable phone -- in this case, Nokia's much maligned N-Gage gaming phone. From the MS side, things were fine -- adding the N-Gage was a simple process of switching on Bluetooth signalling on on the phone unit, and telling Windows we were ready to be detected -- but actually getting data moving was a touch harder, as our test system kept throwing odd messages relating to the IR port at us. This was more in relation to the N-Gage PC Suite software, however, and not the Bluetooth capabilities of the Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth, but it's worth bearing in mind that you may have to play around and tweak for a while to get other devices to be recognised.
Overall the Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth is probably overkill for the vast majority of users out there, especially considering the asking price. If you add up the cost of the components, however, and consider that it does add solid Bluetooth networking to your system to boot, it's a fair buy for those with existing Bluetooth devices. If you're not in that camp, however, the same physical hardware can be found with Microsoft's existing RF-based keyboard packages.
Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite For Bluetooth
Phone: 13 20 58
|Max Operating Distance||30 ft|
|Wireless Receiver||USB wireless receiver|
|Pointing Device / Manipulator||mouse|
|Movement Detection Technology||optical|
|Microsoft Certifications||Certified for Windows Vista|
|Form Factor||AA type|
|OS Required||Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition SP2, Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP2|
|Product Line||Microsoft Optical Desktop Elite|
|Connector Type||4 pin USB Type A|
|Service & Support|
|Type||3 years warranty|
|Service & Support Details|
|Full Contract Period||3 years|