If you use a PC running Windows XP Media Center Edition as your home media hub, you’ve probably either already acquired a wireless keyboard of some type or wished you had more than once.  I’ve had several and recently switched to Microsoft’s Remote Keyboard for Windows XP Media Center Edition (say that five times fast), hereafter referred to as “the MCE keyboard.”

 

Some pros and cons:

 

Pros:

 

  1. Light
  2. Compact without being dinky
  3. Backlit buttons when you press one
  4. You don’t need the remote when using it – MCE-specific keys are divided sensibly between its left and right sides
  5. Programmable buttons for adjusting the volume on your TV or receiver and turning it on/off
  6. Good range (in my case, over three meters)
  7. Uses the MCE remote receiver (after a downloadable driver upgrade)
  8. Nice tactile feel and general ergonomics.  I especially liked the way the bottom is tapered such that it sits nicely on your lap
  9. Great battery life.  I bought it months ago and have yet to change the batteries
  10. Intuitive for non-techies.  I knew I had a hit when I walked in and saw my 15-year old daughter using it with abandon without the obligatory 30-minute tech demo and Q&A session that usually accompanies introducing new gadgets to the family

 

Cons:

 

  1. Can’t substitute completely for a standard keyboard because it doesn’t work until Windows has booted and doesn’t include some infrequently used keys such as PrtScr and ScrLck
  2. Infrared-based, so it requires line-of-sight
  3. Mouse could be better
  4. Programmability is limited.  My TV, for example, uses different codes for powering on and off, but, since the MCE keyboard only has one programmable button for this function, I can’t use it to turn my TV on/off

 

As you can see, from my vantage point, the pros far outnumber the cons, so it has replaced my previous MCE keyboard.  I think MS got this one mostly right.  I don’t have a regular keyboard plugged up to the machine anymore because the machine is dedicated (more or less) to its media hub role, and I haven’t really missed things like having a ScrLck key or the ability to use the keyboard before Windows loads.