Last year I posted an entry on how to choose the best computer which included an article by Mike Himowitz, columnist at the Baltimore Sun.  Himowitz wrote the article "Sticker tells shopper key parts of a laptop" which covers "the specific components of a portable PC."

Overall, I like Mike's advice: I've found it to be direct and to the point, with few sidetracks.

Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000Last week, I walked by the new Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 at the Microsoft Company Store.  I use the Wireless Laser Desktop 4000 at work and at home with the comfort curve key layout, and I thought that it would be a nice addition to our home Media Center set up.  Heck, the 8000 would look great on the desk of our home office, too.  The web site touts that the 8000 is "designed to make it easier than ever to control PC media from your desk, your lap–or even from the comfort of your couch."

Opening the paper this morning, I found that Himowitz has a review of the Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 reprinted in today's Seattle Times (originally from his article in the Sun, "Tinkling these keys isn't worth $260").

"Reality check — $260 for a keyboard and mouse? That's almost four times as much as I spent for the wireless combo I use with the computer that's hooked up to our HDTV set. What could you possibly get for that much money?

"As it turns out, you get the same thing you get when you buy a Mercedes instead of a Camry: more luxury and styling and gimmicks. There's a somewhat bigger payoff for couch potatoes, but is it enough to justify almost $300?"

In short, Mike said that the answer is no.

Unlike Mike's experience, where had trouble getting used to the Comfort Curve key layout after more than a week of use, I find that the design is my preferred layout.  After I used the keyboard for about a month, I found that the design fits my hands quite nicely. In fact, I have difficulty going back to a laptop after spending time working on my desktop system.

Mike asked the real question, and offers his answer:

"But are all these features worth close to $300?

"Bottom line: I wouldn't pay that much. But if you (a) have the money, (b) think you can get used to this lap-friendly, wireless keyboard and (c) want it packaged with a superb laser mouse, you won't be disappointed."

Once again, I agree with Mike. $300 is a lot for a keyboard and mouse, even if you do have the money.  It's certainly a nice improvement over the older (and retired) Microsoft Remote Keyboard for Windows XP Media Center

Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000There are several other Comfort Curve design mouse and keyboard sets available, including the equally svelte Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 (which CNET reviewed and ranked sightly lower than the 8000).  I think that the backlit keyboard and four USB Ports make the 8000 a better choice for a home theatre, but the 7000 is a good addition to any Media Center setup for the US$129 street price I've seen recently.  For home office use, the Wireless Laser Desktop 4000 and Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 are both good, affordable choices.

CNET has a review of the 8000 mouse and keyboard bundle, giving it a 7.0 out of 10, highlighting that the system is rechargeable, and easy-to-use with smart backlighting.  But CNET disses it for being "expensive..." and for having a "clunky recharging station."

I'm still thinking about that investment... so far I have not brought one home, as elegant as it is.  But with a street price of around $249, it's nearing what I consider a reasonable premium over the 7000.  If you've invested a hefty sum into a Media Center PC and home theatre setup, the 8000 is probably a small portion of the overall cost of the setup.  And it could be an easy to appreciate premium: with your remote control, the keyboard and mouse are pieces that you use with your Media Center system nearly every day.

Tags: tips, Windows Vista, Media Center, hardware, keyboard, mouse, Mike Himowitz.