Microsoft put some interesting touches on its fashionable Wireless Laser Desktop 6000. The mouse's high-definition laser might be the immediate attention grabber, but the mouse's ability to quickly magnify a word, an image, or an entire Web page with the push of a button is even more gratifying. At $89.99, this desktop is well priced. It loses some points, however, for its cheap, lightweight feel. If you're willing to shell out another $30, the Logitech Cordless Desktop MX3100 offers laser functionality, a few more function keys, and a more solid overall feel, which we prefer to that of the Laser Desktop 6000.
As with most wireless desktops, setup is easy. Connect the wireless receiver to your computer's PS/2 or USB port, then press the connect buttons on both desktop devices and the receiver. The keyboard and the mouse run on two AA batteries each, and Microsoft includes four batteries. To take full advantage of the desktop's features, you'll have to install the latest versions of Microsoft's IntelliType and IntelliPoint software via the included CD or by download from the Web site. However, installing the software simply adds a tab to your existing Mouse and Keyboard control panels; we prefer Logitech's SetPoint software, which lets you adjust desktop settings from a single menu.
The keyboard is average in size: 19.2 by 2.2 by 9.7 inches (LHW). Its ergonomic curved design makes for faster, more comfortable typing. If you're looking for a traditional clack from your keys, forget it: this keyboard keeps aural distractions to a minimum. Along the left side are five preprogrammed quick-launch keys for Web/Home, My Documents, Messenger, Mail, and Calendar, but you can reassign them to open files or Web pages and launch programs. To the right of these keys is the Zoom Slider, which magnifies or reduces the size of text or images, depending on the application you're using. It works surprisingly well, but the slider itself feels flimsy.
Along the top of the keyboard sit five programmable My Favorites buttons, which you can easily configure to open software programs, folders, files, drives, or Web pages. Much the same way you create presets on a radio, you simply open the object you want the button to control and hold the button down for a few seconds. The keyboard also has a set of media-player control buttons: Mute, Volume, Play/Pause, Stop, Previous Track, and Next Track.
The bundled Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 uses Microsoft's high-definition laser. We found it makes the mouse more responsive, precise, and smooth than older ball or optical models.
A five-button mouse is certainly nothing new, but where other mice have a Forward button, the 6000 has one programmed to turn your pointer into a magnifying glass. Press it, and a box opens around your pointer, enlarging everything inside while you continue to work. Move your cursor, and the box moves with it. All the buttons are programmable. On the downside, the mouse feels flimsy, and the main left and right buttons are mushy; depending on where they're pressed, they occasionally don't register clicks.
The desktop comes with a three-year warranty--the industry standard for desktop sets is two years--and you get free phone support for the first 90 days; after that, support costs $35 per request. Microsoft's support Web site has a searchable knowledge base, FAQs, and software updates. You can also access chat and e-mail support at the site.