"Does exactly what it claims to do - but not hugely impressive doing it"3.0 starson by fbbbb
Pros: All-in-one Media Center functionality, convenient in use
Cons: Over-busy styling, a little overpriced, overall feel a slight let-down
Summary: Seeing nothing that much better with the same functionality, I've equipped all of my Media Center PC's at home with the MWED8000. Leading off with 'no other alternatives, so I went with it' should indicate my sanguine feel about this keyboard, but I won't put too much of a downer on this review at the start because in terms of what it does, it does exactly what I want.
What you get in the package is a compact USB Bluetooth dongle, a combined USB hub (with a nice place for the dongle to nestle in operation) / charger, the keyboard and mouse (a colour-matched Laser Mouse 8000). Both items are powered by 2000ma AA Ni-Mh rechargeables - so no problems finding spares in the future.
Sit the mouse on the charger, wedge the keyboard under the charger in the designated slot (a little hokey I feel) and leave the setup to fully charge - which takes the better part of a working day. Install the software, connect the USB, follow the Bluetooth instructions carefully and you're all set to go.
The keyboard isn't designed to be an everyday office / home office item but more for the den or the couch. As such it has the regular keys, but also a dedicated key for starting Media Center, duplicated Back buttons, media transport controls and a Gadgets key, as well as a Microsoft Messenger key. It is pretty Microsoft-centric in terms of the software support, so if you're going with something else there is a chance that you're not going to be able to map everything as you want it.
Ergonomically I'd say the slightly V-shaped board isn't huge leap over a regular laptop-style wireless keyboard for couch browsing, but it does allow your hands to rest a little more naturally when typing on your lap. The key action is on par with most low-to-midrange laptops and is smooth, quiet and quick. The non-keyboard keys on the main keyboard area - volume, channel, etc feature a low-cost mouse button style action and are stiffer but more positive than the main keys. The top row of function keys and the Esc key is touch sensitive - something that I'm not 100% sure of, especially for Esc, which I think should be a regular key. The keyboard is definitely destined for off-desk use as it has no tilt facilities (and due to the V shape, would be unstable if tilted).
While controls are laid out logically and sensibly to be accessible when perched on the lap, the design lacks some pizazz. A little too busy, and a little too dependent on the silver accents to make a style statement.
Build quality is fine. Everything is tightly screwed together, parts are accurately moulded and the finish is good, and there is no sign of anything dropping off soon. But the keyboard creaks when you move it around due to it's all-plastic construction and it just doesn't feel like a premium product. Paying this much, I'd like to see some lightweight metal panels bolstering the structure.
The touchpad on the upper right hand side of the board is worth a mention, as although it looks like a directional controller (and can be used as one at the flick of a switch) it is actually a full touchpad in it's own right. However the tiny size along with the relatively low sensitivity makes it less of a pleasure to use, requiring much brushing across the surface to move the pointer onscreen. It also seems less sensitive to my thumb than it does to my index finger, which means that I can't use the touchpad when gripped in a controller-style fashion with my left thumb over the two mouse buttons on the left hand side, and the right thumb over the touchpad. An onboard touchpad is certainly a very good thing to have on a media keyboard but this example, while absolutely usable, is not particularly optimal.
The backlight is very cool as it is not only controlled by ambient light but turned on by a proximity sensor in the wrist rest. However it brings questionable practical benefits unless you're using it in the pitch dark - as the colour scheme of the keyboard is unfortunate, being identical to the effect on the Apple Macbook Pro where in many situations the contrast of the key legends is actually *reduced* through use of the backlight. Why? The effective luminosity of the backlit key legends in dull afternoon / dusk ambient light can almost equal that of the silver keys, making the legends much harder to make out than if the backlight was off. Black keys wouldn't have looked as cool at first glance, but the backlight would have been far more effective overall.
While not officially supported, Mac users can also take advantage of this keyboard - although the mouse won't work. If you are determined to hoist the vastly inferior Front Row on yourself due to your Mac pride, this keyboard will give you working transport and volume controls, touchpad and of course the rest of the 'normal' keyboard keys.
Lastly (and most definitely least) we get to the mouse, which I think really should be sold separately. I have four redundant mice because I bought the MWED8000 for the media keyboard function for use where I wouldn't have a suitable mousing surface. As a solid, not-too-inspiring rechargeable mouse with tilt scroll and a decent feel it's not too bad, I just fail to see the value in bundling it here for the use that the majority of Entertainment Keyboards are likely to be put to.
So there you have it - a product with good functionality which is pretty solid in use and posessed of some innovative touches which is absolutely suited for its role, sort of works with Apples, but is of questionable ultimate value and also slightly lost in a sea of mediocrity lacking the 'X factor'. A parable for Microsoft as a whole in 2008 for some, perhaps...