Labtec wireless keyboard+mouse for free (review)

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Here's a great deal I just came across tonight. Last night I dropped a full cup of hot Barry's tea on my keyboard so, rather than sticking it in the washing machine and hoping for the best, I went shopping for a new keyboard. As it turns out, most of the keyboards on the market fail two very simple requirements:

  • The six key insert/delete/page-up/down block should be three keys across and two down.
  • The function keys should have a default action to work as a function key.

For some reason both Logitech and Microsoft got it in their thick skulls a few years ago that everyone would rather have a cramped six-key block and wanted to press a special key before the function keys worked as advertised, so for the last few years it has been very difficult to find anything else.

Beyond those two basic requirements I also needed:

  • USB support, preferably directly on the keyboard but an adapter would do.
  • Basic volume controls - nothing fancy, just simple volume up/down keys.
  • Those special Mac keys, if possible, but I can live without them.
  • Not made my Microsoft :-)
  • It doesn't have to be wireless, and it doesn't have to include a mouse.

There are a few keyboards that fit all of the above, but unfortunately the most likely candidate, the Logitech S530 kit runs $80, a bit rich for my tastes right now.

After trying several stores, including buying a Micro Innovations keyboard that will go back to the store as it has a really bad key layout (I made the mistake of not checking first), I happened across what I think will work out just fine, despite failing some of the requirements.

The Labtech Media Wireless Desktop is a PS/2 keyboard + mouse set that retails for $40 that on a normal day I wouldn't think much of, but Radioshack has it on sale for $20 and then has two $10 mail-in rebates that make it completely free (excluding taxes) - what a deal! What's even better, only one of the two rebates has a limit on the number that can be submitted, so ultimately you could have a whole bunch of these for $10 each!

Having been using it for about an hour, now, I must say that I'm learning to live with the keyboard's small shortcoming. As intimated I needed a USB keyboard to work with my Mac, but luckily I had a PS/2-to-USB adapter which made it work. This has one side effect that I'll cope with - I can't do shortcuts of more than three keys and it drops the keypress if the keys are held in for more than two seconds, nothing earth shattering but occasionally annoying.

Beyond that little niggle, the keyboard and mouse are proving to be very good. The keyboard itself is very light so takes a little getting used to if you sit around with it on your lap (I'm used to a heavier keybord).

Under Mac OSX I can use some of the extra keys, mainly the audio controls and the sleep button, while the application launcher keys go unused. I must say that I like how the sleep function works in OSX, it pops open a dialog asking if you want to restart, shutdown, put the machine to sleep or cancel, which is better than how I've seen Windows XP work where it just immediately goes to sleep. I'll probably see if I can adjust the system keymap to use the extra keys, but it isn't a big deal.

The mouse is basic but works well. It is an optional mouse that seems to have good tracking - certainly as good as the basic Logitech ones we've been using for yonks. Unlike many mice on the market today, this one just has the basic two buttons and single-direction scroll wheel, which is just fine for my needs.

Finally, as this was my first wireless keyboard set I was interested to see how well the distance detection worked. The manual says that the keyboard and mouse should be kept within 1 meter from the base, so don't hide it on the other side of the room but you should still have enough flexibility to move around your desk (or spin around on your chair). As mentioned, this is my first wireless keyboardset and it is working quite well - no cables to get caught on chair legs or clutter up the desk.

So, for $0 this is shaping up to be the one of best computer purchases I've made, and for the price I recommend picking one up yourself.

3 Comments

Dude, I LOVE three-button

Dude, I LOVE three-button mice with one-directional scroll! They are the best for 3D modeling, blog reading and Google Maps zooming! Screw all those two-direction "tiltwheels".

Actually, my Mighty Mouse maps the scroll ball sideways for some reason, meaning that scrolling left is the same as scrolling up, right is down, and up/down does nothing. I think side-to-side might be more ergonomic, you have to move your finger a much smaller distance, and stretch fewer tendons. That is one happy accident I am glad to embrace.

Sorry to hear of your bad

Sorry to hear of your bad experience, George. We've actually not used ours in several months - I replaced my desktop Mac with a Powerbook and it became a liability to have a removable keyboard/mouse with a 4 year old running around ;-) Have you tried plugging them into an XP machine to see if maybe it was a drivers issue rather than hardware?