Every year or so, I like to take a look at the market and see if I can find a keyboard superior to my trusty old fleet of Microsoft Natural Pro keyboards.

A Dell OEM variant of the Natural Pro

This week I tried out Microsoft’s relatively new Wireless Laser Desktop 6000:

The Microsoft Wireless Laser Desktop 6000

The Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 looks really slick. It has the traditional 101-key layout, unlike previous modern Microsoft keyboards which futz around with the arrow keys and so forth. It has a nice arrangement of user-programmable macro keys on the left-hand side which are easier to distinguish than the Natural Pro’s lineup of macro keys at the top of the keyboard. And, it’s wireless!

I replaced my Natural Pro with the Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 for one day. And, at the end of the day, I switched back to the Natural Pro. Here’s why:

  1. The keyboard is too narrow. The span from the Caps Lock key to the Enter key on the 6000 is 11 inches, which is 1 1/4 inches less than the span of the Natural Pro.
    The keyboard is too narrow
    Smaller hands might have appreciated this; I did not. My hands felt a bit cramped — though I could have adjusted, were it not for my next gripe:
  2. The keys are too mushy. Dozens of times the keyboard did not register a keystroke to my touch. I had to constantly focus on typing keys harder than normal. With the Natural Pro, my fingers fly over the keys, never missing a beat; it’s much closer to the feel of those old IBM click keyboards than the 6000 and gives much more satisfying feedback.

I tested the 6000 on OS X, and I should note that Microsoft’s Universal Binary drivers for the 6000 (and the Natural Pro) are excellent, though the latest drivers are not on the website; the Microsoft Hardware site directs you to download the IntelliType 6.0 drivers, not the 6.1 drivers that it should and that come bundled with the keyboard.

Next time, I’ll review another relatively new Microsoft keyboard, the (wired) Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000:

Natural Ergo 4000

8 thoughts on “Annual Keyboard Survey: Wireless Laser Desktop 6000

  1. Give the Goldtouch keyboard a try. It is compact and has a very nice layout. It can be adjusted for your hands. I love it and bought 3 of them.
    At goldtouch.com

  2. hi ben, very interesting. i used to be a natural keyboard user years ago. my philosophy has changed. i have found that no matter how horrible a keyboard may be (e.g. my first powerbook g4), after a couple of weeks, one adapts to it. what gets me is having to use a different keyboard from day to day (habituating yourself to one thing and then having to use another). so for the last n years, i just use a single machine: a laptop, that i take with me everywhere, and that i use on the desktop as well. this has worked out great. my main requirement is that the keys be fairly sensitive to the touch, so as not to require much finger-strength to type a lot, which makes a big difference on one’s fingers. 🙂

  3. eitan: I think you’re right about key sensitivity being the big issue. I have some RSI/MSD symptoms, but fortunately, they’re not very pronounced in my hands/arms so I haven’t begun to worry much about pronation issues as much as others. My I have noticed that over the course of a day, the “natural” style is much easier on my hands / wrists than the straight layout.

    This may be because I type very fast for long stretches of time, or it may be genetics, or maybe it’s all just in my head. I do also have bigger-than-average hands; maybe that’s also a factor.

    Of all laptop keyboards, I’ve found IBM’s ThinkPad and Apple’s PowerBook/MacBook Pro keyboards very usable…

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